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Holistic Defense: Beyond the Criminal Court

October 7, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Come hear Wasserstein Fellow Runa Rajagopal, Managing Director of the Civil Action Practice at The Bronx Defenders, discuss her civil public defense work, as well as holistic legal services generally. Learn about how Runa and her team are combating the civil consequences of multi-system entanglement (with intersecting criminal, family, and immigration problems) to advance justice. Co-sponsored by Harvard Defenders. Non-pizza lunch will be provided.

Runa Rajagopal, a litigator and social justice advocate for over 14 years, is currently Managing Director of the Civil Action Practice at The Bronx Defenders. 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 have defended well over 350,000 members of the Bronx community and we represent over 28,000 clients a year.

Having joined BXD in 2011, Runa oversees a practice of over thirty attorneys and advocates in defending against the full range of civil consequences that arise out of an arrest, the removal of children, or out of non-citizen detention, including evictions, termination of crucial benefits, suspension of employment, forfeiture of property and police misconduct, and to provide access to basic civil legal needs. In addition to training and supporting attorneys and advocates to do so, 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 impact broader criminal and civil justice reform. Runa provides technical assistance to and trains defense attorneys, civil practitioners and members of the community alike 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.

Prior to 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:, 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 and 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

If you or an event participant requires disability-related accommodations, please contact HLS Accessibility Services in the Dean of Students Office at, or (617) 495-1880 in advance of the event.


October 7, 2019
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising


WCC 3018 Classroom