Meet Vanita Gupta, Biden’s pick for associate attorney general

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

Vanita Gupta is one of the most respected civil rights attorneys in the United States.

Vanita Gupta is a prominent civil rights attorney, who previously served as an acting assistant attorney general and head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. Currently the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights civil rights coalition, Gupta was nominated by President-elect Joe Biden for the position of Associate Attorney General on January 7, 2021.

If confirmed by the Senate, Gupta — who was described by Biden as “one of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America” — would make history, becoming the first person of color to serve as the Associate Attorney General, the third highest-ranking position at the Department of Justice.

The attorney’s history of trailblazing dates back further as she became the first woman confirmed as assistant attorney general for national security during the Obama administration.

Gupta, daughter of Raj Gupta, the former Chairman and CEO of the chemical giant Rohm and Haas, and his wife, Kamla Gupta, was born in Philadelphia in 1974. She did part of her schooling in France and England during her childhood while Raj Gupta served as a senior executive for Rohm and Haas in Europe for more than a decade.

After earning her BA and graduating magna cum laude from Yale University, Vanita Gupta earned her JD from the New York University (NYU) School of Law in 2001.

She started her career as an attorney at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense & Educational Fund, where she successfully led the effort to overturn the wrongful drug convictions of 38 individuals in Tulia, Texas, who were ultimately pardoned by then-Gov. Rick Perry.

Gupta then joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) where she went to become the Deputy Legal Director and the Director of the Center for Justice. At ACLU, she led the Smart Justice Campaign aimed at ending mass incarceration.

From October 2014 to January 2017, Gupta was the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States, as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department.

In June 2017, she joined the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, as its President and CEO. The Conference, one of the largest civil rights organizations in the world, is a coalition of more than 200 national organizations that promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States.

Gupta is married to Chinh Q. Le, a Vietnamese American, who is the Legal Director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. The two have two sons.

Read more on Vanita Gupta:

Vanita Gupta receives NAACP’s William Robert Ming Advocacy award (July 28, 2017)

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

Memorandum to roll back Obama-era police reforms is disappointing, says Vanita Gupta (April 6, 2017)

Indian American Vanita Gupta appointed as president and CEO of Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (March 24, 2017)

Racial segregation in education exists today: Vanita Gupta (December 16, 2016)

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

Religious discrimination against one student harms all of us: Vanita Gupta (March 8, 2016)

Discrimination against US workers will not be tolerated: Vanita Gupta (June 18, 2015)

Religious freedom is a cornerstone of America’s pluralistic society: Vanita Gupta (May 3, 2015)

Indian American lawyer Vanita Gupta to be appointed acting head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department (October 16, 2014)

Indian American couple donates $2.5 million to establish Raj & Kamla Gupta Governance Institute at Drexel University (April 19, 2018)

Wheels Global Foundation honors Raj Gupta, Mahinder Tak, Pradman Kaul (June 14, 2016)

Trailblazers in politics, public policy gather at ‘Women Who Impact,’ hosted by Indian American Impact (October 5, 2018)

Minority civil rights organizations urge FBI to take white nationalist violence seriously (March 22, 2019)

Indian American Minal Patel Davis conferred with Presidential Award for combating human trafficking (October 30, 2018)

Indian American Seema Nanda is the new CEO of Democratic National Committee (June 29, 2018)

Three dead, 19 injured in white supremacist rally violence in Virginia (August 13, 2017)

Civil and Human Rights Coalition condemns immigration policy of Trump administration (June 17, 2017)

Tuesday a day of many firsts for Indian Americans (January 6, 2017)

Justice Dept. files lawsuit against Culpeper County, Virginia, for blocking mosque construction (December 12, 2016)

Florida man convicted for luring foreign students through J-1 visa for prostitution, erotic massage business (November 21, 2016)

Houston bar had cover charge for Asian Americans, not White patrons: Justice Dept. lawsuit (September 28, 2016)

US Justice Department settles immigration-related discrimination claim against TEG Staffing Inc. (August 17, 2016)

Macy’s to pay civil penalty, provide training for discrimination against non-US citizens (June 22, 2016)

NetJets Services in Ohio discriminated against wor  k-authorized immigrants (May 13, 2016)

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