The Pursuit of Justice

When Cheryl Cox Rameau ’90 decided to take a constitutional law class at Ithaca College, she had no idea it would lead to a future pursuing justice. Rameau is an assistant attorney general with the New York State Office of the Attorney General.

After graduating from IC magna cum laude with a double major in politics and English, Rameau went on to receive a full scholarship to the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law. Rising to the level of an assistant attorney general required a significant amount of emotional strength and perseverance.

“A lot of it was hard work—putting in the time, putting in the effort,” she said. “As a black woman, you have to work a bit harder to get your foot in the door, and a lot of it is being in the right place at the right time.”

After graduating with honors from SUNY Buffalo School of Law, Rameau first worked for the New York City Law Department from 1993 to 2000 on personal injury cases and then from 2000 to 2007 was a defense attorney in a small law firm. When asked if she preferred working for the state or for individual clients, she said working for the state was a better fit for her.

“The work is more varied,” she said of her current position. “I have a broad spectrum of cases that I deal with, and something new comes across my desk every day.  You never get bored. You have to go back to the law books, and you have to do your research.”

Even though you’re defending the state, you do have to look at it in a broader sense, Rameau said.

“You’re representing the State of New York, but the person who is suing you is a citizen of the State of New York. Therefore, if they were injured or damaged in some way and the state is responsible, you have to be very careful in how you approach them. You have to make sure the person gets justice. You have to make sure they get the correct results.”

Rameau said her initial transition to Ithaca College was a major culture shock. It was very different from what she was used to growing up in Barbados, but student organizations largely helped her overcome the shyness she felt at being in a new environment, she said.

“When I started here, it was so different from what I was used to,” she said. “Thank goodness there were a lot of student organizations that I got involved in because it helped me move beyond myself to not be so shy and afraid. I learned to step out of that box and try new things.”

Rameau was involved in several different student organizations at IC, including the African-Latino Society, International Club, and the Student Government Association. She said IC definitely prepared her for law school through the intensive courses she took for her majors.

“The professors in the politics and English courses that I took challenged me to participate and think and be analytical. For the most part, it was a nurturing experience that helped me spread my wings,” she said.