Janell Byrd-Chichester is the Director of the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). The Marshall Institute, inspired by the work of Justice Marshall at LDF and launched in 2015, conducts social science research, targeted advocacy campaigns, and public education initiatives in pursuit of racial justice.
This is Ms. Byrd-Chichester’s second tenure at LDF. She served as an LDF Assistant Counsel from 1987-2001, during which time she litigated school desegregation, affirmative action in higher education, and employment discrimination cases, led LDF’s educational policy work with a focus on high-stakes testing, and managed LDF’s Washington, DC office. She also did the foundational work to develop the concept for the Marshall Institute at LDF.
Ms. Byrd-Chichester comes to this position with a more than 30-year career as a civil rights litigator and public policy advocate who has used social science research extensively on a broad array of civil rights issues – including fair housing and lending, consumer protection, school desegregation and educational testing, affirmative action, employment discrimination, police misconduct, and public accommodations.
Most recently, she served as the Chief of Staff at the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), a federal agency created after the most recent financial crisis that is the financial regulator for the government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the 11 Federal Home Loan Banks. Prior to her role at FHFA, she was a partner at the Washington, DC law firm Mehri & Skalet, where she developed the firm’s housing practice focusing on fair housing and consumer protection. Prior to that, Ms. Byrd-Chichester was Co-Managing Attorney at The Cochran Firm’s Washington Office, where she litigated police misconduct, public accommodations, and employment discrimination cases and served as a public policy consultant to civil rights organizations on a broad array of issues.
Ms. Byrd-Chichester also taught as a Visiting Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and held the Charles Hamilton Houston Endowed Chair in Civil Rights Law at the University of North Carolina Central School of Law. She has served on the Board of Governors of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, DC and the Board of Directors for the National Association for Public Interest Law (now Equal Justice). She also has served as the Chair of the Task Force on Civil Rights Restoration and Co-Chair of the Education Task Force of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
In her early career, Byrd-Chichester clerked for the Honorable Cecil F. Poole on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and worked as an Associate at the Washington, D.C. law firm Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. She is a 1983 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, where she was a member of the California Law Review and a 1980 graduate, cum laude, of American University in Washington, DC.