|United States Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division|
October 20, 2014 – January 20, 2017
|Preceded by||Molly J. Moran|
|Succeeded by||Thomas E. Wheeler II|
1974/1975 (age 42–43)|
Yale University (B.A.)|
New York University (J.D.)
Vanita Gupta is an American attorney. She is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Previously, she was the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and acting head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice until January 20, 2017. She was appointed to lead the division by Barack Obama in October 2014. Formerly, she was a civil rights lawyer and the Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she oversaw its national criminal justice reform efforts. Prior to that, she was Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). Throughout her career, she has drawn support from a wide range of liberal and conservative activists, as well as law enforcement leaders, for building collaborative support and finding common ground on policing and criminal justice reform.
Gupta was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Indian immigrant parents. She received her B.A. degree magna cum laude from Yale University. She received her J.D. degree from New York University School of Law in 2001.
Her first case, while working for the LDF directly after law school, involved 40 African Americans and 6 white or Latino people who were romantic partners of African Americans in Tulia, Texas, who had been convicted by an all-white jury on drug dealing charges. In almost every case, the only evidence was the testimony of an undercover agent, Tom Coleman. Coleman did not use wiretaps, and records showed that he had "filed shoddy reports". He had a previous misdemeanor charge for stealing gasoline from a county pump. Gupta won the release of her clients in 2003, four years after they were jailed, then negotiated a $6 million settlement for those arrested. In August 2017, director Seth Gordon announced that he would be directing a film called Tulia about the case.
In 2007, after becoming a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, Gupta filed a lawsuit that was subsequently settled with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency on detention conditions for asylum seekers. In August 2007, a landmark agreement was reached between ACLU and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under which the conditions in the T. Don Hutto detention center improved and a number of children from the center were released.
On August 6, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security announced intentions to improve the nation's immigration detention system, including ending family detention at the T. Don Hutto family detention center in Taylor, Texas.
After her time as a staff attorney at the ACLU, she served as its Deputy Legal Director and Director of its Center for Justice. She has been credited with pioneering the ACLU's National Campaign to End Mass Incarceration.
Department of Justice
Under Gupta's leadership, the Civil Rights Division worked to advance criminal justice reform and constitutional policing, including by investigating and working to reform police departments in Ferguson, Missouri; Cleveland; Baltimore, and Chicago, among other cities. Gupta also oversaw a wide range of other enforcement efforts for the Division. This work included prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking, promoting disability rights, protecting the rights of LGBT individuals and combating discrimination in education, employment, housing, lending and voting.
Recent Justice Department cases
In 2016, under Gupta's leadership, the division sued North Carolina, alleging that the state's implementation of a law known as House Bill 2 discriminates against transgender individuals in violation of federal civil rights laws.
In August 2016, Gupta announced the division's findings of its civil investigation into the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). The division found that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution and federal statutory law, including unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests; excessive force and enforcement strategies that produce an unjustified disparate impact on African-American residents.
- "Obama to nominate ACLU lawyer to lead Justice Department's civil rights division". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-05-14.
- Holder, Eric (14 Oct 2014). "Attorney General Holder Announces Vanita Gupta to Serve as Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division". US Dept. of Justice. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- "Biography of Vanita Gupta, The Huffington Post Blog Contributor". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
- Brookins, Freddie. "For Civil Rights Chief, Fighting For The Outsider Is Deeply Personal". NPR.org. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
- "Obama to nominate ACLU lawyer to lead Justice Department's civil rights division". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
- "Vanita Gupta". ACLU.org. American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2017-07-27.
- Richardson, Lynda (April 16, 2003). "PUBLIC LIVES; Young Lawyer, Old Issue: Seeking Social Justice". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- Chooki, M. (December 17, 2004). "India Abroad Awards, Bhardwaj is 'India Abroad Person of the Year,' Gupta gets Special Award". News India-Times.com. Archived from the original on November 15, 2006. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- Jim Yardley (August 29, 2002). "Texas Attorney General Opens An Inquiry Into '99 Drug Sweep". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- Gupta, Vanita (2015-10-16). "Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta Delivers Remarks at Yale law School's Law and Inequality Conference". US Dept. of Justice. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
- "Seth Gordon to Direct 'Tulia,' Story of Notorious Racial Injustice Case (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-08-11.
- "Landmark Settlement Announced in Federal Lawsuit Challenging Conditions at Immigrant Detention Center in Texas". American Civil Liberties Union. August 27, 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- Aziz Haniffa (August 7, 2009). "Major victory for Indian American lawyer". Washington, DC: Rediff. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- Holder, Eric (14 Oct 2014). "Attorney General Holder Announces Vanita Gupta to Serve as Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division". United States Department of Justice. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Rodriguez, Gina (August 1, 2015). "A Head with Heart | NYU Law Magazine". NYU Law Magazine. The People, 2015. Retrieved 2016-05-14.
- "A look at the DOJ's Ferguson Probe with head of the Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta". politics.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2016-05-14.
- Robertson, Campbell; Dewan, Shaila; Apuzzo, Matt (7 March 2015). "Ferguson Became Symbol, but Bias Knows No Border". The New York Times. New York Times Company. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- "About the Civil Rights Division". US Dept. of Justice. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
- "Helping Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students". justice.gov. Office of Public Affairs, US Dept. of Justice. May 13, 2016. Retrieved 2016-05-14.
- "Justice Department Files Complaint Against the State of North Carolina to Stop Discrimination Against Transgender Individuals". justice.gov. Retrieved 2016-08-18.
- "Justice Department Announces Findings of Investigation into Baltimore Police Department". www.justice.gov. Retrieved 2016-08-18.