U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke ’00 to Speak at 2024 Columbia Law School Graduation

The head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice will deliver the keynote address to the Class of 2024 on May 13.

Kristen Clarke ’00 official headshot: Assistant Attorney General

Kristen Clarke ’00, a civil rights lawyer who has devoted her career to public service, will address the Class of 2024 during Columbia Law School’s graduation ceremony on May 13.

Nominated by President Joe Biden, Assistant Attorney General Clarke became the first woman confirmed by the U.S. Senate to hold this position for the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, in 2021. She leads the Justice Department’s broad federal civil rights enforcement efforts and works to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all people living in the United States.

Clarke began her career as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division through the Department of Justice’s Honors Program. In 2006, she joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she focused on voting rights and election law. She worked on cases defending the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, presented oral arguments to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, and provided testimony on federal and state voting rights legislation.

From 2011 to 2015, Clarke served as the head of the Civil Rights Bureau for the New York State Attorney General’s Office, where she led broad civil rights enforcement actions, including agreements with banks to address unlawful redlining, police departments on reforms to policies and practices, landlords on discriminatory housing policies, and school districts on issues relating to the school-to-prison pipeline. From 2015 to 2021, Clarke served as president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonprofit organization whose mission includes promoting fair housing and community development, economic justice, voting rights, equal educational opportunity, criminal justice, and judicial diversity.

Clarke has maintained deep ties to Columbia Law School throughout her career. As a lecturer in law, she co-taught a seminar, Civil Rights Lawyering in the Modern Era: Theory and Practice, with Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law. In 2010, she received the Columbia Black Law Students Association (BLSA) Distinguished Alumni Award, and she delivered the keynote address at BLSA’s 20th annual Paul Robeson Gala in 2014.

The daughter of Jamaican immigrants who put a premium on education, Clarke was raised in the East New York section of Brooklyn, attended Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut, and earned an A.B. from Harvard University.

In addition to Clarke, speakers at graduation include Jessica Bulman-Pozen, Betts Professor of Law and a director of the Center for Constitutional Governance, who is the recipient of the 2024 Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching, J.D. class speaker Jonathan Elliot Gliboff ’24, and LL.M. class speaker Sharon Matongo ’24.

“I look forward to hearing from this esteemed lineup of speakers,” said Dean Lester. “And I know everyone is as excited as I am to celebrate the exceptional Class of 2024.”