Founder & Executive Director
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.
Alec also has taught a high school class on mass human caging, civil rights, and safe interaction with the police in the D.C. public schools; helped lead a community organizing effort against racial profiling and police misconduct in the District of Columbia; and is a mentor in the Big Brother/Big Sister program. He is currently Co-Chair of the American Bar Association Committee on Pretrial Justice. He also spends his time playing the piano, making weird paintings, and playing soccer.
You can reach Alec at email@example.com and read representative articles about his prior work here:
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.
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.
Premal has organized and led trainings on various aspects of litigation, strategy and criminal defense practice for the indigent defense bar in Washington, D.C., as well as law firms, bar associations, and other legal groups. She has served on the faculty of the Trial Advocacy Workshop at Harvard Law School and the Bronx Defenders’ litigation training program, the Defenders Academy. In the fall of 2014, she was selected for a three-month fellowship to train and supervise three new public defender offices in Palestine. She lived in Ramallah and worked with Palestinian lawyers in the West Bank, and also conducted broader trainings for the Palestinian Bar Association.
Premal received a B.A. from Brown University in History, with Honors, and African-American Studies, and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She grew up in southwestern West Virginia, but has called Washington, D.C., home for nearly 15 years.
You can reach Premal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-780-7594.
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 email@example.com.
Director of Community Engagement & Accountability
Pilar comes to Civil Rights Corps after over twenty years working as an organizer and strategist across the social justice movement. She has a wide range of experience as an advocate for systems change having worked with community-based organizations, labor unions, and elected leaders, always with a focus on building grassroots community power.
Pilar is the founder of the Community Justice Exchange, a hub for developing, sharing, and experimenting with tactical interventions, strategic organizing practices, and innovative organizing tools to end mass incarceration. In 2016, Pilar launched the National Bail Fund Network, a collaborative partnership for the 40+ community bail funds working across the country to end detention in both the criminal legal and immigration systems.
Pilar served as an organizer, strategist, and leader in the labor movement for many years. This included building large-scale membership-led political campaigns as the Political Director of the Culinary Workers Union in Nevada, and later serving as the Deputy Director of Politics & Communications for UNITE HERE, the national union of workers in the hospitality industry. In 2011, Pilar was awarded a Practitioner Fellowship at Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor where she focused on new strategies for organizing among unemployed workers in the post-recession economy.
Pilar has worked on a wide range of local, state, and federal election campaigns with an emphasis on creating long‐term civic engagement strategies for communities previously left out of the electoral process. She served as the Civic Engagement Director at the New Organizing Institute where she worked with community-based organizations across the country building people-powered campaigns. From 2012-2014, she was the Campaign Manager and Senior Advisor to Congressman Steven Horsford (NV‐4). Pilar also worked to launch the Reflective Democracy Campaign, an initiative of the Women Donors Network that is focused on removing barriers that keep women and people of color from positions of elected leadership and advocates for a political system that truly reflects the American population, including a focus on the inequities of representation within the criminal justice system.
Pilar grew up in rural Northern New Mexico and holds a master’s degree in Public Health from UC Berkeley and a BA in Chemistry from the University of New Mexico.
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.
*Admitted to practice solely in New York. Not admitted in the District of Columbia; practice limited pursuant to D.C. App. R. 49(c), with supervision by Alec Karakatsanis, a member of the D.C. Bar.
Investigative & Research Fellow
Lily graduated with an honors degree in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University. A native of the DC area, her two central passions are criminal legal reform and educational equity. At Princeton, Lily served on the leadership of Students for Prison Education and Reform, where she spearheaded efforts to combat the school-to-prison pipeline in New Jersey and helped create the University’s first “inside-outside” seminar for Princeton students at a local women’s prison. Her independent academic work focused on the intersection of the criminal legal system and the child welfare system, examining outcomes for foster care children with incarcerated parents. Lily previously interned as an investigator with the Bronx Defenders in New York, where she worked to provide a zealous defense for indigent clients in criminal defense cases. She loves travelling, live music, and hanging out with her two dogs.
Olevia joins Civil Rights Corps as an Arthur Liman Fellow, awarded by Yale Law School, where she earned her J.D. in 2017. In law school, she served as the director of the Reentry Clinic at New Haven Legal Assistance, representing people facing eviction and employment discrimination on the basis of their criminal records. Olevia also represented indigent people in criminal hearings as a clinical student in the Criminal Justice Clinic, designed and led Know Your Rights programs in the local community, taught constitutional law to high school students, co-authored a New York Times op-ed on police violence, and helped efforts to end solitary confinement and the death penalty.
Prior to joining Civil Rights Corps, Olevia clerked for the Honorable Myron H. Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.
*Admitted to practice solely in Texas. Not admitted in the District of Columbia; practice limited pursuant to D.C. App. R. 49(c), with supervision by Alec Karakatsanis, a member of the D.C. Bar.
Cornelia joins Civil Rights Corps with twenty years of non-profit administrative and management experience. After, almost twenty years with the Pew Research Center; most recently in the President’s Office, she has experience coordinating and managing across program areas and sub-grants. Cornelia holds a Bachelors in Administration of Justice from the University of the District of Columbia.
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.
Ryan joined Civil Rights Corps after a decade of litigating civil rights cases at both Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC in Washington, D.C. and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. (LDF) in New York. At Relman, Ryan served as lead counsel on numerous fair housing, employment, and public accommodations matters, including two of the first cases to facially challenge blanket criminal records bans imposed by private housing providers (Fortune Society v. Sandcastle Towers; Equal Rights Center v. Mid-America Apartment Communities, Inc.). As lead counsel on his cases, Ryan managed every aspect of federal litigation, appearing in district courts across the country and arguing multiple appeals in the Fifth, Sixth, and Tenth Circuits.
