December 2014 Bar Bulletin
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December 2014 Bar Bulletin

Sherrilyn Ifill To Headline MLK Luncheon

By Karen Murray


On Friday, January 16, from noon to 1:15 p.m. at the Downtown Sheraton, the King County Bar Association is pleased to announce that Professor Sherrilyn Ifill will be the keynote speaker for the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Luncheon. Ifill will speak about how the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is being eroded, how we must be vigilant to maintain the viability of this Act, and how the legacy of Dr. King and all civil rights activists can be honored by making this document whole again.

Election Day is a month behind us and those who elected to exercise their franchise (without legislative obstacles) have had their ballots counted. Conversely, some who believed their vote would be counted learned that their vote had been hijacked, due to creative legislative obstacles (e.g., identification requirements, precinct changes, etc.).

For many, such scenarios came as a surprise, but for those who have been fighting to revive the Voting Rights Act,1 efforts to suppress the vote were not unexpected. Among those was Ifill, the seventh president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), Inc.2

Ifill is a civil rights lawyer specializing in voting rights and political participation. As former assistant counsel in LDF's New York office, she litigated voting rights cases, including the landmark Voting Rights Act case, Houston Lawyers' Association vs. Attorney General of Texas,3 in which the Supreme Court held that judicial elections are covered by the provisions of section 2 of the Act.4

Most recently, as president and director-counsel of LDF, Ifill has led her team of lawyers in the crusade to protect voting rights to ensure that all eligible citizens are able to cast their one vote. She accomplished this by organizing on-the-ground community education, fighting what she calls "micro voter suppression" in the Southeast, and pushing for passage of the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment of 2014 to reinstate the vital protections taken away by the high court.5

In the most recent case of United States v. Texas, et al.; Veasey v. Perry,6 the U.S. Supreme Court held that Texas would be allowed to use its strict voter-identification law in the November election, which kept many potential voters away from the polls. Although considered a blow by some civil rights activists, as reflected in her comments in the August issue of Ebony magazine,7 Ifill is not about to give up. "We have no intention to concede on voting rights until they are restored to the full strength and power they previously had," she said.

Ifill's book, On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,8 reflects her lifelong engagement in and analysis of issues of race and American public life. Ifill's scholarly writing has focused on the importance of diversity on the bench, and she is currently writing a book about race and Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

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