WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) announced Kristen Clarke as its new president and executive director, effective January 1, 2016, succeeding Barbara R. Arnwine, who served in this capacity for more than 26 years. Clarke currently serves as the head of the Civil Rights Bureau at the New York Attorney General’s Office, where she spearheads civil rights enforcement on a range of matters including criminal justice issues, education and housing discrimination, fair lending, barriers to reentry, voting rights, immigrants’ rights and LGBT issues. Of particular note, under her leadership, the Bureau secured landmark agreements with banks to address unlawful redlining, employers to address barriers to reentry, major retailers on racial profiling of consumers, police departments on reforms to policies and practices, and one of the country’s largest school districts concerning issues relating to the school-to-prison pipeline.
“As African Americans and other minorities nationwide continue to grapple with racial injustice and inequality, our new president will be critical to advancing our mission of securing equal justice for all under the rule of law,” said Lawyers’ Committee Co-Chair James P. Joseph. “Following a thorough national search that attracted a stellar and diverse pool of candidates, Ms. Clarke emerged as the candidate best suited to head the Lawyers’ Committee.”
“Ms. Clarke’s outstanding track record, legal prowess, commitment to civil rights, and leadership abilities are remarkable,” said Lawyers’ Committee Co-Chair John M. Nonna. “We look forward to her visionary leadership, energy, expertise, and innovation as she takes the helm and engages the pro bono efforts of the private bar and our other partners in establishing a more just and equal society.”
Prior to her current position, Clarke worked at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) where she served as a Program Director helping to coordinate the organization’s work in the areas of voting rights and election law across the country, with a focus on the Deep South. Clarke worked on cases defending the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, presented oral argument to the D.C. District Court in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder and testified before federal and state legislative bodies. Prior to joining LDF, she worked in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice where she served as a federal prosecutor in the Criminal Section of the Division, handling police misconduct, police brutality, hate crimes, and human trafficking cases. She also worked on voting rights and redistricting cases through the Office’s Voting Section.
Clarke speaks and writes regularly on issues concerning race, law and justice. She has written numerous articles and books including Barack Obama and African American Empowerment: The Rise of Black America’s New Leadership (co-edited with Dr. Manning Marable). She also currently serves as a Lecturer in Law at Columbia University School of Law. She received her A. B. from Harvard University and her J.D. from Columbia Law School.
Her honors and awards include being recognized as of the New York Law Journal’s 2015 Rising Stars and receiving the Best Brief Award for the 2012 Supreme Court term from the National Association of Attorneys General.
“I look forward to building upon the Lawyers’ Committee’s tremendous legal and civil rights legacy,” said Clarke. “I am honored to be selected as president and executive director to lead and work alongside a brilliant and committed staff in the fight to secure equal justice and equal opportunity for all. Humbly, yet boldly, I embrace this historic opportunity to lead and serve, as the organization continues to combat systemic discrimination and racial inequality across our country.”
“Kristen is a steadfast fighter for the ideal of equal justice under law and one of the most vigorous advocates for fairness I have ever had the honor to work alongside,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “The people of New York have been well-served by her passion and integrity. Her leadership will surely help make the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law an even stronger force for justice in America.”
About the Lawyers’ Committee The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2013 and continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; employment; voting; education; environmental justice; and criminal justice. For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.
QUOTE SHEET FROM LEGAL, CIVIL, AND HUMAN RIGHTS LEADERS
“On behalf of the Transformative Justice Coalition, I extend congratulations to Kristen Clarke. My best wishes to her as she picks up the mantle for justice envisioned by President Kennedy and carried forth through the years by dedicated leaders.”
–Barbara Arnwine, Founder & President, Transformative Justice Coalition
“AT LDF, where Kristen led our voting rights work, we knew her as a brilliant and strategic thinker and litigator. Since then, she has showed tremendous creativity and innovation in heading the Civil Rights Bureau in the New York Attorney General’s office. We can think of no better partner for LDF to have as we face the next challenges in civil rights. Kristen is a consensus builder and universally beloved by all those who work with her.”
—Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
“At a time when civil rights and liberties are receding at a rapid clip, it’s absolutely vital that the Lawyers’ Committee have a seasoned and tactical leader like Kristen Clarke. The gutting of the Voting Rights Act has ushered in a renaissance of voting discrimination and rampant bias in our criminal justice system continues to victimize people of color. Kristen Clarke is an outstanding choice to lead the legal community’s response to these crises and to help ensure equal protection under the law for all people. We applaud her appointment and the work of her predecessor, Barbara Arnwine, whose leadership helped to build this institution into one of our nation’s indispensable defenders of civil and human rights.”
—Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
“On behalf LatinoJustice PRLDEF we congratulate Kristen Clarke and the Lawyers’ Committee for this new chapter in the work of this important organization. Ms. Clarke is a champion of many of our causes from bilingual assistance at the polls to the fair treatment of immigrants and the undocumented. The Lawyers’ Committee is lucky to have her at the helm and we look forward to more collaborations in the future.”
—Juan Cartagena, President & General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF
“Congratulations to both the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and to the entire civil rights community. The Lawyers’ Committee has selected a deeply and diversely skilled litigator as its new president. Ms. Clarke is both an accomplished advocate and an NAACP Legal Defense Fund alumnus. We welcome her with appreciation for her service thus far and anticipation of her service to the nation to come.”
—Cornell Brooks, President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
“Kristen Clarke is a seasoned, passionate civil rights lawyer, and is an excellent choice for the new leader of the Lawyers’ Committee.”
—Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League