Executive Director Denise M. Miranda
New York State Justice Center for the Protection of Special Needs Executive Director Denise Miranda was appointed in January of 2017 to oversee the Justice Center’s more than 425 employees. On June 19, 2017, Executive Director Miranda was unanimously confirmed by the New York State Senate.
Prior to her appointment as Executive Director of the Justice Center, Ms. Miranda served for six years as Managing Director of the Urban Justice Center’s Safety Net Project (UJC) in New York City. UJC provides direct legal services, litigation, research, and policy making to achieve economic justice for low and no-income New Yorkers.
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Executive Director Miranda graduated from New York University (B.A. 1993) and from St. John’s University School of Law (J.D. 1996). She is a member of the Bar of the State of New York as well as admitted to the Southern and Eastern Federal District Courts. She is a member of the New York State Bar Association, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, Westchester Black Bar Association and 100 Hispanic Women of Westchester. Executive Director Miranda is an active volunteer and board member of several non-profit organizations. She lives with her family in Westchester County.
Executive Deputy Director Laura Darman
New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs Executive Deputy Director Laura Darman has more than 15 years of legal, advocacy and management experience in and around NYS government. Ms. Darman joined the Justice Center as Intergovernmental Liaison in 2014. Prior to joining the Justice Center in August of 2014, Laura provided legal counsel and governmental relations assistance to a range of clients in private practice. Her work focused on the areas of health care, social services, and state budget advocacy.
Laura began her career as an Appellate Court Attorney with the Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department. She received her B.A. magna cum laude, from Russell Sage College and her J.D., cum laude, from Albany Law School. She lives in Kinderhook, NY with her husband and two daughters.
Chief of Staff Nadia Chanza
Chief of Staff Nadia Chanza has worked in public service for more than two decades years protecting the health and safety of New York State’s most vulnerable. She joined the Justice Center as Deputy Director in January 2019 to oversee quality assurance initiatives across the agency with a focus on investigations process from intake through administrative appeals before being promoted to Chief of Staff in 2020.
Prior to joining the New York State Justice Center, Nadia worked as an Assistant Chief of Investigations for the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities for approximately six years. She was also instrumental in the creation, development, and training of the Office of Investigations and Internal Affairs Death Unit at OPWDD.
Prior to her tenure at OPWDD, Nadia was an Assistant District Attorney at the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office for approximately 14 years. She graduated from Stony Brook University and earned her law degree from Fordham University School of Law.
Acting General Counsel Christa Book
Acting General Counsel Christa Book has been working to protect vulnerable populations for her entire career. In her current role, Christa oversees several units involved in the agency’s legal functions. Prior to becoming the Acting General Counsel, Christa was the Deputy Director of Incident Management and Investigations. Additionally, she had an integral role in forming the Justice Center Sexual Abuse Response Team (SART).
Before joining the Justice Center, Christa held positions at the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) as well as the District Attorney’s office in Rensselaer County where she served as an Assistant District Attorney and Bureau Chief of the Special Victims Unit.
Christa received her Juris Doctor and graduated magna cum laude, from Albany Law School and her bachelor’s degree from Towson University.
Director of Public Information Christine Buttigieg
Christine Buttigieg joined the Justice Center in 2017 as Director of Public Information. She manages all internal and external communications for the agency including responses to press inquiries, crafting of the agency newsletter, and remarks by agency leadership. She also provides feedback on agency FOIL responses and legislative inquiries. In addition, she oversees the Justice Center’s website and intranet.
Prior to joining the Justice Center, Christine spent 15 years in local television news as a producer and then as Assistant News Director. In that time, she won four regional Emmy awards, four regional Edward R. Murrow awards, three New York State Broadcasters’ Association awards, and two Associated Press awards.
Christine graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University with dual degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. She lives in Halfmoon, NY with her husband and two children. She volunteers in several cancer patient advocacy roles.
Director of Administrative Hearings David Cochran
David Cochran serves as the Director of Administrative Hearings for the Justice Center. He oversees a team of Administrative Law Judges that reviews and renders decisions on appeals of cases substantiated by the Justice Center.
David joined the Justice Center when the agency first opened in 2013. He has broad-based legal experience including a Judicial Clerkship, practiced law both in the public sector and with national law firms and has taught at two law schools. He is admitted in New York and Massachusetts.
David has a J.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Faculty of Law and Jurisprudence and a B.A. from Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Director of Incident Management Lisa Cole
Lisa Cole oversees the Incident Management Unit (IMU) of the Justice Center. As such, she is responsible for supervising the intake and investigatory assignment of all reports made to the Justice Center.
Prior to her position as the Director of IMU, Lisa began her career at the NYJC as a call center agent. She was one of the first agents to take a hotline call when the agency opened on June 30, 2013. Over the next few years, Lisa was promoted to a supervisor, a unit manager, and then the Assistant Director. Prior to her employment with the Justice Center, Ms. Cole worked in voluntary providers providing care to vulnerable individuals for 13 years.
Lisa has a master’s degree in Cultural Foundations of Education, CAS in Women’s Studies, and a CAS in Disability Studies from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Plattsburg.
