Robin Steinberg, the renowned legal leader who founded the transformative public-defender organization the Bronx Defenders more than 20 years ago, has joined the Criminal Justice Program at UCLA School of Law, where she will be the Gilbert Foundation Senior Fellow.
A criminal-justice trailblazer, Steinberg was executive director of the Bronx Defenders until last year. In 2007, she co-founded the Bronx Freedom Fund to pay for the pre-trial release of Bronx Defenders clients who cannot afford bail. In recent months, she launched the Bail Project, a new nonprofit organization that will work with local partners to pay bail for tens of thousands of low-income people around the United States. At UCLA Law, Steinberg will work with faculty and students on initiatives and research related to the Bail Project.
“I am thrilled about this opportunity,” Steinberg says. “As one of the leading programs in the country focusing on issues of reform and collateral consequences of system involvement, UCLA Law’s Criminal Justice Program is an ideal partner for the Bail Project in its mission to combat pretrial incarceration. Over the next few years, we’ll be scaling the model we developed at the Bronx Freedom Fund to dozens of high-need jurisdictions. I look forward to creating opportunities for students to help us realize this ambitious goal and fuel momentum for meaningful reform.”
Steinberg’s addition to the Criminal Justice Program faculty marks an expansion of UCLA Law’s efforts in an area of law that has profound impacts throughout all levels of society. Faculty collaborate on cutting-edge research endeavors that aim to impact scholars, practitioners and policymakers in areas spanning juvenile justice, fines, digital surveillance and the death penalty. Through innovative experiential courses, the program also affords students a sturdy foundation in this critical area of the law.
As the Gilbert Foundation Senior Fellow, Steinberg will work with faculty director Máximo Langer and many of the program’s more than 30 faculty members to devise and implement new initiatives in criminal justice. The program is already working in areas including sentencing reform, prison law, and rights for unrepresented people in immigration proceedings.
“Robin Steinberg is a visionary criminal-justice practitioner and reformer,” says Langer, a professor of law who directs the UCLA Transnational Program on Criminal Justice and is an authority on international criminal law and procedure. “Her work here will significantly strengthen our program and enrich UCLA Law students’ education.”
During her two-decades at the Bronx Defenders, Steinberg grew the organization from a team of eight advocates to an interdisciplinary staff of more than 300 serving over 35,000 low-income New Yorkers each year. She also exported the group’s holistic defense model to Oklahoma, the state with the highest per capita number of incarcerated women, and founded Still She Rises, the nation’s first public defender office dedicated to representing mothers in the criminal justice system.
Steinberg has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Service of Justice Award by the New York State Defenders Association and Alumna of the Year by her alma mater, New York University School of Law. She has taught trial advocacy and other courses at Harvard, Columbia and elsewhere. Her scholarship has appeared in several leading law journals, such as Yale Law & Policy Review, and she is a go-to media commentator on issues facing the criminal justice system.