NYC Legal Aid chief attorney named 2023-24 ABA Criminal Justice Section chair

Tina Luongo, chief attorney of the Criminal Defense Practice of The Legal Aid Society of New York City, has been named chair of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section. They are the first gender fluid chair of the section.

“Though we have made enormous strides to bring equity and fairness to the criminal legal system, true access to justice is still far from reach,” Luongo said in their chair message. “Our system is still reliant on incarceration instead of prevention. Correctional and policing budgets still vastly outweigh funding for community-based mental health treatment and youth development.

“Plea-bargaining and sentencing guidelines perpetuate generational harms long set in motion by racial and economic disparity.” Luongo said. “Public defender and district attorney offices are facing enormous rates of attrition because, despite loving what they do, attorneys in public service cannot make ends meet in our current economy. We are seeing independently elected prosecutors and officials experience removal from office for decisions they made or for trying to do things differently and appointed chief public defenders being pushed out for speaking out against racism and obvious injustices,” they said.“The work we do in our section is more critical than ever,” Luongo said.

At the Legal Aid Society, Luongo is responsible for the daily operation of all of the practice’s trial, appellate, post-conviction, law reform and parole defense work conducted on behalf of over 100,000 client matters. Luongo also plays an active role in developing the best practices and policy with other criminal justice leaders as part of national networks across the country.

Luongo has served as chair of the ABA Task Force on Comprehensive Representation and co-chair of the Women in Criminal Justice Task Force. They are president of the Chief Defender Association of New York, a former steering committee member of the National Association for Public Defense and a member of the New York State Bar Association Committee of Quality Mandated Representation. Luongo currently serves on the board of directors of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.