Sherrilyn Ifill is the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the nation’s premier civil rights legal organization. LDF was founded in 1940 by legendary civil rights lawyer (and later Supreme Court justice) Thurgood Marshall, and became a separate organization from the NAACP in 1957.
Ifill’s lifelong ambition was to be a civil rights lawyer. She began her career as a Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, before joining LDF as an Assistant Counsel in 1988, where she litigated voting rights cases for five years.
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 while grooming the next generation of civil rights lawyers. In addition to teaching in the classroom, Ms. Ifill 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 the first legal clinics in the nation focused on removing legal barriers to formerly incarcerated persons seeking to responsibly re-enter society. From her base in Baltimore, Ifill emerged as a highly regarded national civil rights strategist and public intellectual whose writings, speeches and media appearances enrich public debate about a range of political and civil rights issues.
In 2013, Ifill was invited back to the Legal Defense Fund – this time to lead the organization as its 7th Director-Counsel. In this role, Ifill has increased the visibility and engagement of the organization in cutting edge and urgent civil rights issues, while maintaining the organization’s decades-long leadership fighting voter suppression, inequity in education, and racial discrimination in application of the death penalty.
A critically acclaimed author, her book “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,” 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 also serves on the global board of the Open Society Foundations, and on the board of Equal Justice Works, the National Women’s law Center and the National Constitution Center.