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

Jin Hee Lee

Deputy Director of Litigation

As Deputy Director of Litigation of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., Jin Hee Lee assists the Director of Litigation in overseeing LDF’s legal staff in their litigation, policy, advocacy, organizing, public education, and media activities.  Jin assists in the supervision of LDF’s economic justice, education, political participation and criminal justice litigation and participates in the strategic development of LDF’s organizational resources and administration. 

Jin is currently co-lead counsel in Davis, et al. v. City of New York and New York City Housing Authority, a federal class action lawsuit challenging the New York City Police Department’s unlawful practice of stopping and arresting New York City public housing residents and their guests for purportedly trespassing in public housing residences.  Her longtime work in this civil rights lawsuit has resulted in published decisions establishing important precedents in the areas of the Fourth Amendment, intentional race discrimination, fair housing, mootness, discovery, and class certification law.  See Davis v. City of New York, 296 F.R.D. 158 (S.D.N.Y. 2013); Davis v. City of New York, 959 F. Supp. 2d 324 (S.D.N.Y. 2013); Davis v. City of New York, 902 F. Supp. 2d 405 (S.D.N.Y. 2012); Davis v. City of New York, 898 F. Supp. 2d 600 (S.D.N.Y. 2012); Davis v. City of New York, 812 F. Supp. 2d 333 (S.D.N.Y. 2011).  Jin’s work in Davis also includes advising LDF’s organizers in their “Know Your Rights Academy,” which is an effort to educate and empower public housing residents about their rights during police encounters.  The Davis case has been featured in numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Amsterdam News.

Jin is an established leader in the litigation of constitutional challenges to extreme sentences for children. As lead counsel in Brister v. Mississippi, Jin investigated, conceptualized, and litigated the first case in Mississippi—and one of the first cases in the country—in which a mandatory juvenile life without parole sentence was declared unconstitutional pursuant to the landmark United States Supreme Court decision, Miller/Jackson v. Alabama.  In conjunction with her work on the Brister case, Jin developed a statewide analysis of Mississippi’s juvenile homicide convictions that also served as the framework for the subsequent coordination of litigation challenges to all of the juvenile life without parole sentences in Mississippi.  In In re Jeremiah Joseph Bourgeois, Jin represents an African-American man who, after he was arrested at 14 years old, was one of the youngest persons sentenced to juvenile life without parole in the State of Washington. Because of Jin and her co-counsel’s work, Mr. Bourgeois’s life without parole sentence was vacated. Jin has co-authored multiple amicus briefs explaining the racial discrimination underlying juvenile life without parole sentences, which have been submitted to the United States Supreme Court (Miller/Jackson v. Alabama and Graham v. Florida), the Michigan Supreme Court (Michigan v. Carp, et al.), and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Hill, et al. v. United States of America).

Jin also represents death-sentenced prisoners in state and federal post-conviction proceedings in Reams v. Arkansas, Barbour v. Allen (in Alabama), and Buck v. Stephens (in Texas), raising issues of race discrimination, ineffective assistance of counsel, jury underrepresentation, intellectual disability, and coerced confessions.  Jin is also engaged in litigation and other forms of advocacy challenging the employment practice of conducting criminal background checks in Waldon v. Cincinnati Public Schools and advocating for the restoration of water shut-offs in Detroit, Michigan. 

Jin has co-authored numerous other amicus briefs that have been submitted in federal and state appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court, such as Berghuis v. Smith (jury underrepresentation), Tolan v. Cotton (qualified immunity in police shooting), Washington v. Gentry (prosecutors’ improper reliance on race), Maryland Dep’t of State Police v. Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches (disclosure of racial profiling investigations), United States v. Blewett (retroactivity of reduced crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity), and Woodfox v. Cain (race discrimination in selection of grand jury). 

Jin is a frequently sought after speaker with respect to such issues as race, civil rights, and criminal justice, and has given numerous presentations to law schools, legal conferences, governmental hearings, media outlets, and community meetings throughout the country.  Her articles have been published in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and the Fordham Urban Law Journal.

Prior to joining LDF, Jin was a Staff Attorney at New York Lawyer’s for the Public Interest, where she combined lawyering with community organizing to address the disinvestment of healthcare resources in New York City’s communities of color, and was a litigation associate at Morrison & Foerster LLP.  She graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service with a concentration in African Studies, and was a recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship.  She is a graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and Executive Editor of A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual, published by the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, and Submissions Editor of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.  Jin also served as law clerk to Judge Martha Vázquez in the United States District Court for District of New Mexico.