Puneet Cheema

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Puneet Cheema is a Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people with HIV.

Her work involves impact litigation, policy, and advocacy to prevent and address discrimination against LGBTQ people in schools, employment, health care, and the criminal legal system, and to secure access to accurate identity documents.

In Eller v. Prince George’s County Public Schools, et al., Puneet is counsel for Jennifer Eller, a transgender teacher who experienced years of discrimination in the Prince George’s County school system because of her gender identity and is seeking relief under Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Puneet is counsel in Zzyym v. Pompeo, a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of State’s refusal to provide an accurate gender marker on a passport to a non-binary, intersex veteran. And she is counsel in County of Santa Clara v. HHS, a suit challenging the U.S. Department of Health’s Denial of Care rule. Puneet was lead counsel for Lambda Legal in Equality Arizona v. Hoffman, a challenge to an anti-LGBTQ curriculum statute preventing LGBTQ students from accessing medically accurate, age-appropriate information about non-heterosexual people in health education classes. This lawsuit, brought in conjunction with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Perkins Coie, and law professor Clifford Rosky, led to the successful repeal of the facially discriminatory statute at issue.

Puneet also works to promote equitable treatment of LGBTQ people who come into contact with the criminal legal system. She served as counsel for amicus curiae in Lucas v. Chalk, where a district court dismissed as frivolous a pro se complaint by an incarcerated bisexual man who claimed he was denied mental health treatment because of sexual orientation bias by a correctional officer. Puneet co-chairs a working group on policing issues affecting the LGBTQ community through the LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Workgroup.

Prior to joining Lambda, Puneet served as a Trial Attorney in the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for five years. She played a leading role in the DOJ’s investigation of the Baltimore Police Department and negotiation of a Consent Decree with the City of Baltimore and Baltimore Police Department. She was part of the DOJ’s litigation team in its lawsuit against Sheriff Joseph Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, alleging a pattern or practice of discriminatory conduct by the Sheriff and his deputies.

Puneet joined the DOJ through the Attorney General’s Honors Program and was with the Department for nine years. Puneet received a number of commendations and awards at the DOJ, including the Distinguished Service Award in 2016, and Special Commendation Awards in 2016 and 2018. She holds a J.D. from The George Washington University School of Law and a B.A. in Philosophy from the Ohio State University.