After five years of voting advocacy at LDF, Ms. Ifill transferred to the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, where she taught civil procedure law and constitutional law for the next 20 years. She founded one of the country`s first legal clinics, focused on challenging legal barriers to the reintegration of people previously imprisoned for felony convictions. Since acquiring LDF in 2013, Ifill has led the organization`s massive growth. The workforce grew from 55 employees, mostly lawyers, to more than 150 and expanded to new core organization and communication departments. The DFL has created its own historical archive to document legal milestones and precursors of the civil rights movement. She founded an internal think tank, the Thurgood Marshall Institute, to study civil rights and structural racism. In 1993, Ifill left LDF to attend the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore. For more than 20 years, Ifill taught civil procedure and constitutional law to thousands of law students and pioneered a number of legal clinics, including one of the first legal clinics in the country focused on removing legal barriers to the reintegration of ex-offenders.
Ifill is also a prolific scholar who has published academic articles in leading legal journals as well as editorials and commentaries in leading journals. His 2007 book “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century” was highly regarded and is said to have laid the groundwork for contemporary conversations about lynching and reconciliation. A 10th anniversary edition of the book was recently published with a foreword by Bryan Stevenson, the famous lawyer and founder of the National Lynch Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. He maintained this media platform while playing a role in the agency`s legal practice. She is known for leaving detailed notes on bills and sitting at the lawyer`s table during high-profile pleadings. Ms. Nelson also began her civil rights career at LDF, first as an externalist in 1995 while studying at UCLA Law School, and then as a recipient of the prestigious Fried Frank-LDF Fellowship in 1998, until she was hired as an associate counsel by LDF`s first female president and chief counsel. Elaine Jones. Ms.
Nelson chaired the LDF`s political participation group, including all votes and new elections, deprivation of crime and voter suppression. After leaving LDF to conduct research as a Fulbright Scholar in Ghana, West Africa, she spent nearly 10 years in academia, where she became Full Professor and Senior Administrator and Dean of the Faculty of Law at St. John`s University. While at the Academy, Ms. Nelson was honored with the Derrick A. Bell Award from the American Association of Law Schools Section on Minority Groups and was named one of 50 minority professors under 50 of lawyers of color who are impacting legal education. For nearly a decade, Ms. Ifill has led LDF through its greatest period of growth and transformation. LDF has led the fight against voter suppression, inequality in education, economic inequality and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Under Ms. Ifill`s leadership, the DFL has been at the forefront of the fight to protect the integrity of our electoral process and access to ballots against a series of anti-democratic attacks.
The LDF campaigned vigorously and relentlessly against police violence. The LDF, founded in 1940 by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP`s legal department, has traditionally held an informal creed: LDF lawyers do the work, but don`t talk about it. Organizing and campaigning through the media was the business of community activists, not litigators, who wanted to go into courtrooms – often controlled by white judges and jurors – who were supported only by their legal credentials. “Sherrilyn Ifill was a steadfast advocate in the fight for equality in the best tradition of DFL leadership,” said Cecilia Marshall, widow of the Honourable Thurgood Marshall. “She is demanding and committed to advancing the work for civil rights. We are all better at this talent and dedication, and I am confident that we will continue to draw inspiration from her in her new role. Janai Nelson is an excellent choice, in keeping with LDF`s tradition of commitment to equality and legal excellence. A law professor by training, Ifill has increased the DFL`s budget fivefold – from $12 million to $60 million – and added nearly $100 million to its endowment.
Since becoming LDF`s seventh president and managing counsel in 2013, Sherrilyn Ifill has advanced and strengthened LDF`s legacy as the leading racial justice legal organization during one of the most tense and volatile civil rights times of our time. Since its inception, LDF has distinguished itself through groundbreaking achievements in all areas of racial and social justice. Under Ms. Ifill`s leadership, the DFL has advanced its legacy as the country`s most prominent racial justice legal organization. LDF has led the fight against voter suppression, inequality in education, economic inequality and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. The LDF has also been at the forefront of protecting the integrity of the electoral process from a scourge of undemocratic encroachments and has led a powerful and tireless advocacy against police violence. Sherrilyn Ifill is president and chief counsel emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the nation`s leading civil rights organization advocating for racial justice and equality. LDF was founded in 1940 by legendary civil rights lawyer (and later Supreme Court Justice) Thurgood Marshall, and became a separate organization from the NAACP in 1957.
Legal Defense Fund lawyers developed and executed the legal strategy that led to the Supreme Court`s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, widely regarded as the most transformative and monumental legal decision of the 20th century. Ifill is the second woman to lead the organization. In 2013, Ms. Ifill returned to LDF to lead the organization as the seventh Director-General. Under Ms. Grace of Ifill`s leadership, LDF expanded the scope, vision, and capacity of its process and policy work, built a strong core department, created an archives department to document DFL`s legal milestones and legacy, and established the Thurgood Marshall Institute as the multidisciplinary research arm of the DFL. DFL`s staff, annual budget and staffing assets have increased fivefold under Ms. Ifill`s leadership. He raised and strengthened the LDF`s profile as the nation`s leading civil rights organization and experienced unprecedented growth in the organization`s history.
With Ms. Ifill at the helm, LDF stood up to shape the narrative of race and civil rights in our country. Together, Ifill and Nelson launched one of the most ambitious efforts to create the next generation of civil rights leaders: the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program (MMSP). The MMSP, named in honor of the nation`s first Black Supreme Court Justice and founder of LDF, Thurgood Marshall, and legendary civil rights lawyer Constance Baker Motley, is a multi-year commitment to equip the South with dedicated and prepared civil rights lawyers trained to provide legal representation of unprecedented excellence. They also founded the Thurgood Marshall Institute, a multidisciplinary branch of research within the DFL. Ifill graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in English in 1984 and received her J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1987. She has received honorary doctorates from New York University, Bard College, Fordham Law School, and CUNY Law School.
In 2019, Ifill was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2020, she was named Lawyer of the Year by The American Lawyer. In 2021, Ifill was appointed to President Biden`s commission on the Supreme Court. She serves on the boards of the Learning Policy Institute, NYU Law School of Trustees, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the advisory board of Profile in Courage. Four decades later, she led one of the leading civil rights groups in the United States as the nation grappled with a new racist record, from police violence to voting rights to educational justice. Ifill, 58, will step down as president and director of the NAACP`s Legal Defense and Education Fund in spring 2022, she told The Washington Post. Sherrilyn Ifill was 10 years old when a New York City police officer shot and killed a boy her age in her Jamaica, Queens, neighborhood. She heard parents mourning her death at the bus stop on her way to school and talking about her family at the supermarket. Ifill said her departure from the DFL, which she joined in 1988 as an associate attorney before teaching law at the University of Maryland, is not a retirement. “I don`t think it`s going to be a leisure time,” she said. Both Ms.
Ifill and Ms. Nelson have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of racial justice and see DFL leadership as the culmination of this work. Their transition is the first woman-to-woman succession in the history of the DFL, and they will continue to work closely together during the transition period to ensure the important role of the DFL in promoting racial and social justice across the country.