Liliana Zaragoza photo

Today, the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund (LDF) welcomes Columbia Law School Graduate Liliana Zaragoza as the first John Payton Appellate and Supreme Court Advocacy Fellow of the organization which turns 75 this year. Zaragoza was a 2013-2015 Skadden Fellow and Staff Attorney at the New York Legal Assistance Group and has been a longtime advocate for the rights of immigrants, communities of color and other marginalized groups.  She was the Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia Law Review and published an article titled, Delimiting Limitations: Does the Immigration and Naturality Act Impose a Statute of Limitations on Removal Proceedings?, in the Columbia Law Review.  Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Zaragoza also graduated with honors from the University of Chicago with a BA in International Studies and Human Rights.     

The Payton Fellowship advances LDF’s commitment to training a new corps of future civil rights attorneys to combat current challenges to racial justice across its four core advocacy areas of education, economic justice, criminal justice and political participation.  In addition to appellate advocacy, Payton Fellows will also help develop public policy and create public education campaigns about racial discrimination, in addition to leading community meetings, participating in conferences and developing public information materials.

“I am thrilled and honored to join LDF as the inaugural John Payton Appellate and Supreme Court Advocacy Fellow, said Zaragoza.  I am excited to work alongside such distinguished and committed advocates at the premier civil rights law organization in the country advocating for equality and racial justice. I look forward to the challenging, rewarding and crucially important work ahead.”

“The John Payton Fellowship is not only in memory of one our most venerable leaders at LDF, but, it prepares the next generation of civil rights attorneys to take the baton first passed by our founder Thurgood Marshall and advanced by John Payton”, said LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill.  I’m excited to have Liliana as our inaugural fellow as she brings the instincts and passion to do exceptional work on behalf of LDF and its clients.”

The John Payton Fellowship is a one-year appointment made possible thanks to the generous financial support of Time Warner, Inc. and John’s friends and family.  

To know more about the life and legacy of John Payton, LDF’s sixth President and Director-Counsel, click here.  

To know more about John Payton Fellow Liliana Zaragoza, click here.  

If you would like to make a donation in support of future John Payton Fellows, click here


The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization.  Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.