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avatar for Runa Rajagopal

Runa Rajagopal

The Bronx Defenders
Managing Director, Civil Action Practice
Bronx NY
Runa Rajagopal, a litigator and social justice advocate for more than 14 years, is currently managing director of the Civil Action Practice at The Bronx Defenders (BXD). The Bronx Defenders is an innovative, progressive public defender that pioneered a model of legal representation called holistic defense, which is designed to fight both the causes and consequences of court-involvement. Since opening its doors in 1997, The Bronx Defenders has defended well over 350,000 members of the Bronx community and represents more than 28,000 clients a year.

Runa joined BXD in 2011 and oversees a practice of more than 30 attorneys and advocates who defend against the full range of civil consequences arising from an arrest, the removal of children, or non-citizen detention, including evictions, termination of crucial benefits, suspension of employment, forfeiture of property, and police misconduct, and who provide access to basic civil legal needs. In addition to training and supporting attorneys and advocates, Runa represents individual clients in city, state, and administrative fora, where no right to counsel exists. She also develops litigation, legislative, and education strategies as they relate to CAP’s direct services work and to achieve broader criminal and civil justice reform. Runa provides technical assistance to and trains defense attorneys, civil practitioners, and members of the community in identifying the potential civil fallout from entry into the criminal justice and family court systems and to promote interdisciplinary, intersectional approaches to safeguard clients and their reintegration/reentry into the community.

Before joining The Bronx Defenders, Runa was a senior staff attorney for the Mental Health Law Project at MFY Legal Services, Inc., where she represented mental health consumers in the areas of fair and affordable housing, income preservation, consumer defense, family law, and disability rights. Runa is the author of Diary of a Civil Public Defender: Critical Lessons to Achieve Transformative Change on Behalf of Communities, 46 Fordham Urb. L.J. 876 (2019), available at: https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ulj/vol46/iss4/3. She received the 2016 New York City Bar Association’s Legal Services Award for outstanding civil legal assistance to NYC’s most marginalized and disenfranchised communities. She was also featured in NYU’s online journal of law and social change, Where Criminal Defense Meets Civil Action: An Interview with Runa Rajagopal, Meghna Philip, 40 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change Harbinger 45 (2015). Runa received her J.D. from the Washington College of Law, American University, in 2005 and her B.A. in Sociology and Communication from the State University of New York at Geneseo.