Mr. Kovarsky is a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland School of Law (Carey), where he teaches Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure, Federal Jurisdiction, Capital Punishment, and Habeas Corpus, He is the author (with Brandon Garrett) of the habeas corpus case book from Foundation Press, an upcoming teaching text (also with Garrett) on the death penalty, and a number of law review articles on related subject matter.

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He also has extensive capital litigation experience, having served as the Post-Conviction Director for Texas Defender Service and the Managing Director of the Powell Project. In that time, he has been counsel of record in dozens of death penalty matters, and consulted extensively in dozens more. His practice has primarily involved Texas inmates, but includes litigation at all levels of the state and federal judiciary. Most recently, in the fall of 2017, he argued Ayestas v. Davis in the United States Supreme Court. Contact Mr. Kovarsky at

Ms. Merrigan has been a capital defense attorney since graduating from law school in 2004. Her training and background are in capital mitigation, and she has been appointed and has consulted in state and federal habeas corpus, pre-authorization, and trial cases as a mitigation specialist and as counsel.

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She is a former staff attorney and Acting Director of the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic, a non-profit law firm in Kansas City, Missouri. She is an adjunct professor at Saint Louis University Law School and Washington University School of Law, where she teaches a death penalty clinical practicum. She has presented at national conferences on capital mitigation and litigation. She helped research and develop the Supplementary Guidelines for the Mitigation Function of Defense Teams in Death Penalty Cases, 36 Hofstra L. Rev. 677 (Spring 2008). She received the 2010 Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer’s “Atticus Finch Award” for her advocacy and the 2011 Missouri State Fair Blue Ribbon for her fruit pie. Contact Ms. Merrigan at

Mr. Mills has represented persons under a sentence of death or juvenile life without parole in Arizona, California, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Texas. He has worked extensively on state capital post-conviction cases, and he has served as counsel for persons at every stage of the criminal justice process, from state trial court to the United States Supreme Court.

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He publishes scholarship on the Eighth Amendment and regularly comments on the application of the Eighth Amendment to juvenile justice. He is an adjunct professor at UC Hastings College of Law where he teaches courses on capital punishment and advanced criminal procedure. As a student at Cornell Law School, John received the Freeman Award for Civil Human Rights; as an undergraduate at Stetson University, he received the June Brooks Award for activism and the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for leadership and scholarship. Mr. Mills works the savory side of the kitchen at Phillips Black. Contact Mr. Mills at


Burke Butler

Mr. Perkovich's work with Phillips Black focuses on capital post-conviction litigation in state and federal courts. He trained and previously practiced at global firms in New York, where his work also concerned commercial litigation, white collar defense, and business crisis management.

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He co-founded and teaches the death penalty clinical programs at the Saint Louis University and Washington University law schools and is also a founder of the Capital Sentencing Institute, an independent research organization based in St. Louis. He is a member of the New York City Bar Association's International Human Rights Committee and was a visiting research fellow of the British Institute of International & Comparative Law in 2011. Since 2008, he has contributed annually to a leading federal civil practice treatise. Prior to practicing in New York, he led research at the behest of the European Commission on telecommunications regulation and directed programming for a community-based organization in rural North Carolina combating poverty and racial inequality. In the Phillips Black kitchen, he leaves the cooking and baking to others but supplies a dish washing pedigree dating to the renowned Pepper’s Pizza, of 128 E. Franklin St. lore. Contact Mr. Perkovich at

Ms. Butler joins Phillips Black as Special Counsel. She has worked on criminal justice matters for over ten years. Her experience spans appellate litigation, policy, advocacy, and research. Ms. Butler graduated from Yale Law School in 2011, where she was a recipient of the C. LaRue Munson Prize for Excellence in a Law School Clinical Program. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Harris L Hartz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and to the Honorable Keith P. Ellison of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

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She was awarded an Arthur Liman Fellowship from Yale Law School to spend a year at the Texas Civil Rights Project, where she spearheaded a comprehensive investigation of Texas's use of solitary confinement and wrote a report that generated extensive local and national media coverage and influenced the state legislature to enact reforms. At TCRP, she also represented three incarcerated people in their civil rights cases as lead counsel, ultimately settling each case against the prison and jail system. As a Staff Attorney at Texas Defender Service, Ms. Butler represented capitally sentenced prisoners in their post-conviction proceedings in state and federal court. Most recently, Ms. Butler worked at The Justice Collaborative, where she engaged elected officials to institute progressive criminal justice policies. She is a 2007 graduate of the University of Chicago, where she majored in English literature. She has volunteered in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, India, and Peru. Her writing has appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Marshall Project, and The Texas Observer. Contact Ms. Butler at