W. Haywood Burns Chair in Human & Civil Rights

The Burns Chair distinguished visiting faculty position uplifts the work of social justice leaders who reflect the qualities and convictions of Haywood Burns: commitment to advancing civil rights and human rights—and dedication to the education of lawyers who will uphold and defend the rights of the most discriminated against in our society.

Made possible through funds from the New York State legislature and the CUNY School of Law Foundation, the Burns Chair was first established in 1996, after Haywood Burns tragically lost his life in a car accident while attending a conference on democracy in South Africa. The W. Haywood Burns Chair in Human & Civil Rights honors his legacy.

Each year, from 1997 to 2010, trailblazers and luminaries appointed to the Burns Chair joined CUNY Law in advancing the rights of the marginalized while educating a new cadre of people’s lawyers. The Burns Chair returned to the Law School in 2022, to again welcome scholars, legal educators, litigators, and activists with groundbreaking contributions to civil and human rights discourse.

2023 W. Haywood Burns Chair in Human and Civil Rights

Vince Warren, Exec. Director, Center for Constitutional Rights

Vince Warren is a renowned expert on racial injustice and discriminatory policing whose career reflects the life and work of Haywood Burns. Under Warren’s leadership, CCR has successfully challenged the constitutionality of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices, ended the policy of holding people in long-term solitary confinement at California’s Pelican Bay Prison, and established as a crime against humanity the persecution of people who identify as LGBTQ2IA+.

In his teaching and public presentations, Warren explores social movement lawyering, addressing the role that lawyers, activists, journalists, and artists play in mobilizing movements that advance racial, economic, and social justice.


Open to scholars, legal educators, litigators, and activists with groundbreaking contributions to the discourse on civil and human rights, appointments are considered on a rolling basis.

The Burns Chair engages in the intellectual and social life of the law school by participating in various activities for students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members, such as public lectures, symposiums, seminar classes, class visits, and social events. The Burns Chair holder receives competitive remuneration, research, and administrative support, assistance with travel and living expenses, and the unique opportunity to advance their work while engaging with CUNY Law’s dynamic network of social justice students, lawyers, activists, and scholars, locally and internationally.

The Burns Chair also supports the professional development of CUNY Law students through meaningful engagement with classes, clinics, student groups, and the Burns Student Research Fellowship.



Dean W. Haywood Burns smiles and poses in the CUNY Law library

As Dean of CUNY Law from 1987 to 1994, Haywood Burns brought to fruition a new paradigm in legal education: recruit and train lawyers dedicated to the representation of those underserved, or not served at all, by the legal profession. A respected scholar, advocate, and teacher, Haywood’s gifts of intellect and scholarship led him to Harvard College, to post-graduate work at Cambridge University, and subsequently to Yale Law School, where he earned his law degree. He moved quickly to the front lines of the great civil rights contests of the day.

Throughout it all, he championed community and diversity, ensuring that CUNY Law students remained intimately connected with the grassroots needs of racially and socioeconomically marginalized groups in New York City.

Prior Burns Chairs

Co-Founder and President, Legal Coalition for Puerto Rico
Co-Founder, Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic (previously called International Women’s Human Rights Clinic), CUNY School of Law

Wismer Professor of Gender & Diversity
Seattle University School of Law

Senior Advisor, Executive Vice President, University of New Mexico (UNM) Health Sciences Center
Professor Emerita, UNM School of Law

Michael J. Connell Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and Distinguished Research Professor
UCLA School of Law

President, IC Alliance Development Group
Commissioner, New Jersey Civil Service Commission (previously called NJ Department of Personnel)
Chair, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Professor of Clinical Law
George Washington University Law School

Research Fellow of Law and Inaugural Executive Director, Human Rights Center
University of Dayton School of Law

Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice
William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Assistant Special Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Co-Founder, National Conference of Black Lawyers

Founding Member, Constitutional Court of South Africa

Professor of Law Emeritus, David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the District of Columbia
Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and the Director of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Center for Civil Rights
Associate Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF)

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
General Counsel, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Thank You to our Funders

The New York State Legislature committed funding in the 2022 state budget for the purpose of reinstating the W. Haywood Burns Chair in Human and Civil Rights at CUNY School of Law.  The Law School community—students and faculty, staff, and board members—acknowledges and appreciates this financial support from state lawmakers and Governor Kathy Hochul. The Burns Chair is also made possible with leadership from the CUNY School of Law Foundation Board. The W. Haywood Burns Fund was established by family, friends, and the CUNY Law community with the goal of building a dedicated and permanent endowment for the Burns Chair.

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