chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
July 18, 2022

Civil rights lawyer and scholar Sherrilyn Ifill to receive ABA Thurgood Marshall Award

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2022 — The American Bar Association Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice will honor civil rights trailblazer Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and senior fellow at the Ford Foundation with its 2022 Thurgood Marshall Award. The award will be presented at a dinner celebration honoring her distinguished career during the ABA’s Annual Meeting in Chicago on Saturday, Aug. 6, at 7:30 p.m. CDT at the Fairmont Chicago.

“We are thrilled to honor Professor Sherrilyn Ifill with this award,” said Beth K. Whittenbury, 2021-2022 chair of the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. “Her commitment to voting rights and universal equity as well as her expertise in judicial selection show that she has continued to forge the path illuminated by Thurgood Marshall himself.”

The award honors U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who epitomized individual commitment, in word and action, to the cause of civil rights in this country. The award recognizes similar long-term contributions by other members of the legal profession to the advancement of civil rights, social justice and human rights in the United States.

For 10 years, Ifill led the LDF, the nation’s premier civil rights law organization fighting for racial justice and equality, as president and director-counsel and now serves as director-counsel emerita.

The LDF was founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall and became a separate organization from the NAACP in 1957. The lawyers at the LDF developed and executed the legal strategy that led to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, widely regarded as the most transformative and monumental legal decision of the 20th century. Ifill is the second woman to lead the organization.

Ifill began her career as a fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union before becoming an assistant counsel at the LDF in 1988. She litigated voting rights cases until she left in 1993 to join the faculty at University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, where she taught civil procedure and constitutional law and pioneered a series of law clinics, including one of the earliest law clinics in the country focused on challenging legal barriers to the reentry of ex-offenders.

A prolific scholar, Ifill has published academic articles in leading law journals, and op-eds and commentaries in leading newspapers. Her 2007 book, “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,” is credited with laying the foundation for contemporary conversations about lynching and reconciliation.

In 2019, Ifill was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. In 2020, she was named Attorney of the Year by The American Lawyer and was the 2020 Glamour Magazine Woman of the Year. In 2021 she received the ABA Spirit of Excellence Award. She was also appointed to President Joe Biden’s Commission on the Supreme Court. Ifill serves on the boards of the Learning Policy Institute, the NYU Law School of Trustees, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Profiles in Courage Advisory Board.

Ifill earned her B.A. in English from Vassar College and her J.D. from New York University School of Law. She has received honorary doctorates from New York University, Bard College, Fordham Law School and CUNY Law School.

The event will also feature remarks from Ifill’s predecessor at the LDF and 2011 Thurgood Marshall Award recipient, Elaine R. Jones.

The ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice provides leadership within the legal profession in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties and social justice. Representing nearly 10,000 members with a wide range of professional interests and expertise, the section keeps its members abreast of complex civil rights and social justice issues and ensures that they remain a focus of law and policy.

Reporters interested in attending the ABA 2022 Annual Meeting should contact Media Relations and Strategic Communications at [email protected].  All reporters must provide proof of credentials and vaccination status

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.