Meet the Staff

Acting Commissioner

DENISE MIRANDA

Photo of Denise Miranda

Denise Miranda was nominated by Governor Hochul in March 2024 to serve as the Acting Commissioner of the Division of Human Rights (DHR). The Division is dedicated to eliminating discrimination, remedying injustice and promoting equal opportunity, access, and dignity. Recently, under Governor Kathy Hochul’s leadership, the Hate and Bias Prevention Unit was launched by DHR to help communities combat prejudice and discrimination.

Prior to this, Acting Commissioner Miranda was appointed and Senate confirmed as the Executive Director of the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs for 7 years. Acting Commissioner Miranda has been actively engaged in the practice of law for nearly 30 years focusing her work on social justice issues and protecting the rights of vulnerable individuals. Prior to her appointment as Executive Director of the Justice Center, Acting Commissioner 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, impact litigation, research and policy initiatives to achieve economic justice for low and no income New Yorkers. During her tenure Acting Commissioner Miranda facilitated free city-wide legal programs to ensure access to economic supports and federally subsidized housing for low and no income residents while also spearheading diversity equity and inclusion initiatives within the agency. In addition, Acting Commissioner Miranda also served as Co-Chair of the Public Housing Taskforce for the Women’s City Club of New York.

Acting Commissioner Miranda began her legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in the Domestic Violence and Sex Crimes Bureau of the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office. Her extensive experience working with domestic violence survivors served as a foundation for her transition to civil practice working as a Senior Attorney with the Network for Women’s Services and later when she established her own private practice. She graduated from New York University and from St. John’s University School of Law, is a member of the Bar of the State of New York, and is admitted to the Southern and Eastern Federal District Courts. Acting Commissioner Miranda is a member of the New York State Bar Association, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, 100 Hispanic Women of Westchester, Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus, the Latina Mentoring Initiative, and a legislatively-appointed member of the Westchester County Hispanic Advisory Board. She is an active volunteer in her community and resides with her family in Westchester County.

Executive Deputy Commissioner

SHANNON CANTIELLO

Executive Deputy Commissioner Shannon Cantiello

Shannon Cantiello is the Executive Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Human Rights. As part of her portfolio, she oversees the execution of the agency’s mission and the implementation of agency program and policy and has brought with her over a decade of state government experience to the role.

Shannon’s career includes serving as Chief of Staff for the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs and prior to that, Deputy Executive Director for the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. In those roles, she oversaw operations and policy initiatives to achieve the missions of those agencies and to offer collaboration with sister state agencies in pursuit of shared priorities. Shannon began her state career with the New York State Assembly Ways and Means Committee where she served as a Legislative Budget Analyst focusing on the state’s Human Services portfolio.

Her other public service work includes a variety of community-based volunteer work, serving as a Wish Granter with Make-a-Wish, and a board member of several non-profits throughout her professional life. She earned a BA in History/Political science/Education from the College of Saint Rose and an MS in History and Public Policy from SUNY Albany. 

Deputy Commissioner, Enforcement

MELISSA FRANCO
 

Photo of Melissa Franco

In October 2011, Ms. Franco was appointed to serve as Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement. In that capacity, she is responsible for identifying potentially high impact cases and designing investigative plans to carry out Division Initiated complaints. Ms. Franco also oversees the prosecuting attorneys.

Prior to joining the Division, Ms. Franco was with the King’s County District Attorney’s office where she served in various capacities including First Deputy Bureau Chief of a Trial Division; Deputy Bureau Chief of the Grand Jury Bureau; and a Senior Trial Attorney.

Ms. Franco holds a JD from Fordham University and BA in Psychology from the University of South Florida.

