Maya Harris

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Maya L. Harris (now Maya Harris West)[1] is Vice President for Democracy, Rights and Justice at the Ford Foundation. She was named to that position in June 2008. Prior to joining the Ford Foundation, she served as the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California.[2][3] Before joining the ACLU, the former law school dean (Lincoln Law School of San Jose) was a Senior Associate at PolicyLink. She has authored two publications which include a report highlighting community-centered policing practices nationwide and an advocacy manual for police reform.


Early life and education[edit]

Born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, Harris grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she was eight, she and her sister worked to get the apartment building they lived in to open an unused courtyard as a place for children to play.[4] She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989. That year, she enrolled in Stanford Law School. While at Stanford, she was active with the East Palo Alto Community Law Project, serving as Co-Coordinator of the Domestic Violence Clinic and Co-Chair of the Student Steering Committee.[5]

Legal career[edit]

Following law school, Harris served as a law clerk for United States District Court Judge James Ware in the Northern District of California. In 1994 Harris joined the San Francisco law firm of Jackson Tuffs Cole & Black, LLP, working in civil and criminal litigation. In 1997 the Young Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association honored her with the Junius W. Williams Young Lawyer of the Year Award. The following year, she was named one of the Top 20 Up and Coming Lawyers Under 40 by the San Francisco Daily Journal.[6]

Harris served as a law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law. She also taught contract law at New College of California School of Law and Lincoln Law School of San Jose. At 29, she was one of the youngest deans of a law school in the United States.[7]


Harris was a Senior Associate at PolicyLink, a national research and action institute dedicated to advancing economic and social equity. In that capacity, she organized conferences around police-community relations[8] and advocated for police reform,[9] authoring Organized for Change: The Activist's Guide to Police Reform.[10]

Harris served as Executive Director of the Northern California American Civil Liberties Union. In her role as the head of the largest affiliate office of the ACLU, Harris directed and coordinated litigation, media relations, lobbying, and grassroots organizing work. "The Project's priorities are eliminating racial disparities in the criminal justice system and achieving educational equity in California public schools."[11] In 2003, Harris was the Northern California director for No on 54, the campaign to defeat Proposition 54, which sought to end affirmative action in the state.[12]

Harris authored the essay "Fostering Accountable Community-Centered Policing", which appeared in the 2006 book The Covenant with Black America.[11]

Harris is currently Vice President for Democracy, Rights and Justice at the Ford Foundation. One of the issues she addresses through her position is the problem of child brides.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Harris is married to Tony West, the Acting Associate Attorney General of the United States. The two met while studying at Stanford Law; it was Harris’ daughter Meena (BA ’06), then a playful 4-year old, who introduced them after she engaged West in a game of hide-and-seek around The Falcon in Arthur E. Cooley Courtyard on the first day of classes, although they didn’t date until a few years after graduation.[7]

Her older sister, Kamala Harris, is the Attorney General of California.[13]


  1. ^ [1] The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, By Gwen Ifill, 2009, p. 208
  2. ^ "Maya Harris, ACLU-NC Executive Director". ACLU. Retrieved 21 January 2010. 
  3. ^ Ifill, Gwen (2009). The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (1st ed.). New York: Anchor Books. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-7679-2890-8. 
  4. ^ a b Dzieza, Josh (March 10, 2012). "Legal Power Sisters Credit Mom". The Daily Beast. 
  5. ^ "Officially Speaking". Student Lawyer (Law Student Division, American Bar Association) 27 (2). December 1998. 
  6. ^ Equal Justice Society; Protecting Equally: Dismantling the Intent Doctrine & Healing Racial Wounds, Maya Harris
  7. ^ a b Driscoll, Sharon (May 17, 2010). "Tony and Maya: Partners in Public Service". Stanford Lawyer. 
  8. ^ Hafertepen, Eric (July 5, 2001). "News: We Have to Talk About This". CityBeat. 
  9. ^ Prendergast, Jane (June 2, 2001). "Researchers urge police reforms". The Cincinnati Enquirer. 
  10. ^ "PolicyLink Guide Offers Innovative Strategies for Police Reform Advocates". PolicyLink. April 8, 2004. 
  11. ^ a b "Fostering Accountable Community-Centered Policing". The Covenant with Black America (1st ed.). Chicago: Third World Press. 2006. pp. 71–95. ISBN 978-0-88378-277-4. 
  12. ^ "Prop. 54 soundly beaten: The tide turned when foes of the ballot measure shifted gears from bias to health care". The Sacramento Bee. October 8, 2003. 
  13. ^ Lakshman, Narayan (March 15, 2012). "Indian-Americans in full strength at White House". The Hindu.