Biden names Indian American Vanita Gupta as Associate Attorney General

Vanita Gupta
Vanita Gupta; Photo credit: Indian American Impact Project

Biden says Gupta  is “one of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America.”

President-elect Joe Biden nominated noted Indian American civil rights attorney Vanita Gupta as Associate Attorney General, the third highest ranking position at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Biden also nominated federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland as attorney general, veteran prosecutor Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and Kristen Clarke as assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Biden introduced the nominees during an event Thursday afternoon.

Describing Gupta, 46, as “woman I have known for some time,” Biden said the Indian American is “one of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America.”

The president-elect pointed out that Gupta started her career at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) legal defense fund and then worked for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), both organizations that he also belong.

RELATED: Meet Vanita Gupta, Biden’s pick for associate attorney general (January 8, 2021)

As the Indian American daughter of immigrants, Gupta would be the first woman of color to serve as Associate Attorney General.

“At every step, with every case, she fought for greater equity and to right the wrongs of the justice system, where they existed,” Biden said. “And she has done so by bringing people together earning praise from across the ideological spectrum for her approach to solving some of the thorniest problems we face.”

Speaking on the occasion, Gupta said she is “humbled and honored to return to the Department of Justice.”

“It is an institution that I love so, so dearly,” she said. “And to once again work alongside the exceptional women and men, who everyday defend the constitution, enforce our federal laws and seek to create a more perfect union with deep integrity and without political interference.”

Read the transcripts of remarks by Biden and Gupta (January 7, 2021)

Gupta added, “There are many agencies in the federal government, but actually only one that bears the name of a value. By virtue of that name, that value of justice, we know the department carries a unique charge, in North Star.”

The nominee said that she is “honored to return to a department that I know will push every day for justice, accountability and equality under the law.”

She added: “It will not be enough to restore what’s been undermined or lost. This moment demands bold leadership. The Department of Justice, as it is done throughout its storied history, will have to uncover and reckon with hard truths, hold people, companies and institutions accountable to our constitutions and laws, drive change where there is injustice, and heal a nation that is starving for leadership and decency and hope.”

Gupta earlier served as Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division — the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States under then President Barack Obama.

“She is a successful consensus builder on tough issues, with years of experience managing complex settlements and advocacy experience,” the transition said.

Gupta currently is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights civil rights coalition.

Biden described the four individuals as “first-rate nominees” who would restore independence at the Justice Department.

RELATED: List of Indian Americans in the incoming Biden administration (January 2, 2021)

“Our first-rate nominees to lead the Justice Department are eminently qualified, embody character and judgment that is beyond reproach, and have devoted their careers to serving the American people with honor and integrity,” Biden stated.

“They will restore the independence of the Department so it serves the interests of the people not a presidency, rebuild public trust in the rule of law, and work tirelessly to ensure a more fair and equitable justice system,” he added.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said, “Fidelity to the rule of law forms the bedrock of America’s democracy. And in the face of both the damage that has been done to our Justice Department and our country’s long-overdue reckoning on racial injustice, these are the right leaders to meet this moment”

“These Justice Department veterans will not only help make sure justice is applied equally across our country, they will also restore integrity and independence to the Justice Department, helping rebuild the American people’s trust in the institution,” she said.

“And I look forward to working closely with them to help America live up to the words etched at the United States Supreme Court: Equal Justice Under Law,” Harris added.

Then-President Obama selected Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never allowed a vote on his nomination. Justice Neil Gorsuch ultimately took the seat in 2017.

Vanita Gupta is the latest of a series of Indian Americans appointed to important posts by Biden-Harris team.

They include Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget, Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General, Vinay Reddy as director of speechwriting, Gautam Raghavan as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, and Vedant Patel as assistant press secretary.

Among others are Atul Gawande and Celine Gounder as members of  Covid-19 task force and Mala Adiga as the policy director for would be First Lady Jill Biden.

Maju Varghese has been named as executive director of Biden-Harris inauguration to plan the festivities surrounding their swearing-in ceremony on January 20.


Vanita Gupta begins tenure as president and CEO of Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (June 7, 2017)

Vanita Gupta gets American Courage Award by Asian Americans Advancing Justice (October 17, 2016)

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