Prior to Relman, Ryan served as a Skadden Fellow and later as Assistant Counsel at LDF. There, he worked on the litigation team for Lewis v. City of Chicago, a class action filed on behalf of Chicago firefighters that resulted in a unanimous Supreme Court decision expanding disparate impact protections under Title VII and more than $50 million back-pay relief. Ryan also helped litigate to settlement, Thompson v. HUD, a groundbreaking Fair Housing Act class action challenging the federal government’s discriminatory public housing practices in Baltimore.
Ryan is a frequent lecturer and presenter at legal conferences and universities, including the Airlie Civil Rights Training Conference, the National Fair Housing Alliance Annual Conference, Harvard Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He is also an executive officer on the board of the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership, an organization that administers an opportunity-based voucher program for the Baltimore region.
Ryan received his J.D. cum laude from New York University, where he was a Root Tilden Kern Scholar, an articles editor on the NYU Law Review, and a student-attorney in the Juvenile Defender Clinic. After graduation, he clerked for The Hon. Martha Craig Daughtrey of the Sixth Circuit. Ryan received his undergraduate degree cum laude from Harvard College.
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.
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 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.
Charlie founded Civil Rights Corps's initiative examining systemic problems with indigent-defense systems and is lead counsel on the initiative's first case, which challenges judicial interference with public-defender independence. He also serves as lead counsel in a class-action challenge to wealth-based pre-trial detention in Lafayette Parish, LA, and and a class-action challenge to warrantless detention in Houston, TX. He previously served as lead counsel in a successful federal habeas challenge to wealth-based pre-trial detention in Memphis, TN, Weatherspoon v. Oldham, No. 17-CV-2535-SHM-CGC, 2018 WL 1053548, at *1 (W.D. Tenn. Feb. 26, 2018), and a successfully resolved challenge to probable-cause practices in Harris County, TX, Lomas v. Harris Cnty., Tex., 16-CV-3745 (S.D. Tex.).
Charlie is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he leads a practicum and teaches a seminar on First Amendment issues for criminal-defense lawyers.
Charlie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School in 2014. 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. Before law school, Charlie was a public-defense investigator. Before that, he was a chef. And before that, he worked in landscaping and played guitar in a band.
Charlie 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); Accomplices, in 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). He is the co-host of the weekly podcast Versus Trump (archived recordings) and is a regular contributor to the Take Care blog (archived posts). The views Charlie expresses in his writing and podcast are entirely his own, and do not reflect the views of Civil Rights Corps-- or anyone else for that matter.
Alison comes to CRC with considerable experience as a criminal defense investigator in local and federal courts. Alison began her career as a Staff Investigator at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia where she investigated hundreds of cases in the trial and parole divisions, and was a member of the Forensic Practice Group and the Police Misconduct Practice Group. After PDS, Alison joined the staff of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, a non-profit organization providing literacy and reentry programming for incarcerated teenagers. Most recently, Alison worked as an investigator at the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of the Virgin Islands. Alison is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where she earned her BS in Sociology with comprehensive honors and completed a senior honors thesis on the disenfranchisement of people with felony convictions. Alison enjoys eating cheese curds, and strongly believes that the Green Bay Packers are the greatest football team of all time.
Katherine’s work focuses on litigation challenging the criminalization of poverty, particularly debtor’s prisons and wealth-based pretrial detention. Katherine coordinates CRC’s bail reform efforts in several states across the country including California, where her work in collaboration with the San Francisco Public Defender resulted in the landmark Humphrey decision, which struck down the pervasive practice in California’s courts of setting money bail pursuant to a schedule without consideration of an individual’s ability to pay. Katherine has also successfully litigated several cases against Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department for executing illegal search warrants, resulting in damage awards totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for her clients. Katherine is a founding member of the CRC staff. 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. Katherine is a graduate of Stanford Law School and the University of Wisconsin. As an Iowa native, Katherine loves rolling plains and fresh sweet corn.
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, oral arguments, petting cats, and other good things.
Investigative & Research Fellow
Arjun graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an honors degree in Economics and a minor in Political Science. Though born in Connecticut, he lived abroad for most of his life in London, Hong Kong and Singapore. He is passionate about reforming the criminal legal system and has previously interned at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center and Brooklyn Defender Services, helping to provide a vigorous defense for his indigent clients. While in school, Arjun co-founded the Philadelphia Bail Fund, a nonprofit that posts bail for people who cannot afford it. He continues to serve on the board and support the fight against money bail in Philadelphia. Arjun’s recent academic work has focused on the federal and state-level trial penalty and the limitations of foundation-led criminal justice reform. In his spare time, Arjun loves travelling, playing the occasional video game and eating mouthwatering food.
Tara comes to Civil Rights Corps with a decade of litigation experience. She began her civil rights career as a Special Litigation attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where she litigated cases in the D.C. and federal courts about prosecutorial misconduct, DNA databases, the constitutionality of sex offender conditions, eyewitness identification, and civil asset forfeiture. Most recently, she was a Fair Lending Enforcement attorney at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She also represented habeas petitioners on death row in California, and worked at a technology startup. Tara clerked on the the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and is a graduate of UC Berkeley, the London School of Economics and NYU Law School, where she was an Articles Editor on the Law Review. Tara grew up in the California Bay Area and escapes there with her family whenever she can.
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.
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.
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 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. Currently a Liman Fellow, Jonas will clerk for the Honorable Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York and the Honorable Beverly Martin of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.