LOS ANGELES – Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), issued the following statement honoring the service of LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill, and welcoming the naming of longtime deputy Janai Nelson to lead that storied organization when Ifill leaves LDF in spring 2022:

“From MALDEF’s very beginnings, we have been close to and indebted to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF).  LDF’s Director-Counsel in 1968, Jack Greenberg, immeasurably aided our birth by facilitating an introduction of our founders to the Ford Foundation, and our founders consciously modeled MALDEF on LDF and its great victory a decade and a half earlier in Brown v. Board of Education.

“Consistent with this longstanding organizational kinship, we at MALDEF have had the invaluable opportunity to work with Sherrilyn Ifill throughout her tenure as LDF President and Director-Counsel.  Sherrilyn has been a shining beacon of civil rights leadership and hope through a difficult decade, including the nightmarish Trump presidency and the Supreme Court’s intentional undermining of longstanding civil rights protections like those in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  A steady and inspiring voice for constitutional integrity in private strategic meetings and public advocacy events, Sherrilyn will be greatly missed when she leaves LDF in the spring.  We are comforted knowing that she will continue her great work in some other central capacity.

“At the same time, MALDEF looks forward to continuing our critical work in partnership with LDF under the leadership of Janai Nelson.  At MALDEF, we have worked with Janai for many years in many areas, and her elevation is an inspired choice, even if expected or foreseen by many.  Leadership transitions of strong organizations can often be fraught, but this choice promises an entirely seamless and easy transition.  We look forward to Janai’s steady leadership and cherished counsel at our elder-sister organization, LDF.”