Voting Rights Institute Faculty Bios
J. Gerald Hebert, Institute organizer, Executive Director and Director of Litigation, Campaign Legal Center, Washington, D.C. Before joining the Campaign Legal Center, Hebert served in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice as the lead attorney in numerous voting rights and redistricting lawsuits. After his twenty-year tenure with the Department of Justice, Hebert opened a solo law practice that is national in scope and specializes in election law and redistricting. He has served as counsel for parties and amici in numerous redistricting lawsuits, including several decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gilda R. Daniels, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Daniels teaches critical legal theory, election law, and civil procedure. She is a voting rights expert and national speaker on voting rights and other issues. She served as a Deputy Chief in the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Voting Section under both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Daniels has specialized in voting rights/election law for almost twenty years. She has litigated voting rights cases under the Voting Rights Act, including those involving single and multimember districts, minority language requirements and compliance with other voting rights statutes, such as the National Voter Registration Act.
Armand Derfner, attorney, Derfner, Altman & Wilborn, Charleston, SC. A civil rights litigator for forty years, his focus on voting rights began in Greenwood, Mississippi in August 1968 on the first day the Voting Rights Act became effective. Derfner has helped shape the Voting Rights Act through his Supreme Court arguments in several of the earliest cases, including Allen v. State Board of Elections (1969) and Perkins v. Matthews (1971), as well as many other voting rights cases. He has testified before the Judiciary Committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about extensions of the Voting Rights Act, as well as other pro bono legislation.
Chad W. Dunn, Partner, Brazil & Dunn, Houston, TX. An experienced trial lawyer, Dunn has developed expertise in voting rights issues in Texas cases. He has been general counsel to the Texas Democratic Party for a decade, and in that capacity has argued numerous election cases in state and federal court, and the trial and appellate levels. Recently, he has been handling cases to ensure fair voter registration procedures, to revise ineffective voting equipment, and to ensure fair apportionment of voting districts. He has received numerous "rising star" awards in Texas.
Allan J. Lichtman, Distinguished Professor of History at American University, Washington, D.C. Lichtman has been an expert witness in more than seventy-five civil rights and voting rights lawsuits, has published seven books and hundreds of articles, and has lectured throughout the country and the world. He earned his PhD at Harvard University and has been on the American University faculty for forty years, teaching courses in political history. He is a student of presidential elections and has created a predictive system that has been right for the past eight presidential elections.
Nina Perales, Director of Litigation, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). A leading civil rights litigator, Perales has served as MALDEF's Southwest Regional Counsel, National Senior Counsel and Staff Attorney. Her work has included representing Latino intervenors in defense of the federal Voting Rights Act in 2009 and successful statewide redistricting cases in Texas and Arizona. She was lead counsel for Latino challengers in the Texas 2003 congressional redistricting lawsuit and argued the case successfully in the U.S. Supreme Court in LULAC v. Perry (2006). Perales recently secured a Ninth Circuit ruling invalidating a discriminatory Arizona voter registration law and defended a test case involving the constitutional guarantee of equality in redistricting.
David Richards, Attorney, Richards, Rodriguez & Skeith, Austin, TX. In fifty-plus years of law practice, including service as an attorney with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Richards developed expertise in many fields including civil rights and voting rights. Among the more notable of his cases was White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755 (1973) the Supreme Court ruling that established single member legislative districts for the Texas Legislature. From 1982 to 1985, he was Executive Assistant Attorney General of Texas supervising the State's litigation. Before that, he was General Counsel for the Texas AFL-CIO.
Paul M. Smith, Attorney, Jenner & Block, Washington, D.C. Regularly listed as one of the most influential lawyers in Washington and one of the leading Supreme Court practitioners, Smith has developed expertise in a range of civil rights and voting rights cases. Among his fourteen Supreme Court arguments were the voting rights cases Vieth v. Jubelirer (2004), League of Latin American Citizens v. Perry (2006), and Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008). He has also argued and won major gay rights and free speech cases in the Supreme Court. He has an extensive record of professional and community service.
Bruce V. Spiva, Founding Partner, The Spiva Law Firm, PLLC. Spiva is a Washington, D.C. attorney who has tried cases, conducted arbitrations, and argued appeals in areas ranging from civil rights, Congressional redistricting and antitrust, to securities and First Amendment law. He is a founding partner of The Spiva Law Firm PLLC, a majority-minority owned law firm. Spiva was a partner at Jenner & Block LLP prior to starting his own practice. He obtained a law degree in 1992 from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor and the Treasurer of the Harvard Law Review, and a B.A. in 1988 from Yale University. Following law school, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Jerome Farris of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Brenda Wright, Vice President of Legal Strategies, Demos, Boston, MA. Wright has led progressive legal and policy initiatives on voting rights, campaign finance reform, redistricting, election administration and other democracy reforms and is a nationally known expert in these areas. She argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Randall v. Sorrell (2006) and Young v. Fordice (1997). She has written extensively on democracy and voting rights issues, appears frequently in print and broadcast media, and testifies regularly before Congress, federal agencies and state legislatures. Before joining Demos in 2007, Wright was managing attorney at the National Voting Rights Institute in Boston and is a past director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C.