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Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights expands U.S. advocacy and litigation efforts with appointment of Sarah Gillman

New York, NY, October 18, 2022Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights today announced that Sarah Gillman, co-founder of the noted Rapid Defense Network (RDN), has joined the organization as its new Director of Strategic U.S. Litigation. A seasoned attorney specializing in immigrants’ rights, Gillman will work to expand RFK Human Rights’ domestic advocacy and litigation efforts on key human rights issues including reducing the size and scope of the mass incarceration system.

“Sarah has a top-notch track record of using bold and innovative litigation and legal strategy to fight abuses of government power, from her time at Rapid Defense Network to the ongoing partnerships she has formed with advocates and organizations across the country,” said Anthony Enriquez, VP of U.S. Advocacy and Litigation at RFK Human Rights. “Her experience will be a crucial asset to our team as we continue our fight against human rights violations in the U.S. criminal and immigration systems.”

Gillman has extensive experience defending detained noncitizens in proceedings before the Executive Office of Immigration Review and in the federal courts, beginning in 2007 as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit. In 2019, she co-founded the Rapid Defense Network, a legal nonprofit created to use strategic litigation to defend individuals facing detention and deportation.

RDN’s work focused on scaling access to federal court for cases with potential for larger impactful reform of the immigration legal system, holding the government accountable for violations of law, and strengthening and expanding partnerships and alliances in service of immigrants’ rights. Rather than imposing a predetermined legal theory on its cases, RDN sought innovative solutions that focused on stopping harm to directly impacted individuals. Among RDN’s courtroom successes were the creative use of the writ of habeas corpus to stop the detention and deportation of abused and neglected minors eligible for humanitarian immigration status and impact litigation filed during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the rights to life and health of individuals detained in dangerous conditions. RDN’s innovative legal theories have been recognized by publications such as the Harvard Law Review. Rapid Defense Network will wind down as an organization and its ongoing cases and projects will now be carried out under the RFKHR name.

“Our work at Rapid Defense Network has found the perfect home in RFK Human Rights,” said Gillman. “I’m thrilled to join the RFKHR team and excited to see where this new chapter takes us. Pursuing meaningful litigation is a long-term process, one that requires sustained commitment and a willingness to dive deep to address systemic problems. Together, we have the ability to create real change for individuals who have been directly impacted by our country’s broken immigration system.”

Gillman is a graduate of Earlham College and CUNY School of Law. She is a member of the New York State Bar and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Courts for the Southern, Eastern, and Western Districts of New York, and the District of Columbia; and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Third Circuit, the Fourth Circuit, the Fifth Circuit, the Ninth Circuit, the Eleventh Circuit, and the D.C. Circuit. She has also served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, Washington Square Legal Services, where she taught the Immigrant and Advanced Rights Clinics.

About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

We are a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues—championing change makers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.

Media contacts:

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