Professor Sherrilyn A. Ifill (above, at microphone) will become President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), according to an announcement of the organization's Board of Directors on Monday, November 19. The LDF is the nation's premier civil rights law organization. Ifill, a professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, will become the seventh Director-Counsel and the second woman to head the organization.
The LDF was founded by Thurgood Marshall, the pioneering civil rights lawyer and later U.S. Supreme Court justice. Marshall's first successful civil rights case was his suit challenging the exclusion of black students from the University of Maryland School of Law. That case, decided in 1935, is largely credited as the first case on the road to Marshall's ultimately successful and landmark school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education. The law library at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law is named in honor of Justice Marshall.
"Professor Ifill is an extraordinary member of our faculty,” said UM Carey Law Dean Phoebe A. Haddon. “We are deeply proud that she has been called upon to lead this storied national organization at a critical time. Her intellect, vision, and life-long dedication to advancing justice will improve the rights of all."
Ifill began her legal career as an assistant counsel at the LDF, where she litigated voting rights cases. She joined the Maryland Law faculty in 1993, where she has taught Civil Procedure, Complex Litigation, Constitutional Law, and a variety of civil rights courses. Professor Ifill litigated environmental justice cases with students in her Legal Theory and Practice courses, and co-founded the Re-entry of Ex-Offenders Clinic. Her book, On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century was published in 2007. She is expected to take a leave of absence from the law school, and will work in both the New York and Washington, D.C. offices of the LDF.
"I am deeply grateful to Dean Haddon and the University for their support as I take up this new challenge,” said Professor Ifill. “My loyalty, respect for and commitment to the law school and its wonderful students is undiminished. Indeed it is my hope that we will find rich opportunities for collaboration during my tenure at LDF."