WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- John Payton, an attorney known for his successful record in some of the most important and visible civil rights cases in the United States, has been named Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF). Payton brings a wealth of experience, including cases brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, in leading the LDF in its fight for racial and social justice. "This is both a very exciting and a very humbling moment for me. I have always admired The Legal Defense Fund: it is an historic organization with an important mission," said John Payton. "Racial justice and equality are issues that I deeply care about, and being at the LDF will allow me to be involved in that fight every day." As lead counsel for the University of Michigan, Payton argued the affirmative action admissions case successfully before the trial court, appeals court, and ultimately before the Supreme Court. The New York Times described the case as one that "galvanized affirmative action advocates who produced sociological studies documenting how a diverse campus enhances the educational and long-term life experiences for all students." Known as a 'lawyer's lawyer' among colleagues and friends, Payton also participated in other landmark cases. He represented the American Legacy Foundation in its suit against a large tobacco company and represented the NAACP in a suit brought by white merchants in Mississippi. He has also served as Co-Chair of the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights and as President of the District of Columbia Bar and is a member of the American Bar Association. As director of the LDF, Payton hopes to raise awareness of the growing disparities among Americans. "Today, our country has perhaps its highest rate of wealth and income inequality, which is exacerbated when race is taken into account. The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans was a disaster before Katrina. There are many other Lower Ninth Wards across the country," said Payton. "LDF is extremely fortunate to have the leadership and service of John Payton," said Vernon E. Jordan, Jr, Managing Director at Lazard Freres & Co, and LDF Board Member. "He is a first-class lawyer, with experience and commitment to the cause of equal justice. It is an enormous coup for LDF." "John is one of the great civil rights lawyers of his generation and a great protector of diversity and equal opportunity in America," said Kenneth I. Chenault, Chairman and CEO, American Express Company. "His accomplishments make him well-suited to follow in the footsteps of Thurgood Marshall as Director-Counsel of LDF." Harvard Law School Professor, Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., a law school class mate and friend of Payton said, "This appointment is the best news I have heard concerning the civil rights movement in many years! John's talents as a lawyer, manager, and public servant make him uniquely suited to assume the role held in the past by great lawyers like Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall. He is the quintessential civil rights lawyer." Mr. Payton will be LDF's sixth director counsel and president, succeeding Ted Shaw. "John Payton is a very good friend and colleague," said Shaw. "I am deeply gratified that he will now bring his expertise and leadership to the Legal Defense Fund." Payton has most recently been a partner at the Washington law firm of Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr. He is a graduate of Pomona College and Harvard Law School. To schedule media interviews, please contact Neil Grace at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 530-4558. For additional information, contact Mel Gagarin at email@example.com or (212) 965-2783. About the NAACP Legal Defense Fund: Founded in 1940 under the leadership of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is the nation's oldest civil rights law advocacy organization. It won the historic U.S. Supreme Court school desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. It has also been involved in most of the precedent-setting minority voting rights litigation and legislation in the U.S., including the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its 1982 amendments, and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.
SOURCE NAACP Legal Defense Fund