Janai Nelson is the seventh Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the country’s first civil and human rights law organization. As an organizational thought-leader at LDF, Ms. Nelson works with the President and Director-Counsel to determine and execute LDF’s strategic vision and oversee the operation of its programs. She is also one of the lead counsel in Veasey v. Abbott, a federal challenge to Texas’s voter ID law. Prior to joining LDF in June 2014, Ms. Nelson was Associate Dean for Faculty Scholarship and Associate Director of the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development at St. John’s University School of Law where she is also a full professor of law.
Ms. Nelson received the 2013 Derrick A. Bell Award from the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Section on Minority Groups and was named one of Lawyers of Color’s 50 Under 50 minority professors making an impact in legal education. Prior to joining St. John's faculty, Ms. Nelson was a Fulbright Scholar at the Legal Resources Center in Accra, Ghana. She began practicing law as the 1998 recipient of the NAACP LDF/Fried Frank Fellowship, following federal district and appellate court clerkships. Ms. Nelson later became Director of LDF’s Political Participation Group, overseeing all voting related litigation and matters, litigating voting rights and redistricting cases, and working on criminal justice issues. Ms. Nelson has appeared in various media as an expert on race, civil rights, constitutional law and election law, and regularly speaks at conferences and symposia nationwide.