Our TeAM



Alec graduated from Yale College in 2005 with a degree in Ethics, Politics, & Economics and Harvard Law School in 2008, where he was a Supreme Court Chair of the Harvard Law Review.  Before founding Civil Rights Corps, Alec co-founded Equal Justice Under Law, a non-profit organization dedicated to systemic litigation challenging injustices in the American criminal legal system.  Alec was also a civil rights lawyer and public defender with the Special Litigation Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and a federal public defender in Alabama, representing impoverished people accused of federal crimes. 

Alec is interested in ending human caging, surveillance, the death penalty, immigration laws, war, and inequality.  He is the author of The Human Lawyer, 34 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 563 (2010); Protecting Corporations Instead of the Poor, 121 Harv. L. Rev. 275 (2007); and Civil Disobedience: The Role of Judges, 120 Harv. L. Rev. 1988 (2007).  His most recent article is Policing, Mass Imprisonment, and the Failure of American Lawyers, 128 Harv. L. Rev. F. 253 (2015).

Alec was recently awarded the 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year by Public Justice for his role in bringing constitutional civil rights cases to challenge the American money bail system and the 2016 Stephen B. Bright Award for contributions to indigent defense in the South by Gideon’s Promise. You can read a recent profile about Alec's work with Civil Rights Corps in Harvard Magazine here.

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eric halperin, chief executive officer

Eric has more than 20 years of experience as a civil rights attorney and working with social justice non-profits, including senior positions at the Open Society Foundations, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Center for Responsible Lending. Prior to joining Civil Rights Corps Eric was a senior advisor to Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Program where he directed the foundation’s efforts to promote economic justice in the United States.

From 2010 - 2014 Eric served in leadership roles in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, including as Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General overseeing the Division’s fair housing, fair lending, and employment non-discrimination enforcement programs.  While at the Justice Department, Eric oversaw the filing of a record number of fair lending cases, including the 3 largest residential fair lending settlements in history and the Department’s first ever enforcement actions for illegal foreclosures against members of the military.  

Prior to that, Eric was Director of the Center for Responsible Lending's Washington office, where he managed the litigation program and CRL's advocacy on policy issues.  Earlier in his career, Eric served as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division and on the staff of a community-based organization that provided job training and transitional housing for homeless people.

Eric received his B.A. from Wesleyan University and his J.D. from Harvard Law School.


PREMAL DhARIA, director of litigation

Premal comes to Civil Rights Corps after nearly fifteen years of representing people charged with crimes in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and the military commission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She began her career as an attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS), where she practiced for nine years. While at PDS, Premal represented hundreds of people charged with a wide variety of offenses, tried many of their criminal cases, and closely supervised trial attorneys at all levels of practice.  She served as a member of the Forensic Practice Group and specialized in working with experts and the litigation of forensic issues.  Premal also represented multiple clients on direct appeal. From PDS, Premal went to the Federal Public Defender (FPD) in the District of Maryland, where she represented people charged with a broad range of crimes in federal court. At the FPD, Premal litigated dispositive pretrial motions, conducted jury trials and engaged in complex sentencing advocacy and litigation.  Most recently, Premal was defense counsel in the military commission at Guantanamo Bay, where she represented clients actively charged with alleged terrorism and law of war offenses, including those brought as capital offenses.  Prior to becoming an actual attorney, Premal was a college intern at the Neighborhood Defender Service in Harlem and a law student intern at the Southern Center for Human Rights, the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender in Philadelphia, and PDS.  

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Kiara Pesante Haughton, Director Of communications

Kiara recently joined Civil Rights Corps as its first Director of Communications. Previously, she was the Communications Director for the Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she was one of the youngest senior staffers in the chamber’s Democratic leadership. While there, she led the Democratic Caucus’ communications strategy around the Working Families Agenda and the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, in addition to policies to close the achievement gaps in PK-12 education, reform school discipline practices, modernize the juvenile justice system, expand access to Pell Grants and make college more affordable, raise the minimum wage, provide paid sick and family leave for all workers, and more. She was also part of the battleground states press operation for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Before her role on Capitol Hill, she served as the Southern Regional Press Secretary and National Director of African American Media for the Democratic National Committee during the 2014 election cycle. While there, she led the party's media outreach and messaging efforts in 11 Southern states, working with those state parties, more than 40 campaigns and embedding in three on-the-ground. Prior to that, she was a battleground states radio and TV booker for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and Communications Director for D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh and the District’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment. While there, Kiara played an integral role in the expansion of Uber, Car2Go, and streetcar services in the city, along with the modernization of the District’s taxicab fleet. She has also served in various roles at Edelman Public Relations, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and WSB-TV in Atlanta. 


