Riya Saha Shah, Esq.

Senior Managing Director

Riya Saha Shah is a Senior Managing Director of Juvenile Law Center. Riya began her career at Juvenile Law Center in 2005 as a Sol and Helen Zubrow Fellow in Children’s Law. In her role as a Senior Managing Director, Riya serves on the organization’s Management Team and is a leader in Juvenile Law Center’s programmatic justice work. Since the beginning of her legal career, Riya has engaged in litigation, policy advocacy, and amicus efforts to reduce the harm of the juvenile and criminal legal system.

Riya leads Juvenile Law Center’s Transfer and Adult Sentencing projects. In that role, she has written dozens of amicus and appellate briefs in state and federal courts on behalf of youth tried as adults and youth convicted in adult court who are subjected to life without parole and other lengthy sentences. Riya has worked with colleagues to develop legal arguments that center equity and highlight the racial disparities that have led to the mass incarceration of communities of color.

Riya also leads Juvenile Law Center’s Decriminalization and Collateral Consequences initiative, focusing her efforts on juvenile record confidentiality and expungement and the elimination of sex offender registration laws for youth. Riya was counsel in In re R.R. and H.L., challenging the Pennsylvania juvenile record expungement law and In re J.B., a successful challenge to the imposition of harsh registration laws for Pennsylvania youth charged with sexual offenses. Riya is a national expert and routinely provides litigation support to attorneys challenging registration across the country.

Riya is widely published in both academic and non-academic publications. She has written extensively on collateral consequences, expungement, sex offender registration, and the right to counsel. She also has co-authored numerous briefs in cases before the United States Supreme Court, including in Jones v. Mississippi on the procedures required to sentence a child to life without the possibility of parole, Safford v. Redding, which held a school strip-search unconstitutional, and Malvo v. Mathena on whether the protections required to sentence a teenager to life without parole apply in discretionary sentencing schemes. Riya also previously represented youth in dependency proceedings in Philadelphia Family Court.

Riya graduated cum laude from Loyola University Chicago School of Law where she was a Civitas ChildLaw Fellow and Editor-in-Chief of The Children’s Legal Rights Journal. Riya is a graduate of University of Michigan Ann Arbor where she earned her B.A. in Psychology and American Culture. Before going to law school, Riya taught second grade in Jersey City, New Jersey through Teach for America, and third grade to bilingual students in Detroit, Michigan.

Riya is Co-Chair of the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation. She also serves as an advisory member of the ABA Commission on Youth at Risk.


Photo Credit - B.C.

Articles and Publications

Protecting Youth From Themselves: The Overcriminalization of Consensual Sexual Behavior Between Adolescents, 40 The Child. Leg. Rts. J. 1 (2020). (with Jean Strout & Divya Vasudevan).

Labeled for Life: A Review of Youth Sex Offender Registration Laws, Juvenile Law Center (Aug. 2020). (with Malik Pickett, Emily Satifka, and Vic Wiener)

The Hidden Consequences of Visible Juvenile Records in HANDBOOK ON THE CONSEQUENCES OF SENTENCING AND PUNISHMENT DECISIONS (Beth M. Heubner and Natasha A. Frost eds. 2019). (with Megan C. Kurlychek)

Don't ask college applicants about juvenile records. Teens grow up and need opportunity., USA TODAY (Aug. 15, 2018).

How Sex Offender Registries Impact Youth, TEEN VOGUE (Oct. 18, 2017).

The Momentum Builds: Challenging Lifetime Registration of Juveniles Convicted of Sexual Offenses in the Post-Roper Era, 40 NYU REV. OF LAW AND SOC. CHANGE 115 (Mar. 2016). (with Marsha Levick)

A Lifetime Label: Juvenile Sex Offender Registration, 33 DEL. LAW. 8, (Winter 2016). (with Lisa Minutola)

Future Interrupted: The Collateral Damage Caused by Proliferation of Juvenile Records, Juvenile Law Center (Feb. 2016). (with Jean Strout)

Overcoming Obstacles to Succeed: Notifying Youth of Their Juvenile Record Expungement Rights and Eligibility, Crim. Law Practitioner, Vol. 2, Issue 2 (2015) (with Lourdes M. Rosado)

Failed Policies; Forfeited Futures: A Nationwide Scorecard on Juvenile Records, Juvenile Law Center (Nov. 2014). (with Lauren Fine) 

The Legal Significance of Adolescent Development on the Right to Counsel: Establishing the Constitutional Right to Counsel for Teens in Child Welfare Matters and Assuring a Meaningful Right to Counsel in Delinquency Matters, 47 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV. 529 (Summer 2012). (with Jennifer K. Pokempner, Mark F. Houldin, Michael J. Dale, & Robert G. Schwartz)

Ineffective Assistance and Drastic Punishments: The Duty to Inform Juveniles of Collateral Consequences in a Post-Padilla Court, in DUKE FORUM FOR LAW AND SOCIAL CHANGE, 2011. (with Lisa Campbell)

Protecting Personhood: Legal Strategies to Combat the Use of Strip Searches on Youth in Detention, 60(1) RUTGERS L. REV. 67 (2007). (with Jessica Feierman)