NYSBA Selects Prominent Civil Rights Attorney Sherrilyn Ifill for Association’s Highest Honor

By David Alexander

January 6, 2023

NYSBA Selects Prominent Civil Rights Attorney Sherrilyn Ifill for Association’s Highest Honor


By David Alexander

Sherrilyn Ifill, the long-time leader of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, has been named this year’s Gold Medal Award winner. Ifill will be honored during the Presidential Gala Friday, Jan. 20, at the Rainbow Room in New York City during the association’s Annual Meeting.

“Sherrilyn Ifill is one of our profession’s most distinguished members and a trailblazer who is a tireless warrior for civil rights,” said Sherry Levin Wallach, president of the association. “Her mantra: ‘Leave no power on the table’ resonates with us and those we serve. Her career has been focused on doing the public good by working with and in our communities to ensure that people’s rights are always protected.”

Ifill, who is also a law professor, fellow at the Ford Foundation, and a trustee at New York University School of Law, has been at the forefront of the Legal Defense Fund’s long-standing campaign to expose the injustice of life without parole for juveniles. Her position was vindicated when the U.S. Supreme Court held such punishments to be unconstitutional.

Looking back to her early life, Ifill often talks about the Watergate hearings as a pivotal moment. She said she was inspired whenever she heard the booming voice of Congresswoman Barbara Jordan defending the Constitution. She thought, “If Barbara can do it – why can’t I?”

Today, she is behind a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s sweeping voter suppression law, which places a hardship on people of color and new citizens who want to participate in this country’s democracy.

Ifill joins a distinguished group of legal icons who have been honored with the Gold Medal Award including Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Thurgood Marshall, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Robert H. Jackson, William J. Brennan, Jr., Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Potter Stewart, Felix Frankfurter, Robert H. Jackson and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.

Reporters wishing to cover the Presidential Gala should email Susan DeSantis at [email protected].

The Presidential Gala is one of the highlights of  NYSBA’s 146th Annual Meeting, which takes place from Jan. 18 to 24 with in-person events at the New York Hilton Midtown from Jan. 18 to Jan. 21 and virtual sessions Jan. 23 and Jan. 24.

The association’s premier event, the Presidential Summit, will focus on “Mental Health and the Justice System: Impacts, Challenges and Potential Solutions,” and take place 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18. For more information on NYSBA’s Annual Meeting, click here.

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