Dehlia Umunna is the Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) at Harvard Law School (HLS), where she supervises third year law students in their representation of adult and juvenile clients in criminal and juvenile proceedings. Ms. Umunna also provides classroom instruction on lawyering skills and the application of criminal law, procedure, rules of evidence, motions and trial practice, and constitutional protections to the development of defense strategy. She also coaches HLS’ teams at the National Criminal Justice Trial Advocacy and the HLS BLSA Trial team; both teams have won numerous national and regional awards.
Prior to joining CJI, Ms. Umunna spent seven years at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) as a trial attorney. At PDS, she represented indigent clients in hundreds of cases that ranged in seriousness from misdemeanor charges of theft, assault, and drug possession, to felony charges of narcotics distribution, firearms possession, armed robbery, kidnapping, child sexual abuse, rape and homicide. Some of Ms. Umunna’s cases received nationwide media attention. At PDS, Ms. Umunna was a felony one trial attorney, representing clients in the most serious of felonies and serving as lead counsel in many trials. She also served as a presenter in training attorneys under the Criminal Justice Act and supervised junior attorneys in trial.
From 2002 to 2007, Ms. Umunna was an adjunct professor of law at American University, Washington College of Law (WCL). In that capacity, she created and taught a seminar titled “The Lawyer’s Role in the Judicial Practice." While at WCL, Ms. Umunna was also a supervising attorney/practitioner-in-residence in the Civil Practice Clinic. She supervised second and third year students in a general civil practice clinic representing low income clients in state and federal courts and administrative agencies in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Ms. Umunna also taught a clinical seminar on lawyering skills and values, including interviewing, case theory, fact investigation, strategic planning, counseling, negotiation and trial skills.
Ms. Umunna currently serves as a faculty member for the Southern Public Defender’s Training Center (SPDTC). She was a board member of the District of Columbia Law Students in Court Clinic and was a guest lecturer for several years at the George Washington University Law School. She also is a frequent presenter at CLE conferences around the country. She is the recipient of SPDTC’s 2011 “Outstanding Faculty Mentor of the year Award."
Ms. Umunna is a member of the Massachusetts, Maryland, District of Columbia and New Jersey bar associations. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from California State University, San Bernardino, a JD from George Washington University Law School and a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is the proud mother of daughter Ifeanyi and son Edozie.