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

Rachel M. Kleinman

Senior Counsel

As Senior Counsel at LDF, Rachel uses litigation, policy, advocacy and public education to ensure access to equal opportunity in all of LDF’s practice areas, including education, economic justice and criminal justice.  Rachel is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at NYU Law School where she co-teaches LDF’s Racial Equity Strategies Clinic.

Rachel has challenged discriminatory practices impacting students at the pre-K through higher education levels. She has initiated civil rights complaints regarding improper police ticketing of students for minor misbehavior in Bryan, Texas and the use of a single multiple choice exam for admissions to New York City’s prestigious Specialized High Schools. Rachel speaks and writes about the criminalization of Black youth, and the school push-out policies and practices, such as discriminatory school discipline, that  drive children out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice system.

Rachel is currently lead counsel for LDF in Little  v. Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA), a federal putative class action lawsuit challenging WMATA’s use of an overly broad and unnecessarily punitive criminal background screening policy which has a disproportionate impact on qualified African American applicants and employees.  In conjunction with the litigation and related advocacy around the WMATA case, Rachel has co-led a task force focusing on disparate impact litigation and strategic communications in the areas of employment and housing discrimination. She also co-authored LDF’s amicus brief in Texas v. Inclusive Communities Project, a 2015 case where the United States Supreme Court unambiguously recognized both the legality and importance of the disparate impact protections set forth by the Fair Housing Act in addressing housing discrimination.

Rachel led LDF’s amicus effort in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, a challenge to the constitutionality of the consideration of race in the University of Texas (“UT”) undergraduate admissions policy.  LDF has long played a key role in the litigation of this case, filing an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 and twice presenting oral arguments to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  In November of 2015, Rachel co-authored LDF’s United States Supreme Court amicus brief, which was filed on behalf of the University of Texas’s Black Student Alliance (BSA) and Black Ex-Student Alliance (BEST). LDF’s brief emphasized the continued importance of race-conscious admissions in not only admitting a diverse class but also preparing UT’s students and America’s future leaders. The brief also highlighted the critical role of diversity in breaking down stereotypes. Thus, LDF’s 2015 amicus brief asserts that “[w]hen students encounter classmates from different backgrounds—within and across dimensions of race, socio-economic status, and beyond—and come to understand and respect each other as individuals, they are all better for it.” 

Rachel also serves as 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.

Prior to joining LDF, Rachel was a litigation associate at the plaintiff-side law firm, Beldock, Levine & Hoffman LLP. There, she developed a civil rights practice with a focus on police misconduct and employment discrimination. Prior to joining Beldock, she served as a law clerk to the Hon. Michael H. Dolinger in the Southern District of New York. Ms. Kleinman received her law degree from Fordham University School of Law magna cum laude, where she was a Stein Scholar for Public Interest Law & Ethics and the Associate Research and Writing Editor for the Fordham Urban Law Journal. Ms. Kleinman graduated from Brown University with a degree in American Civilization with honors. She served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Fordham University School of Law for seven years.