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

Johnathan Smith

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Assistant Counsel of the Economic Justice Practice

Johnathan Smith joined LDF’s staff as Assistant Counsel in the Economic Justice Group in October 2010.  In that capacity, Johnathan engages in litigation, public policy, and public education to ensure equal access to economic opportunity for all Americans. 

Johnathan has been involved in high-impact, racial justice advocacy in a wide variety of civil rights issues, including employment, housing, fair lending, and environmental justice.  He is a member of LDF’s litigation team in Davis v. City of New York, a class action challenge to the NYPD’s discriminatory trespass enforcement practices, including stop-and-frisk, in public housing residences.  He also represents a group of African-American longshoremen working at the Port of Baltimore who have been discriminatorily denied promotional opportunities.  Johnathan served as a member of the litigation teams in Holt v. City of Dickson, where LDF represented a family of African-American landowners in their legal action against governmental actors and private companies for polluting the family’s groundwater with toxic chemicals, and GNOFHAC v. HUD (Road Home), a post-Hurricane Katrina fair housing challenge to the largest federal housing rebuilding program in American history.

Johnathan plays an active role in coordinating LDF’s efforts to combat employers’ over-reliance on criminal background checks.  He is the lead LDF lawyer in Waldon v. Cincinnati Public Schools, a Title VII, disparate impact lawsuit challenging the unjust termination of two longstanding employees based on relatively minor criminal offenses from long before they started work for the school district.  He also represents African-American workers who were unfairly denied positions with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority based on the results of criminal background checks in administrative proceedings before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

While at LDF, Johnathan has also worked on other civil rights matters, including Scott v. Schedler, a challenge under the National Voter Registration Act to Louisiana’s failure to provide voter registration opportunity to its most vulnerable residents.  Johnathan also regularly participates in the filing of friend-of-the-court briefs in federal courts around the country, including the United States Supreme Court, on a variety of civil rights issues.

Johnathan speaks and writes regularly on economic justice issues and other civil rights matters.  He is the author of Banning the Box but Keeping the Discrimination?:  Disparate Impact and Employers’ Overreliance on Criminal Background Checks, 49 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. (2014).  Additionally, he has offered testimony and provided written comments to legislative and administrative bodies on civil rights issues.

Prior to joining LDF, Johnathan spent two years as a litigation associate in the New York offices of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, where he represented clients in a variety of complex civil litigation matters and was an NAACP LDF fellow.   Johnathan also previously served as a law clerk to the Honorable Carl E. Stewart on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Johnathan graduated cum laude from NYU School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholar and an editor of the Review of Law and Social Change.  Johnathan graduated cum laude from Harvard College with a degree in Sociology and African-American Studies and also holds an M.Ed. in education policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.