Vanita Gupta

The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund (LDF) strongly praised U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement today that Vanita Gupta has been appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Justice Department. 

Vanita is currently Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU and Director of its Center for Justice.   She has had a long and exceptional tenure doing civil rights litigation and policy at the ACLU. 

Vanita began her legal career at LDF, after graduating from New York University Law School and Yale University.  Her first case at LDF was to challenge the wrongful convictions of 40 African Americans in Tulia, Texas who were convicted of selling drugs solely on the testimony of one white undercover officer with a history of racial hostility and misconduct.  Her clients were eventually pardoned by Texas Governor Rick Perry and received six million dollars in a monetary settlement for their civil rights violations.  Gupta has received numerous awards and honors for her outstanding work, including the Reebok Human Rights Award.  See summary of the Tulia case and CBS “60 Minutes” segment.

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF, the leading civil rights law firm and separate entity from NAACP stated:  “Even among the incredibly talented lawyers who have worked for LDF over the years, Vanita stands out.  Fresh out of law school, she shined a national light on the miscarriage of justice in Tulia and single-handedly amassed and led the legal team which won freedom and restitution for those convicted.  The Tulia case, and Vanita’s leadership of it, will be known to history as a turning point for racial fairness in the criminal justice system.”

Ifill also noted that Gupta’s appointment was incredibly fitting for the times:  “The events in Ferguson provide a stark example of the challenges facing our nation when it comes to ensuring racial equality in the criminal justice system.  Vanita’s expertise in bringing law enforcement and communities of color to the same table, in pursuit of common goals of fairness and accountability, is precisely the type of leadership needed in the Civil Rights Division at this critical time.”

Leslie Proll, Director of LDF’s Washington Office, stated:  “I have known Vanita since she first began practicing law.  She is a remarkably talented and committed lawyer who has made it her life’s work to pursue justice under the law.  She is a rock star in the civil rights bar.  We are all extraordinarily lucky that Vanita has chosen to serve her country in this role.”


The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the country’s first and foremost civil and human rights law firm. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, LDF’s mission has always been transformative: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society. LDF has been a separate organization from the NAACP since 1957. If our name needs to be shortened, please refer to us as NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “Legal Defense Fund,” not “NAACP.”