May 2013

David Onek Named Executive Director of Northern California Innocence Project

SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 6, 2013 –Long-time criminal-justice reformer David Onek has been named the new executive director of the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) at Santa Clara University School of Law. 
 "We are delighted to welcome David to the law school community,” said Santa Clara University School of Law Dean Donald Polden. “We look forward to his leadership of NCIP, which is one of Santa Clara Law's outstanding clinical education programs.”
 Onek, who formerly served as a commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission, replaces NCIP founding Executive Director Kathleen “Cookie” Ridolfi, who will continue her role as a professor at Santa Clara University Law School. 
"I am thrilled that David was appointed, and am extremely confident in his ability to lead the great work of NCIP and help take it to the next level," said NCIP Advisory Board Chairman Emeritus Frank Quattrone. 
In his work on the San Francisco Police Commission, Onek set policy for the police department and oversaw the police discipline process. Prior to that, Onek worked as deputy director of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's Office of Criminal Justice, where he led numerous criminal-justice policy initiatives for the Mayor.  Onek was a candidate for San Francisco District Attorney in 2011, running on a strong criminal-justice reform platform and finishing second to the incumbent. 
“I am extremely excited to lead NCIP as we work to exonerate the innocent and partner with law enforcement to change policies and practices that lead to wrongful convictions,” said Onek. 
Onek was also the founding executive director of the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice at UC Berkeley Law School (now part of the Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy), where he brought law enforcement and community together to build partnerships in support of innovative, research-based policy reforms. He created and hosted the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast, a co-production of the UC Berkeley Law School and the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, which features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders. Onek taught “Criminal Justice Reform in California” as a Lecturer at UC Berkeley Law School and as an Adjunct Professor at UC Hastings Law School. 
Earlier in his career, Onek worked at the W. Haywood Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness and Equity;  Legal Services for Children; the National Council in Crime and Delinquency; and Walden House. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Brown University.
About the Northern California Innocence Project
The Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University School of Law is a non-profit clinical program whose mission is to: (1) exonerate the wrongfully convicted, (2) educate students and the public about wrongful convictions; and (3) reform the criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions. In its 12 year history, NCIP has attained justice for 16 innocent people who had collectively served over 175 years in prison. For more information, please visit
About Santa Clara University School of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law, one of the nation’s most diverse law schools, is dedicated to educating lawyers who lead with a commitment to excellence, ethics, and social justice. For more information, see
Media Contact
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | (408) 554-5121 |