NAACP Legal Defense Fund : Defend, Educate, Empower

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

Vincent Southerland

Senior Counsel

Vincent Southerland joined LDF in August of 2008. He is a Senior Counsel in LDF’s Criminal Justice Practice, and engages in litigation and advocacy focused on eliminating the taint of racial bias from the criminal justice system. His work centers on a wide variety of criminal justice issues, including capital punishment, mass incarceration, state and federal sentencing practices, and the role of race in the administration of justice. Mr. Southerland represents death-sentenced prisoners in state and federal post-conviction proceedings throughout the South, challenging racial discrimination and the ineffective assistance of counsel in those cases. He is also counsel in Brister v. Mississippi, one of the first cases nationwide to implement the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama, which declared mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles unconstitutional. Recently, Mr. Southerland argued on behalf of LDF as amicus curiae before an en banc panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in U.S. v. Blewett, a case that sought to give retroactive effect to 2010’s Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the racially discriminatory 100:1 sentencing ratio for crack and powder cocaine to 18:1. Mr. Southerland is also counsel in Sheff v. O’Neill, a school desegregation case in Connecticut aimed at eliminating segregation and economic disparities between Hartford, Connecticut schools and those in the surrounding suburbs.

Mr. Southerland speaks frequently on issues of race and criminal justice at conferences, symposiums, and law schools across the country. He has also been interviewed by numerous media outlets, including the PBS NewsHour, Democracy Now!, and MSNBC’s Jansing & Co.

Prior to joining LDF, Mr. Southerland was a staff attorney at The Bronx Defenders, where he represented hundreds of indigent individuals accused of crimes in Bronx Criminal Court. He previously served as an E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow in Georgetown University Law Center’s Criminal Justice Clinic, where he supervised law students in the Clinic and represented indigent individuals accused of crimes in the District of Columbia Superior Court. Mr. Southerland was a law clerk to both the Honorable Louis H. Pollak of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Honorable Theodore A. McKee of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Mr. Southerland earned an LL.M. in Trial Advocacy from Georgetown University Law Center. He received his law degree cum laude from Temple University Law School where he served as Articles Editor of the Temple Law Review. Mr. Southerland graduated summa cum laude from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Sociology.