Gregg Kelley, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Gregg_Kelley@washlaw.org, 202-319-1070
WASHINGTON, DC – The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs is excited to announce that Joanne Lin will become the organization’s new Executive Director effective April 10, 2023. Ms. Lin brings 25 years of experience in advancing civil and human rights at every level of government – from the local to the national to the international arenas. She started her career in San Francisco representing women and children in family law, restraining orders, and immigration matters. She later joined one of the nation’s premier immigration firms where she handled complex immigration cases, including appeals in the federal courts. Ms. Lin later moved to Washington, D.C. where she has led policy advocacy on women’s rights, civil rights, immigrants’ rights, and international refugee protection, at several leading human rights organizations.
“The Committee’s board of directors is enthusiastic to welcome Joanne Lin as our new executive director. Ms. Lin has demonstrated a remarkable dedication to civil rights and racial justice throughout her career, and we look forward to her leadership that will build upon the tremendous achievements that the organization has been able to accomplish for over five decades,” said Claudia Withers, Chief Operating Officer at Civil Rights Corps and Co-Chair of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee Board of Directors.
The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. The organization recognizes the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognizes the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combating and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression. Partnering with individuals and communities facing discrimination, as well as with the legal community, allows the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs to effectively dismantle injustice locally, regionally and nationally.
The Washington Lawyers’ Committee has secured major racial justice victories since its inception 50 years ago. In recent years the Committee has won victories across a spectrum of civil rights issues, including closure of one of the deadliest federal prison units in the nation (Federal Bureau of Prisons Relocates Individuals Imprisoned in the Special Management Unit and Reintegration Unit at USP Thomson); court-ordered special education for students with disabilities detained at the D.C. jail (Federal Court Judge Finds DC in Contempt for Failing to Comply with Court Order to Provide Special Education to Students at the DC Jail); guaranteed proper medical care and sanitary conditions for patients at the D.C. psychiatric hospital (St. Elizabeths Settles Case with Patients Who Endured Life Threatening Conditions During Water Crisis and COVID-19); and a $2.3 million workplace discrimination settlement for Black and Latinx officers employed by Prince George’s County (Black and Latinx Whistleblower-Officers Resolve Lawsuit Challenging Race Discrimination and Retaliation by Prince George’s Police Department).
“The Washington Lawyers’ Committee has long been a powerful agent of change – protecting the civil rights of communities in the Washington, D.C. region while simultaneously shaping national policy. I am honored to be chosen as its next executive director and to have the opportunity to work with such an impressive talented team in pursuit of racial justice and equity,” stated Ms. Lin.
At Amnesty International USA, Ms. Lin tripled the size of the advocacy team that organized Capitol Hill lobby days and a 2020 presidential candidates’ forum. She was recognized as a top grassroots association lobbyist by The Hill for four consecutive years, from 2018 to 2021. In 2021, Ms. Lin received the Women’s Leadership Award from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
Before joining Amnesty, Ms. Lin was senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union for 10 years where she led ACLU’s federal immigration policy advocacy program with a focus on protecting refugees and asylum seekers, keeping immigrant families together, curtailing profiteering in immigration detention, and preventing sexual assault in immigration detention. She worked closely in concert with ACLU litigators to develop campaigns promoting prison reform, education equity, and immigration due process.
“When we envisioned the next chapter of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, we wanted a visionary leader and a proven civil rights campaigner who could build upon the ground-breaking successes of the organization to improve the lives of people facing discrimination and injustice every day. Joanne Lin has those qualities and more,” said Kevin Metz, a partner at Latham & Watkins and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee Co-Chair Emeritus and Co-Chair of the Executive Director Search Committee.
“My involvement with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee spans several decades, and I have witnessed the impressive change in the organization over that time. Discriminatory practices in some instances have become more subtle and nuanced, but no less dangerous and destructive in the harm they inflict on entire communities of color,” said Theodore Howard, partner at Wiley Rein and Co-Chair Emeritus and Co-Chair of the Executive Director Search Committee. “The Committee has responded to that challenge. I look forward to Joanne Lin bringing her expert knowledge and success in lifting up civil rights issues to build upon the organization’s strong foundation.”
“The Washington Lawyers’ Committee has benefitted from remarkable leadership since its inception. We are thrilled to have another visionary leader join us as the next Executive Director. Joanne Lin will be surrounded by an exceptional team of legal professionals who are providing outstanding cutting-edge racial justice work,” said Jamie Gardner, an attorney at Paul Hastings and Co-Chair of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee Board of Directors. “The challenges facing our society continue to grow in complexity and intensity, and we are confident Ms. Lin will continue to bring about change that will make a true difference.”
Ms. Lin succeeds Jonathan Smith as only the third Executive Director in the organization’s nearly 55-year history. She will be the Committee’s first person of color, as well as the first woman, to lead the organization. Mr. Smith, a nationally recognized expert on policing and civil rights, will remain at the Committee as special counsel focused on policing and criminal legal system reform.
ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: Founded in 1968, The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combatting and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression. For more information, please visit www.washlaw.org or call 202.319.1000. Follow us on Twitter at @WashLaw4CR.