National Center for Law and Economic Justice Names Dennis Parker New Executive Director

Today, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice – one of the leading advocates advancing the cause of economic justice for low-income families, individuals and communities across the country – announced former director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, Dennis Parker, as the organization’s new Executive Director. Marc Cohan, who served as Executive Director for the past two and a half years, will resume his role as Director of Litigation and continue his substantive advocacy leadership.

Prior to joining NCLEJ, Dennis served as the director of the Racial Justice Program of the ACLU, leading its efforts in combating discrimination and addressing a range of issues which have a disproportionate negative impact upon communities of color, including the “School-to-Prison” Pipeline, racial bias in the criminal justice system, housing discrimination and related economic justice issues and digital discrimination. Prior to joining the ACLU, he served as the Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau in the office of the New York Attorney General, working on (and directing) the educational work of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Dennis began his legal career as a staff attorney in the Criminal Defense Division of the New York Legal Aid Society. He has co-authored (or contributed) chapters to books and articles dealing with civil rights, and has lectured extensively on the subject across the country. He serves as an adjunct professor at New York Law School where he teaches on law and social change. Dennis is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and Middlebury College.

“Dennis has spent his career pursuing the same imperative goals as the Center, which is believing no one in this nation should live in poverty or be denied basic human rights,” said NCLEJ Chair, Sandra Hauser. “He (Dennis) truly exemplifies a leader who has brought a powerful voice to individuals seeking fair and equal treatment in the eyes of the law. Given the overwhelming challenges we face as a country, and the widening divide between the underserved and the blessed few, this is the right time for Dennis to head this organization.”

Parker noted of his appointment, “I am both honored and humbled to lead the Center, building upon the organization’s outstanding reputation as a defense champion for low-income individuals and communities seeking economic justice, fair treatment, and ultimately, enforceable actions resulting from the good work of the Center’s attorneys and many allies. Together, we will continue fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable.”

ACLU President Susan Herman said of her former colleague, “As director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, his success in leading the organization’s efforts to combat discrimination impacting communities of color was only exceeded by the passion he displayed for our mission and in fighting for the people we serve every day. I know he will be equally successful leading the NCLEJ.” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero added, “From battling the ‘school-to-prison’ pipeline and profiling of airline passengers wrongfully placed on watch lists to the racial bias in the criminal justice system, Dennis always approached every issue with the highest regard for the sanctity of the law and preserving the rights of the individual. I take great comfort in knowing such a strong advocate for the underserved will remain a leader defending their rights.”

Recent victories for NCLEJ’s clients included a decision and order striking down the New York State Department of Labor’s emergency rules that allowed employers to pay home health aides who work 24 hour shifts for only thirteen hours of work, and a preliminary injunction against the State of Tennessee on behalf of nearly 300,000 people who had their driver’s licenses suspended because they could not afford to pay traffic debt.