The Innocence Project at the University of Virginia Law School welcomes a new face and promotes a familiar face.
Juliet Hatchett ’15, who joined the clinic as a lawyer and Jason Flom Justice Fellow in 2019, has been appointed Assistant Professor of Law and Associate Director of the Innocence Project Clinic. Hatchett will co-teach the one-year credit clinic, which represents clients who have wrongful conviction claims in Virginia, with professor and clinic director Jennifer L. Givens.
Serena Premjee, a former Federal Public Defender, is the new staff lawyer, also on a scholarship. She will oversee the extracurricular student pro bono clinic, focus on admitting new cases and working on existing cases, in addition to raising public awareness about wrongful convictions.
“Juliet was an exceptional person and I am delighted that she has become a permanent member of the clinic, as have our clients,” said Givens. “Serena brings valuable experience to the pro bono clinic, and we look forward to her sharing that experience, along with her talents and enthusiasm, with our students and clients.
With Professor Deirdre Enright ’92, the clinic’s first director, ready to kick off the project for Enlightened Reform, a place opened for Hatchett to rise up and continue to build on the previous successes of the team.
As a clinic teacher, “I am delighted to be working on cases at this deeper level with students who know them upstream and downstream,” she said.
Over the past month, the clinic has helped secure absolute pardons for three of its clients.
Hatchett, who attended the credit clinic as an AVU law student and ran the pro bono student clinic as a staff lawyer, said the number of hours students volunteered had grown by over 1,000 in its first year, to 2,398, and continued to grow. even after moving remote work due to the pandemic. About 60 students volunteered in the effort last year.
Over the past two years, Hatchett has also led a new political team, which worked on three bills that were passed, one of which was drafted by the team.
“One of the new laws completely revamped the standard for the innocence petition writ and is extremely important,” she said.
Another bill gave the public more access to law enforcement records through Freedom of Information Act requests.
“We already have access to thousands of pages of documents that we couldn’t see before,” she said.
Hatchett was especially proud of the legislative efforts “because the policy team represents the first time we’ve had the opportunity to work on system-wide post-conviction reform in Virginia, rather than on a case-by-case basis.”
Hatchett previously worked for two New York law firms, Brune Law and Baker McKenzie, focusing on white collar criminal defense issues. She is a graduate of Columbia University and is originally from Newport News, Virginia.
Prior to joining Project Innocence at UVA Law, Premjee worked in the Western District of North Carolina and worked as general counsel at Federal Defenders of San Diego Inc., where she represented indigent clients accused of criminal offenses. immigration, international drug trafficking and other crimes.
Premjee, who grew up in Atlanta, majored in English and International Affairs at the University of Georgia, then decided to go to law school.
“I wanted all of my reading and writing to be put to use for a practical purpose and end,” she said.
She received her JD from Stanford Law School, where her experiences with clinics were “a big part of how I became an effective and good lawyer.”
After serving as a public defender for four years in San Diego, and with the end of her internship, she wanted to expand her practice.
“I was really interested in post-conviction work,” she said. When she saw the opening in Charlottesville, she didn’t hesitate to apply. “I’ve heard for years that AVU is the happiest law school.
Premjee said she looks forward to working on preventing wrongful convictions and removing wrongly convicted people from the criminal justice system.
“I don’t think any of us in society should accept that an innocent person is in prison,” she said.