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Voter Rights 2020

Speaker(s): Ezra D. Rosenberg, Myrna Pérez, Sophia Lin Lakin
Recorded on: Aug. 12, 2020
PLI Program #: 277620

Myrna Pérez is director of the Brennan Center's Voting Rights and Elections Program, and leads the Program's research, advocacy, and litigation work nationwide. An expert on voting rights and election administration, she is the author of several nationally recognized reports and articles. Her work has been featured in media outlets across the country, including the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and MSNBC. She has testified before Congress and several state legislatures on a variety of voting rights related issues. She is a lecturer in law at Columbia Law School and has also served as an adjunct professor of clinical law at NYU School of Law.

Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Pérez was the Civil Rights Fellow at Relman, Dane & Colfax, a civil rights law firm in Washington, DC. She graduated from Columbia Law School, where she was a Lowenstein Public Interest Fellow. Following law school, Pérez clerked for Hon. Anita B. Brody of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and for Hon. Julio M. Fuentes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She previously served as the chair of the Election Law Committee of the City of New York Bar Association. Pérez is the recipient of several awards, including the Puerto Rican Bar Association Award for Excellence in Academia and the New Jersey League of Women Voters Making Democracy Work Award, and was named one of 2014’s 50 Hispanic Influentials by Hispanic Business.

Pérez earned her undergraduate degree in political science from Yale University. She obtained a master's degree in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School, where she was the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Public Service. Prior to law school, she was a Presidential Management Fellow, serving as a policy analyst for the United States Government Accountability Office on issues including housing and health care.

Sophia Lin Lakin is the Deputy Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. Sophia has active cases protecting voting rights and combatting voter suppression across the county. Her current cases include League of Women Voters of Tennessee v. Hargett (challenging a Tennessee law that imposes onerous requirements and substantial criminal and civil penalties on community based organizations that conduct voter registration drives); Common Cause v. Lawson (challenging an unlawful purge program in Indiana); Texas v. Crystal Mason (representing Ms. Mason in her appeal of her conviction and 5-year sentence for allegedly improperly casting a provisional ballot); Fish v. Kobach (challenging documentation requirements for voter registration in Kansas); and Missouri NAACP v. Missouri (challenging Missouri’s failure to provide adequate public education and fund the implementation of the state’s voter ID requirement).

Sophia is a frequent commentator on voting rights issues, presenting at conferences and conducting voting rights trainings nationwide. She speaks regularly to both national and local media on a wide range of topics that touch on voting rights.

Before joining the ACLU, Sophia clerked for the Honorable Raymond J. Lohier, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Honorable Carol Bagley Amon of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Sophia received her J.D. from Stanford Law School. She also received her M.S. in Management Science & Engineering and B.A. in Political Science from Stanford University.

As Co-Director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project, Ezra oversees all voting rights litigation, a robust portfolio of over 40 cases filed over the last four years.  Ezra has tried several of these cases, most recently the successful challenge to the Trump Administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Ezra joined the Lawyers’ Committee in November 2014, continuing a 40-year career in the public and private sectors, and was named Co-Director in July 2015.  Prior to joining the Lawyers’ Committee staff, Ezra was a partner at Dechert LLP, where he served several terms on the firm’s Policy Committee and as a Deputy Chair of the firm and co-chair of Dechert’s Product Liability and Mass Torts Group. Ezra was consistently ranked among the top litigators both in New Jersey and nationwide by numerous publications, including Chambers, The Legal 500 United States, Benchmark Litigation, and, in 2014, was named as one of the top 500 lawyers in the nation by Lawdragon.  

At Dechert, Ezra was actively involved in pro bono representations. He was co-lead trial counsel and lead coordinating counsel in both the Section 2 and Section 5 cases challenging Texas’s photo ID voting law, and served as co-lead trial counsel in a school desegregation case tried in Pitt County, North Carolina in 2013. In 2014, Ezra successfully argued an appeal on behalf of the NJ-ACLU before the New Jersey Supreme Court, helping to persuade that court to set stringent standards for the admissibility of a defendant’s rap lyrics in a criminal trial. In 2014, Ezra was named to The National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono Hot List” for his role in significant public interest cases of national importance.

Ezra began his career with the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate, focusing on “special project” criminal appeals, arguing several times before the New Jersey Supreme Court, including a landmark case that set the standard for judicial review of prosecutorial denials of pretrial intervention.  He joined the Lands & Natural Resources Division of the United States Department of Justice where, from 1979 to 1982, he handled a variety of cases relating to the nation’s lands.

Ezra graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, B.A., Cum laude, in 1971 and from New York University School of Law, J.D., 1974, Cum laude, where he received the Founders Day Award and was admitted to the Order of the Coif.  He is a past President of the Mercer County, NJ, Bar Association and has received numerous awards during his career, including the Department of Justice Award for Meritorious Service in 1982, the New Jersey Commission on Professionalism “Professional Lawyer of the Year Award” in 1997, the American Jewish Congress’ “Learned Hand Award” in 2011, the ACLU of NJ’s “Legal Leadership Award” in 2015, and a Joint Resolution of the New Jersey Legislature in 2015, honoring his pro bono service.