Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Announces Historic Expansion Of Civil Rights Bureau

NEW YORK, NY (February 13, 2007)—Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced today a historic expansion in the size of his Civil Rights Bureau and outlined his aggressive agenda for pursuing cases at a meeting with members of New York’s leading civil rights, social justice, and public advocacy organizations. 

Attorney General Cuomo announced that the Civil Rights Bureau, which enforces laws protecting New Yorkers from discrimination, will double in size to become the largest Civil Rights Bureau in the history of the Office of the Attorney General.  Reflecting the emphasis Attorney General Cuomo places on aggressively prosecuting those who discriminate, the Department of Law is in the process of adding ten Assistant Attorneys General to the Bureau, which currently consists of a legal staff of ten. 

“It is an unfortunate truth that discrimination is alive and well in New York State and throughout the country,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “In some cases it is easy for all to see; in others, when it has become entrenched in our economic and social systems, only the victims can feel the terrible effects.  But discrimination, in any form and against any victim, is not just immoral – it is illegal.  Our newly expanded Bureau will have the tools and the resources to attack discrimination and to defend the civil rights of all New Yorkers.”

Attorney General Cuomo has made the pursuit of civil rights and social justice a top priority of his administration.  He outlined some of his initiatives for the expanded Civil Rights Bureau, including aggressively enforcing employment discrimination laws and wage and hour laws, continuing the fight against sexual harassment, and ending discrimination in marriage laws.  He also outlined a New Immigrant Initiative that will develop a coordinated multi-bureau response focusing on labor, civil rights, and consumer fraud, and that will crack down on phony immigration service providers.

The Office of the Attorney General has also launched a reinvigorated outreach program to ensure New Yorkers have easy and direct access to report cases of discrimination.  The Department of Law is currently making the entire contents of its website available in Spanish.  The Attorney General’s Hotline, which connects to the Civil Rights Bureau, provides instructions in English and Spanish, and will soon include Mandarin, Cantonese, and Russian.  The Hotline can be reached at (800) 771-7755.

Attorney General Cuomo also announced today the appointment of Dianne E. Dixon, the new Assistant Attorney General-In-Charge of the Civil Rights Bureau, as well as the appointments of Sandra Grannum, the new Assistant Attorney General-In-Charge of Legal Recruitment, and Lillian “Lee” Llambelis, the new Director of Intergovernmental Relations. 
                                                                                               
Attorney General Cuomo said, “I am pleased to welcome these accomplished, dedicated, and independent-minded individuals to their new positions at the Department of Law.  They each bring remarkable legal credentials and are well-respected by the community of civil rights leaders and advocates.  They all reflect my office’s commitment to civil rights and diversity and I look forward to working with them.”

Ms. Dixon is an accomplished civil rights litigator and advocate who has had extensive experience leading a wide range of organizations focused on achieving social justice in New York State.  Most recently, she has served as the Executive Director of the New York City Loft Board, where she has acted as General Counsel and oversaw all prosecutions.

Ms. Grannum is an experienced prosecutor who will ensure that Attorney General Cuomo’s commitment to diversity in recruiting the nation’s best legal talent is fulfilled.  She currently serves as the Acting Bureau Chief of the Health Care Bureau in the New York State Office of the Attorney General and she previously held the position of Deputy Chief of the same Bureau.  Ms. Grannum has also served as the Commissioner of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, a litigation associate at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, and in-house counsel at Avanti Corporate Health Systems. 

Ms. Llambelis, a champion of civil rights, has worked extensively with local governments and community organizations.  She currently serves as the Legal Director of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she represents the Latino community in federal court actions.  She previously held the position of General Counsel at the Office of the Bronx Borough President, and was an Assistant District Attorney at the New York County District Attorney’s Office for ten years.

(More biographical information is included below)

In response to Attorney General Cuomo’s announcements today, Cesar Perales, President of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, said, “As co-chair of Attorney General Cuomo's Civil Rights Transition Committee, I am proud of his continued and extraordinary commitment to civil rights.  I am also heartened by his dedication to diversity in recruiting the best and brightest legal minds to the Department of Law.”

State Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, a member of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said, “As we congregate to reflect on the progress we have made thus far, we must acknowledge that all our victories were reached through the magnanimous and steadfast dedication of those who have come before us.  I am pleased that the Attorney General’s office will be expanding its Civil Rights Bureau.  It is important that we continue to remember and build on the struggles of those who have relentlessly put their lives in harms way, without reservation and or hesitation, to secure the rights we have inherited thus far.”

State Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera, the chair of the New York State Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, said, “I am glad to see the emphasis that Attorney General Cuomo is placing on pursuing social justice and I am encouraged by his demonstrated commitment to remaining accessible to New York’s minority communities.”

State Assemblyman Darryl C. Towns, the chair of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said, “Attorney General Cuomo’s broad and aggressive civil rights agenda will do much to protect the rights of New York’s minority communities.  He has clearly demonstrated that his office has made the pursuit of civil rights a top priority, and I look forward to working together with the Attorney General in this endeavor.”

Jennifer K. Brown, Vice President and Legal Director of Legal Momentum, the nation's oldest women's rights legal organization, said, “Having come to Legal Momentum from the Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau, I know firsthand how much this office can do to advance the civil rights of all New Yorkers.  We welcome this early opportunity to share our expertise and to help set the civil rights agenda with Attorney General Cuomo and Special Deputy Attorney General Rivera.”

Margaret Fung, Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said, “We are glad that the Attorney General recognizes the importance of developing a strong civil rights agenda that addresses the concerns of New York's growing Asian American communities.  We hope that today's meeting is the beginning of an ongoing dialogue between the Attorney General and the civil rights community.”

Ted Shaw, Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, “I am pleased that my home state, New York, is moving at an early stage of the Cuomo Administration to make civil rights, equality and non-discrimination principles a top priority.  We at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund look forward to working with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and his staff to ensure opportunity for all who live and work in, or visit our great state.”

The following appointments were announced today:

Assistant Attorney General-In-Charge of the Civil Rights Bureau
Dianne E. Dixon has served as the Executive Director of the New York City Loft Board since 2005, where she acted as General Counsel, oversaw all prosecutions, and liaised with other governmental agencies.  She previously served as the Executive Director of the Access to Justice Center of the New York State Unified Court System, where she developed policy initiatives designed to improve the delivery of and funding for civil legal services statewide.  Ms. Dixon is returning to the New York State Department of Law after serving as both the Deputy Bureau Chief of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau and as an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Bureau.  She also brings experience from a wide array of organizations focused on social justice: she acted as both the Fair Housing Project Director and as General Counsel at the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College; she served as the Deputy Commissioner for the Law Enforcement Bureau of the New York City Commission on Human Rights; and she worked as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society in the Harlem Neighborhood office.  Ms. Dixon has had a distinguished academic career: she has served as an adjunct professor at Medgar Evars College and the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law / Yeshiva University and as an instructor at New York University School of Law.  Ms. Dixon is a graduate of New York University School of Law and Princeton University.

Assistant Attorney General-In-Charge of Legal Recruitment
Sandra Jefferson Grannum currently serves as the Acting Bureau Chief of the Health Care Bureau in the New York State Office of the Attorney General and she previously held the position of Deputy Chief of the same Bureau.  Ms. Grannum has also served as the Commissioner of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, a litigation associate at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, and in-house counsel at Avanti Corporate Health Systems.  She is a member of the Association of Black Women Attorneys, the American Health Lawyers Association, the Governor’s Second Department Judicial Screening Committee, and the Committee on Character and Fitness, Appellate Division, First Department.  Ms. Grannum served as the first senior law clerk for the Honorable George Bundy Smith, Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, and as his last law secretary at the Appellate Division, First Department.  Prior to that, she clerked at the Appellate Term, First Department, and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.  Ms. Grannum is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Johns Hopkins University. 

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