John Cusick (@johnscusick) serves as Assistant Counsel at the Legal Defense Fund, where he works on cases and matters that advance racial justice in voting rights and the criminal legal system.
John has litigated voting rights cases nationwide, including challenges to penal disenfranchisement, voter-registration restrictions, limited early-voting opportunities, and other racially discriminatory barriers that impede access to the ballot box. As part of his active docket, he is on the litigation team in Sixth District of The African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Kemp, a federal lawsuit challenging certain provisions of an omnibus voter-suppression law (Senate Bill 202) adopted by the Georgia legislature following the historic participation of Black voters in the 2020 general and 2021 runoff elections.
During this post-2020 redistricting cycle, John is part of the litigation team in South Carolina NAACP v. Alexander, a federal lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s racially discriminatory Congressional and state House legislative maps. In 2022, the parties settled the challenge to the state House legislative districts. Following trial, in January 2023, a three-judge panel unanimously concluded that Congressional District 1 was racially gerrymandered and designed with a discriminatory purpose. This decision is currently on appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on October 11, 2023. He is also part of the litigation team in Christian Ministerial Alliance v. Thurston, a federal lawsuit challenging Arkansas’s racially discriminatory Congressional map.
John has spearheaded LDF advocacy efforts statewide and at the county level to combat racial voter suppression tactics, including cuts to early-voting access, mass voter challenges, polling-place closures, and voter intimidation. He has also led or co-led LDF’s election protection efforts in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas during recent elections. And he continues working with community members in local jurisdictions to adopt fair and non-discriminatory redistricting maps.
John joined LDF as an Equal Justice Works Fellow in 2017. During that fellowship, he focused on efforts challenging the criminalization of children of color and law enforcement’s use of artificial intelligence technologies, advocacy that remains a core part of his work. As part of the litigation team, he also remains engaged in the federal monitorship of the NYPD in Davis v. City of New York, a federal class action lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s racially discriminatory and unconstitutional trespass-enforcement practices against Black and Latinx residents in public housing.
John received his J.D. from NYU School of Law and B.A. from CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Before law school, John first worked in New York City government and then at a partnership focusing on public health approaches to public safety. He is a member of the New York State and U.S. Supreme Court bars.