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Susanne Brody 1988

While a student at Pace Law School, Susanne Brody interned at the Federal Defender’s office, in White Plains. “I got bit by the bug,” she says. “But they don’t hire out of school.” After graduating, Brody spent two years at the now defunct Serchuk & Zelermyer. Then one day she got a call from the defender’s office: there was an opening. She made the jump and, 20 years later, she’s never looked back.

As attorney in charge, Brody handles a wide variety of indigent criminal defense: illegal re-entry, child pornography, drug cases, white collar fraud. Her most recent high-profile case was the trial of the Newburgh Four, which centered on whether four alleged radical Muslim terrorists, who plotted to shoot down an airplane and planted what they mistakenly believed to be real bombs at synagogues in the Bronx, were the victims of FBI entrapment. Brody feels the four were “low-level pot dealers” convinced to sign onto a plot cooked up by a well-paid FBI informant, who offered the group’s leader $250,000 and a BMW. “It doesn’t make any sense to anybody,” she says of the case.

In this case, as in much of Brody’s work, she found herself defending individuals who—even if they had not been convicted—were still not anyone’s idea of model citizens. But Brody views her job as serving a much more important principle. “I’m not defending these people, I’m defending their Constitutional rights,” she says. “This is really the front line of the Constitution.”

In addition to her work at the defender’s office, Brody is also extremely active in Jewish education, particularly the Hillels at Duke and Emory universities, and the Westchester Fairfield Hebrew Academy, of which she was an early supporter. “Westchester Fairfield Hebrew Academy was a dream I had many years ago,” she says. She “planted the seed” when she invited local rabbis and other movers in the local Jewish community to a meeting at her home and told them, “We’re going to build a Jewish day school in Greenwich (Connecticut).” Brody also started the Anti-Defamation League chapter in Greenwich, and is a past president of the Women’s Division of the Greenwich Jewish Federation.

Brody’s involvement in the Jewish community, and her intense study of Jewish history and legal concepts, inform her approach to her work as a public defender. She views the Jewish concepts of compassion and justice as being intertwined. There’s a good dog and a bad dog in each of us, she says, and sometimes the bad dog in her clients barks very loudly. Yet, much of life is determined not by the road you take, but the road you’re put on. “Each client is entitled to the best representation I can give them, and I fight for them. There has to be some justice in the justice system.” And although Brody doesn’t know when she wakes up each morning whom she will be representing, she is grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community. “This job puts my life into perspective… I realize each day how fortunate I am,” she says.

After 20 years, she can’t imagine doing anything else.