PRESIDENT & CEO LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Vanita Gupta is president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. Before joining The Leadership Conference in June 2017, Gupta served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
Appointed in October 2014 by President Barack Obama as the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States, Gupta oversaw a wide range of criminal and civil enforcement efforts to ensure equal justice and protect equal opportunity for all during one of the most consequential periods for the division. Under Gupta’s leadership, the division did critical work in a number of areas, including advancing constitutional policing and criminal justice reform; prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking; promoting disability rights; protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals; ensuring voting rights for all; and combating discrimination in education, housing, employment, lending, and religious exercise.
Prior to joining the Justice Department, Gupta served as Deputy Legal Director and the Director of the Center for Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, where she launched the Smart Justice Campaign to end mass incarceration. She joined the ACLU in 2006 as a staff attorney. Gupta began her legal career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she litigated a series of landmark wrongful drug conviction cases in Tulia, Texas. Gupta graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and received her law degree from New York University School of Law, where later she taught a civil rights litigation clinic for several years.
She joined the ACLU in 2006 as a staff attorney. Gupta began her legal career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she litigated a series of landmark wrongful drug conviction cases in Tulia, Texas. Gupta graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and received her law degree from New York University School of Law, where later she taught a civil rights litigation clinic for several years.
Why We’re Honoring Her
Accomplishments & Accolades
relentless pursuit of civil rights
Vanita was at the head of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department and led the charge at the center of many of the nation’s most contentious political battles over policing as well as voting rights, fair housing, hate crimes, and transgender rights.
commitment to racial equality
As principal deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights for the Department of Justice, Vanita tirelessly pursued investigations into racial profiling with the systemic problem of police violence and abuse, and was an ardent champion in the fight against racial inequality.
champion for social justice
Vanita led the Justice Department’s civil rights division during the Obama Administration and became known for her aggressive work prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking, promoting disability rights, protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals and fighting for voter access.
recognition for human rights advocacy
Vanita has been the recipient of many honors and accolades including 2018 Richman Fellow by Brandeis University, as well as a 2011 Top 40 Minority Lawyer Under 40 by the National Law Journal.
EXPOSING racial TARGETING
Fresh out of law school, Vanita hit the ground running as an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund working towards the reform of a broken system in a small Texas town and ultimately prevailing.
defense of civil rights and liberties
As the ACLU deputy legal director, Vanita channeled her dedication for social justice and was instrumental in the progress in federal and state policing, sentencing, and drug policy and criminal law reform initiatives.