Legal Aid Society

Twyla Carter


Twyla Carter (she/her) serves as the Attorney-in-Chief and Chief Executive Officer of The Legal Aid Society, becoming the first Black woman and first Asian American to lead the organization in its 145-year history.

Prior to joining Legal Aid, Carter was the National Director of Legal and Policy at The Bail Project (TBP), a national nonprofit organization that pioneered a national movement to bring free bail assistance and pretrial support to thousands of low-income people every year. At TBP, Carter created the department’s strategic mission and directed the legal, policy, and advocacy efforts at the federal, state, and local levels. After over 22,000 bailouts over nearly 5 years, and with 90% of their clients returning to court, The Bail Project’s model has proven that the nation’s wealth-based pretrial detention system is broken.

Carter has also served as a senior staff attorney in the Criminal Law Reform Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) national office, where she litigated local and state bail inequities and right-to-counsel protections in the federal courts and designed alternative bail and representation policies and procedures for targeted jurisdictions. In this role, Carter litigated Booth v. Galveston County, a pretrial bail case in Texas, where the magistrate court held that people accused of crimes have a right to counsel in initial bail hearings under the Sixth Amendment, one of the only jurisdictions in the nation to guarantee legal representation at this critical stage of trial.

At the ACLU, Carter was also co- or lead counsel in the following class action lawsuits: Bairefoot v. Beaufort, a right-to-counsel case in South Carolina; Mock v. Glynn County, a pretrial bail case in Georgia; White v. Hesse, a pretrial bail case in Oklahoma that alleged violations under the American Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act; Allison et al. v. Allen et al., a pretrial bail case in Alamance County, North Carolina, and Ross v. 36th District Court, a pretrial bail and right-to-counsel case in Detroit, Michigan, the fifth busiest court in the country.

Prior to working at the ACLU, Carter was a public defender for ten years. She was the Misdemeanor Practice Director for the King County Department of Public Defense in Seattle, where she oversaw all misdemeanor casework across the four divisions of the department. As a Staff Attorney at The Defender Association, Carter handled felony and misdemeanor trial caseloads, represented juveniles, and appealed misdemeanor convictions. She won a published decision from the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division One, in State v. Green, which affirmed the due process rights of parents accused of trespassing in public schools.

Against the backdrop of the legislative attacks against the teaching of white supremacy and anti-Black racism in schools, Carter serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors of The Who We Are Project. Founded by Jeffery Robinson, a renowned expert on the role of racism in the criminal legal system, the project aims to correct the social, legal, political, and economic aspects of racism in the United States through educational materials, including through a feature-length documentary entitled Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America. She also serves as a board member for the NAPD Fund for Justice. The goal of the Fund is to enhance the right to counsel through public defense in the United States.

Carter is admitted to practice law in New York, Washington State, and numerous federal courts. She is a nationally recognized expert on bail reform and is a frequent speaker on all aspects of the criminal legal system, including police reform, right-to-counsel issues, and how to incorporate race and culture into criminal, death penalty, and civil cases. Carter received an associate degree from Seattle Central Community College, a bachelor’s degree from Seattle University, summa cum laude, and a J.D. from the Seattle University School of Law.