A practicing attorney, scholar, and activist, Elena L. Cohen is an expert in U.S. and comparative constitutional law. She is a past president of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), having served in NLG leadership for over a decade. Professor Cohen continues to serve on her local NLG-NYC board, where her time is spent working to make affirmative litigation accessible to attorneys who have been systematically excluded from the civil rights bar, especially women, attorneys of color, and LGBTQ people.
With extensive experience as a legal practitioner, Professor Cohen is a founding partner of Cohen Green PLLC (“Femme Law”), a small firm serving the needs of the New York City queer and activist communities. She has devoted her practice to serving the needs of three populations: activists, the LGBTQ+ community and anyone whose constitutional rights are violated by government officials. Her practice primarily focuses on criminal defense and civil rights litigation.
Professor Cohen has also litigated many high-profile cases. In 2021, she brought a class action lawsuit challenging police practices related to policing during the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in New York City (see Sow et al v. City of New York et al). Related, she was featured in an article by Vogue about best practices for protesters. She was lead counsel of Edrei et al v. City of New York et al, a lawsuit challenging the New York Police Department’s use of sound cannons, which resulted in substantial policy reform.
Her legal scholarship is in the area of constitutional law, and her publications have focused on sexuality, race, gender and religion. Professor Cohen co-wrote a chapter for the Handbook On Constitutions And Religion (2020) titled “Gender Justice and Religious Freedom in the Post-Secular Age.” Professor Cohen also published “‘All Day, All Week, Occupy Wall Street!’: Space, Biopower and Resistance,” a chapter in Biopolitics And Utopia (2015). Her articles include “I’d Rather Go Naked: Sexual Dissent and Queer Resistance in PETA Campaigns,” published in Green Theory & Praxis (2016). She also published “Divided in Theory, United in Practice: The American Perspective on the Interface between Politics and the Courts,” Percorsi Costituzionali: Quadrimestrale di Diritti e Libertà (2010), and she co-authored “Jurisprudence de la Cour Suprême Américaine (2007-2008),” Revue Du Droit Public et de la Science Politique en France et à l’Étranger (2009). She also co-edited a special issue of Women’s Studies Quarterly on the topic of “Protest” (2018).
Professor Cohen received her JD from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and her PhD in Political Science from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Prior to teaching at Kline Law, she was an adjunct associate professor teaching civil rights, political theory, gender and sexuality classes in the City University of New York system.