Sherrilyn Ifill
Photo: Dale Robbins/Moyers & Company

Sherrilyn Ifill

Civil Rights Lawyer

Sherrilyn Ifill is the seventh president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). After graduating law school, Ifill served first as a fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union and then for five years as an assistant counsel in LDF’s New York office, where she litigated voting rights cases. She successfully litigated the landmark Voting Rights Act case Houston Lawyers’ Association vs. Attorney General of Texas, in which the Supreme Court held that judicial elections are covered by the provisions of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

In 1993, Ifill joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Law, where, in addition to teaching civil procedure, constitutional law and variety of seminars, she continued to litigate and consult on a broad and diverse range of civil rights cases. In addition to teaching in the classroom, she launched several innovative legal offerings while at Maryland Law School, including an environmental justice course in which students represented rural communities in Maryland, and one of America’s first legal clinics focused on removing legal barriers to formerly incarcerated persons seeking to responsibly re-enter society.

Ifill is the author of On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century, which reflects her lifelong engagement in and analysis of issues of race and American public life. Ifill’s scholarly writing has focused on the importance of diversity on the bench, and she is currently writing a book about race and Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Ifill is a past chair of the board of US Programs at the Open Society Institute, one of the largest philanthropic supporters of civil rights and social justice organizations in the country.  She is a graduate of Vassar College, and received her J.D. from New York University School of Law.

(Bio excerpted from The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.)