Jennifer Ridha: Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau

Jennifer Ridha

Attorney, Author, and Scholar

Jennifer Ridha was born in Ohio and was raised there and in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. She attended Ohio University, where she graduated summa cum laude, and at the age of twenty gained acceptance to Columbia Law School. By the time she was 26, she had graduated with honors; passed both the California and New York bar exams; completed a clerkship with a federal appellate judge; and began practicing law at a highly regarded firm in New York City. After several years focusing on federal criminal law and government investigations, she began teaching as an adjunct at Columbia Law School—a role she enjoyed so much that she prepared to leave law practice and teach full time. She accepted a full time position at St. John’s University School of Law, where she would instruct future lawyers in Criminal Law and Critical Legal Studies and conduct research on U.S. criminal justice in Iraq—her parents’ country of origin. Barely in her thirties, Ridha had achieved not only professional success but also profound meaning in her chosen field. It was inconceivable, at the time, that any of it could unravel.

Then, in what was to be her last case in law practice, Ridha was enlisted to represent Cameron Douglas -- son of film actor Michael Douglas -- in a federal drug trafficking case. At the time she joined Cameron's case, he was incarcerated in a maximum-security prison under difficult, even dangerous conditions. As Jennifer counseled Cameron on his case, she became increasingly mesmerized by her charismatic client, and was drawn into a romantic relationship with him. The anxiety of the case began to overwhelm Cameron, and when Jennifer was unable to get his anti-anxiety medication through the official avenues, he asked her to help get them illegally. In a decision inexplicable even to herself, she agreed. Her transgressions were eventually discovered and she found herself―very early one morning, in her pajamas--facing two federal agents at her door.

Criminal That I Am is Ridha’s “stinging,” "unflinching," and “insightful” account of her journey through professional self-destruction, tabloid scandal, and, ultimately, self-reckoning. Told through the prism of her own criminal case, it illuminates pressing social issues: the war on drugs, conditions of confinement, the modern meaning of crime. But it is also a personal story, recounted with brutal introspection and pitch black humor, about an ordinary woman’s fateful choices. It isn’t just law aficionados and gossip junkies who will fly through—and identify with—Ridha’s story: like Ridha, we all must bear witness our own triumphs and tragedies; we must look clearly at our lives as they have been, and, even when all seems lost, see them for what they still might be.

Ridha’s harrowing encounter with the American criminal justice system reshaped her life—and like so many great American stories, made her who she is today. Though she still occasionally practices law, her passion and purpose lie in the academy: she is pursuing a doctoral degree in legal anthropology, urban studies, and criminal justice and is conducting research on the intersectionalities of race and identity in U.S. federal sentencing. She lives in New York City.

Interested in booking Jennifer Ridha to speak at your next event?

Contact Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau.

(866) 248-3049

  • Criminal That I Am
  • Race, Criminalization, and Confinement
  • Anatomy of a Criminal Case: My Own
  • Breaking Baghdad: Understanding Iraq Through Narrative

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