 

 

 

 

Deputy Commissioner, Regional Affairs & Federal Programs

GINA N. MARTINEZ
 

Photo of Gina Martinez

In May 2015, Ms. Martinez was appointed Deputy Commissioner for Regional Affairs and Federal Programs. In this capacity, she is responsible for overseeing all of the Division's regional and satellite offices throughout New York State. She is also responsible for overseeing the Division's federal contracts with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Prior to joining the Division, Ms. Martinez served as the Downstate Director in the Office of Administrative Hearings with the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Before coming to work for NYS, she was employed with the NYC Department of Education in various capacities including Deputy Director in the Office of Personnel Investigation, Litigation Attorney in the Teacher Performance Unit and Compliance Officer for the Office of Equal Opportunity. Ms. Martinez also worked with the NYC Mayor's Commission to Combat Police Corruption and previously served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx County District Attorney's Office.

Ms. Martinez holds a BA in Psychology from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a JD from St. John's University School of Law.

Chief Administrative Law Judge

LILLIANA ESTRELLA-CASTILLO
 

Lilliana Estrella-Castillo

Lilliana Estrella-Castillo was appointed Chief Administrative Law Judge of the New York State Division of Human Rights in May 2013.  As Chief Administrative Law Judge, she is responsible for the day to day statewide operations of the Hearing Unit, involving supervision of Administrative Law Judges, as well as the Calendar Unit which schedules all administrative matters coming before the Unit.

Ms. Estrella-Castillo joined the Division in January 1999, as a Senior Attorney in the Office of Administrative Law Judges, a title she held until September 2002 when she was appointed Administrative Law Judge.  As Administrative Law Judge, she presided over pre-hearing settlement conferences, preliminary conferences, and public hearings in cases where the Division issued a finding of probable cause.

Prior to joining the Division, Ms. Estrella-Castillo was an attorney in private practice for a boutique general practice law firm.  She is a member of the National Association of Administrative Judiciary, a recipient of the 2022 State Academy for Public Administration Public Service Excellence Award, and a member of Governor Kathy Hochul’s Latina Mentoring Initiative with the New York State Mentoring Program.

Ms. Estrella-Castillo is a graduate of Fordham University and New York Law School. 

Director of Disability Rights

JOHN HERRION
Director of Disability Rights

Photo of John Herrion

John P. Herrion is an attorney with extensive experience in disability rights.

In March 2008, Mr. Herrion became Director of Disability Rights for the New York State Division of Human Rights. In this capacity, he assists with enforcement of the New York State’s Human Rights Law provisions that prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities.

Prior to working at the New York State Division of Human Rights, Mr. Herrion was Counsel to the United Spinal Association for twelve years, where he represented and assisted persons with disabilities on a wide variety of issues relating to employment, housing, and access to places of public accommodation.

Mr. Herrion has published articles and lectured extensively, including Continuing Legal Education programs for attorneys, on the rights of persons with disabilities. He is a past Chair and Secretary of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Issues Affecting Persons with Disabilities.

Mr. Herrion holds a law degree from Pace University School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Manhattan College.

Senior Director, Hate & Bias Prevention Unit

JOAN PANGILINAN-TAYLOR

Joan Pangilinan-Taylor

Joan Pangilinan-Taylor is the Senior Director of the Hate and Bias Prevention Unit (HBPU) at the New York State Division of Human Rights.  In her role, Joan oversees program development and implementation of the unit’s initiatives (Regional Councils, Rapid Response Team, Public Awareness Campaign, and the Youth Initiatives) and conducts conflict resolution trainings. 

Prior to this position, she was the Coordinator of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York where she worked as a staff mediator and supported program development. 

Joan also served as the Vice President of Mediation & Training at Community Mediation Services where she oversaw the development and supervision of mediation programs in Queens Civil Court, Surrogate's Court, Housing Court, Family Court, Community Mediation, Desk Appearance Ticket Mediation, Special Education Mediation, Elder Care Mediation, Divorce Mediation and Lemon Law Arbitration.  In addition, she supervised the growth and development of CMS training programs including the Basic Mediation Training, Apprenticeship Training, Surrogate’s Court Mediation Training and Restorative Justice practices. 

As a certified mediator, Joan has mediated over hundreds of civil, community, and family mediation cases.  She received her Juris Doctor degree from Northern Illinois University in 2004 and is a member of the Illinois State Bar since 2005.