The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law announced as its new board co-chairs former DuPont Co. general counsel and current Ballard Spahr senior counsel Thomas Sager and retired New York federal judge Shira Scheindlin, now of counsel at Stroock.
Judge Scheindlin and Sager will lead and advise over 200 lawyers across the country to enhance the mission of the Lawyers’ Committee, which seeks to promote fair housing and community development, economic justice, and voting rights.
The pair were selected in large part because of their commitment to the organization’s work, said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee.
Judge Scheindlin served as a federal judge in the Southern District of New York for 22 years. During her tenure she presided over several high-profile trials, including a landmark ruling on the New York City Police Department’s use of “stop and frisk.” She retired from the bench in 2016.
Sager joined Ballard Spahr in 2014 after nearly 40 years at DuPont. For more than a decade Sager served as the company’s chief litigation counsel before becoming its general counsel in 2008.
He also helped pioneer the DuPont Legal Model, now an industry standard, which helps clearly define the roles of a company’s in-house team and its external legal providers.
Scheindlin brings “tremendous thought leadership” on many of the issues relevant to the Lawyers’ Committee, from criminal justice to reproductive justice, said Clarke. Sager has a long history of working to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in both the corporate and legal sectors, she said.
“We are a unique civil rights organization in that we harness the energy of the private bar to carry out our work,” Clarke said. “They are precisely the right combination that we need at this moment where we are looking for the private bar to step up now more than ever to contribute pro bono support to the work that we do.”
Scheindlin, who began working with the organization after retiring from the bench, said her role as co-chair will be policy driven, making sure the organization addresses issues important to the legal community. She cited voting rights, criminal justice reform, and maintaining the integrity of the courts.
“This is a particularly important year, 2020, and I’m very pleased to have this position in this very particular year to make sure that as much as possible we fight for the issues that we think are important to the American people,” she said.
Last year the organization recorded over 66,000 pro bono hours from the private bar valued at over $44.8 million.
The Lawyers’ Committee’s election protection program is also the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection effort, according to Clarke, tapping a coalition of over 100 law firms that stretch from New York to Silicon Valley to pitch in on the effort.
Law firms’ associates and partners help staff the committee’s hotline and partner with the organization on litigation when necessary to fight voter suppression.
“We’re proud of our deep partnerships with law firms across the country and are excited to have both Mr. Sager and Judge Scheindlin working with us to galvanize even more lawyers across the country during this critical moment in American democracy,” Clarke said.