Obama appoints Indian-American attorney to DoJ

Updated - November 28, 2021 08:46 pm IST

Published - October 16, 2014 10:58 am IST - Washington

Vanita Gupta (39), an Indian-American attorney described as a “unifier and consensus builder,” who has “done trailblazing work as a civil rights lawyer,” has been appointed by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to a senior role in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DoJ) announced that from October 20, Ms. Gupta would serve as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Acting Assistant Attorney General at the division, and in doing so would succeed Molly Moran, who will become Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General.

‘Equal justice’

“Vanita has spent her entire career working to ensure that our nation lives up to its promise of equal justice for all,” said Attorney-General Eric Holder, adding that she “has a knack for bridging differences and building coalitions to drive progress.”

Until now serving as the Deputy Legal Director at the American Civil Liberties Union, Ms. Gupta hails from Sahibabad, Uttar Pradesh where, she wrote in an article published in the New York Times last year, “In 1992, as I was finishing high school, my 71-year-old paternal grandmother was murdered in a house robbery.”

That experience appeared to have given her a deep empathy towards victims of crime, as she wrote, “The killing remains unsolved, and the anguish it caused my family will never fade away.”

It is also likely to have shaped her views on the U.S. criminal justice system, which she said, “has too often focused on vengeance and punishment and racial suspicion rather than on crime prevention, restitution for victims and the social and economic reintegration of released prisoners into our communities so that they do not turn to crime again.”

Ms. Gupta was born in the Philadelphia area to immigrant parents, and her career in law has been marked by a firm commitment to civil rights work, including on prison reform.

In her article on “How to Really End Mass Incarceration,” she wrote about one of the most notable cases she had been involved in which she successfully defended 46 African-Americans in Tulia, Texas — convicted by an all-white jury on drug dealing charges.

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