Vanita Gupta

Vanita Gupta (born November 15, 1974)[1] is an American civil rights attorney serving as United States Associate Attorney General since April 22, 2021. Gupta served as the president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and as the head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she was the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States from 2014 to 2017.[2]

Vanita Gupta
Vanita Gupta.jpg
19th United States Associate Attorney General
Assumed office
April 22, 2021
PresidentJoe Biden
Preceded byRachel Brand
Acting United States Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights
In office
October 20, 2014 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byMolly Moran
Succeeded byThomas Wheeler
Personal details
Born (1974-11-15) November 15, 1974 (age 46)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Spouse(s)Chinh Le
RelativesRajiv L. Gupta (father)
EducationYale University (BA)
New York University (JD)

Formerly, she was a civil rights lawyer and the deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she oversaw its national criminal justice reform efforts.[3] She has also served as Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Throughout her career, she has drawn support from a wide range of liberal and conservative activists, as well as law enforcement groups, for building support for policing and criminal justice reform.[4][5]

On January 7, 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Gupta to serve as Associate Attorney General.[6] She was confirmed by the Senate on April 21, 2021, by a vote of 51 to 49.[7]

Early life and educationEdit

Gupta was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Indian immigrant parents.[8] She is the daughter of Rajiv L. Gupta and Kamla Varshney.[9] She received her Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from Yale University.[10] She received her Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law in 2001.[11]


NAACP Legal Defense FundEdit

Gupta's first case, while working for the LDF directly after law school, involved 40 African Americans and six white or Latino people who were romantic partners of African Americans in Tulia, Texas, who had been convicted by all-white juries of dealing drugs.[12] In almost every case, the only evidence was the testimony of an undercover agent, Tom Coleman. Coleman did not use wiretaps or marked money and records showed that he had "filed shoddy reports".[13] He had previous misdemeanor charges for stealing gasoline from a county pump and abuse of official capacity.[13] Gupta won the release of her clients in 2003, four years after they were jailed, then negotiated a $6 million settlement for them.[14] Paramount is making a film, Tulia, about the case.[15]


In 2007, after becoming a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, Gupta filed a lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about detention conditions for children whose parents were asylum seekers.[16] In August 2007, a landmark agreement was reached between ACLU and ICE, under which the conditions in the T. Don Hutto Residential Center improved and a number of children were released from the center.[16]

On August 6, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security announced intentions to improve the nation's immigration detention system, including ending family detention at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center.[17]

After her time as a staff attorney at the ACLU, Gupta served as its deputy legal director and director of its Center for Justice.[18] She has been credited with pioneering the ACLU's National Campaign to End Mass Incarceration.[19] She built bipartisan coalitions to advance pre-trial and sentencing reforms around the country.

Assistant Attorney General for Civil RightsEdit

Gupta speaks at a naturalization ceremony in 2016

In October 2014, President Barack Obama appointed Gupta as the United States Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and head of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.[2]

Under Gupta's leadership, the Civil Rights Division worked to advance criminal justice reform and constitutional policing, including by investigating and working to reform police departments in Ferguson, Missouri;[20][21] Cleveland; Baltimore, and Chicago, among other cities. Gupta also oversaw a wide range of other enforcement efforts for the Division, including prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking, promoting disability rights, protecting LGBT rights, and combating discrimination in education, employment, housing, lending and voting.[22][23]

Gupta's tenure was marked by several high-profile matters, including the investigations of the Ferguson, Baltimore, and Chicago police departments; the appeals of the Texas and North Carolina voter ID cases; the challenge to North Carolina’s HB2 law and other LGBTQ rights litigation; enforcement of education, land use, hate crimes, and other statutes to combat religious discrimination; the issuance of statements of interest on bail and indigent defense reform, and letters to state and local court judges and administrators on the unlawful imposition of fines and fees in criminal justice system; and the administration’s report on solitary confinement.

In 2016, under Gupta's leadership, the division sued North Carolina, alleging that the state's implementation of House Bill 2 discriminated against transgender individuals in violation of federal civil rights laws.[24]

In August 2016, an investigation by Gupta's division concluded that the Baltimore Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violated the Constitution and federal statutory law, including unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests, excessive force and enforcement strategies that produced an unjustified disparate impact on African-American residents.[25]

Associate Attorney GeneralEdit

On January 7, 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Gupta to serve as the United States Associate Attorney General.[26][27] On March 9, a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee was held on her nomination.[28] Her nomination was supported by a broad range of civil rights and law enforcement groups,[29] as well as by prominent conservatives[30] who had worked with her on criminal justice reform and voting rights. She faced strong opposition from Republicans who criticized her civil rights advocacy, particularly during the Trump administration. The Senate confirmed Gupta to the position by a 51-49 vote on April 21 after Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski agreed to vote in favour of Gupta's confirmation[31] and she was sworn in on April 22.[32]

