The Equal Justice Society today announced that Eva Paterson, Co-founder and President, plans to retire on June 16, 2022, after more than four decades as a civil rights champion, community leader, and litigator, including 21 years leading EJS and 13 years as Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Audacity, courage, and perseverance is how I would describe Eva’s career, said Michael Harris, Chair of the EJS Board of Directors. “Eva and others founded EJS with a dream to overturn the Intent Standard using social science and more generally to put race back on the table at a time when the nation wanted to be colorblind. Through these past 20 years, EJS has become so much more thanks to Eva’s leadership. Our strategic accomplishments were possible through Eva’s determination through the years to build a resilient and financially healthy organization, one that is stronger today than ever before.”
During Eva’s tenure at EJS, the organization has been at the forefront of battling white supremacy, raising awareness of implicit bias in individuals and institutions, dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, and restoring affirmative action. She has appeared before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and presented at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judicial Conference attended by Justice Kennedy who later authored a Supreme Court opinion recognizing unconscious bias and upholding disparate impact as a liability standard in cases of housing discrimination brought pursuant to Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act.
Eva has received countless awards, including the ABA John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award, Fay Stender Award from the California Women Lawyers, Woman of the Year from the Black Leadership Forum, the Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award from the ACLU of Northern California, and the Alumni Award of Merit from Northwestern University.
At the Lawyers’ Committee, she was part of a broad coalition that filed the groundbreaking anti-discrimination suit against race and gender discrimination by the San Francisco Fire Department. That lawsuit successfully desegregated the department, winning new opportunities for women and people of color.
Eva co-founded and chaired the California Civil Rights Coalition for two decades. She was a leading spokesperson in the campaigns against Proposition 187 and Proposition 209 and numerous other statewide campaigns against the death penalty, juvenile incarceration, and discrimination against lesbians and gay men. Eva recently became the co-chair of CCRC again and the coalition is working on restoring affirmative action and exploring how to support the next generation of leaders and activists.
“I feel so grateful to have been in the thick of the progressive movement for so many years and to have been in a position to read the day’s headlines and often be in a position to work with my colleagues to do something,” said Eva. “I’m proud to have labored side by side with so many incredible colleagues at EJS and at the Lawyers’ Committee to move the nation closer to its unfulfilled promise. I am really excited to begin the next phase of my life—to be ‘repotted’ as my friend Dennis Aftergut put it. I plan to spend my time singing, writing, learning to play the bass like my idol James Jamerson of Motown’s Funk Brothers, traveling, getting together with friends in a relaxed way, taking cooking lessons, getting fit, and making movies!”
The Equal Justice Society Board is leading the transition with a national search to be launched in September 2021.