Kristen Clarke, president & executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), leads one of the country’s most important national civil rights organizations in the pursuit of equal justice for all. The Lawyers’ Committee seeks to promote fair housing and community development, economic justice, voting rights, equal educational opportunity, criminal justice, judicial diversity and more.
Throughout her career, Ms. Clarke has focused on work that seeks to strengthen our democracy by combating discrimination faced by African Americans and other marginalized communities. Clarke formerly served as the head of the Civil Rights Bureau for the New York State Attorney General’s Office, where she led broad civil rights enforcement on matters including criminal justice issues, education and housing discrimination, fair lending, barriers to reentry, voting rights, immigrants’ rights, gender inequality, disability rights, reproductive access and LGBT issues. Under her leadership, the Bureau secured landmark agreements with banks to address unlawful redlining, employers to address barriers to reentry for people with criminal backgrounds, police departments on reforms to policies and practices, major retailers on racial profiling of consumers, and one of the country’s largest school districts concerning issues relating to the school-to-prison pipeline.
Ms. Clarke spent several years at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) where she helped lead the organization’s work in the areas of voting rights and election law across the country. Ms. Clarke worked on cases defending the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act and also testified before Congress and state legislatures. Prior to joining LDF, she worked at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division. While at the Justice Department, 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 Division’s Voting Section.
Ms. Clarke speaks and writes regularly on issues concerning race, law and justice. She has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Democracy Now, Fox News, C-Span’s Washington Journal, TV One, and Yahoo News, the world’s second largest news site. She has also 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). In 2015, she served as a lecturer at Columbia University School of Law. She received her A.B. from Harvard University and her J.D. from Columbia Law School. She is also an active alumna of Prep for Prep.
Her honors and awards include the 2018 Louis L. Redding Lifetime Achievement Award, 2018 Harvard College Service to Society Award, the 2017 Choate Rosemary Hall Alumni of the Year, the 2017 Thurgood Marshall Award from Quinnipiac University School of Law, the 2016 Alumni of the Year by the National Black Law Students Association, the New York Law Journal’s 2015 Rising Stars, the 2014 New York State Senate Proclamation for Exemplary Service, the 2012 Best Brief Award for the 2012 Supreme Court term from the National Association of Attorneys General, the 2012 Network Journal’s Top 40 Under 40, the 2011 National Bar Association’s Top 40 Under 40, and the 2010 Paul Robeson Distinguished Alumni Award from Columbia Law School, among others.