Kiara was named the 2017 Young Woman of Achievement for Politics and Campaigns by the Women's Information Network, was a member of the Women's Campaign School at Yale University's class of 2012, served as the first-ever IMPACT Social Media Fellow in 2011, and was one of 17 individuals selected from across the United States and Canada for the 2010 Google Policy Fellowship. She earned her Master’s in Public Administration from Howard University, where she was a Trustee Scholar. Her thesis focused on how political candidates and elected officials harnessed social media to reach communities of color. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Auburn University. 


Kiara can be reached at kiara@civilrightscorps.org.


A. Dami Animashaun

Dami is a graduate of Rutgers University and Harvard Law School. In law school, he represented indigent defendants in criminal hearings and tenants in eviction proceedings as a student practitioner at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Prior to joining Civil Rights Corps, he was the Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellow at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program.

You can reach Dami at dami@civilrightscorps.org.


KATIE CHAMBLEE-ryan, attorney* and coordinator of The prosecutor project

Katie Chamblee-Ryan joined Civil Rights Corps after four years as a staff attorney in the Capital Litigation Unit at the Southern Center for Human Rights. At the Southern Center, Katie represented indigent defendants on death row in Georgia and Alabama in both state and federal courts. In 2015, Katie represented Timothy Tyrone Foster as co-counsel in Foster v. Chatman at the U.S. Supreme Court, which resulted in a 7-1 opinion reversing Foster's conviction and death sentence because of racial discrimination in jury selection. Katie is the author of Innocence and Override, 126 Yale L.J. F. 118 (2016) (with Patrick Mulvaney), which argued that Alabama's practice of judicial override violates the Eighth Amendment because it increases the risk that innocent people will be executed, and was the subject of a New York Times Editorial advancing this argument; and Litigating Race Discrimination Under Batson v. Kentucky, ABA Criminal Justice Magazine, V. 32 (2017-2018) (with Stephen B. Bright). 

Katie was a law clerk for Hon. Myron H. Thompson in the District Court for the Middle District of Alabama and is a graduate of Yale Law School, where she received the Chubb Prize for Excellence in Legal Draftsmanship. 

You can reach Katie at katie@civilrightscorps.org.

*Admitted to practice in New York, Georgia, and Alabama. Not admitted in the District of Columbia; practice limited pursuant to D.C. App. R. 49(c)(8), with supervision by Premal Dharia and Alec Karakatsanis, members of the D.C. Bar.



Quinita is the Office Administrator for Civil Rights Corps. As a formerly incarcerated person, she has first-hand experience dealing with America's criminal legal system. Quinita believes strongly in the work that Civil Rights Corps is doing to challenge the unjust aspects of this system, particularly its unfair treatment of poor people and minorities, and she is excited to now be part of the solution. She previously worked as a GED/ESL tutor and an Administrative Clerk. When not busy with work, Quinita is busy spending time with her family and enjoying the simple, beautiful pleasures in life, such as her grandson or any movie starring Kevin Hart.

You can reach Quinita at quinita@civilrightscorps.org. 

kailyn Gaines, investigative & Research Fellow

Kailyn graduated from the honors program at Northeastern University with a combined degree in political science and communication studies and a minor in urban studies. Through Northeastern's co-operative education program she worked in investigative roles with the Criminal Justice Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center, the Roxbury Defenders, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and Prisoners' Legal Services. While in school Kailyn studied abroad in Chile and Iceland, produced a documentary with her best friend as part of an honors thesis on police brutality, colorblindness and the criminalization of blackness (titled Seeing Color) and was deeply involved in campus leadership and community service. Kailyn grew up off the red line in Rockville, MD. She enjoys stand-up comedy and a very long list of reality competition shows. 

You can reach Kailyn at kailyn@civilrightscorps.org.


Charlie Gerstein, Attorney

Charlie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, where he won the Lee C. Bollinger Prize for Excellence in the Study of the First Amendment and was a contributing editor of the Michigan Law Review. He also served as a student attorney in the Federal Appellate Litigation Clinic, where he briefed and argued cases on behalf of the Federal Public Defender in the Sixth Circuit, the Northern District of Ohio, and the Ohio Court of Appeals. He is the author of The Prisoner's Lawyer's Dilemma, Criminal Justice Magazine, Spring 2017, at 33; Plea Bargaining and Prosecutorial Motives, 15 U.N.H. L. Rev. 1 (2016); Process Costs and Police Discretion, 128 Harv. L. Rev. F. 268 (2015) (with J.J. Prescott); Note, Plea Bargaining and the Right to Counsel at Bail Hearings, 111 Mich. L. Rev. 1513 (2013); Accomplicesin The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice (Dr. Jay S. Albanese ed., 2013); and Essay, What Can the Brothers Malone Teach us About Fisher v. University of Texas?, 111 Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions 1 (2012). After law school, Charlie clerked for the Honorable J. Paul Oetken of the Southern District of New York and the Honorable Pierre N. Leval of the Second Circuit. He is currently a Skadden Fellow.

You can reach Charlie at charlie@civilrightscorps.org.



