Criminal justice lawyer Nkechi Taifa is scheduled to receive the prestigious 2014 Wiley A. Branton Award June 18 from the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Northwest D.C.

“It would be difficult to imagine an attorney whose service as a public interest lawyer and educator better exemplifies the exceptional leadership, vision and commitment to justice we associate with Wiley Branton more than Nkechi Taifa,” the committee wrote in its citation to Taifa. “As an inspired and indefatigable leader, she has played a central role in building effective coalitions and contributing greatly to the cause of equal justice in our country.”

Rod Boggs, executive director for the committee, told the AFRO that he has never seen anyone as inspired or passionate as Taifa.

Taifa will share the honor with James J. Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation, and former General Counsel of the D.C. Public Schools.

“I am both honored and humbled to be one of the recipients of the Wiley Branton award,” Taifa said. “It is a very prestigious award.”

She said she is glad to be in the company of the award’s other recipients, including Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) and other great legal giants.

Donald Kahl, former executive director of the Equal Rights Center, will be honored with the Alfred McKenzie Award. Karen Grisez and Joseph DeSantis from Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP were designated as the Vincent Reed Education Award Recipients.

A native Washingtonian, Taifa is currently a senior policy analyst for the Open Society Foundation and Open Society Policy Center in Northwest, where she focuses on issues of criminal and civil justice reform. She also convenes the Justice Roundtable, a broad network of advocacy groups advancing progressive federal criminal justice policy in D.C.

Taifa’s career includes stints as the founding director of the Howard University School of Law’s Equal Justice Program; legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office; policy counsel for the Women’s Legal Defense Fund; staff attorney for the National Prison Project and Network Organizer for the Washington Office on Africa. She also represented adult and juvenile clients, and specialized in employment discrimination law.

According to Howard University’s School of Law website, the award’s namesake was a former dean at Howard University from 1978 to 1983, and a strong advocate of voting rights for all Americans. The award is annually given to individuals whose lifetime efforts exemplify Branton’s deep commitment to pro bono service.


LaTrina Antoine

Special to the AFRO