The Future of Police Reform and Civil Rights in the Biden Administration

An Event in the Gray Center’s “The Administrative State in Transition” Webinar Series

Thursday, February 25, 2021

1:00 – 2:30 p.m. ET

You can view the video recording below. Listen to the event as a podcast here.

Throughout his presidential campaign, Joe Biden called for national reforms to police practices and civil rights. Immediately after the election, his transition team highlighted Racial Equity as one of its four policy priorities. And right after his inauguration, he signed a set of initial executive actions focused generally on discrimination. Yet at the same time, he has argued that the focus should be not on “defunding the police,” but rather on promoting accountability.

With that in mind, what specific policies might the Biden Administration and Congress pursue in the months and years ahead? What reforms are in the federal government’s direct regulatory powers, and which will need to be pursued through federal spending or other powers? And what issues are committed to state and local governments?

To discuss these issues, the Gray Center hosted the fourth event in its webinar series, “The Administrative State in Transition,” featuring the following panel of experts:

  • Rachel Harmon, Class of 1957 Research Professor of Law, and Director, Center for Criminal Justice, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Gail Heriot, Professor of Law, University of San Diego
  • Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., Jesse Climenko Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Moderator: Adam White, Executive Director, the C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State, and Assistant Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University

About Rachel Harmon

Rachel Harmon is the Class of 1957 Research Professor of law and Director of the Center for Criminal Justice at the University of Virginia School of Law. Professor Harmon is a leading scholar on policing and the laws that regulate police behavior. Her casebook, The Law of the Police (2021), is the first resource for students and others seeking to understand and evaluate how American law governs police interactions with the public. Her scholarship on policing has appeared in the New York University, Michigan and Stanford law reviews, among others.  She also serves as associate reporter for the American Law Institute’s project on policing.

Before moving to academia, Harmon served for eight years as a prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where she investigated and prosecuted civil rights crimes, including cases of excessive force and sexual violence by police officers and other public officials.

Harmon attended Yale Law School after receiving two master’s degrees with distinction from the London School of Economics as a Marshall Scholar. After law school, she clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court.

About Gail Heriot

Gail Heriot is a law professor at the University of San Diego, where she teaches Civil Rights Law & History, Employment Discrimination, Legislation, Remedies, and Torts.  She is also a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Professor Heriot’s work has appeared in legal journals like the Michigan Law Review and the Texas Journal of Law & Politics well as popular newspapers, magazines and blogs.  She is also the editor (along with Maimon Schwarzschild) of the forthcoming anthology, A Dubious Expediency:  How Race Preferences Damage Higher Education.

She is a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Scholars, Californians for Equal Rights, and the American Civil Rights Project and a former chair of the Civil Rights practice group at the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy.

About Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. 

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. is the Jesse Climenko Clinical Professor of Law at that Harvard Law School, where he serves as the Faculty Director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute and the Harvard Trial Advocacy Workshop. Professor Sullivan is a leading theorist in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, trial practice and techniques, legal ethics, and race theory.

From 2009 – 2019, Professor Sullivan was a Faculty Dean at Harvard College, marking the first time an African American received that appointment in Harvard’s history. Professor Sullivan spends much of his time working with and in underserved communities around the country and the world. In fact, the Huffington Post dubbed him, “The Man Who Dealt the Biggest Blow to Mass incarceration,” and the “Muhamad Ali of wrongful convictions,” noting that he had won the release of more wrongfully incarcerated persons – over 6,000 – than anyone in U.S. history.

Professor Sullivan has taken on and won a series of cases that most deemed impossible. To name a few: He secured an acquittal in the double-murder case of former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez. He negotiated a settlement for the family of Michael Brown in a case against the city of Ferguson, MO after the DOJ declined to prosecute. He secured an acquittal in the largest securities fraud cause in the U.S. since Bernie Madoff. He also  served as Chair to then-Senator Obama’s Criminal Justice Advisory Committee for Obama’s presidential campaign, and served on President-elect Obama’s National Legal Advisory Group and as an Advisor to the Department of Justice Presidential Transition Team.

Professor Sullivan has provided legal commentary on every major television network and many leading newspapers and magazines. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College and the Harvard Law School.