Leah Aden: Senior Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.

Leah Aden ( J.D. ’ 06) enrolled at Howard University School of Law to gain tools to be an advocate for Black people and a social engineer fighting for equality.

“Because of the abolitionist, suffragist and civil rights movements, and the work of advocates challenging the status quo, Black women like me are free and have more opportunities to thrive,” Aden said. “With my Howard education, I continue this tradition of seeking justice and opportunity for Black people. Like countless civil rights lawyers, I hope to be as impactful on our country as some of the greatest Howard Law alumni, like Thurgood Marshall and Pauli Murray.”

As senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.— America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice founded by Marshall—Aden uses her education to do just that.

She has litigated a variety of racial justice issues, with a focus on voting discrimination. As part of the litigation team in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Leah defended the Voting Rights Act, one of the nation’s landmark laws, before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. However, in Shelby, the Court gutted an essential federal protection that unleashed a wave of voting discrimination against people of color across the country.

Following that decision, Aden is using the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act and Constitution to fight state and local governments that are denying or abridging people of color’s right to vote. She successfully represented Black voters against strict photo ID laws in several high-profile cases: United States v. Texas/Veasey v. Perry and South Carolina v. United States. She also successfully challenged electoral structures operating in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, and Fayette County, Georgia, that have unlawfully diluted Black voting power.

Aden also works to end the practices of felony disenfranchisement and prison-based gerrymandering, which diminish the power of Black individuals and communities. She has significantly contributed to numerous Supreme Court briefs, including two cases heard this term – Gill v. Whitford and Husted v. APRI. She frequently writes about voting rights, authoring Democracy Diminished, a report that tracks potentially discriminatory voting changes that jurisdictions have unleashed since the 2013 Shelby decision, and has contributed op-eds to The Hill and CNN.

Aden proudly joins many other members of her family who are part of Howard University’s legacy, including her late great uncle Alonzo J. Aden (B.A. ’33), who founded and curated Howard’s Gallery of Art.

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