Human Rights First Announces Addition of Inaugural Chief Legal Officer

WASHINGTON D.C. Human Rights First is pleased to announce that Licha M. Nyiendo today joins the organization as its inaugural Chief Legal Officer.

Her hiring is part of the organization’s strategy to equip and activate skilled leaders to address and abolish oppression in the United States and worldwide. For more than forty years, Human Rights First has led human rights actions that hold oppressors accountable and free people from injustice.

“Licha Nyiendo’s vast experience in government service and civil rights litigation makes her the ideal choice to be Human Rights First’s first Chief Legal Officer,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Michael Breen. “Her trial and appellate court skills will strengthen our work in refugee protection and human rights accountability and enhance our ability to use innovative legal action to address new and pressing challenges to human rights and democracy. We expect her to continue our long tradition of leadership in the legal community and bring impactful cases that advance human rights in American communities and around the world.”

Ms. Nyiendo most recently served as the Commissioner for the New York State Division of Human Rights.

“I am honored to join Human Rights First, an organization with deep roots in the law that works at the leading edge of human rights advocacy, refugee protection, holding abusers accountable, leveraging technology, and addressing extremism around the world,” said Ms. Nyiendo.

As the Commissioner at the Division of Human Rights, Ms. Nyiendo was the chief executive of the state agency responsible for enforcing New York’s Human Rights Law. She oversaw all agency operations in twelve offices across the state, including investigation and prosecution of discrimination complaints, settlements, public hearings, development of proposed legislation, public awareness campaigns and community outreach events.

Previously, Ms. Nyiendo served as the Deputy Special Counsel for Public Integrity in the Office of the Governor of the State of New York. While in the Governor’s Office, she managed litigation matters and provided legal advice on privileges and ethics. She also advanced racial justice initiatives, including reviewing and recommending pardon and commutation applications by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals.

She served for eight years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, where she held the positions of Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Unit and then Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Unit. She was trial counsel on several federal criminal trials, including sex trafficking, forced labor, civil rights abuses committed by law enforcement officers, drug-related homicide and international narcotics conspiracies. She has briefed and argued numerous cases before the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals. She also conducted a week-long human trafficking training in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, for local law enforcement and advocacy groups.

Ms. Nyiendo previously worked at Apple Inc. as a Security Counsel, managing internal investigations and liaising with law enforcement. Ms. Nyiendo began her career as a litigation associate at Sidley Austin LLP.

Early in her career, Ms. Nyiendo clerked for the Honorable Theodore A. McKee, United States Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She also clerked for the Honorable George B. Daniels, United States District Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Her volunteerism in Africa has included volunteering in Rabat, Morocco, with a local non-profit that aids survivors of intimate partner abuse. She also serves as a Board Member of Pathfinders Justice Initiative, an international non-profit dedicated to ending human trafficking of Nigerian women and girls.

Ms. Nyiendo graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and received her J.D. from Duke University School of Law.


Published on March 8, 2022


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