Winner, Athena International Award, DC Regional Chamber of Commerce, 2017
Afghanistan Justice Sector Support Program, US State Department, Kabul, 2006 - 2008
Legal Aid Society, Bronx, 2002-2006
Born in Kingston, Rachel Saunders grew up in Cragsmoor, a small hamlet in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Rachel was young when she first encountered the family court system during her parents’ divorce. That experience inspired her lifelong commitment to helping people, particularly those who are unable to advocate for themselves.
Before attending Bard College, where she graduated with a BA in American Studies, Rachel spent a gap year as a community service volunteer with a Boston-based program. In 2001, she received her J.D. from Howard University School of Law. As a student, Rachel developed a passion for different cultures, studying and working in Israel, Kenya, and Japan.
Rachel began her legal career as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx, representing low-income people facing criminal charges.
In 2006, Rachel’s commitment to the rule of law and individuals’ access to justice inspired her to spend two years helping to develop Afghanistan’s then nascent legal system with the International Legal Foundation and the U.S. Department of State.
Rachel has spent the last fourteen years representing vulnerable populations, including victims of domestic violence, people with chronic mental illness, veterans, and elderly residents. From 2016 through February 2021, Rachel worked at the Dutchess County office of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, a non-profit organization that provides free counseling to low-income individuals.
Rachel has been an active member of Dutchess County’s Coordinating Committee for Domestic Violence and worked to mentor and train attorneys to be sensitive to issues of trauma and crisis.
In 2017, The Dutchess County Chamber of Commerce honored Rachel with an Athena Award in recognition of her leadership and mentorship of local women and girls.
Rachel currently lives in Beacon with her family. She hopes to continue helping other children and families in crisis find a path forward as Dutchess County’s next Family Court Judge.