Panel to focus on 50 years of Voting Rights Act

The 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act will be the focus of a panel discussion on Thursday, April 2, at Wayne State University Law School.

Five panelists will share their expertise from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium at the law school, 471 W. Palmer St. Admission is free, and lunch will be provided. Register by contacting Kaylee Place at or 313-577-2731. Parking will be available for $7 (credit and debit cards only) in Structure One across West Palmer Street from Wayne Law.

The event is presented by the Wayne Law Dean's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Bankole Thompson, senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle, will moderate the discussion, and Barbara L. McQuade, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, will deliver opening remarks.

Panelists will be:

- Leah Aden, assistant counsel of the political participation group at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

- Jocelyn Benson, dean of Wayne Law.

- U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich.

- Dr. Kareem Crayton, associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

- Vanita Gupta, acting assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Thompson is a senior political analyst at WDET radio, a member of the weekly "Obama Watch" Sunday evening roundtable on WLIB New York and considered one of the nation's most influential black journalists.

McQuade, the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Detroit for 12 years. She served as deputy chief of the National Security Unit from 2005 to 2009.

Aden represents black people in a variety of actions involving voter discrimination, including challenges to discriminatory voting measures under the Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Constitution and state laws. She has been involved in several high-profile cases in that regard.

Benson's areas of expertise include civil rights law, election law and education law. She is founder and executive director of the nonpartisan Michigan Center for Election Law, which hosts projects that support transparency and integrity in elections. She was named dean in June, after serving as interim dean since December 2012. She joined the law school faculty in 2005.

Conyers, a 1958 Wayne Law alumnus who has served in Congress for nearly 50 years, is considered a titan of the civil rights movement. Conyers is key among the 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which was formed in 1969 to strengthen black lawmakers' ability to address the legislative concerns of minority citizens. He also was the driving force behind the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Crayton focuses his research on the relationship between race and politics and is considered a leading voice in the field. His scholarship examines the varied effects of state-sanctioned racial exclusion and discrimination on campaign and governance in the political system. His research aids in the development of election law and policy.

Gupta previously was deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union and the director of the ACLU's Center for Justice. For several years, she also was an adjunct clinical professor at New York University School of Law, where she taught and oversaw a civil rights litigation clinic. Prior to joining the ACLU in 2006, Gupta was with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Published: Mon, Mar 16, 2015