President Obama plans to nominate Vanita Gupta, a top lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union, to head the civil rights division of the Justice Department, which has been without a permanent leader for more than a year, the Washington Post reports. Gupta, a longtime civil rights lawyer, deputy legal director of the ACLU and director of its Center for Justice, is being named acting head of the division today Attorney General Eric Holder.
Among many cases, the division is overseeing an investigation of the Ferguson, Mo., police department and the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old by a Ferguson police officer. Gupta, 39, who was born in the Philadelphia area to immigrant parents, has been praised by a wide array of political activists for her civil rights work, especially on prison reform, an issue on which liberals and conservatives have found common ground. “In that zone, she's been good to work with and a serious person,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “She's been open to working with conservatives on good policy. She has played a strong role in the left-right cooperation in criminal justice issues.” Darrel Stephens, a former police chief now heading the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said, “I appreciate her reaching out to the police community on civil rights issues.”