Institute of Politics

Vanita Gupta

Former Associate Attorney General of the United States

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    April 29 & 30

    *Open to Current UChicago Students

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  • Seminars:

    April 29 & 30

    *Open to Current UChicago Students


Vanita Gupta was the 19th United States Associate Attorney General and served as the third-ranking official at the Department of Justice since her confirmation by the Senate on April 21, 2021. Associate Attorney General Gupta has been a leader in the Justice Department and across the federal government on issues ranging from building police-community trust to safeguarding reproductive freedom, increasing support for victims of gun violence and other crimes, promoting competition and economic opportunity, expanding community violence intervention programs, and more.

Associate Attorney General Gupta previously served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s oldest and largest coalition of non-partisan civil rights organizations in the United States. Before serving in that capacity, from October 15, 2014, to January 20, 2017, she served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and Head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Prior to leading the Civil Rights Division, Associate Attorney General Gupta served as Deputy Legal Director and the Director of the Center for Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Associate Attorney General Gupta graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and received her law degree from New York University School of Law, where later she taught a civil rights litigation clinic for several years.


"Fairness & Factions: The Pursuit of “Justice for All” in Polarized Times"

Vanita Gupta made history when she became the first civil rights attorney to serve as the third-ranking official at the Department of Justice. As the 19th Associate Attorney General, her portfolio was as high-profile as it was wide-ranging, with supervision of all of the department’s civil litigation, including civil rights, defense of federal agencies, environment and natural resources, and antitrust, to its $5 billion of grantmaking for local justice systems and law enforcement, as well as criminal justice research, reform and innovation.

Gupta is best known for her civil rights work, which has included democracy reform and criminal justice. As head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration, she led investigations of the Ferguson, Baltimore, and Chicago police departments. As Associate AG, she oversaw the after-action report on the tragic Uvalde school shooting and led the Justice Department’s efforts to defend reproductive rights after the Dobbs decision, among other initiatives.

Despite broad support from law enforcement and conservative and progressive advocates, Gupta’s civil rights work - and criticism of certain Trump administration policies - made her a target during her Senate confirmation hearing, underscoring at times in harsh terms the polarized environment of Washington and its impact on the Justice Department. Gupta’s experiences from confirmation to her work both in and out of government will be explored here.

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