Damon Hewitt

Director, Katrina-Gulf Coast Project
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
New York, N.Y.

New Orleans native Damon Hewitt considers himself a direct beneficiary of the continuing struggle for civil and human rights for people of African descent in Louisiana, across the South and worldwide. Since joining the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) as a Skadden Fellow in 2001, his docket has consisted of class action cases and consultation on a number of racial and social justice issues, including educational access and adequacy, affirmative action, school discipline, juvenile justice, indigent defense, fair housing, and voting rights.

Mr. Hewitt founded LDF’s “Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline” initiative, which challenges racial disparities that lie at the intersection of the education system and the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In that capacity, he has become one of the nation’s leading experts on the civil rights implications of school discipline policy. In 2005 he served as LDF’s lead counsel in a series of investigations and public hearings regarding racial disparities in discipline practices in Florida public school districts.

Since 2006, Mr. Hewitt has coordinated LDF’s post-Hurricane Katrina litigation and advocacy efforts. He served as counsel in Wallace v. Blanco, a federal civil rights lawsuit that sought to ensure that displaced New Orleans voters could have meaningful access to the ballot in the first elections since the city was devastated by flooding. And he was lead counsel in Boisseau v. Picard, a suit defending the educational rights of children displaced by the storm. He is currently on the litigation team in Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center v. HUD, a case alleging discriminatory allocation of federal disaster relief grants.

Mr. Hewitt received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Louisiana State University, where he served as president of the campus chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. And he received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was a recipient of the Public Interest Scholarship, a research assistant to Professor Lani Guinier, and president of his graduating class. Following law school, Mr. Hewitt worked as a law clerk for Judge Eric L. Clay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

He has authored and co-authored numerous publications, and is frequently quoted in the media on school discipline and racial justice issues, including those impacting New Orleans and the Katrina Diaspora. He has made appearances in a number of print publications and on broadcast programs, including Education Week, the ABC News program Primetime, NPR’s Democracy Now, and CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight. He was also featured in director Spike Lee’s epic documentary film, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.

Mr. Hewitt has been honored for his civil rights advocacy work by the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, receiving the organization’s Avery C. Alexander Civil Rights Award for outstanding contributions to racial and social justice in the State. He was also named one of ten Up-and-Coming African American Lawyers to Watch by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s Diversity and the Bar magazine.

He serves the community through various volunteer and non-profit service initiatives. He co-chairs the board of directors of the Sadie Nash Leadership Project (a Brooklyn, NY-based leadership initiative for teenaged girls in public high schools). And he also serves on the board of “Safe Streets/Strong Communities,” a progressive criminal justice reform organization based in New Orleans. He has also worked as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and is currently a Lecturer in Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Page last updated: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 07:16