University of Maryland law professor Sherrilyn Ifill will assume the helm of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) in January 2013, the organization announced Nov. 19.

Ifill, a graduate of the New York University School of Law, is a respected civil rights litigator who has specialized in voting rights and political participation, she is also an LDF alum. As a young attorney, Ifill served as assistant counsel in LDF’s New York office where she was part of the litigation team that successfully challenged the way Texas judges are elected in Houston Lawyers’ Association vs. Attorney General of Texas, a case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991.

“It was a dream come true to serve as a lawyer at LDF years ago, and it is a high honor to return to this premiere institution as president and director-counsel,” Ifill said in a statement. “I am looking forward to working with the LDF team, allies and partners to advance an innovative 21st century civil rights practice that confronts the barriers to equality and justice in the lives of the most marginalized members of our community.”

For more than 70 years, LDF has been committed to legal advocacy centered around advancing equality in the criminal justice system, achieving educational parity, increasing political participation and ensuring the appointment of fair-minded and diverse judges. And, LDF board members said, Ifill is a fitting leader to advance that legacy.

“Sherrilyn Ifill brings to this position her visionary leadership, keen intellect, an unwavering commitment to social justice and a deep understanding of LDF’s legacy,” stated David W. Mills, co-chair of LDF’s Board of Directors.

LDF Co-Chair Gerald Adolph added, “With Sherrilyn at the helm, LDF will be stronger as the fight for racial justice in the 21st century continues.”

A noted public intellectual, who regularly offers commentary on pressing issues, Ifill is also the acclaimed author of “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century.”

Since 1993 Ifill has been on the faculty at the University Maryland School of Law, where she established several innovative legal clinics, including an environmental justice clinic, and one of the first legal clinics in the nation to focus on the legal rights of ex-offenders.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Ifill’s friend, applauded the appointment.

“Sherrilyn’s return to the LDF marks a significant achievement in a career that is steeped in public service, a passion for justice, and a commitment to truth,” the lawmaker said in a statement. “I commend Sherrilyn on this tremendous accomplishment and know that we will continue to see great things from her.”

Ifill is a cousin of Public Broadcast System news anchor Gwen Ifill.

Click for related articles:

    “An Interview with New LDF President Sherrilyn Ifill”


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO