Connie Rice, co-director of The Advancement Project, is known for success in tackling problems of inequity and exclusion. She is a civil rights lawyer who engineers systemic fixes to entrenched inequality and injustice and has received more than 50 major awards for her work in expanding opportunity and advancing multi-racial democracy.
Rice graduated from Harvard College in 1978. She won the Root Tilden Public Interest Scholarship to New York University School of Law, where she earned her law degree in 1984. After law school, she served as law clerk to the Honorable Damon J. Keith, judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the sixth Circuit, and worked at Morrison & Foerster as a litigation associate. In 1991, she joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and became co-director of LDF’s Los Angeles Office in 1996. The credential she prizes most however, is her first-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
As a litigator, Rice has filed class action civil rights cases redressing police misconduct, race and sex discrimination and unfair public policy in transportation, probation and public housing. She filed a landmark case on behalf of low-income bus riders that resulted in a mandate that more than a billion dollars be spent to improve the bus system. In 1999, Rice launched a coalition lawsuit that won $750 million for new school construction in Los Angeles — money previously slated for less crowded, more affluent suburban school districts. In these and other cases, Rice has led multi-racial coalitions of lawyers and clients to win more than $4 billion worth of injunctive relief and damages.
In her non-litigation work in the 1990’s, Rice served as counsel to the Watts gang truce and spearheaded a statewide campaign to save equal opportunity programs. Mayors Tom Bradley and Richard Riordan appointed Rice to the governing board of Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power where she served as president and enacted contracting reforms and environmental advances. In 1998, Rice helped lead a successful campaign to place aggressive public school reformers on the governing board for Los Angeles’ public schools.
In 1998, The Los Angeles Times designated her one of 24 leaders considered the “most experienced, civic-minded and thoughtful people on the subject of Los Angeles.” In October 2000, California LawBusiness Journal twice named her, along with Governor Gray Davis and Warren Christopher, as one of California’s top 10 most influential attorneys in California.
Frequently interviewed by both the local and national media, Rice has appeared on 60 Minutes, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, The Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC’s This Week and dozens of cable, network, web and radio programs. Reporters for major publications regularly consult and quote her. Recent books that note her work are The Big Test by Nicholas Lemann, Color-Blind by Ellis Cose, Race Rules by Michael Eric Dyson and The Color Bind by Lydia Chavez.
Rice is a co-founder of the Advancement Project, a public policy and legal action group that supports organizations working to end community problems and address racial, class and other barriers to opportunity. Hallmarks of her work include solving problems, reducing conflict, turning opponents into allies and winning.