Wilson Center Executive Director to Return to Private Practice

Thomas Maher, who has served as Executive Director at the Wilson Center, will be departing to return to private practice on January 1.

Maher, who has taught criminal trial practice to Duke Law students for nearly 30 years, joined the Center in March 2020. He is returning to criminal defense work in the hopes of continuing to make a difference in the lives of his clients.

Maher will also serve as special master in the ongoing NAACP v. Cooper litigation over how North Carolina prisons are handling the threat of COVID-19 to incarcerated people.

“We congratulate Tom on his important new work as special master in the North Carolina case concerning COVID in our prisons,” said Brandon Garrett, Director of the Wilson Center. “We were so fortunate to benefit from Tom’s deep commitment to public service and grounding in practice at the Wilson Center.”

Maher practiced criminal defense law in state and federal court for more than 20 years before becoming, in 2006, executive director of the Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation, where he represented capital defendants in trial, appellate, and post-conviction proceedings. In 2009 he became executive director of the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services (IDS), where he advocated for more funding for public defense statewide and pushed forward initiatives to improve the quality of representation.

At the Wilson Center, Maher had a part in redesigning the new website and starting work on creating an Advisory Board.

“I enjoyed getting to work with people who have given a lot of thought and work in the field of criminal reform,” he said of his time at the Center.

Garrett said the Center is presently searching for a new Associate Director to replace Maher.