Special Prosecutor/Inspector General Rachel Dunn
Rachel Dunn joined the Justice Center in 2014 and became the agency’s Special Prosecutor/Inspector General in 2017. Rachel manages a team of attorneys who, in collaboration with the Office of Investigations, review allegations of abuse and neglect that potentially rise to a criminal level. She and members of her team prosecute criminal cases state-wide and assist county district attorneys in their efforts to seek justice for vulnerable victims. She also oversees the agency’s De Novo unit, which reviews administrative adjudications prior to litigation.
Prior to joining the Justice Center, Rachel worked as an agency attorney for the New York City Department of Education handling special education administrative cases. In that role, she litigated due process claims pertaining to special educational planning processes, procedural violations, and the legality of corresponding school placements and therapeutic services.
Before her move to New York City, Rachel served as an Assistant District Attorney in Erie County. She graduated from Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law and the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is an Air Force brat, who enjoys spending as much time as possible outdoors.
Deputy General Counsel Yolanda Harris
Deputy General Counsel Yolanda Harris joined the Justice Center in 2022 after more than a decade of experience in civil litigation. In her role, Yolanda works in coordination with the General counsel on legal matters concerning the agency including case closure, pre-employment checks, and records access.
Yolanda previously served as the Associate General Counsel of the FOIL/Records & Compliance Unit at the NYC Administration for Childrens’ Services. She also managed Ambulatory Care Adult & Pediatric Clinic as well as Surgical Specialties staff in the delivery of primary care to underserved communities in NYC.
Yolanda earned her bachelor’s degree from Herbert Lehman College, C.U.N.Y., earned a Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Administration from New York Medical College, and completed her Law Degree at St. John’s University School of Law.
Director of Internal Audit Jawaria Khan
Jawaria Khan joined the Justice Center in 2018 as the Director of Internal Audit. The Internal audit function adds value to the Justice Center’s internal control system by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to the evaluation of risk and by making recommendations to increase the effectiveness of risk management efforts and improve the internal control structure.
Prior to joining the Justice Center, Jawaria held a finance managerial position at Danaher Corporation, a science and technology company. She has 17 years in state service, the public accounting sector, and the private sector working for Fortune 500 companies.
Jawaria holds a BA in Accounting from the Hofstra University. She is also a New York State Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Deputy Director of Administration Robert Miller
Deputy Director of Administration Robert Miller joined the Justice Center when the agency was first opened in 2013, bringing with him extensive experience in State government. In his current role, Rob oversees all human resource, budgeting/procurement, facilities, information technology, performance management, training, and internal control operations. He has overseen several significant initiatives at the agency including expansion and improvement of the Justice Center’s regional office infrastructure, realization of federal Medicaid reimbursement, and substantial improvements to the Justice Center’s information technology program.
Prior to joining the Justice Center, Rob worked at the NYS Division of the Budget, focusing on criminal justice related issues including analyzing and assessing the impact of proposed changes to the State’s drug laws. Additionally, he worked on various policy and legislative issues at the Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Rob completed his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh and has studied Constitutional Law at SUNY Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy.
Deputy Director of Outreach, Prevention, and Support Davin Robinson
Davin Robinson joined the Justice Center as Chief of Staff when the agency was first established in 2013. She moved into the role of Deputy Director of Outreach, Prevention and Support in 2017 where she oversees the production of the agency’s extensive prevention materials, provider audits, Special Housing Unit (SHU) monitoring and compliance, as well as all outreach with stakeholders, individuals, and families.
Prior to joining the Justice Center, Davin was employed by the NYS Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities as the Director of Intergovernmental Relations. Before working for New York State, she was employed at the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy (SCAA) and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and Office of Management and Budget.
Davin graduated with a master's degree in public policy from the University of Chicago after completing her undergraduate studies at Michigan State University.
Chief of Investigations Anthony Ryan
Anthony Ryan currently serves as the Chief of Investigations for the Justice Center. In that role, he oversees investigations in all five regions of the state as well as the Mortality Review Unit, the State Oversight Agency Review Team, and out of state placements. Prior to his current position, Tony served as Deputy and Assistant Chief of Investigations. He joined the agency when it was launched in 2013.
Tony came to the Justice Center with an extensive criminal justice background. He worked for the Albany Police Department for 23 years in a variety of roles including Commander of the Detective Division, Detective Sergeant, and Detective in both the Special Investigations Unit and the Criminal Investigations Unit.
Tony received several awards during his tenure with APD including the Exceptional Duty Medal in 1998, 2000, and 2008.
He graduated from Hudson Valley Community College with a degree in Criminal Justice.
Intergovernmental Affairs Director Susmita Saha
Susmita Saha joined the Justice Center as the Intergovernmental Affairs Director in 2022. She has always been a fierce advocate for vulnerable populations and has had a keen interest in public policies and the legislative process.
Susmita started her career as a legislative policy analyst at the Illinois State Senate. There, she analyzed legislation and communicated with state agencies, elected officials, and constituents regarding legislation and policies. Susmita then moved on to become an academic advisor and educator at University of Cincinnati. During that time, she focused her academic research on students with disabilities and presented to national conferences. Additionally, she testified before the Ohio State legislature about a bill requiring higher education institutions to create a student-friendly environment for veterans. Susmita also served as an academic advisor and educator at New York University.
Susmita received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and master’s degree from Columbia University.