Online Event: Judges and Grassroots Advocates Partnering for Legal Empowerment

In her forthcoming thematic report, Professor Margaret Satterthwaite, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, explores the role that legal empowerment plays in expanding access to justice. Recognizing the value of community-led, bottom-up approaches, judges in a number of countries are embracing legal empowerment, partnering with community justice workers to make judicial systems more available and responsive.

Join us for a conversation that will bring together senior judges – each of whom take a leading role in advancing people-centered justice – with grassroots justice defenders helping communities to know, use, and shape the law. Panelists will discuss legal empowerment approaches in their respective countries, and identify steps that the judiciary and other justice officials can take, alongside grassroots allies, to help close the justice gap.

The event is co-sponsored by the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the Grassroots Justice Network, the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU School of Law, Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies at the NYU Center on International Cooperation, the Mott Foundation, The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, and the United States.

Event details:

With Virtual webcast via Zoom

Translation available in English, Spanish, and French

October 20, 2023, 8:30 am – 10:00 am EDT  (12:30 – 14:00 UTC)

Register for the Zoom event



Margaret Satterthwaite, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

Margaret Satterthwaite is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. She is an international human rights scholar and practitioner with decades of experience in the field, and a Professor of Clinical Law at New York University School of Law, where she directs the Legal Empowerment and Judicial Independence Clinic and serves as a faculty director of the Robert and Helen Bernstein Institute for Human Rights and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. Her scholarship has focused on access to justice, legal empowerment, and methodological innovation in human rights.



Senior Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen, the Chairperson of the Philippine Supreme Court Committee on Access to Justice in Underserved Areas

Marvic M.V.F. Leonen is currently the Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Prior to his appointment to the bench, he served as the dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law. He co-founded, and for 15 years served as the executive director of, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, a legal and policy research and advocacy institution that provided legal aid to upland rural poor and indigenous communities. At present, he leads several committees of the Supreme Court, including the Committee on Human Rights and Committee on Access to Justice and Underserved Areas.



Judge Diana Fajardo Rivera, President of the Constitutional Court of Colombia

Judge Diana Fajardo Rivera is a lawyer and political scientist with more than 30 years of work experience in both the public and private sectors. She was elected Judge of the Constitutional Court in 2017. In 2022, Judge Fajardo was named “Best High Court Judge” in the Excellence in Justice Awards presented by the Excellence in Justice Corporation (CEJ), in recognition of her leadership in the fight against gender violence and the defence of new standards of inclusion and diversity.




Hon. Lady Justice Wanjiru Karanja, Judge of the Court of Appeal

Hon. Lady Justice Wanjiru Karanja joined the Judiciary in 1985 as District Magistrate and rose through the ranks. She was appointed Judge of the High Court in 2004 before being elevated to the Court of Appeal in 2011, where she is currently the senior most Judge. She holds an LLB degree from the University of Nairobi and an LLM from the University of London. She is passionate about the protection of human rights, particularly with respect to women, children and other vulnerable groups.



Renada Harris, Executive Director, Brown Grove Preservation Group

Renada Harris is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, a business owner, and a fierce community activist.  She is the Executive Director of the Brown Grove Preservation Group, which fights against industrial abuses and protects a National Historic Black community. Her goal is to raise community awareness and engage stakeholders around environmental injustice. Renada isn’t afraid to call out corporate leaders and others who have contributed to environmental injustice.




Viviana Patal, Legal Director, Women’s Justice Initiative

Viviana Patal is the Legal Director at the Women’s Justice Initiative, where she implements the Legal Services Program and oversees the organization’s team of lawyers and paralegals. Viviana is a Maya Kaqchikel, Guatemalan woman and the first person in her family to attend university. Viviana is a lawyer with extensive experience working in the fields of social justice, gender-based violence, women’s rights, and rights of indigenous peoples.






















October 13, 2023 | Akhila Kolisetty (Moderator, GJN)