Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Attorney General Holder Announces Vanita Gupta to Serve as Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division

Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Wednesday that Vanita Gupta will serve as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. 

Gupta succeeds Molly Moran, who will become Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General.

“Vanita has spent her entire career working to ensure that our nation lives up to its promise of equal justice for all,” said Attorney General Holder.  “Even as she has done trailblazing work as a civil rights lawyer, Vanita is also known as a unifier and consensus builder.  She has a knack for bridging differences and building coalitions to drive progress.  I am certain that Vanita will serve as a sound steward of this critical division, continuing the exemplary work that Molly Moran, Jocelyn Samuels and Tom Perez, have so ably led.”

Prior to joining the department, Gupta served as Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union and Director of its Center for Justice.  Previously, she was an attorney for its Racial Justice Program.  Over her career, Gupta has earned a reputation for working closely and collaboratively with law enforcement, departments of corrections and across the political spectrum to advance smart policing and criminal justice reforms.  Through her work with the ACLU, she has been involved in reform initiatives around the country pertaining to federal and state policing, sentencing, drug policy and criminal law.  Her recent work has focused on building a bipartisan consensus to end overreliance on incarceration.

Gupta began her career as a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.  In addition to her work with the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Gupta has taught civil rights litigation and advocacy clinics at New York University School of Law since 2008.  She received a B.A., magna cum laude, from Yale University and J.D. from New York University School of Law. 

Her first case involved leading an effort to win the release of 35 defendants in Tulia, Texas, whose drug convictions and lengthy sentences were discredited by the work of Gupta and the legal team of private bar attorneys she organized.  All of the defendants were eventually pardoned in 2003 by Governor Rick Perry, and she helped to negotiate a $6 million settlement for those arrested.

Gupta begins at the department on Monday, Oct. 20.

The Attorney General also announced that Molly Moran will become Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General in Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery’s office. 

“Molly Moran stepped in to lead the Civil Rights Division at my request and she has led the division through some unprecedented challenges,” said Attorney General Holder.  “During a time of transition for the division, Molly provided stability and leadership.  From Ferguson, Missouri to voting rights cases in Texas, North Carolina and beyond, the division has continued its critical work on behalf of the American people with the benefit of Molly’s wise counsel, thoughtful leadership and tireless advocacy.  Fortunately for the country, the department and I will be able to continue to rely on Molly’s talents for the foreseeable future as Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General.”

Since becoming Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Moran has provided stability and leadership to the division during one of its most high profile periods.  Stepping into the role as Acting Assistant Attorney General just before the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson Missouri Police Officer, Moran has overseen the ongoing civil rights investigation into the shooting and opened a civil pattern or practice investigation into the operations of the Ferguson Police Department.  In September, the division filed a statement of interest in Hurrell-Harring et al. v. New York regarding the standards for indigent defense provided by the state—only the second time the division has weighed in on a state level case on right to counsel.  Following a September 2014 trial, the department won its first Voting Rights Act case since the Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder ruling.  In the case, which challenged the Texas voter ID law, the court agreed with the department’s position that the law is discriminatory in both effect and intent.


Updated August 28, 2015