Kristen Clarke, president of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, was nominated Thursday by President-elect Joe Biden as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
Clarke has served as an attorney in the division in years past, handling cases involving hate crimes, human trafficking, police misconduct, voting rights and redistricting.
Biden announced the selection of Clarke at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, along with several other nominations and appointments for the department, including Merrick Garland as U.S. attorney general and Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general.
The nominations of Clarke and Gupta, two women of color, adds even more diversity to an incoming administration attempting to keep its campaign promise of having top staff and Cabinet members that reflect all of America.
“Our first-rate nominees to lead the Justice Department are eminently qualified, embody character and judgment that is beyond reproach, and have devoted their careers to serving the American people with honor and integrity,” Biden said in a statement. “They will restore the independence of the department, so it serves the interests of the people, not a presidency, rebuild public trust in the rule of law, and work tirelessly to ensure a more fair and equitable justice system.”
Clarke, who received her A.B. from Harvard University and her J.D. from Columbia Law School, said she is “honored to be nominated” for the position.
“This job is about justice. It’s about equality. And under our DOJ, we’ll move closer to the TRUE meaning of equal justice under law,” she tweeted.
Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights has been nominated to be associate attorney general at the Justice Department. She is seen as one of the nation’s best-known and most respected civil rights attorneys, the Indian American daughter of immigrants would be the first woman of color to serve as associate attorney general.
“There are many agencies in the federal government, but actually only one that bears the name of a value,” Gupta said during Thursday’s announcement briefing. “By virtue of that name, that value of justice, we know the department carries a unique charge and north star. It is the keeper of a sacred promise. It is the promise of equal justice for all.”
Gupta previously served at the Justice Department under Barack Obama as acting assistant attorney general in the civil rights division. In that role, she was the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States.
The selections of Gupta and Clarke address concerns raised by the leaders of the nation’s civil rights organizations who have pressed Biden to put people in leadership positions at the department who will properly respond to issues concerning injustice.
“They will use the full extent of their authority to move us closer to the American ideal of equal justice under law — de-politicizing and rooting out systemic racism from our laws, restoring voting rights, prosecuting hate crimes, eliminating racial disparities in sentencing, ending mandatory minimums, and restoring trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve through reforms that make our communities safer,” Biden said of the nominees.
Clarke has extensive civil rights experience, starting her career as an attorney in the department’s civil rights division.
While at the DOJ, the Brooklyn-born attorney served as a federal prosecutor in the criminal section division, responsible for police misconduct, hate crimes, and human trafficking.
Through the division’s voting section, she also worked on voting rights and redistricting cases.
Brenda C. Siler contributed to this story.