Kristen Clarke ’00

Standing Tall

Spring 2012

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As a high-ranking member of the New York State Attorney General’s office, Kristen Clarke ’00 is tasked with protecting New Yorkers against discrimination. For Clarke, this responsibility is more than a job—it is a life’s calling from which she rarely takes a break.

One of the Brooklyn native’s more rewarding activities outside of work, she says, is giving presentations on civil rights at her son’s grade school. “Hearing other parents say that some of the lessons I’ve shared have stuck with the children makes it especially meaningful,” says Clarke, who heads the state attorney general’s civil rights bureau.

An election law expert, Clarke joined the state attorney general’s office this past August after serving for five years as co-director of the political participation group at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she helped fend off two separate constitutional challenges to key sections of the Voting Rights Act.

In a 2009 Supreme Court case, Clarke served on the litigation team that successfully argued against a challenge originating in Texas to Section 5 of the act, which requires states and counties with records of discrimination to secure federal approval prior to changing election procedures. She also successfully argued a case that resulted in a federal court’s dismissal of an Alabama lawsuit challenging the same provision. That case ultimately may reach the Supreme Court.

Now handling discrimination cases of all stripes—including those involving housing, education, and employment—Clarke says civil rights violations remain a threat to the goal of equality. “Decades after these important [anti-discrimination] laws were enacted, we still need them more than ever,” she says.

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