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Trial Lawyers Association honors Queens lawmaker with leadership award

Jul. 17, 2023 By John Schilling

The New York State Trial Lawyers Association (NYSTLA) honored Queens Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar last week during a sold-out rooftop reception on the Lower East Side. 

NYSTLA President David L. Scher presented Rajkumar, as well as state Senator Andrew Gounardes of Senate District 26 in Brooklyn, with the Atticus Award, an honor crediting the duo for “courage, leadership and commitment to social justice.”

“Tonight, we celebrate the next generation of leadership,” Scher said. “NYSTLA is helping new lawyers to make critical connections with the bench and bar. Our strength in advocacy comes from our members, and I thank the new lawyers who tirelessly advocate on behalf of victims and their families.”

For Rajkumar, who represents Assembly District 38 and chairs the Assembly Subcommittee on Diversity in Law, the award from the NYSTLA celebrates her achievements before and after her election to public office. 

A graduate of Stanford Law School and the University of Pennsylvania, Rajkumar practiced nationally as a civil rights lawyer, litigating class action cases on behalf of “workers, tenants and women.” Rajkumar also worked on the legal team of Velez v. Novartis, a case ranked by the United Nations in the top 10 worldwide for “advancing women’s equality.”

Additionally, Rajkumar served as the director of immigration affairs for New York state, resulting in a first-in-the-nation $31 million project to help immigrants gain access to various legal services. 

After her election to the state Legislature, Rajkumar continued to pursue social justice efforts with multiple bills, including one that established New York State’s first Asian American & Pacific Island Commission and another that looked to expand compensation for crime victims, which Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law last year. Rajkumar also passed “a milestone legislative package” to give domestic workers full protection under the New York State Human Rights Law.

“As a legislator and lawyer who has fought for the voiceless, the vulnerable, and the

disenfranchised, I am honored to be recognized by NYSTLA,” Rajkumar said. “NYSTLA’s members take on some of the most difficult and painstaking cases representing immigrants, victims of crime, and those who have been hurt by negligence.” 

“The lawyers of NYSTLA are some of the most powerful and effective advocates for the people,” she continued. “I am honored to support the young lawyers of NYSTLA who are securing justice for the New Yorkers who need it the most.”

Gounardes, who chairs the Senate Committee on Budget and Revenue and serves on the Judiciary Committee, made similar remarks about being honored. 

A graduate of George Washington University Law School, Gounardes previously worked as counsel to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and co-founded Bay Ridge Cares, a nonprofit organization that assisted Brooklyn locals in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. 

“For too many people, our system of justice is often anything but just. The trial lawyers at

NYSTLA are ferocious advocates and help people get the justice they deserve,” Gounardes said. “I am grateful for this recognition, and will continue to ensure New Yorkers from all walks of life have equal access to the civil justice system.”

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