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CUNY names Sudha Setty as dean of School of Law

Will be the first person of South Asian descent to lead a CUNY school

February 23, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The Board of Trustees of The City University of New York voted on Wednesday to appoint Sudha Setty, an exceptional scholar, and experienced and collaborative legal leader, as the dean of the CUNY School of Law, the nation’s leading public interest law school and New York City’s only publicly funded law school. She is the first person of South Asian descent to lead a CUNY school.

Setty has been the dean of the Western New England University School of Law since 2018, when she became the first woman of South Asian descent in the U.S. to serve as dean of an American Bar Association-accredited law school. She previously served as the school’s associate dean for faculty development and intellectual life. A member of the school’s faculty since 2006, she was named Professor of the Year in 2009, 2016 and 2018. Setty succeeds Eduardo R.C. Capulong, who has served in an interim capacity since March 2021. The appointment will be effective July 1, 2022.

“Dean Setty boasts a sustained record of accomplishment as an antitrust litigator, pro bono civil rights counsel, scholar of constitutional law and legal education leader, as well as a pioneering administrator and leader,” said Chairperson William C. Thompson Jr. “We are thrilled to welcome her to CUNY Law.”

“Dean Setty brings to CUNY a demonstrated ability to combine visionary goal-setting with deft governance, and to construct, fund and sustain the programs that realize those goals,” said Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “Her breadth of experience and commitment to use legal education for the advancement of social justice will build upon the Law School’s progress as the top public-interest law school in the nation. CUNY is fortunate to have her.”

Focused on Social Justice

At Western New England University School of Law, Setty’s deanship has focused on enhancing the social justice work at the school and its commitment to racial justice and diversity, equity and inclusion. She led the creation of its Center for Social Justice in 2019. The Center provides an organizing framework for the faculty and student work in social justice lawyering; engaging in economic justice, racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, immigrant rights, access to justice, and other social justice lawyering work, and drawing support from foundations, alumni, and individual donors. She expanded racial justice-oriented programming and student support, and led the faculty in adopting a graduation requirement for racial justice coursework. In 2021, Dean Setty co-hosted the inaugural Workshop for Asian-American Women in Legal Academia, drawing over 100 participants to engage in professional development, scholarship support, and building community.

“I am thrilled and honored to serve as the next dean of CUNY School of Law. This law school was founded with the mission of public service, social justice lawyering, inclusiveness and accessibility,” said Setty. “In this moment, the nation and the world have recognized what CUNY has known all along: that our society needs more lawyers who are educated with these fundamental values to take on the challenges of today and the future. I look forward to working with all members of the CUNY community as the law school seeks to make the world a fairer, more just, and better place.”

Dean Setty’s area of expertise is comparative law and she is an influential scholar on constitutional rights and national security. In 2018, she was elected to membership in the American Law Institute and as a fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

The CUNY appointment brings her back to New York City, where she previously lived for 10 years, seven of them as an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell. There she litigated antitrust cases in federal and state courts and served as defense counsel in pro bono matters challenging terrorism sentencing guidelines and upholding prisoners’ civil rights.

She is also a leader outside of the university. Currently, she serves on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Standing Committee on Alternative Pathways to the Bar (co-chairing one subcommittee), on the Bipartisan Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Judicial Nominations to the U.S. District Court, on the Advisory Committee for the ABA Legal Education Police Practices Consortium, on the Deans’ Steering Committee of the Association of American Law Schools, as a board member for Community Legal Aid, and on the editorial board of the Journal of National Security Law and Policy.

Setty has held visiting scholar and faculty positions at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, the Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law’s Centre for Rights and Justice and the University of Connecticut School of Law. She received her J.D. from Columbia University School of Law, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, and her bachelor’s degree in history from Stanford University, which was awarded with honors.

Dean Setty is the recipient of the National Conference for Community and Justice 2021 Human Relations Award. She was on the Lawyers of Color Power List in 2020; recognized as a Top Woman in the Law by the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly in 2019; named a Trailblazer by the South Asian Bar Association of Connecticut in 2015; and received the 2017 Tapping Reeve Legal Educator Award from the Connecticut Bar Association.

Founded in 1983, the CUNY School of Law has long been recognized as a national leader in public interest law and for the quality of its experiential training that prepares students for careers focused on social justice. Last March, U.S. News & World Report named the school’s 12 programs in clinical law education the best in the nation, tied with Georgetown University, in the magazine’s annual law school rankings, an honor that reflects CUNY Law’s long-standing commitment to legal service and advocacy for people from underrepresented groups. CUNY Law is also in the top 3 most diverse law schools in the country.

Setty is the 12th permanent leader of a CUNY college or professional school to be appointed since Chancellor Matos Rodríguez began his tenure in May 2019, joining a group of presidents and deans whose diverse backgrounds and experiences fully reflect the country’s most diverse University as well as the city it serves.

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