The executive committee of the Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has announced that veteran civil rights attorney and policy expert Damon Hewitt will serve as the organization’s next president and executive director. Hewitt, who previously served as the organization’s executive vice president, will succeed Kristen Clarke, who was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice.
According to the Lawyers' Committee, Hewitt has more than 20 years of civil rights litigation and policy experience, including prior leadership roles in the nonprofit, philanthropic, and public sectors. As executive vice president at the national Lawyers’ Committee, he coordinated the organization’s strategic, programmatic, and operational efforts to advance the fight for racial justice.
“I am thrilled for this opportunity to lead the talented team at the national Lawyers’ Committee,” Hewitt said in a release. “Every time our most fundamental rights have been under attack, our organization has answered the call, alongside a vast network of allies and partners in the private bar. At a time when our nation is at an important inflection point on racial justice and equity, I look forward to building on this proud tradition, while deepening our partnership with the private bar nationwide and leveraging new energy in the fight for racial justice. Together, we can make the promises of our democracy real and accessible for Black people, other people of color, and all Americans."
Judge Shira Scheindlin (Ret.), board co-chair of the national Lawyers’ Committee Board of Directors, recalled how “Last year was a critical year in the fight against those who sought to undo years of judicial and legislative progress on guaranteeing civil rights to all people of color. But the fight is not over. The next stage will require equal or greater resolve and strategic thinking in order to reclaim and increase the progress made to ensure the guarantee of civil rights for all. That is exactly why Damon Hewitt is the right leader at the right moment for the national Lawyers’ Committee,” she said. “Damon’s extensive experience in defending and expanding civil rights and his strong relationships with other civil rights organizations will strengthen the organization’s partnerships and alliances and expand our collaboration with the private bar in fighting to protect civil rights across the United States.”
Joseph K. West, also a board co-chair, said, “We believe Damon’s strong leadership and civil rights experience will continue the focus on our legal strategies, and strengthen and expand our partnerships with the private bar and the wider civil rights community ... Damon’s entire career has been predicated on reaching out to and representing historically underrepresented populations in America and I look forward to collaborating with him and my fellow board members to better position and elevate our work in the legal and civil rights fields.”
The Lawyers' Committee says Hewitt's experience is among his best leadership qualities. "Hewitt’s outstanding track record speaks for itself as a litigator, strategist, and bridge-builder in a variety of organizations and coalitions. Throughout his career, he has helped to lead efforts on issues critical for advancing racial justice, from education and voting rights to fair housing and criminal justice," said the release.
Prior to joining the national Lawyers’ Committee, Hewitt was the inaugural executive director of the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color – a philanthropic network of more than three dozen national and local foundation presidents focused on strategic and aligned investments, policy change, and infrastructure-strengthening efforts at the intersection of race and gender. For more than a decade, Hewitt served as an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, where he led the organization’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and later directed the education litigation and policy docket. Additionally, he served as a senior advisor at the Open Society Foundations, where he coordinated special projects, including philanthropic responses to the uprisings following police killings of unarmed Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland.
The release continues, "Leadership and collaboration come naturally to Hewitt, as he showed while coordinating the civil rights community’s successful support for the confirmation of Kristen Clarke as assistant attorney general for civil rights and in philanthropy when he helped incubate, coordinate, and launch more than $200 million in collaborative grantmaking efforts on issues ranging from police accountability to college completion.
"Hewitt also is co‐author of the book, The School‐to‐Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform and has published numerous law review and mass media articles on issues ranging from school discipline policy and progressive education reform to voting rights and juvenile justice policy. He also has appeared in broadcast media on MSNBC, NBC, and CNN. A New Orleans, Louisiana native, Hewitt holds a B.A. in political science from Louisiana State University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Following law school, he clerked for the Hon. Eric L. Clay on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit."