Former Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch ’81 will return to Harvard to deliver the second annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture in October, university president Lawrence S. Bacow announced Monday.
In an email to affiliates sent on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Bacow said Lynch had been “committed, through a long and distinguished career, to social and racial justice.”
“She is a courageous individual whose work offers inspiration and hope,” Bacow wrote. “May she remind us today, and later this year, of the power of persistence on the uneven path to justice.”
Lynch, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, served as attorney general from 2015 to 2017, during the final years of President Barack Obama’s administration. Prior to that, he served as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in two terms: first from 1999 to 2001 and again from 2010 to 2015.
She was the first black woman to serve as the attorney general in the history of the United States.
“I am deeply honored to return to Harvard for this event,” Lynch wrote in an emailed statement. “I look forward to participating with the Harvard community in the challenges and opportunities that Dr. King has posed for all of us.”
Bacow established the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture last year to commemorate the 60th anniversary of a 1962 speech King gave at Harvard Law School on racial justice, nonviolent protest and integration.
The inaugural lecture was delivered last October by Freeman A. Hrabowski III, past president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who spoke about the importance of diversity and equity in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Last August, Lynch was the lead author of an amicus brief, backed by the American Bar Association, asking the Supreme Court to uphold race as a factor in admissions in the Student Admissions lawsuits. Jousting against Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The report argued that race-based admissions policies help ensure the diversity of the legal profession and its “ability to better serve the needs of our diverse society.”
“Such policies play a vital role in removing the taint of racism from our justice system and from other areas where lawyers perform vital functions,” the brief said.
As attorney general, Lynch led high-profile investigations at the Chicago and Baltimore police departments, finding officers in both cities engaged in patterns of excessive use of force and other illegal behavior that were disproportionately targeted. towards African Americans.
In 2015, Lynch announced federal hate crime charges against Dylann S. Roof, the white supremacist gunman who murdered nine black Americans at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The following year, Lynch announced that prosecutors were seeking the death penalty in the case, and Roof was subsequently found guilty on all counts and sentenced to death.
In 2016, Lynch led a Justice Department lawsuit against state officials in North Carolina, arguing that a controversial state law that prohibited transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity violated Title IX and the Civil Rights Act. . The lawsuit was withdrawn under the administration of President Donald J. Trump.
After his term, Lynch was the subject of a Senate investigation into whether, as attorney general, he tried to interfere in an FBI investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton’s use of a private email server. . A 2018 inspector general report criticized Lynch for creating the perception of bias by meeting privately with former President Bill Clinton at a Phoenix, Arizona airport in 2016, but found no evidence that the two discussed the FBI investigation.
In 2019, Lynch returned to private practice, joining the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP as a partner.
—Writer Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @eschisgall.