On January 7, US President elect Joe Biden nominated India origin Vanita Gupta for the post of Associate Attorney General of USA. If elected by the Senate, she will become the first person of colour to hold the position. While nominating the respected civil rights lawyer, Joe Biden called her the proud daughter of the immigrants of India. He also added that she has always fought for ‘greater equity and she fought for greater equity to right the wrongs of a justice system of their country’.
The Associate Attorney General of USA is the third highest ranking official in the Justice Department. The holder of the position advises and assists the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General in policies related to federal and local law enforcement, civil as well as criminal justice, public safety matters and many more. Furthermore, the Office of the Associate Attorney General oversees the various other divisions and agencies. A few of them are the Environment and Natural Resources Division, the Tax Division, the Office of Justice Programs, the Community Oriented Policing Services, the Office of Dispute Resolution, the Office of Violence Against Women, the Executive Office for United States Trustees, etc.
The 45-year old civil rights lawyer has been a prominent face in the arena of law and justice in the United States. Here are 10 things to know about Vanita Gupta:
- Vanita Gupta was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Indian immigrant parents. She received her Bachelors degree magna cum laude from Yale University. Furthermore, she received her Juris Doctor degree from New York University School of Law in 2001. Gupta is married to Chinh Q. Le, who is the legal director of the Legal Aid Society, DC. The couple has two sons.
- She started her career with NAACP Legal Defence and Educational Fund, Inc. It is a leading civil rights organisation and law firm based in New York. However, LDF is wholly independent and disparate from the NAACP.
- Her first case in LDF involved 40 African Americans as well as six white or Latino people who were romantic partners of African Americans in Texas. All of them were 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, which was not even concrete and justifiable. She won the release of her clients in 2003, four years after they got jailed. After that, she negotiated a 6 million US dollars settlement for the arrested ones.
- She joined American Civil Liberties Union in 2007 as a staff attorney. ACLU is an esteemed nonprofit organisation aimed “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States”. During her time in ACLU, she also served as its Deputy Legal Director and Director of its Center for Justice.
- While working in ACLU, she filed a lawsuit, which was subsequently settled with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency on the detention conditions for asylum seekers.
- In August 2007, a landmark agreement was settled between ACLU and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agreement improved the conditions of T. Don Hutto detention center. Furthermore, a number of children were released from the center. She has also been credited with pioneering the ACLU’s National Campaign to End Mass Incarceration.
- During the Obama-Biden administration, she was entrusted with the leadership of Civil Rights division. She was put in charge of looking into the abuse of power in police departments in Ferguson, Missouri and other communities affected by acts of violence and racial injustice. On her work during his tenure, Joe Biden remarked, “Gupta helped institute common sense police reforms to build greater equity, safety, and trust. She was commended for her work by both law enforcement and those advocating for changes in the criminal justice system.”
- She also investigated and oversaw a wide range of other enforcement efforts for the division. It included prosecution of hate crimes and human trafficking, promoting disability rights, protecting the rights of LGBT individuals, etc. She is widely lauded for combating discrimination in education, employment, housing, lending, voting and criminal justice.
- In 2016, the division under her leadership sued North Carolina. The charges alleged that the state’s implementation of a law known as House Bill 2 discriminates against transgender individuals in violation of federal laws of civil rights.
- Throughout her career, she has received immense support from a both liberal and conservative activists as well as enforcement leaders. Hence, she is attributed to establishing collaborative support and finding common ground on policing and criminal justice reforms.