The United States Department of Justice last week named Elise Boddie, a constitutional law professor and legal scholar at the University of Michigan, as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, the second highest leadership position within the Civil Rights Division. Ms. Boddie, who was an attorney at the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) from 1997-2005 and returned to serve as Director of Litigation from 2011-13, joins another former LDF attorney, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who leads the Civil Rights Division.

Ms. Boddie began her time with LDF as the first recipient of the Fried Frank/LDF fellowship. She litigated breach of contract, antitrust, and intellectual property matters during that time and assisted in the successful political asylum application of a Nigerian dissident. She then served as Staff Attorney from 1999-2003; Director of Education from 2003-04; and Associate Director of Litigation from 2004-05. She returned to LDF as its Director of Litigation from 2011-13, where she oversaw the organization’s impact litigation program, including several cases before the Supreme Court and federal appellate courts involving voting rights, fair housing, and affirmative action.

In response to the appointment, LDF President and Director-Counsel Janai Nelson issued the following statement:

“Congratulations to Elise Boddie, a member of the LDF community who made a tremendous impact on the organization over more than 12 years of combined service. She played an important role in LDF’s litigation efforts from 1999-2005, including litigating important economic justice, school desegregation, employment, and affirmative action cases in federal courts.

“During her time as LDF’s Director of Litigation, she was deeply involved in many of the nation’s most impactful issues. She contributed to LDF’s strategy in cases in which we litigated or filed amicus briefs, including challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act; the use of a single admissions test to New York City’s specialized high schools; and voting laws in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina. She also helped to lead LDF’s efforts in the critical race-conscious admissions case, Fisher v. University of Texas, overseeing the coordination of advocacy efforts that led to over 70 amicus briefs being filed in support of the University’s policies.

“Her exceptional legal mind and first-hand knowledge of the impact of civil rights violations on our most marginalized community are invaluable additions to the Justice Department and the excellent work that the Civil Rights Division is doing to protect civil rights and advance racial justice under Assistant Attorney General Clark’s leadership. Our country will benefit from their joint service, vision, and wealth of experience.”


Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.