Civil Rights

WilmerHale Lawyer to Lead NAACP Legal Group

Veteran civil rights lawyer John Payton has been selected to lead the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree Jr. told the Washington Post the appointment “is the best news I have heard concerning the civil rights movement in years.”

Payton told the Post the new job will allow him to continue to pursue his lifelong goal of civil rights work.

“I went to law school to deal with the issues of social change and racial justice,” he said. “The opportunity to go to the premier law firm that does this kind of work—my goodness—is irresistible.”

Payton, a partner with WilmerHale, is a former corporation counsel for the District of Columbia. He was was lead counsel for the University of Michigan in the U.S. Supreme Court case that allowed state universities to consider race in admissions.

He was nominated to become assistant attorney general for civil rights in 1993 but withdrew after reports that he had not voted in 16 years, the Post story says. He is also a member of the ABA House of Delegates.

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