Personal lifeEdit

Gupta is married to Chinh Q. Le, the legal director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia.[33] They have two sons.[34]


  1. ^ "United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary: Questionnaire for Non-Judicial Nominees: Vanita Gupta" (PDF).
  2. ^ a b Holder, Eric (October 14, 2014). "Attorney General Holder Announces Vanita Gupta to Serve as Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division". US Dept. of Justice. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  3. ^ "Biography of Vanita Gupta, The Huffington Post Blog Contributor". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
  4. ^ Brookins, Freddie (June 9, 2016). "For Civil Rights Chief, Fighting For The Outsider Is Deeply Personal". NPR. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  5. ^ "Obama to nominate ACLU lawyer to lead Justice Department's civil rights division". The Washington Post. October 15, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  6. ^ Johnson, Carrie (January 6, 2021). "Merrick Garland Is To Be Joe Biden's Nominee For Attorney General". NPR. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  7. ^ Wagner, John; Itkowitz, Colby (April 21, 2021). "Senate narrowly confirms Gupta for No. 3 position in Justice Department". Washington Post. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  8. ^ "Obama to nominate ACLU lawyer to lead Justice Department's civil rights division". The Washington Post. October 15, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2016.
  9. ^ Krishnan, Revathi (January 8, 2021). "Vanita Gupta — 2nd generation Indian American is Biden's associate attorney general pick". ThePrint. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  10. ^ "Vanita Gupta". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  11. ^ Richardson, Lynda (April 16, 2003). "PUBLIC LIVES; Young Lawyer, Old Issue: Seeking Social Justice". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  12. ^ "Rachel Maddow Covers Vanita Gupta's Tulia, Texas Case #ConfirmGupta". April 14, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Jim Yardley (August 29, 2002). "Texas Attorney General Opens An Inquiry Into '99 Drug Sweep". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  14. ^ Gupta, Vanita (October 16, 2015). "Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta Delivers Remarks at Yale law School's Law and Inequality Conference". US Dept. of Justice. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  15. ^ Peter White (April 23, 2018). "Tom Brady To Write Seth Gordon-Directed Racial Injustice Feature Film 'Tulia'". Deadline.
  16. ^ a b "Landmark Settlement Announced in Federal Lawsuit Challenging Conditions at Immigrant Detention Center in Texas". American Civil Liberties Union. August 27, 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  17. ^ Aziz Haniffa (August 7, 2009). "Major victory for Indian American lawyer". Washington, DC: Rediff. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  18. ^ Holder, Eric (October 14, 2014). "Attorney General Holder Announces Vanita Gupta to Serve as Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division". United States Department of Justice. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  19. ^ Rodriguez, Gina (August 1, 2015). "A Head with Heart | NYU Law Magazine". NYU Law Magazine. The People, 2015. Retrieved May 14, 2016.
  20. ^ "A look at the DOJ's Ferguson Probe with head of the Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta". Retrieved May 14, 2016.
  21. ^ Robertson, Campbell; Dewan, Shaila; Apuzzo, Matt (March 7, 2015). "Ferguson Became Symbol, but Bias Knows No Border". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  22. ^ "About the Civil Rights Division". US Dept. of Justice. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  23. ^ "Helping Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students". Office of Public Affairs, US Dept. of Justice. May 13, 2016. Retrieved May 14, 2016.
  24. ^ "Justice Department Files Complaint Against the State of North Carolina to Stop Discrimination Against Transgender Individuals". Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  25. ^ "Justice Department Announces Findings of Investigation into Baltimore Police Department". Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  26. ^ "Biden announces he will nominate Lisa Monaco and Vanita Gupta '01 for top Justice Department posts | NYU School of Law". Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  27. ^ Benner, Katie (March 9, 2021). "Biden's Pick for Justice Dept. No. 3 Wins Backing of Law Enforcement". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  28. ^ United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary: Nominations for March 9, 2021
  29. ^ Matt Zapotosky (March 12, 2021). "Law enforcement groups dispute GOP senator's insinuation they were coerced to support Biden Justice Dept. nominee". The Washington Post.
  30. ^ Ryan J. Reilly (February 19, 2021). "Policing Leaders Praise DOJ Nominee Vanita Gupta. One Group Is Smearing Her Anyway".
  31. ^ Herb, Jeremy (April 21, 2021). "Biden's associate attorney general nominee Vanita Gupta confirmed after GOP senator breaks ranks". CNN. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  32. ^ "Meet the Associate Attorney General". April 22, 2021. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  33. ^ "Making Justice Real: Chinh Q. Le '00". University of Virginia School of Law. May 16, 2018. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  34. ^ "Vanita Gupta". The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Retrieved August 10, 2020.

External linksEdit