2021 was the inaugural year of the LGBTQ+ Bar’s Legal Services Justice Award. This award recognizes a Legal Services practitioner whose work on behalf of low-income, marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ and HIV+ communities has advanced the cause of justice and equity with excellence and compassion.
Tina Luongo (They/Them) is the Chief Attorney of the Criminal Defense Practice of The Legal Aid Society. With almost 30 years of commitment to nonprofits that advocate and litigate for social justice, Tina is engaged in work that has helped clients and communities in New York City and across the nation.
Tina’s distinguished career as a public defender began at The Legal Aid Society as a staff attorney in the New York County trial office of the Criminal Defense Practice and, later, as Supervising Attorney of the same office. As Supervising Attorney, they continued to directly represent clients, as well as train and manage a team of attorneys, paralegals, and investigators. Tina served on the task force that, with Davis Polk LLP, laid the foundation for the groundbreaking legislation capping caseloads for public defenders in New York City. This legislation has been critically important in ensuring people accused of crimes receive the robust representation the U.S. Constitution requires and more importantly, they deserve. In May 2011, Tina became the Deputy Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice, where they were responsible for the daily operation of the practice’s over 1200 dedicated staff representing over 230,000 low-income New Yorkers. As Chief Attorney, Tina has presided over law reform, policy advocacy and affirmative litigation that have sought access to medical care for people held at Rikers Island; improved treatment of LGBTQIA+ people under the care of the NYC Department of Correction; and led efforts to strengthen transparency and accountability of NYPD officers for misconduct.
Prior to joining the The Legal Aid Society, Tina served in various roles, including as Vice President of Operations for a national gang intervention and prevention nonprofit organization, Council for Unity. At the Council for Unity, Tina led the development, finance, and human resource functions of the organization.
Throughout their career Tina has focused on improving the lives of those that have found themselves on the brink, or within, the criminal justice system. They are dedicated to increasing the diversity of the public defense workforce and are integrally involved in The Legal Aid Society’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives which partners management and staff to improve staff diversity and provide cultural competency training, both internally and to external stakeholders in the criminal justice system. They have been an active voice in the movement to foster best practices in public defense and continue to be involved in the dialogue about how public defenders can create systemic change, as well as be zealous advocates for their clients.
In August 2023 Tina will be sworn in as the first gender non-conforming Chair of the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section, after serving the section for many years in several key leadership roles. In that role, they will work with public and private criminal defense attorneys, State and Federal prosecutors, and esteemed members of the bench and academia to set the standards for racial equity and fairness in the criminal legal system and to strive to create opportunity and professional development for section members. Tina is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and Past President of the Chief Defender Association of New York.
2022 | Lavender Law - Los Angeles
Allison J. Rice – Duke Law School
2021 | Lavender Law - Virtual
Vickie Neilson – The Catholic Legal Immigration Network