Senate Confirms Kristen Clarke As First Black Woman To Lead DOJ Civil Rights Division

WILMINGTON, DE January 7, 2021: Kristen Clarke speaks during the announcing of President- Elect Joe Biden and Vice President - Elect Kamala Harris Justice Department nominees at the Queen in Wilmington, DE on Janua... WILMINGTON, DE January 7, 2021: Kristen Clarke speaks during the announcing of President- Elect Joe Biden and Vice President - Elect Kamala Harris Justice Department nominees at the Queen in Wilmington, DE on January 7, 2021. Merrick Garland, for attorney general, Lisa Monaco for deputy attorney general, Vanita Gupta for Associate attorney general and Kristen Clarke for assistant attorney general for the civil rights division. (Photo by Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 25, 2021 3:22 p.m.

The Justice Department will get another prominent civil rights attorney added to its leadership, with the Senate, in a 51-48 vote, confirming Kristen Clarke on Tuesday. Clarke has been tapped by President Biden to lead the department’s civil rights division, which is where Clarke started her legal practice as a career attorney in the voting section.

After leaving the department, Clarke worked at civil rights organizations, most recently leading the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. She also did a stint as head of the civil rights division of the New York Attorney General’s office. Over the years, she’s earned acclaim for her handling of hate crimes litigation, voting rights and criminal justice reform.

Clarke’s work spearheading legal challenges to restrictive voting laws made her a target of Republicans during the confirmation process. Only one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), supported Clarke’s confirmation.

Clarke is the second Biden DOJ pick to face an aggressive opposition campaign by conservative activists. Biden’s choice for associate attorney general — the department’s third highest ranking role — also faced intense Republican opposition. That appointee, Vanita Gupta, as well as Clarke, both made history in their ascent through DOJ leadership as women of color.

Biden’s choice of Clarke and Gupta — as well as his appointment of Pamela Karlan, another prominent civil rights attorney whose new DOJ role did not require Senate confirmation — has sent a signal that his administration intends to act aggressively to protect civil rights.

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