Maneka Sinha named SABA-DC 2021 Public Sector Trailblazer of the Year

Assistant Professor Maneka Sinha has been named the 2021 Public Sector Trailblazer of the year by the South Asian Bar Association of Washington, D.C. The award was presented at SABA-DC's annual Public Interest Benefit Gala in October. 

“It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized,” said Sinha, who directs the Criminal Defense Clinic at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, “when there are so many members of the South Asian legal community serving the public in extraordinary ways.” 

Sinha joined the Maryland Carey Law community in 2019 to relaunch the school’s Criminal Defense Clinic. She has extensive experience in criminal litigation and is recognized for her expertise in forensic science. Sinha’s research interests explore the intersection of forensic science evidence and outcomes in criminal cases. 

This year, Sinha published “Junk Science at Sentencing” in the George Washington Law Review. The article proposes an implementable mechanism for evaluating forensic evidence at sentencing, while retaining protections for criminal defendants. 

Since restarting the Criminal Defense Clinic, Sinha has been highly successful in training student attorneys to zealously represent their clients through every phase of a criminal case, from the early stages of the case; through the discovery, investigation and motions phases; through negotiations with prosecutors; and at trial and sentencing. The clinic’s record includes getting clients who were held pretrial released at bail review hearings, having pretrial cases dismissed, and securing post-conviction compassionate release. Additionally, student attorneys got a client out who was sentenced to life in prison.  

Student-attorneys practice “client-centered” defense, tailoring their representation to the goals of each individual client.  

Adryan Richardson ’20 was a one of those student attorneys. She described her experience in the clinic and what happened when she had to change the course of her representation for a piece in the 2020 issue of Maryland Carey Law Magazine: 

“From the beginning of clinic, my clinic professor, Maneka Sinha, stressed the importance of client-centered advocacy. While I understood the words, the true meaning and manifestation of them finally became clear. In the midst of my nervousness and uncertainty, the one thing that remained constant was the knowledge I possessed of my client. Maneka reminded me that I knew my client’s desires, fears, and non-negotiables. This information and the support from my professor provided me with the comfort and peace of mind necessary to successfully prepare a new argument. I was confident. I was assured. I was ready. When my case was finally called, I went before the judge and told her all about my client. In the end, we received a favorable outcome.”  

Prior to teaching, Sinha spent 10 years at the renowned Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia where she served as senior advisor to the agency’s director on forensic science issues and represented indigent clients charged with the most serious crimes in the District of Columbia, including complex homicides and sexual assaults. She also served as head of the agency’s nationally recognized Forensic Practice Group, training and supervising lawyers involved in forensic science litigation locally and nationwide, while also personally litigating highly complex and novel forensic science issues. 

In 2017, Sinha was a fellow with the International Legal Foundation, supporting its work to establish a public defender agency in Nepal. In 2015, she served as a Brian Roberts Fellow in the West Bank, training and supervising Palestinian public defenders. 

Sinha holds a JD from New York University School of Law and a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. 

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