Fellows Advisory Council Member
Premal Dharia is the Founder and Director of the Defender Impact Initiative. She has spent the last 20 years dedicated to challenging injustice in the criminal system. Premal spent nearly 15 years as a public defender in three different places: the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Baltimore, Maryland, and the military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She has tried dozens of cases before judges and juries, worked extensively with experts and developed particular expertise in forensic evidence, and supervised lawyers at various stages of their careers. In 2014, Premal served as an ILF Fellow in the West Bank.
Prior to launching Defender Impact Initiative, Premal brought her years of direct service to systemic work at Civil Rights Corps, where she was the Director of Litigation, overseeing national litigation and advocacy efforts aimed at changing the criminal system. Premal has spoken widely on systemic challenges in the criminal system, and often conducts trainings for lawyers around the country on litigation and advocacy. She is on the faculty of Harvard Law School’s Trial Advocacy Workshop and the Bronx Defenders’ Defenders Academy, and has conducted trainings and presentations through the D.C. Bar Association, the Washington Council of Lawyers, the Lawyers’ Coordinating Committee, NACDL, NLADA, Gideon’s Promise and various public defender offices and law schools. She graduated from Brown University with a degree in History and African-American Studies and from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.