Juliet Hatchett, a 2015 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and a former student of the Innocence Project at UVA Law, has returned as a staff attorney who is guiding the project’s student pro bono efforts.

Hatchett previously practiced with two law firms in New York City: Brune Law and Baker McKenzie. At both she gained valuable insights into criminal law, often working under former assistant U.S. attorneys.

“I always intended to return to Virginia, but I didn’t think I would come back as quickly as I did,” Hatchett said. But when she heard about the opening, “It was definitely worth expediting my timeline.”

The Innocence Project at UVA School of Law conducts both a for-credit clinic, which is the class Hatchett took as a student, and the Virginia Innocence Project Pro Bono Clinic, which she now helps supervise.

Just like the for-credit clinic, the pro bono clinic seeks exoneration for wrongfully convicted people in Virginia. Students investigate cases; speak with and visit clients, witnesses and other key people in the case; and write briefs. The main difference between the two clinics is that students volunteer for the pro bono effort, receiving Pro Bono Challenge credit rather than class credit.

Hatchett will work with student teams on six active cases, as well as an additional team working on policy changes that will help prevent wrongful convictions.

Just as the Innocence Project’s directors, Deirdre Enright ’92 and Jennifer Givens, oversee and participate in student work, “I’ll be very involved in each of the cases,” Hatchett said.

Her newly created position is funded by donations to the Pro Bono Clinic. During last year’s annual fundraiser, Jason Flom, a founding board member of the New York Innocence Project, issued a $50,000 matching fund challenge to prospective donors. After the challenge was met, the school created the Jason Flom Justice Fellowship, of which Hatchett is now the beneficiary. 

While a student, Hatchett worked on the Darnell Phillips and Messiah Johnson cases. Both men have been subsequently freed, but neither has been fully exonerated.

Hatchett was also a fellow in the Program in Law and Public Service, a participant in the Human Rights Study Project and notes editor for the Virginia Journal of International Law.

“In coming back, it’s clear there is a lot of alumni support for the UVA Innocence Project, and that’s fantastic to see,” Hatchett said. “The growth in just these four years is promising and something I’m very excited about.”

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.