Samuel Spital is the Director of Litigation & General Counsel at the Legal Defense Fund (LDF).
As Director of Litigation, Sam leads LDF’s racial justice litigation docket across the organization’s four historic pillars: education, economic justice, criminal justice, and political participation. Sam also supervises LDF’s appellate litigation in the Supreme Court, federal circuit courts, and state supreme courts. He has drafted or contributed to over 50 Supreme Court briefs since joining LDF in 2017.
Sam maintains an active docket of his own cases, including several high-profile criminal justice, voting rights, and education matters. He is lead counsel in NAACP v. USPS, in which LDF and our co-counsel Public Citizen secured a historic injunction requiring that the United States Postal Service implement “Extraordinary Measures” to ensure the timely delivery of ballots in advance of the 2020 election. In LDF v. Trump, Sam was a key member of the LDF team that successfully challenged a Presidential Commission on “Election Integrity,” which the Trump Administration created to support the former President’s false claims about widespread voter fraud. In Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education, Sam was among the LDF attorneys who persuaded the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that a small city in Jefferson County, Alabama was motivated by racial discrimination in seeking to secede from the racially diverse county school district.
A recognized expert in death penalty litigation, Sam represented LDF-client Duane Buck in Buck v. Davis, in which the Supreme Court held that Mr. Buck’s constitutional rights were violated when his appointed trial counsel presented an “expert” who falsely testified that Mr. Buck was more likely to commit future acts of criminal violence because he is Black. Sam also successfully represented two men sentenced to death as teenagers in Alabama and Florida, in which the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their sentences because their trial attorneys failed to investigate compelling mitigating evidence.
Outside of the courtroom, Sam has testified before Congress about the need for new voting rights legislation, and he is a frequent participant on panels at conferences for legal academics and practitioners. He is an expert on the Supreme Court and is often called upon to provide analysis about pending and prospective cases, as well as matters relating to the appropriate role of the Court in our constitutional democracy. Sam’s commentary on civil rights issues, capital punishment, and Supreme Court litigation has appeared in law reviews and general publications, including The George Washington Law Review (On the Docket), The National Law Journal, The Northern Illinois Law Review, The Hill, cnn.com, and Salon. He is also regularly interviewed about those subjects, including by NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, Newsweek, USA Today, and Reuters Legal.
As General Counsel, Sam supervises in-house legal issues for LDF, and he provides legal counsel to LDF’s other senior leaders.
Prior to joining LDF, Sam practiced for over a decade at two national law firms, where he was co-counsel with LDF in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder and Shelby County v. Holder, representing Black voters who intervened to defend the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. Sam’s extensive experience in civil rights litigation also includes representing the “Angola 3,” three men who served between 25 and 40 years in solitary confinement conditions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for crimes they did not commit.
Between 2012 and 2017, Sam was a Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School, where he taught a course on death penalty and prison litigation. He is a 2000 graduate of Harvard College and a 2004 graduate of Harvard Law School. After graduating law school, Sam clerked for The Honorable Harry T. Edwards of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and for The Honorable John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court.