Lani Guinier (/ /; born April 19, 1950) is an American lawyer, scholar and civil rights activist. The first African-American woman tenured professor at Harvard Law School, Guinier's work includes professional responsibilities of public lawyers, the relationship between democracy and the law, the role of race and gender in the political process, equity in college admissions, and affirmative action.
Early life and career
Born in New York City, Guinier is the daughter of a white Jewish mother, Eugenia Paprin, and the black Panamanian-born and Jamaican raised scholar Ewart Guinier, who was one of two blacks admitted to Harvard College in 1929. Ewart Guinier was, however, not given financial aid nor was he allowed to live in the dormitories on the purported grounds that he had failed to submit a photograph with his application. After dropping out of Harvard College in 1931 because he could not afford it, he ultimately returned to Harvard as a professor (and chair) of the Afro-American Studies Department in 1969.
Guinier has said that she wanted to be a civil rights lawyer since she was twelve years old. After graduating from Radcliffe College in 1971 and Yale Law School in 1974, she clerked for Judge Damon Keith then served as special assistant to then Assistant Attorney General Drew S. Days in the Civil Rights Division in the Carter Administration. In 1981, after Ronald Reagan took office, she joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) as an assistant counsel, eventually becoming head of its Voting Rights project.
Nomination for Assistant Attorney General
Guinier is probably most well known as President Bill Clinton's nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in April 1993. A combination of political factors[clarification needed] led to her nomination being withdrawn in June 1993. Guinier was attacked by Clint Bolick of the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page as one of "Clinton's Quota Queens". (The title, some  said reminiscent of the denigrating term "welfare queen", was chosen not by author Bolick but by editors at the Wall Street Journal.)
In addition, Democratic Senators such as David Pryor of Arkansas and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts informed President Clinton that her interviews with senators were going poorly and urged him to withdraw the nomination.
According to Clinton's autobiography, Democratic Senator Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, the only African-American who was serving in the upper chamber at that time, also urged the President to withdraw Guinier's nomination. President Clinton took the advice of these elected officials and withdrew her nomination, claiming he was unfamiliar with her writing and that he didn't realize that she advocated pure racial quotas as opposed to affirmative action, as opponents had charged. The charge was false; Guinier had many times explicitly rejected the use of racial quotas in her law review articles.
Civil rights theories
Alternative voting systems
Guinier's theories were first presented in law-school publications. They were also aired in part with her 1994 publication, The Tyranny of the Majority. In this work and others, Guinier suggests various ideas to strengthen minority groups' voting power, and rectify what is, according to her, an unfair voting system. She claims that she is referring not only to racial minorities, but any numerical minority group, such as fundamentalist Christians, the Amish, or in states such as Alabama, Democrats; she also states that she does not advocate any single procedural rule, but rather that all alternatives be considered in the context of litigation "after the court finds a legal violation."
Some of the ideas she considers are:
- cumulative voting, a system in which each voter has "the same number of votes as there are seats or options to vote for, and they can then distribute their votes in any combination to reflect their preferences"--a system often used on corporate boards in 30 states, as well as by school boards and county commissions
- multi-member "superdistricts", a strategy which "modifies winner-take-all majority rule to require that something more than a bare majority of voters must approve or concur before action is taken."
Revising affirmative action
Since 2001, Guinier has been active in civil rights in higher education, coining the term "confirmative action" to reconceptualize issues of diversity, fairness, and affirmative action. The process of confirmative action, she says, "ties diversity to the admissions criteria for all students, whatever their race, gender, or ethnic background—including people of color, working-class whites, and even children of privilege".
Because public and private institutions of higher learning are almost all to some extent publicly funded (i.e., federal student loans and research grants), Guinier has argued that the nation has a vested interest in seeing that all students have access to higher education and that these graduates "contribute as leaders in our democratic polity". By linking diversity to merit, Guinier thereby seeks to argue that preferential treatment of minority students "confirms the public character and democratic missions of higher-education institutions. Diversity becomes relevant not only to the college's admissions process but also to its students' educational experiences and to what its graduates actually contribute to American society." 
Guinier was Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School for 10 years, before being hired by Harvard Law School in 1998. She regularly lectures at various other well-known law schools and universities including Yale, Stanford, New York University (NYU), UT Austin, Berkeley, UCLA, Rice, University of Chicago, and others. In 2007 she was a visiting professor at Columbia Law School. And in 2009 she was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.
|About Lani Guinier|
|By Lani Guinier|
Guinier's publications include six books, 29 law review and journal articles. She has also written many newspaper editorials.
Her books include:
- The Miner's Canary: Rethinking Race and Power (2002)
- Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback into a New Vision of Social Justice (Simon and Schuster: 1998)
- The Tyranny of the Majority (Free Press: 1994)
- Becoming Gentlemen: Women, Law Schools and Institutional Change, 1995).
She has been honored with various awards, including the Champion of Democracy Award from the National Women's Political Caucus; the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession; and the Rosa Parks Award from the American Association of Affirmative Action.
She has received ten honorary degrees from schools including Smith College, Spelman College, Swarthmore College, and the University of the District of Columbia. She has also been recognized for excellence in teaching by the 1994 Harvey Levin Teaching Award at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the 2002 Sacks-Freund Award for Teaching Excellence from Harvard Law School. In 2007 she delivered the Yale Law School Fowler Harper Lecture entitled, "The Political Representative as Powerful Stranger: Challenges for Democracy."
- "Balancing Race and Gender: LDF Women Pioneers", The Defenders Online, March 31, 2009
- "Lani Guinier, CV"
- "Reno Completes Most of Lineup At Justice Dept.", New York Times, April 30, 1993
- Kantor, Jodi (July 30, 2008). "Teaching Law, Testing Ideas, Obama Stood Slightly Apart". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
- Bolick, Clinton (1993) "Clinton's Quota Queens", Wall Street Journal op-ed, April 30, 1993.
- FAIR website
- Leff, Laurel (1993), "From legal scholar to quota queen: what happens when politics pulls the press into the groves of academe", Columbia Journalism Review 32:3 (Sept-Oct 1993)
- Clinton, William Jefferson (2004). My Life. New York: Knopf.[page needed].
- "Lani Guinier - 'Quota Queen or Misquoted Queen?'", FAIR, July/August 1993
- Guinier (2001), "Colleges Should Take 'Confirmative Action' in Admissions", Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved on 28 February 2011.
- Guinier (2001), "Colleges Should Take 'Confirmative Action' in Admissions", Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved on 9 December 2008.
- Guinier's publications at Harvard's website
- Online links to various articles Substantial list of Guinier's publications
- Miner's Canary project
- Racetalks Initiative
- Interview with Lani Guinier in Dollars & Sense magazine
- Lani Guinier at the Internet Movie Database
- Booknotes interview with Guinier on The Tyranny of the Majority, June 26, 1994.