|From||United States of America|
|Birth||15 November 1974, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA|
Vanita Gupta is a civil rights attorney. She is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights civil rights coalition.
Previously, she was the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice until January 20, 2017. She was appointed to lead the division and serve as the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States by Barack Obama in October 2014.
Formerly, she was a civil rights lawyer and the Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she oversaw its national criminal justice reform efforts. Prior to that, she was Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 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 six white or Latino people who were romantic partners of African Americans in Tulia, Texas, who had been convicted by all-white juries 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 or marked money and records showed that he had "filed shoddy reports." He had previous misdemeanor charges for stealing gasoline from a county pump and abuse of official capacity. 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.
Justice Department cases
Gupta's tenure was marked by several high profile matters that included the investigations of the Ferguson, Baltimore, and Chicago police departments; the appeals of the Texas and North Carolina voter ID cases; the challenge to North Carolina’s HB2 law and other transgender rights litigation; enforcement of education, land use, hate crimes, and other statutes to combat Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination; the issuance of statements of interest on bail and indigent defense reform, and letters to state and local court judges and administrators on the unlawful imposition of fines and fees in criminal justice system; and the Administration’s report on solitary confinement.
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.