Alec Karakatsanis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Alec Karakatsanis
BornNovember 7, 1983
ResidenceWashington, DC
EducationYale College (B.A.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)
OccupationFounder and Executive Director of Civil Rights Corps

Alec Karakatsanis (born November 7, 1983) is an American civil rights lawyer, social justice advocate, co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law, and founder and Executive Director of Civil Rights Corps, a Washington D.C. impact litigation nonprofit. Karaktsanis' recent work has targeted the American monetary bail system. Using the novel legal strategy of suing jurisdictions under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment,[1] Civil Rights Corps won a series of landmark civil rights lawsuits which ended money bail systems in Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia, and other jurisdictions. Karakatsanis' long-term goals are ending American mass incarceration, drug crimes, surveillance, the death penalty, immigration laws, war, and inequality. His hobbies include painting, soccer, and playing the piano.[2]

In 2016, Karakatsanis was awarded the Stephen B. Bright Award by Gideon's Promise[3] and the Trial Lawyer of the Year Award by Public Justice.[4] In explaining their rationale, Public Justice declared Karakatsanis to be "setting the precedent for a new era of criminal justice reform in the age of mass incarceration."[5]

Education and career[edit]

Karakatsanis graduated from Yale College in 2005 with a degree in Ethics, Politics, & Economics. He enrolled immediately at Harvard Law School, where he was a Supreme Court Chair of the Harvard Law Review, and graduated with a J.D. in 2008.[6] After law school, Karakatsanis worked as a federal public defender in Alabama and then in the Special Litigation Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia for several years. Karakatsanis founded Equal Justice Under Law with fellow Harvard Law School classmate Phil Telfeyan in 2014 but later split to found Civil Rights Corps in 2016.[7] Numerous U.S. media outlets have featured Karakatsanis' work, including the New Yorker,[8] Huffington Post,[9] Washington Post,[10] Marshall Project,[11] and New York Times.[1]

In August 2016, Karakatsanis challenged the use of money bail in Harris County, Texas, in a federal lawsuit supported by the sheriff of Houston.[12] Controversy arose when the attorney representing Harris County argued that "some people want to be in jail."[13] A year earlier, in July 2016, Civil Rights Corps (along with ArchCity Defenders, the St. Louis public defense agency) received a landmark settlement when the city of Jennings, Missouri agreed to pay $4.7 million to 2,000 people incarcerated in its jail for inability to pay traffic fines and other minor fees.[14]

Lectures and publications[edit]

Karakatsanis has delivered dozens of lectures at universities across the United States, including Stanford Law School,[15] NYU School of Law,[16] and Princeton University[6] (see and, for example).

In addition, Karakatsanis has published articles in newspapers and law journals including:

  • The Human Lawyer, 34 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 563 (2010)[17]
  • Protecting Corporations Instead of the Poor, 121 Harv. L. Rev. 275 (2007)[18]
  • Civil Disobedience: The Role of Judges, 120 Harv. L. Rev. 1988 (2007)[19]
  • Policing, Mass Imprisonment, and the Failure of American Lawyers, 128 Harv. L. Rev. F. 253 (2015)[20]
  • Karakatsanis, Alec. "President Obama's Department of Injustice." The New York Times. 2015-8-18. ISSN 0362-4331.[21]
  • Karakatsanis, Alec. "Why US v Blewitt is the Obama Justice Department's greatest shame". The Guardian. 2013-7-23. ISSN 0261-3077.[22]


  • 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year (Public Justice)[4]
  • 2016 Stephen B. Bright Award (Gideon's Promise)[3]
  • 2016 Emerging Leader Award (Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership at the University of Pittsburgh)[23]


  1. ^ a b Dewan, Shaila (2015-10-23). "Court by Court, Lawyers Fight Policies That Fall Heavily on the Poor". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  2. ^ "Alec Karakatsanis". Civil Rights Corps. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  3. ^ a b "UP Incubator: Alec Karakatsanis - Worldwide Pretrial Innovators". Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  4. ^ a b "Trial Lawyer of the Year Award - Public Justice". Public Justice. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  5. ^ "Public Justice Announces Finalists for 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award - Public Justice". Public Justice. 2016-06-08. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  6. ^ a b "Alec Karakatsanis, Co-Founder, Equal Justice Under Law | Program in Law and Public Affairs | Princeton University". Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  7. ^ "Fighting Unequal Justice - Harvard Law Today". Harvard Law Today. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  8. ^ "The Link Between Money and Aggressive Policing". The New Yorker. 2016-08-11. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  9. ^ Reilly, Ryan J. (2016-08-26). "'People Who Work In The System Become Desensitized To How Brutal It Is To Cage Someone'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  10. ^ Board, Editorial; Board, Editorial (2016-03-08). "The District police's unreasonable searches and seizures". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  11. ^ "How to Fight Modern-Day Debtors' Prisons? Sue the Courts". The Marshall Project. 2015-10-01. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  12. ^ Template:Cite
  13. ^ Flynn, Meagan (2017-02-09). "Claiming Some People "Want to Be in Jail," County Loses Argument to Delay Bail Lawsuit". Houston Press. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  14. ^ Robertson, Campbell (2016-07-15). "Missouri City to Pay $4.7 Million to Settle Suit Over Jailing Practices". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  15. ^ School, Stanford Law. "ACS Presents: Alec Karakatsanis from Equal Justice Under the Law | Stanford Law School". Stanford Law School. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  16. ^ "A Conversation with Alec Karakatsanis | NYU School of Law". Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  17. ^ Karakatsanis, Alec. "The Human Lawyer". N.Y.U. Review of Law & Social Change. 34: 563–593.
  18. ^ Karakatsanis, Alec. "Protecting Corporations Instead of the Poor" (PDF). Harvard Law Review. 121: 275–285.
  19. ^ Karakatsanis, Alec. "Civil Disobedience: The Role of Judges" (PDF). Harvard Law Review. 120: 1988–1995.
  20. ^ "Policing, Mass Imprisonment, and the Failure of American Lawyers". Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  21. ^ Karakatsanis, Alec (2015-08-18). "President Obama's Department of Injustice". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  22. ^ "Why US v Blewett is the Obama Justice Department's greatest shame". The Guardian. 2013-07-23. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  23. ^ "Alec Karakatsanis, 2016 Emerging Leader Award". Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Retrieved 2017-04-23.

External links[edit]