Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) announced the appointments of Jin Hee Lee and Ryan Haygood as Deputy Directors of Litigation.  Jin had previously served as Senior Counsel in LDF’s work focused on economic justice, education, political participation and criminal justice. Ryan previously served as Director of the Political Participation Group, assisting communities of color by facilitating full, equal, and active participation in the political process, fighting for better educational systems, employment, housing opportunities and advocating for a fair criminal justice system.   

Jin was co-lead counsel in Davis, et al. v. City of New York and New York City Housing Authority, a federal class action lawsuit challenging the New York City Police Department’s unlawful practice of stopping and arresting New York City public housing residents and their guests for purportedly trespassing in public housing residences.  Her longtime work in this civil rights lawsuit has resulted in published decisions establishing important precedents in the areas of the Fourth Amendment, intentional race discrimination, fair housing, mootness, discovery, and class certification law.

Jin has co-authored numerous other amicus briefs that have been submitted in federal and state appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court, such as Berghuis v. Smith (jury underrepresentation), Tolan v. Cotton (qualified immunity in police shooting), Washington v. Gentry (prosecutors’ improper reliance on race), Maryland Dep’t of State Police v. Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches (disclosure of racial profiling investigations), United States v. Blewett (retroactivity of reduced crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity), and Woodfox v. Cain (race discrimination in selection of grand jury).

“It has been an incredible privilege and honor to be a part of LDF’s historic mission to secure America’s promise of equality for all, said Lee.  “Recent events in Ferguson and New York City have demonstrated what we all know to be true – that, despite significant progress over the past several decades, issues of race continue to leave an indelible mark in all aspects of our society.  LDF has some of the most talented and dedicated civil rights advocates in the country, and I look forward to working with them, in my new role as Deputy Director of Litigation, in this vital struggle for racial justice.”

Ryan has litigated some of LDF’s most important cases.  Ryan twice defended the constitutionality of a core provision of the federal Voting Rights Act, widely regarded as one of our nation’s greatest pieces of civil rights legislation, before the United States Supreme Court. In the most recent challenge, Ryan represented Black community leaders in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, a devastating case in which the United States Supreme Court struck as unconstitutional Section 4(b), the coverage provision of the Voting Rights Act.  The Supreme Court’s decision ultimately rendered the Section 5 “preclearance provision” inoperable.  

Prior to the Shelby County case, Ryan was a member of LDF’s litigation team in 2009 in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. One v. Holder (MUD) that successfully defended against a constitutional challenge to Section 5 before the Supreme Court.  During the 2006 Congressional reauthorization of Section 5, Ryan coordinated LDF’s legislative strategy, its contributions to building the Congressional record, and the organization’s public education efforts in numerous community, academic, and media settings.

In 2012, LDF authored a leading report, Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America, which explores the contemporary assault on voting rights across the nation.  Ryan brought international attention to this important issue when he testified at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland in 2012.

“I am honored to have this opportunity, in the capacity of Deputy Director of Litigation, to serve America’s premier civil rights and racial justice law firm,” said Haygood.  “LDF’s mission of uprooting racial discrimination root and branch is as salient today as it was when Justice Thurgood Marshall founded it nearly 75 years ago.  I look forward to continuing to assist LDF in using all available tools to decisively move America closer to realizing the promise of democracy for all.” 

Statement From Sherrilyn Ifill:  “Both Jin and Ryan will excel in these new roles as Deputy Director of Litigation and will play a critical role in advancing LDF’s mission on the many broad fronts that impact so many people in our country who unfortunately have been shut out of the American Dream.  They have already demonstrated the talent and capacity to take on the big cases and score important victories on behalf of our clients and in the name of defending core values such as opportunity, fairness and justice.  These appointments signal new opportunities for LDF to elevate the public’s consciousness on issues of race and discrimination and I am happy to have both Jin and Ryan on the front lines leading the charge.”

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