Katherine is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and Stanford Law School. While in law school, she represented people in misdemeanor criminal cases and sought resentencing for people sentenced to life without parole under California’s Three Strikes Law. An equal justice enthusiast, Katherine previously worked as a legal fellow at Equal Justice Initiative, where she represented people on Alabama’s death row and children sentenced to die in prison, and Equal Justice Under Law, where she worked on lawsuits challenging money bail and police misconduct. An Iowa native, Katherine loves rolling plains and fresh sweet corn. She also enjoys cheese, ballet, and Byzantine art.

You can reach Katherine at katherine@civilrightscorps.org.




Clarissa graduated cum laude from Princeton University in the School of Public & International Affairs where she received the R.W. van de Velde award for her work on the juvenile interrogation process in New Jersey. She previously worked for the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender and served as an Oscar S. Straus II Fellow in the legal department of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. She is the former co-President of Students for Prison Education and Reform, through which she co-founded a career preparation program in three state prisons. She is originally from Whiskerville, Pennsylvania.

You can reach Clarissa at clarissa@civilrightscorps.org or at (202) 643-6241.



Marco spent his childhood in Fremont, California, where he and his best friend promised to build their babysitter a house when they grew up (an outstanding obligation owing to the fact that one of them has yet to grow up). He holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a master’s degree from Princeton University, both in Philosophy, as well as a JD from Harvard Law School, where he was an Articles Co-Chair of the Harvard Law Review and a reliable eater of junk food. During law school he worked for the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California and the Civil Appellate Staff of the U.S. Department of Justice. Most recently he worked at Equal Justice Under Law, where he helped to challenge debtors' prisons and unconstitutional bail systems around the country. Marco enjoys swimming, listening to oral arguments, petting cats, and other good things.

You can reach Marco at marco@civilrightscorps.org or at (202) 643-9148.



Elizabeth Rossi investigates and litigates cases challenging money bail, debtors' prisons, and private probation. She is a central part of the team that won a preliminary injunction striking down the money bail system in Harris County, Texas, in the first lawsuit to subject a wealth-based pretrial system to the scrutiny of actual evidence in open court.  Her docket also includes a landmark lawsuit against a for-profit company in Rutherford County, TN that was running an extortion racket in the guise of a probation system.  As a result of the lawsuit, the County ended use of money bail on violation-of-probation arrest warrants.

Elizabeth coordinates Civil Rights Corps’s litigation and bail reform efforts in several states across the country, and regularly advises and collaborates with local lawyers, stakeholders, and organizers to end massive pretrial incarceration. Elizabeth is a member of Civil Corps's founding staff.  Before joining CRC, she was an attorney in the appellate division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender and a Litigation Fellow with Equal Justice Under Law. She clerked on the federal District Court for New Hampshire and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and holds degrees from the Boston University School of Law, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in the Berkeley Journal of International Law, the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, and Roger Williams University Law Review.

You can reach Elizabeth at elizabeth@civilrightscorps.org or at (202) 681-2721.

*Admitted to practice law in Maryland (active) and Massachusetts (inactive); not admitted in the District of Columbia. Practice is limited pursuant to D.C. App. R. 49(c)(3).


JONAS WANG, Attorney

Jonas was born in China, grew up in Massachusetts, went to high school in South Dakota, and graduated from Harvard University and Yale Law School. During law school, Jonas participated in criminal justice reform work in policy practicums and academic research, and interned at the appellate division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Jonas was also a member in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic, participating in the briefing and oral argument of a clinic case before the Second Circuit. As a member of the OutLaws board, Jonas directed the writing and publication of a student guide for helping trans students and their allies at the law school. Jonas also served as Articles Editor of the Yale Law Journal. After working as a Liman Fellow at Civil Rights Corps, Jonas will clerk for the Honorable Analisa Torres in the Southern District of New York. Jonas is an avid, beginner rock climber and loves long hikes in nature.

You can reach Jonas at jonas@civilrightscorps.org.

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Thea Sebastian, Policy Counsel

Thea recently joined Civil Rights Corps as its first Policy Counsel. Thea is a graduate of Harvard College, Oxford University, and Harvard Law School, where she founded the Social Enterprise Law Association and co-founded a Conversation on Race discussion series. Prior to joining Civil Rights Corps, she served as Associate General Counsel to District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, working on numerous issues spanning urban policy. She additionally spent three years in education, which involved two years teaching special education at a South Bronx middle school, and had policy positions across organizations including the Center for Popular Democracy, the Office of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the Martha Coakley for United States Senate Campaign and the White House Domestic Policy Counsel. Besides criminal justice, her work has focused predominantly on educational equity, health, and place-based development.

Thea is interested in issues surrounding concentrated poverty and equal opportunity, particularly as these issues affect low-income youth. When not battling for social       justice, she is most likely to be running, doing yoga, eating dark chocolate, binging on the Good Wife, or consuming audiobooks at an alarming rate.

 You can reach Thea at thea@civilrightscorps.org.