Lanessa Owens-Chaplin is an experienced lawyer with a demonstrated history of working in the non-profit sector. As Director of Environmental Justice Projects of The American Civil Liberties Union of New York, she leads the state-wide initiative to restore, uplift, and work alongside marginalized and environmental justice communities, with a specific focus on addressing environmental racism. Skilled in civil liberties, civil rights, environmental justice, leadership, litigation, and intergovernmental relations, her advocacy efforts have been instrumental at centering the voices of marginalized communities impacted by environmental racism.
Ms. Owens-Chaplin began her legal career in 2012 as a law associate at Hiscock Legal Aid where she challenged lower courts harsh and excessive sentencing decisions. Advocated in the legal services Ms. Owens-Chaplin wanted to effect policies that impacted marginalized communities. She joined the New York State legislative house as legal counsel and later became Deputy Secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs to the Speaker of the New York State Assembly, working closely with government leaders on proposing, drafting, and negotiating policy reforms such as criminal justice reform, anti-poverty initiatives and equitable access to capital.
Ms. Owens-Chaplin's dedication to her community led to her co-founding the Diversity & Inclusion internship program. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the William Herbert Johnson Bar Association of Central New York, the only Black bar association in the region. She currently is appointed to the New York State Judicial Commission and the Commissioner of the Human Rights Division.
In addition to her Juris Doctorate, Lanessa received her L.L.M in Environmental Law and has been recognized for her efforts to seek justice including 2015 Award Recipient, New York State Bar Association, Young Lawyers Award, 2016 Award Recipient, New York State NAACP, Melchor, May, McKinney Honor, 2017 Award Recipient, Seeds For Change, a recognition of civil rights litigation addressing the carceral systems disproportionate impact on children of color. And most notably, her 2022 Doctorate in Human Letters, granted by the State University of New York, awarded for over 10 years of dedicated service to the non-profit sector to restoring, uplifting, and working alongside marginalized communities, with a specific focus on achieving racial equity and environmental justice.
Publications include, Building a Better Future, The Structural Racism Built into I-81, and How to Tear it Down. December 2, 2020 and Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood wasn’t America’s only Black Wall Street, USA Today, May 21, 2021.