NAACP Legal Defense Fund : Defend, Educate, Empower

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"The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is simply the best civil rights law firm in American history." -- President Obama

Chris Kemmitt

Senior Counsel & Director of Professional Development

Chris Kemmitt joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. in 2015 as Senior Counsel.  Chris has represented clients in each of LDF’s four practice areas, but he focuses primarily on criminal justice litigation.  

At present, Chris is lead counsel in Elzie Ball v. Darrel Vannoy, a post-conviction capital case that challenges Mr. Ball’s conviction and death sentence.  At trial, Mr. Ball was prosecuted by a district attorney who systematically removed Black jurors from Mr. Ball’s jury and would later spend four years in federal prison on fraud charges.  Chris also represents a class of Black schoolchildren in Stout v. Jefferson County, a school desegregation lawsuit in Alabama.  For the past two years, Chris has represented the Stout plaintiffs at trial and on appeal as they opposed efforts by the City of Gardendale to secede from Jefferson County Schools and create a separate, predominantly-white school district.  The plaintiffs prevailed in the Eleventh Circuit, which forbade Gardendale’s secession efforts and upheld the trial court’s finding that Gardendale had pursued its own school district in order to keep Black children out of its schools.  The Gardendale litigation has been covered in various media outlets, including the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, and USA Today.  

In addition, Chris represents Kenneth Reams in Reams v. Arkansas.  Chris was part of the team that succeeded in reversing Mr. Reams’ death sentence in an Arkansas state court.  His case is currently on appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court.  Chris previously worked on LDF’s section 2 challenge to the at-large election scheme used by Fayette County, GA to elect its Board of Commissioners and Board of Education.  As a result of this case, Fayette County was required to adopt district-based voting, which led to the election of the first and second Black members of the Board of Commissioners in the history of Fayette County.  Chris also co-authored LDF's amicus brief in Trump v. Hawaii, which challenged the constitutionality of President Trump’s “Muslim Ban” in the Supreme Court.  

Before coming to LDF, Chris spent seven years as an attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS), where he represented indigent defendants charged with serious crimes. As an appellate attorney, Chris secured a dismissal, reversal, or remand in a dozen criminal appeals.  He also tried both felony and misdemeanor cases in D.C. Superior Court. Chris conducted trainings on various topics for the D.C. defense bar and co-founded the PDS Criminal Law Blog.

Before joining PDS, Chris worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Betty Binns Fletcher of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the Honorable Nancy Gertner of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. He received his law degree from Yale Law School, where he served as Senior Editor of the Yale Law Journal. Chris graduated magna cum laude from Williams College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and earned his B.A. in History.  He has published law review articles in the Harvard Journal on Legislation and the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform.