Christopher R. Riano is a constitutional and public law attorney with significant regulatory experience at the state and federal levels.

Alcohol Beverage and Highly Regulated Industry Law: As the former general counsel to the New York State Liquor Authority, a former administrative law judge, and former commissioner of the New York State Gaming Commission, Mr. Riano is a leader in public and administrative law, particularly in relation to highly regulated industries. Mr. Riano instituted the first commercial compliance agreements used by the New York State Liquor Authority and was among the first counsels in national history to levy negotiated million-dollar fines at each tier of the alcohol beverage control industry. Mr. Riano has counseled highly regulated clients on complex national and international regulatory matters, including before numerous state and federal agencies, particularly in emerging areas of law and regulation. Mr. Riano remains one of the only lawyers in the country to have public-side experience in multiple highly regulated industries.

Lower and Higher Education Law: As the former assistant counsel to the governor of New York, Mr. Riano was responsible for the governor's legal portfolio of lower and higher education throughout the state. He is keenly aware of the special role that state and local law can play in the education space and has taught a course on higher education law at Columbia University for more than a decade. Mr. Riano also served as the chair of the Rules of University Conduct Committee of the Columbia University Senate, where he authored the first revision of the free speech and free expression rules at Columbia since the 1970s. 

Mr. Riano has also served as an academic by teaching numerous courses as a lecturer at Columbia University and a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School, and is frequently asked to speak at national conferences and events on constitutional law, public law and the regulatory state.

Mr. Riano also is an award-winning author and scholar in constitutional law. In 2021, he received the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for his book, Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws, co-authored with William N. Eskridge Jr. of Yale Law School. The book, which presents the 50-year history of the marriage equality movement, was hailed as the "magnum opus" of the field by The New York Times.

Previously, Mr. Riano served as the president and CEO of the Center for Civic Education, a nonpartisan civic and constitutional law education organization dedicated to promoting an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of civic virtue in the U.S. and around the globe.


  • Washington and Lee University, J.D.
  • Columbia University, B.A., Political Science
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • New York
Court Admissions
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Columbia University School of General Studies, Board of Visitors, 2023
  • Fellow of the American Bar Foundation
  • New York State Bar Association, Executive Committee 2022; LGBTQ Law Section, Chair, 2020-2023; Committee on LGBTQ People and the Law, Chair, 2019-2020
  • Life Fellow of the New York State Bar Foundation
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Constitutional Scholar-in-Residence, Civic Education Initiative, 2016-2020
  • The Justice Resource Center, Scholar-in-Residence, Constitutional Law and Civics, 2015-2020
  • Columbia University, Rules of University Conduct Committee for the University Senate, Chair, 2013-2015; General Studies Alumni Association, Co-Chair, 2013-2015; Recent Alumni Leadership Committee for the School of General Studies, Co-Chair, 2011-2013
  • Washington and Lee University Alumni Association, Young Alumni Council, Co-Chair, 2015
Honors & Awards
  • Attorney of the Year, Puerto Rican Bar Association, 2024
  • Rising Star, Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), 2022
  • Silver Gavel Award, American Bar Association, 2021
  • Owl Award, Columbia University School of General Studies, 2018
  • Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40, The National LGBT Bar Association, 2016
  • Rising Star, New York Metro Super Lawyers magazine, Constitutional Law, 2015-2016
  • Randall P. Bezanson Award, Washington and Lee University School of Law, 2010
  • Dean's Citation for Outstanding Contributions and Leadership, Columbia University, 2007
  • Dean of Student's Spirit Award for Outstanding Leadership, Columbia University, 2007
  • Boy Scouts of America, Eagle Scout, 2000; Order of the Arrow, 2000


Speaking Engagements