Staff Spotlight: Ryan Downer, Legal Director

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee recently welcomed Ryan Downer – our first Legal Director since 2020 and the first person of color to hold this position. With over 15 years of experience litigating civil rights cases, primarily focusing on criminal legal system reform and economic justice, Ryan’s arrival to the Committee has been monumental in driving forward our legal programs in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area in a wide range of statutory and constitutional issues in federal and state courts.

Prior to WLC, Ryan served as director of litigation at Civil Rights Corps, where he oversaw cases challenging the criminalization of poverty, particularly in the areas of prosecutor misconduct and wealth-based pretrial detention. Ryan’s direct casework at CRC included a challenge to the New Orleans’ district attorney’s use of fake subpoenas; a lawsuit targeting Maricopa County’s blatant wealth discrimination in its marijuana diversion program; and CRC’s efforts to protect detainees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ryan also previously served as counsel at Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC in Washington, D.C. and associate counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. (LDF) in New York. At Relman and LDF, Ryan litigated in the areas of fair housing, employment, environmental justice, and public accommodations at the district court and appellate level, including two of the first cases to challenge blanket criminal records bans imposed by private housing providers.

Ryan received his J.D. cum laude from New York University. He clerked for The Hon. Martha Craig Daughtrey of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Ryan is a native of Baltimore, MD and received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College.

Join us at the Burke Pro Bono Luncheon on October 18th to meet and hear Ryan’s remarks on the work and mission of the Committee and our treasured volunteers, clients, and co-counsel.

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