Distinguished Clinical Professor of Law and Justice Virginia Long Scholar
Laura Cohen
Rutgers Law School
S.I. Newhouse Center for Law and Justice
123 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07102

Laura Cohen is the Director of the Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic and formerly worked for the New York City Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division. She’s written articles on juvenile justice, parole, legal ethics, lawyering theory and the legal representation of adolescents. She’s also spearheaded several important amicus briefs before the New Jersey Supreme Court on juvenile justice matters.

  • Biography
  • Publications
  • Courses Taught
  • Expertise

Laura Cohen is Distinguished Clinical Professor of Law, the Justice Virginia Long Scholar, and Director of the Rutgers Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic (CYJC).  The CYJC’s mission of providing post-conviction legal representation to clients incarcerated as adolescents in matters ranging from conditions of confinement and actual innocence to parole and executive clemency is unique among the nation’s law school clinics. Professor Cohen also co-directs both the Rutgers Center on Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice and (with Professor Sandra Simkins) the Northeast Juvenile Defender Center, a regional affiliate of the National Juvenile Defender Center.

One of the country’s leading experts on juvenile justice and the legal representation of youth, Professor Cohen was appointed in 2013 as a consultant to the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in its investigation of systemic due process violations in the St. Louis County, Missouri Juvenile Court. Prior to joining the Rutgers faculty, she  was the Director of Training for the New York City Legal Aid Society=s Juvenile Rights Division, where she oversaw the attorney training program and public policy initiatives relating to child welfare and juvenile justice. She also served as Deputy Court Monitor for the U.S. District Court, District of Puerto Rico in Morales Feliciano v. Hernandez Colon, a federal class action challenging conditions of confinement in Puerto Rico=s prisons; Senior Policy Analyst for the Violence Institute of New Jersey; and staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division in the Bronx.

Under Professor Cohen’s direction, the CYJC has spearheaded several important policy and law reform initiatives. These include creation of Youth Justice New Jersey, a statewide juvenile justice reform coalition; successful amicus curiae efforts before the New Jersey Supreme Court; and appellate victories on behalf of individual clients that have given rise to systemic change.   

In 2012, Professor Cohen received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s “Champion for Change” award in recognition of her work with system-involved youth. She also is the recipient of the National Juvenile Defender Center’s Robert E. Shepherd Award for Excellence in Juvenile Defense and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey’s Legal Leadership Award. Her scholarship explores topics ranging from juvenile justice and parole to legal ethics and lawyering theory, with a particular focus on the legal representation of adolescents.

Professor Cohen earned her B.A. summa cum laude from Rutgers College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and her J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she was Managing Editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review.


Law Reviews


The Critical Role of Post-Disposition Representation in Addressing the Needs of Incarcerated Youth, 48 John Marshall Law journal ___ (lead article; forthcoming 2015)(with Sandra Simkins)


Extend the Guiding Hand: Incarcerated Youth, Law School Clinics, and Expanding Access to Counsel, 17 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law Social Change 410 (2014)


Freedom’s Road: Youth, Parole, and the Promise of Miller v. Alabama and Graham v. Florida, 35 Cardozo Law Review 1031 (2013)


 Kids Will Be Kids: Interviewing and Counseling Adolescent Clients, 79 Temple Law Review 357 (2006)(with Randi Mandelbaum)


Introduction: When the Law is Guilty: Confronting the Crisis of Mass Incarceration, 66 Rutgers Law Review 841 (2014)


Introduction: Righting the Wronged: Causes, Effects, and Remedies of Juvenile Wrongful Conviction, 62 Rutgers Law  Review 879 (2010)




The Gault Case and Young People’s Rights: Debating Supreme Court Decisions (2006)


“I Want In: The Story of a Life Redeemed,” in Frank Askin, You Can Tell It to the Judge . . . True Tales of Law School Lawyering (2009)


Professional Journals


Reforming the Juvenile Justice System, New Jersey Lawyer 42 (October 2015)


Lost in the Labyrinth: Children with Disabilities and the Juvenile Justice System, Common Ground (New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, November 4, 2013), available at http://www.njcommonground.org/lost-in-the-labyrinth-children-with-disabi...


New Hope Found in Practice Standards, ABA Criminal Justice Magazine (Winter 2009)


Recent Opinion Pieces


“The Shifting Winds of Juvenile Justice,” Newark Star-Ledger (August 16, 2015)


 “The Heartbreaking, Preventable Death of Kalief Browder,” Newark Star-Ledger (June 14, 2015)(with Alexander Shalom)


“Think Twice Before Trying Young Offenders as Adults,” Newark Star-Ledger (September 16, 2012)


“Why the Judge Got it Right in Dharun Ravi’s Sentencing,” Newark Star-Ledger (May 27, 2012)(with John J. Farmer, Jr.)


Courses Taught
  • Advanced Crim. Youth & Justice Clinic
  • Crim. Youth & Justice Clinic
  • Child Advocacy
  • Clinical Legal Education
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Interviewing/Counseling
  • Juvenile Justice