Associate Attorney General – confirmation needed

Vanita Gupta

by Deedra Abboud in Political
January 27, 2021 0 comments

President Joe Biden has nominated Vanita Gupta to serve as Associate Attorney General.

The associate attorney general is the third-highest position in the US Department of Justice.

If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the first woman of color to hold the position.

The position: Oversees civil rights and civil litigation for the Justice Department.

Vanita Gupta was born in PhiladelphiaPennsylvania in 1975 to Indian immigrant parents.

Daughter to Rajiv L. Gupta, a businessman, who was the former CEO and chairman of manufacturing company Rohm and Hass, she has talked about how most of her childhood was spent in France and London due to her father’s occupation. Her parents had moved to the US in 1968, just a week after they got married.

She received her B.A. degree magna cum laude from Yale University.

She received her J.D. degree from New York University School of Law in 2001, where later she taught a civil rights litigation clinic for several years.

In a previous The New York Times interview, Gupta had talked about one particular incident that propelled her towards social justice causes.

She recalled sitting outside a McDonalds outlet in London, with her entire family, and a few men sitting at a table across hurled ethnic slurs at them and asked them to go back to where they came from.

“It was just a very vivid demonstration of what it’s like to grow up as a person of color in a very troubled time,” said Gupta.

Gupta began her legal career as an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, where she successfully led the effort to overturn the wrongful drug convictions of 38 individuals in Tulia, Texas.

The small town case involved 40 African Americans and six white or Latino people who were romantic partners of African Americans who had been convicted by all-white juries on drug trafficking charges and given extraordinarily long sentences — 300 years, 90 years, 60 years, etc.

The evidence against many of them hinged solely on an uncorroborated statement by a single man, who was known for using racial slurs.

All were ultimately pardoned by Governor Rick Perry.

She then helped negotiate a $6 million settlement on behalf of her clients. [In August 2017, director Seth Gordon announced that he would be directing a film called Tulia about the case.]

She also consulted with European civil society organizations working to advance the rights of the Roma.

She joined the ACLU in 2006 as a staff attorney, where she subsequently secured a landmark settlement on behalf of immigrant children from around the world detained in a privately-run prison in Texas that ultimately led to the end of “family detention” at the facility.

In addition to managing a robust litigation docket at the ACLU, Gupta created and led the organization’s Smart Justice Campaign aimed at ending mass incarceration while keeping communities safe. She worked with law enforcement agencies, corrections officials, advocates, stakeholders, and elected officials across the political spectrum to build collaborative support for pretrial, drug, and sentencing policies that make our federal, state, and local criminal justice systems more effective and more just.

After her time as a staff attorney at the ACLU, she served as its Deputy Legal Director and Director of its Center for Justice. She has been credited with pioneering the ACLU’s National Campaign to End Mass Incarceration.

From October 15, 2014, to January 20, 2017, she served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and Head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

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. She regularly engaged with a broad range of stakeholders in the course of this work.

In August 2016, Gupta announced the division’s findings of its civil investigation into the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). The division found that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution and federal statutory law, including unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests; excessive force and enforcement strategies that produce an unjustified disparate impact on African-American residents.

Also in 2016, under Gupta’s leadership, the division sued North Carolina, alleging that the state’s implementation of a law known as House Bill 2 discriminates against transgender individuals in violation of federal civil rights laws.

Gupta also oversaw a wide range of other enforcement efforts for the Division. This work included prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking, promoting disability rights, protecting the rights of LGBT individuals, as well as combating discrimination in education, employment, housing, lending, and voting.

Upon the conclusion of the Obama administration, she became the president and chief executive officer of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights civil rights coalition.

“The Senate has confirmed six of Trump’s judicial nominees in the past 30 hours,” tweeted Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in September 2020. “These are lifetime appointments that McConnell’s pushing through instead of the HEROES Act & other crucial legislation.”

Gupta has been married since 2003 to Chinh Q. Le, legal director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, and they have two young sons.

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