Vanita Gupta becomes first woman of colour to serve in the No. 3 job at justice department in US Vanita Gupta delivers remarks after being nominated to be U.S. associate attorney general by President-elect Joe Biden at The Queen theater January 07, 2021 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A divided US Senate on Wednesday (21) voted to confirm Vanita Gupta as the first woman of colour to serve in the No. 3 job at the justice department, a role at the forefront of the department’s renewed efforts to combat systemic racism in policing.
Gupta won confirmation as president Joe Biden’s associate attorney general in a final vote of 51-49. Only one Republican – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – voted to confirm her, saying she felt Gupta was personally committed to combating injustice.
“I have looked at her record. I have had an extensive sit-down with her. I’m impressed with not only her professional credentials … but the passion that she carries with her with the work that she performs,” Murkowski said.
Gupta has faced a fraught confirmation process amid attacks by right-wing groups and Senate Republicans who have criticised her on everything from prior statements she has made on social media to her stock holdings in a company accused of selling a key ingredient used to make heroin in Mexico.
“This nomination has revealed a lengthy trail of radical claims and hasty backtracks,” the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, said on Wednesday.
As associate attorney general at the Justice Department, Gupta will play a pivotal role in supervising the department’s civil rights work, including an investigation announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday into policing practices in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd. .
She will also be involved with overseeing the department’s civil, antitrust and environment and natural resources divisions.
Gupta served as acting assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration, during which time she oversaw high-profile investigations into systemic abuses by police departments in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.
Gupta, 46, is currently serving as president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She is a former acting assistant attorney general and one of the most respected civil rights attorneys in America.
According to a statement, she is a successful consensus builder on tough issues, with years of experience on managing complex settlements and advocacy experience.
Formerly, she was a civil rights lawyer and the Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she oversaw its national criminal justice reform efforts.
Prior to that, she was Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Throughout her career, she has drawn support from a wide range of liberal and conservative activists, as well as law enforcement leaders, for building collaborative support and finding common ground on policing and criminal justice reform.
Gupta was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Indian immigrant parents. She received her BA degree magna cum laude from Yale University and JD degree from New York University School of Law in 2001.
Gupta is married to Chinh Q. Le, legal director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. They have two sons.