Kate Braner ’93 Named Liman Center Executive Director

Portrait of Katherine Braner
Kate Braner ’93

Katherine Braner ’93 will be the next Executive Director of the Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law, starting this spring, the Liman Center announced. 

Braner is currently the Interim Public Defender of the San Diego County Office of the Public Defender. In that office, where she has spent most of her career, Braner promotes excellence in holistic indigent criminal defense and seeks systemic criminal justice reform. She has served in that office in many roles, including as a trial attorney, Recruitment Coordinator, Attorney Supervisor of Development and Training, and the Interim Public Defender.  

Given the detrimental impact criminal records can have on a person’s quality of life, Braner created a comprehensive criminal record relief program that has since won national awards. The Fresh Start Program is designed to educate and aid community members in removing barriers to employment, housing, education, voting, and other opportunities to participate in civic life. The program uses remedies including expungement, sealing of records after dismissals or acquittals, reductions of felonies to misdemeanors, vacatur for victims of human trafficking, petitions for findings of factual innocence, certificates of rehabilitation, and more. In six years, Fresh Start’s outreach and education efforts have helped lawyers to become experts in how to relieve the burdens of criminal records. Lawyers working with the program have represented more than 10,000 individuals and achieved forms of relief in 99 percent of the cases filed.

An advocate on behalf of victims of human trafficking, Braner represented the first person in California who succeeded in having her criminal record erased under a 2017 state vacatur law. The law recognizes the injustice of criminalizing victims of human trafficking for behavior manipulated and controlled by traffickers. It offers human trafficking victims a chance to vacate, or clear, their records upon showing a nexus between the conviction and their victimization.

Braner has also been an educator in the many areas in which she is an expert, including the vacatur process, access to justice, and legal protections for human trafficking victims. From 2020 to 2022, Braner and the San Diego Public Defender Office hosted Liman Fellow Kelley Schiffman ’18, whose project focused on implementing California’s law enabling eligible individuals to be removed from the sex offender registry. 

Braner received her Bachelors’ degree from Bowling Green State University, graduating summa cum laude with honors in 1990. She earned her law degree from Yale Law School in 1993. She was admitted to the Washington, D.C. Bar in 1993 and the California Bar in 1994.