Salih joined the Center in June 2020 with a desire to help improve the court system around the country for the benefit of children and families, especially minorities. He works in the Capacity Building Center for Courts as the liaison for 11 states. In this role, he works directly with Court Improvement Program (CIP) directors providing technical support and tailored services for their joint court-agency, hearing quality, and legal representation projects by using change management theory and creativity.
Salih’s father (a former New York City police officer and 30-year criminal justice professor), and mother (a special education/language arts teacher) nurtured and shaped his interest in criminal justice, special education, and teaching. While both are now deceased, Salih carries with him the lesson they and his older sister (a criminal justice instructor) have taught him.
Salih is a passionate advocate and litigator who has represented indigent criminal clients in bench and jury trials in serious adult felonies and misdemeanors, domestic violence, probation violations, and juvenile delinquency. He also handled cases involving child abuse and neglect, custody/visitation, child support, special education and school discipline, and traffic offenses. Salih spent four years as a public defender in Hampton, VA and over six years as a solo defense attorney in Northern Virginia. Before working as a public defender, he served as the Hearing Officer/Administrative Attorney for the Portsmouth (VA) City Public Schools for three years handling student disciplinary hearings, writing code of conduct revisions, and providing professional development training to school administrators and staff. Salih has been licensed to practice law in Virginia since 2004 and in the District of Columbia since 2003.
Salih is currently a doctoral student at George Mason University, where he is completing his dissertation for a PhD in Criminology, Law, and Society. His dissertation examines the interaction between criminogenic needs and perceptions of procedural justice and legitimacy by serious juvenile offenders. He has also taught college criminology classes at George Mason University. He previously graduated from Regent University School of Education with a Master of Education degree in Cross-Categorical Special Education and Widener University School of Law (Delaware Campus). He is also a proud alumnus (magna cum laude in English) of Delaware State University, where he was involved on campus as a band member, newspaper writer, writing instructor and tutor, track team member, and freshman mentor.
For the first two years of his career, Salih served as an elementary special education teacher in Portsmouth, VA. While serving as the hearing officer in Portsmouth City Public Schools, he taught as a part-time GED teacher in Portsmouth City Public Schools. After moving to Northern Virginia, Salih spent three years as a special and regular education teacher of language arts, math, reading, and U.S. history in grades 3 and 6-8 in Alexandria City Public Schools. Salih became certified as a teacher in the Commonwealth of Virginia in Learning Disabilities K-12, English, Middle School Social Studies Grades 6-8, Middle School Math Grades 6-8, and Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice.
Salih’s background in litigation, teaching, and research makes his role at the Center a natural fit and allows him to impact issues at a systemic level. Salih is deeply concerned with tackling disproportionality and disparities, procedural justice, youth engagement, special education, legal representation, and judicial decision making. His analytical skills and ability to see nuances in issues allow him to help people see problems at a deeper level and then solve problems in a more robust and enduring manner.
Salih’s goals are to finish his PhD, write articles and books, speak nationally on legal issues affecting children, families, and disadvantaged persons, teach college courses, and continue to advocate for system reform in the justice system.
Outside of work, Salih is an avid golfer and huge sports fan, especially of PGA Tour and LPGA Tour golf. He also follows the NBA, NFL, and MLB. In 2005 Salih published The Cycle, a book of poetry dedicated to his mother after she passed away the prior year.