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John C. Brittain Appointed as UDC Law’s Acting Dean

Monday, July 2, 2018   (0 Comments)
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John Brittain

On June 26th, the UDC Board of Trustees voted to appoint UDC Law Professor John C. Brittain as Acting Dean of the law school, accepting the recommendation of UDC President Ronald Mason, Jr. and the UDC Law faculty. Dean Brittain began his term on July 2, 2018, as the UDC Law community undertakes a national search and vetting process for a permanent dean. He follows longtime UDC Law Dean Katherine “Shelley” Broderick, who has led the school since 1999. After completing a sabbatical, Broderick intends to return to the UDC Law to teach as a tenured member of the faculty.

“I am proud to lead the law school as we search for a new dean,” said Dean Brittain. “I shall uphold the core mission of UDC Law to recruit and train students from communities underrepresented at the bar and to provide a comprehensive, practical legal education to graduates while serving those who cannot afford a lawyer in the District. UDC Law’s historic commitment to public service and the rule of law is needed now more than ever, as the separation and detention of immigrant children and families shows the urgent need for lawyers to assure due process for those families.”

Dean Brittain joined the UDC Law faculty in 2009, and he has taught torts, civil procedure, and civil and political rights. A seasoned litigator, a gifted teacher, and an inspiring public speaker, Dean Brittain is beloved by the UDC Law community, and he is well-prepared to lead the law school in addressing the urgent challenges facing the law school and legal education generally while staying true to UDC Law’s historic commitment to the public interest. Dean Brittain previously served as Professor and Dean of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, where he led the school community during the devastation of Tropical Storm Allison, which flooded Houston and inflicted massive damage to the school’s facilities. Dean Brittain served twenty-two years at the University of Connecticut School of Law and holds the title of emeritus professor. In addition, he served as the Charles Hamilton Houston Chair and visiting professor at North Carolina Central University School of Law in 2013.

Earning his B.A. and J.D. from Howard University, Dean Brittain’s decades-long career as a civil rights litigator includes prominent positions in several civil rights organizations, including as President of the National Lawyers’ Guild, member of the Executive Committee and Board of the ACLU, legal counsel to the NAACP, and Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Dean Brittain has litigated countless cases in federal and state courts across the nation and secured landmark victories in school desegregation and fair housing, including as one of the lead attorneys in the important Connecticut Supreme Court school desegregation case, Sheff v. O’Neill (1996). A champion of HBCUs and equal opportunity in higher education, just last year Dean Brittain started the case that secured an unprecedented ruling by a Maryland federal district court in Coal. for Equity & Excellence in Maryland Higher Educ. v. Maryland Higher Educ. Comm'n (2017), which ordered extensive reforms in Maryland's system of higher education after finding that unnecessary program duplication amounts to racial segregation in contravention of the Equal Protection Clause.

Dean Brittain is also a frequent author of amicus briefs in critical cases in both federal and state courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court affirmative action case Fisher v. University of Tex. (2016), and his profound insight and analysis on civil rights law has been sought out by publications as diverse as the National Law Journal, The Chronicle for Higher Education, and Politico, while his writings on topics such as affirmative action and legal education have appeared in the pages of The New York Times and Houston Lawyer.

In recognition of his outsize contribution to the public interest bar, Dean Brittain has received numerous awards, including both the National Bar Association’s Gertrude Rush Award and UDC’s Hon. Ronald H. Brown Distinguished Leadership Award just last year. In 2015, the Mississippi Center for Justice honored him as a "pioneering civil rights leader and esteemed law professor who has inspired a generation of young attorneys." To honor him for his outstanding service to the organization, in 1993, the NAACP awarded Dean Brittain the prestigious William Robert Ming Advocacy Award.


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