Vanita Gupta to lead civil rights at US Dept. of Justice

WASHINGTON DC–U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed Vanita Gupta Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Justice Department. 

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Gupta began her legal career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF), after graduating from New York University Law School and Yale University. LDF is the leading civil rights law firm and a separate entity from the  NAACP.

Her first case at LDF was to challenge the wrongful convictions of 40 Black Americans in Tulia, TX, who were convicted of selling drugs solely on the testimony of one White undercover officer with a history of racial hostility and misconduct.  Her clients were eventually pardoned by Texas Governor Rick Perry and received six million dollars in a monetary settlement for their civil rights violations.  Gupta has received numerous awards and honors for her outstanding work, including the Reebok Human Rights Award.  

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of LDF said, “Even among the incredibly talented lawyers who have worked for LDF over the years, Vanita stands out.  Fresh out of law school, she shined a national light on the miscarriage of justice in Tulia and single-handedly amassed and led the legal team which won freedom and restitution for those convicted.  The Tulia case, and Vanita’s leadership of it, will be known to history as a turning point for racial fairness in the criminal justice system.”

Ifill also said Gupta’s appointment was incredibly fitting for the times:  “The events in Ferguson provide a stark example of the challenges facing our nation when it comes to ensuring racial equality in the criminal justice system.  Vanita’s expertise in bringing law enforcement and communities of color to the same table, in pursuit of common goals of fairness and accountability, is precisely the type of leadership needed in the Civil Rights Division at this critical time.”

“(Gupta) is a rock star in the civil rights bar.  We are al extraordinarily lucky that Vanita has chosen to serve her country,” said Leslie Proll, director of LDF’s Washington office.
 
 

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