Taryn A. Merkl

Senior Counsel, Justice Program & Law Enforcement Leaders

Taryn A. Merkl is Senior Counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program and Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration. In that role, Ms. Merkl’s work will focus on the Justice Program’s priority initiative to end mass incarceration, while keeping the country safe, and building a smarter, stronger and fairer criminal justice system. 

Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Ms. Merkl served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York for over 16 years, where she served as Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division, and as Chief of the Civil Rights and Organized Crime & Gangs Sections. As Chief of Civil Rights, she supervised all the human trafficking and criminal civil rights cases in the district. She also served in the Business and Securities Fraud and General Crimes Sections. In addition, Ms. Merkl served as a founding co-Chair of the collaborative Brooklyn Human Trafficking Task Force from 2013-2019. Ms. Merkl is the recipient of various awards and honors, including awards from the Department of Justice, the Women in Federal Law Enforcement Foundation Top Prosecutor award for her work in human trafficking, and she has been recognized by the New York Law Journal as a Top Woman in Law.

Prior to becoming an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Ms. Merkl served as a law clerk to Judge Jan E. DuBois of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania from 2000 to 2001 and as a law clerk to Chief Judge John M. Walker, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 2001 to 2002.

Ms. Merkl also served as a lecturer in law at Columbia Law School from 2008 to 2019, and as an adjunct professor of white collar crime at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law from 2007 to 2008.

Ms. Merkl holds a B.A. in political science and Russian with honors from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. In addition, at Columbia, Ms. Merkl was the editor-in-chief of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual (5th edition), an editor of the Journal of Transnational Law, and a director of the Student Legal Action Network.