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Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) announced that Christina Swarns has been appointed its permanent Director of Litigation. For the past year, Ms. Swarns has served as LDF’s Interim Litigation Director and, since 2003, she has Directed LDF’s Criminal Justice Practice Group.
As LDF’s Director of Litigation, Ms. Swarns will provide strategic leadership and coordination of all aspects of LDF’s litigation advocacy, including supervising LDF’s attorneys as they engage in complex civil rights and constitutional litigation in federal and state courts throughout the country.
“Christina has been an essential member of our senior legal staff for more than a decade. We could not be more pleased that she is now bringing her nationally recognized talent, dedication, and vision to the leadership of our litigation department,” said Sherrilyn A. Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “I have been impressed with her leadership, strategic thinking and generous support of our young lawyers over the past year as our Interim Director of Litigation. Best of all, Christina is utterly committed to LDF’s clients and to presenting the highest quality of advocacy for those we represent. She exemplifies the combination of creative legal thinking and meticulous preparation that has been the hallmark of LDF’s litigation practice for over 70 years.”
“I am honored and humbled to have this chance to help advance LDF’s unparalleled legacy of advocacy for racial justice,” Ms. Swarns said. “Since LDF’s founding, this country has made tremendous strides toward achieving its stated goal of equality for all. But our work remains unfinished. Race continues to burden and limit opportunities for African Americans and other people of color, so I look forward to helping LDF develop and pursue creative, aggressive, and strategic litigation that helps facilitate the realization of America’s promise.”
Ms. Swarns is well known in the national and international legal community as one of the nation’s leading criminal defense lawyers. At LDF, she has supervised a team of lawyers engaged in a broad range of litigation and advocacy focused on challenges to mass incarceration, racial profiling and racial disparities in sentencing. Under her leadership, LDF has remained at the forefront of the struggle to end capital punishment, by pursuing litigation which challenges the entrenched and systemic arbitrariness of the death penalty, confronts the persistent and inappropriate role of race in the administration of capital punishment, and encourages the Supreme Court to limit – and ultimately eliminate – the death penalty.
Dubbed the “Lady of the Last Chance” in a 2012 American Bar Association Journal profile, Ms. Swarns has played a leading role in multiple capital post-conviction cases in which convictions and/or death sentences have been declared unconstitutional. Ms. Swarns was profiled in a 2013 book by Christiane Féral-Schuhl, the immediate past President of the Paris, France, Bar Association, entitled, Ces Femmes Qui Portent la Robe (“These Women Who Wear the Robe”), which traces the careers of 20 extraordinary women lawyers. Earlier this year, in recognition of her lifelong commitment to civil rights and criminal justice, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, of which she is an alumna, named Ms. Swarns an Honorary Fellow in Residence. The position recognizes lawyers who have made “significant contributions to the ends of justice at the cost of great personal risk and sacrifice.”
Prior to joining LDF, Ms. Swarns worked as a Supervising Assistant Federal Defender in the Capital Habeas Corpus Unit of the Philadelphia Federal Defender.