Haywood Burns, the Law School's second Dean, was an activist, attorney, and civil rights advocate who urged people to work to help underserved communities. His passionate commitment to human rights led him to engage in struggles against racism and economic and social injustice in the United States and around the world. Burns' civil rights career began at age 15, when he helped integrate the swimming pool in Peekskill, New York. As a law student at Yale, he participated in the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. He became Assistant Counsel to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and later served as General Counsel to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Poor People's Campaign. A founder of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, he was the first African-American dean of a New York law school, leading the CUNY School of Law to full American Bar Association accreditation.

After Burns died tragically in an automobile accident in South Africa in 1996, the Law School established a Chair in Civil Rights in his memory. Funded by an endowment and a generous contribution from the New York State Legislature, the Chair is a visiting position that has enabled a succession of lawyers, scholars, and activists to bring their experiences, wisdom, and perspectives to the classrooms of CUNY Law.

Haywood Burns Chairs (1997-Present)

Celina Romany (2010-11)

Dean Spade (2009-10)

Professor Dean Spade of Seattle University, a scholar and advocate on the intersections of race, gender and economic justice, was a Williams Institute Law Teaching Fellow at UCLA Law School and Harvard Law School. He was named to give the 2009-2010 James A. Thomas Lecture at Yale.

Margaret Montoya (2008-09)

Since 1992, Professor Margaret Montoya has been a member of the faculty at the University of New Mexico Law School, where she examines issues of race, ethnicity, gender and language. During college at San Diego State University in the 1970s, she was a member of the student government and was involved in the Chicano, anti-war and women's movements. She became the first Hispanic woman accepted at Harvard Law School. After graduation, she received the Harvard University Frederick Sheldon Traveling Fellowship. Today, she also appears in a weekly television roundtable on a local PBS station discussing the local news in New Mexico.


Professor Richard Abel, Michael J. Connell Professor of Law at UCLA and faculty coordinator for the public interest law program. Participated in the founding of the Conference on Critical Legal Studies in 1977 and helped organize the meeting on "Law and Racism: The Sounds of Silence."


Professor Anthony Paul Farley of Boston College Law School. An expert on Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, and Legal Theory, Farley is also an affiliated professor with the Graduate Department of Sociology and African & African Diaspora Studies at Boston College.


Professor Paula Johnson of Syracuse University. Former co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), a national organization of nearly 800 law professors, and widely known for her work to advance scholarship in the area of race, gender and the law.


Ida Castro, Commissioner of the New Jersey State Department of Personnel and former Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


Professor Susan Jones, Clinical Professor at George Washington University and expert on micro-enterprise and economic rights.


Professor Camilo Perez Bustillo, formerly of the Instituto Tecnologico y Estudios Superiores in Monterrey, Mexico, founder of Multicultural, Education, Training, and Advocacy (META), and scholar/activist on international issues of poverty and self-determination.


Professor Eric Yamamoto of the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii, civil rights scholar and litigator of cases on reparations for Asian Americans interned during the Second World War.


The Hon. Robert L. Carter, Judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District and the close working associate of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall when both were part of the famed NAACP legal team that won Brown v. Board of Education.

Judge Albie Sachs of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and former African National Congress leader in the struggle for democracy in South Africa.


William L. Robinson, former Dean of the District of Columbia School of Law and former Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.


Theodore M. Shaw, Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.


The Hon. Nathaniel R. Jones, Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and former General Counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).