History-making appointment of Indian-American as CUNY Law School Dean

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Sudha Setty, first Indian-American to be appointed Dean of CUNY Law School, starting July 1, 2022. Photo: Law.cuny.edu

The Board of Trustees of The City University of New York recently voted 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 largest urban public university, She is the first person of Indian descent to lead a CUNY school, according to a Feb. 22, 2022, press release from the university. The appointment will be effective July 1, 2022.

Setty has been the dean of the Western New England University School of Law since 2018, when she became the first woman of Indian 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.

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“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,” CUNY Board of Trustees Chairperson William C. Thompson Jr. is quoted saying in the press release.

CUNY is New York’s leading public interest-focused law school, and Setty’s extensive experience in the area of social justice would enhance the school’s offerings, top officials at CUNY said.

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, CUNY noted. Setty is credited with leading the creation of its Center for Social Justice in 2019 in the WNEU School of Law, and expanding 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, the press release said.

“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.

Prior to her New England appointment, she was in practice in New York where 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.

Setty currently 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, who got her law degree from Columbia University, has held visiting scholar and faculty positions at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, the Chinese and Justice and the University of Connecticut School of Law. University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law’s Centre for Rights

She has received several awards including 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.

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