Civil Rights Litigator Fights for Justice in “Age of Retrenchment”

Lecture caps Series of Events during Black History Month
What: Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of Advancement Project in Washington D.C., will bring to a close Trinity’s celebration of Black History Month with a speech entitled, “The Fight for Justice in an Age of Retrenchment.” Dianis has an extensive background in civil rights litigation and advocacy in the areas of voting, education, housing, and employment. Advancement Project is on the frontlines in fighting a rash of state legislative initiatives designed to suppress the voting rights of people of color, seniors, youth and the disabled.

The event is free and open to the public.

When: Monday, February 24 at 7 p.m.
Where: Rittenberg Lounge in Mather Hall on the Trinity campus, 300 Summit St.

Background: Dianis is co-director of Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization. It works to achieve a caring, inclusive and just democracy, and its mission is to disseminate ideas and pioneer models that inspire a national racial justice movement.

Dianis has worked to protect survivors of Hurricane Katrina, filing litigation on behalf of displaced survivors and working to stop the exploitation of immigrant reconstruction workers.

Dianis’ efforts to protect voters of color is longstanding. In 1996, she filed litigation against Maryland for failure to enforce its “Motor Voter” law, and represented the NAACP and African-American Floridians disenfranchised in 2000.

Four years later, Dianis helped stop Florida’s use of an erroneous list to purge felons from voting lists, and served as legal counsel against the Republican National Committee, stopping challenges against voters of color based on an illegal voter caging program. (Voter caging is a method of preventing voters from casting a ballot because their registration has been challenged. The issue of voter caging arises when a direct mail is sent to addressees on the voter rolls and they are returned undelivered. The registration is challenged on the ground that the voters do not reside at registered addresses; thus, the person is disenfranchised.)

In 2008, Dianis represented the Virginia NAACP in litigation to eliminate racial disparities in the allocation of voting machines.

Under Dianis’ leadership, Advancement Project has been dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline since 1999. Dianis has authored groundbreaking reports including: “Derailed: The Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track,” and has partnered with grassroots organizations, leading to significant declines of unnecessary arrests and suspensions of students.

Dianis is on the Board of the 21st Century Foundation, FairTest and is a convener of the Forum for Education and Democracy. She joined Advancement Project at its inception in 1999, after serving as the managing attorney in the Washington, D.C. office of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.

Dianis has also been leading an effort to develop a campaign to secure an explicit right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. In 2013, she was awarded a Prime Movers Fellowship for trailblazing social movement leaders to help develop this campaign.

A graduate of Columbia University School of Law, Dianis served as a Tobias Simon Eminent Scholar at Florida State University Law School and as an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.

The sponsors of the lecture include the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Black Alumni Association, the public policy program, and the departments of political science and sociology.