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 was a civil rights lawyer and public defender with the Special Litigation Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia; a federal public defender in Alabama, representing impoverished people accused of federal crimes; and co-founder of the non-profit organization Equal Justice Under Law.
Alec was 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. Alec’s work at Civil Rights Corps challenging the money bail system in California was recently honored with the 2018 Champion of Public Defense Award by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. You can read a recent profile about Alec's work with Civil Rights Corps in Harvard Magazine here.
Alec is interested in ending human caging, surveillance, the death penalty, immigration laws, war, and inequality. He also likes playing the piano, soccer, and making weird paintings. 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). In 2015, he published Policing, Mass Imprisonment, and the Failure of American Lawyers, 128 Harv. L. Rev. F. 253 (2015). His most recent article is The Punishment Bureaucracy, Yale Law Journal Forum (2019).
You can reach Alec at email@example.com and check out representative discussions 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.
Claudia A. Withers
Chief Operating Officer
Claudia is the Chief Operating Officer for Civil Rights Corps. Prior to her arrival at CRC, she was the Chief Operating Officer for the NAACP and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Obama Administration. She also served as a Deputy General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Education. Claudia was the Director of Programs for the District of Columbia Bar Foundation, which supported organizations that provide civil legal services to poor and underserved people in the District of Columbia. She was Executive Director of the Fair Employment Council of Greater Washington, and the Director of Employment Programs for the National Partnership on Women and Families (formerly the Women’s Legal Defense Fund), where among other things, she worked on successful passage of the DC Family and Medical Leave Act.
Claudia has been a consultant on equal opportunity to nonprofits and other institutions. She was an adjunct professor at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, and the Washington College of Law at American University. She practiced law in Durham, NC. Claudia clerked for the Honorable Richard C. Erwin for the Middle District of North Carolina. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law and Duke University.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Litigation
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.
Laura Gaztambide Arandes
Laura Gaztambide Arandes is a Senior Attorney for Civil Rights Corps. Laura joined Civil Rights Corps after several years of litigating civil rights cases at Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC. At Relman, Laura worked on a broad variety of cases across the country seeking diversity and integration in housing, lending, public accommodations, education, and policing. Much of Laura’s work focused on issues surrounding race and segregation, including a “reverse redlining” class action challenging the effects of predatory rent-to-own contracts on communities of color and cases challenging discrimination in public accommodations. She also worked on the litigation team that successfully challenged the City of Los Angeles’ failure to ensure that its affordable housing program complied with federal and state accessibility requirements. When resolved in 2016, Independent Living Center v. City of Los Angeles was the largest settlement of its kind.
Prior to joining Relman, Laura clerked for Judge Gladys Kessler on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Laura received her J.D. cum laude from New York University, where she was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Rights Fellow, a Fellow at the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, and an articles editor on the NYU Law Review. During law school, she interned at the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, the Immigrant Defense Project, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, and the ACLU Reproductive Justice Project.
Laura currently serves on the Board of Directors of the ACLU of DC and the Legal Advisory Board of the Equal Rights Center in Washington, D.C. She regularly presents and trains on civil rights issues across the country.
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.
Senior 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.
Amber English Coleman
Communications and Outreach Manager
Amber comes to Civil Rights Corps with experience in communications, advocacy, and public engagement. Prior to joining CRC, she was the Manager of External Affairs for YWCA National Capital Area. While there, she advanced the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women through strategic communications, community relations, and building out advocacy & racial justice initiatives. This included implementing a financial empowerment program for survivors of domestic violence, and launching a dinner & racial justice dialogue series, Come to the Table: Conversations on Race & Equity.
Prior to her work at YWCA National Capital Area, Amber served as Public Policy Manager for Planned Parenthood Southeast & Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, based in Atlanta, GA. In this role, she led messaging to supporters on legislative issues in Georgia, and grassroots advocacy efforts at the state capitol.
Amber was a member of the 2011 cohort of the New Leader’s Council – Atlanta and a graduate of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University’s 2013 class. Amber is a proud graduate of Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She earned her Master’s in Public Policy from Georgia State University.
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 is an attorney and an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown Law Center. In 2018, Charlie founded an initiative at Civil Rights Corps examining systemic problems with indigent-defense systems. He litigates complex class-action cases from investigation through trial and on appeal, focusing on threats to the independence of defense counsel and on unconstitutional pretrial systems.
Charlie is the author of Dependent Counsel, 11 Stan. J. C.R.-C.L. __ (forthcoming 2020); 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).
In addition to (and separate from) his work at Civil Rights Corps, Charlie works in voter protection. In 2018, he served as Co-Director for Navajo Nation Voter Protection for the Democratic Party of Arizona; in 2017, he served as a boiler-room volunteer for the Doug Jones campaign, and a poll observer for the Democratic Party of Virginia; and in 2016, he served as a poll observer for the Hillary Clinton campaign in Pennsylvania.
In his spare time, Charlie maintains an active pro bono practice. In the last several years, he wrote sections of the motion to dismiss–response brief for the Plaintiffs in a suit against the Trump Presidential Campaign and Roger Stone, Cockrum v. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., 17-CV-1370 (D.D.C. 2018); represented an author in a complex immigration matter related to eligibility for U.S. royalties on publications; represented a veteran in a successfully resolved dispute with a for-profit college over misstated VA-benefits eligibility; represented an injured worker in a workers’-compensation matter; and represented a debtor in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act matter.
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.
The views Charlie expresses in his writing are entirely his own.
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.
ImeIme Umana joins Civil Rights Corps as a Soros Justice Fellow. Prior to joining CRC, ImeIme clerked for Judge Robert Wilkins on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2018. During law school, she served as President of the Harvard Law Review, becoming the first black woman to hold the position in the journal's 131-year history. She also interned at the Bronx Defenders and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and was a student attorney at the Criminal Justice Institute clinic, where she argued before the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
ImeIme holds an A.B. in African American Studies and Government from Harvard College and an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she was a Sheila C. Johnson Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership.
ImeIme also teaches and practices yoga.
*Application to the New York State Bar pending