On Wednesday, Clarke will appear at a Senate confirmation hearing as President Biden’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division. She is poised to become the first woman confirmed to helm what former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. called the agency’s “crown jewel,” returning to the office where she began her professional career two decades earlier as a line attorney.
In January, appearing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris in Wilmington, Del., Clarke said the nation was “at a crossroads” and vowed to help “turn the page on hate and close the door on discrimination.”
“I see the future of America through the eyes of my son. And honestly, at times I am worried,” said Clarke, whose son, Miles, is 16. “Will he have full and equal access to the extraordinary opportunities of American life? Will he be able to embrace those opportunities in safety and dignity? Will all of America’s children?”
Her confirmation path is expected to be contentious, however. At the Lawyers’ Committee, Clarke was at the forefront of legal efforts to sue the Trump administration on voting rights, immigration, changes to the U.S. Census and the tear-gassing of protesters outside the White House last summer. She spoke out frequently against Trump and former attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William P. Barr.
Now, some conservatives fear that Clarke and Vanita Gupta — another civil rights lawyer, who is awaiting a Senate vote on her nomination to the Justice Department’s No. 3 position — will seek to quickly ramp up federal efforts to restructure local police departments, bolster prosecutions of hate crimes and expand voting access for minorities, and have sought to cast them as radical and extreme….
“When a civil rights lawyer has built an illustrious career in federal courts speaking out on equality and access, the question always is whether they are biased,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where Clarke worked from 2006 until 2011. “Very few talk about what makes Kristen so unique for this position in this special moment we are in. If you think about the array of civil rights legal organizations, it’s really Kristen who has been leading this very innovative work prosecuting hate groups.”
I very much support Kristen’s nomination, and believe she is a person of great integrity who is a fighter for the cause of justice for all Americans. Here’s a video from Feb. 2020 at the Hammer Museum, where Kristen and I talked about the problems facing American elections, moderated by Adam Winkler.