Lisa Holder Named New President of the Equal Justice Society

Lisa Holder, Equal Justice Society

The Equal Justice Society board of directors has appointed Lisa Holder as the organization’s new President, succeeding Eva Paterson who co-founded EJS in 2000 and served as its President for 22 years. Eva retires on August 31.

Lisa starts as President on September 1. Since 2016, she has been part of EJS’s legal team as Of Counsel and served as Interim Legal Director from November 2018 through April 2019. In these various roles, she has been an invaluable part of our litigation and advocacy to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and to bring race equity in the workplace and workforce.

Outgoing EJS President Eva Paterson: “Lisa Holder is one of the best attorneys I have ever worked with during my 47 years of practicing law. From the first encounter with her, all of us at EJS knew we were working with a legal and political rock star. She worked with us on many cases including the disproportionate impact case we did in Bakersfield in the defense of Latinx and Black students who were being disciplined in biased ways. She also brought important cases to EJS involving the misuse of SAT cases by the University of California and discrimination against people of color who ride public transportation. She has also worked closely with us on race-conscious contracting. Governor Newsom appointed her to the Reparations Task Force. I cannot say strongly enough how thrilled I am that she will be leading EJS. I can truly relax. EJS will be in good hands.”

Incoming EJS President Lisa Holder: “EJS is respected across the nation for its visionary leadership on counter-bias training and policy, education equity, and in expanding the boundaries of equal protection jurisprudence. The team that I have partnered with over the last five years at this small but mighty organization inspires me because of the compassion, depth, excellence, and resolve that every team member brings each day to this challenging work. I thank the board and staff for offering me an extraordinary opportunity to employ skills that I have developed as an organizer, scholar, and litigator to carry forward and expand on Eva Paterson’s brilliant civil rights legacy. I look forward to hitting the ground running when I am handed the baton. There is much work to be done!”

EJS Board Chair Michael Harris: “I am extremely excited that EJS will be welcoming Lisa Holder as its new President. Lisa is the perfect person to carry on and extend the legacy of EJS’s founding President Eva Paterson. We are so lucky to have someone with so much talent and expertise joining our team. We look forward to tremendous success under Lisa’s leadership.”

In May 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Lisa to serve on the first-of-its-kind Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, formed by the Governor’s signing of AB 3121, authored by then-Assemblymember Shirley Weber. The bill established the nine-member task force to educate the public about slavery and its history and pernicious aftereffects in California and make recommendations on how the state could provide reparations. This Summer, the Task Force released a stunning 500-page interim report that surveys the history of anti-black discrimination in America and serves as the scholarly underpinning for the reparations legislation.

Lisa has been a nationally recognized, award-winning trial attorney since 2000, and has developed expertise in cases involving employment discrimination, police misconduct, and international human rights violations. She was named by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star from 2005-2008.

Lisa is also a recognized racial justice scholar and equity consultant. She is a UCLA Law Lecturer and previously taught their Civil Rights Clinic. As an adjunct professor at Occidental College, she created the curriculum for a class on the prison industrial complex. Lisa also serves as a legislative consultant on institutional bias elimination.

In 2019, Lisa was a primary advocate and consultant in the drafting of AB 241 and 242 (Kamlager), the laws that now require all judges, attorneys, court staff and health professionals to undertake continuing education on reducing implicit bias. In 2020, she served as a steering committee member for the Proposition 16 campaign to repeal California’s ban on affirmative action.

Lisa is a recognized Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) scholar and has designed and implemented diversity solutions and implicit bias trainings for non-profits, government entities, private equity, Hollywood film and television companies, and public defender offices across the country. This year she spearheaded the EJS team in producing an MCLE counter-bias training video for California attorneys.

Previously, Lisa worked as a Los Angeles Deputy Alternate Public Defender and as a law clerk for the Equal Justice Initiative. She served on the ACLU of Southern California Board of Directors for four years and is currently Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Child Care Law Center.

After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree at Wesleyan University, Holder graduated from New York University School of Law as a distinguished Root-Tilden Scholar.

Learn more about Lisa at

Celebrating Eva Paterson

Lisa succeeds Eva Paterson, EJS Co-founder and President, who is retiring on August 31 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.

EJS established the Eva Paterson Legacy Fund to honor Eva’s lifetime of leadership, advocacy, and service. Thanks to the generous support of Henry L. Hecht, EJS was able to kick off The Eva Paterson Legacy Fund campaign with great momentum. Henry provided a challenge gift of $100,000 to be matched dollar for dollar.

Learn more about and donate to the Eva Paterson Legacy Fund at

“Audacity, courage, and perseverance is how I would describe Eva’s career, said EJS Board Chair Michael Harris. “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 22 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 an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Northwestern University, 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 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. In the past several years, Eva and the coalition worked on restoring affirmative action and explored 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!”

Join Us on December 10 for EJS’s 22nd Anniversary Gala and Rewirement Dance Party for Eva Paterson

The Equal Justice Society 22nd Anniversary Gala & Rewirement Dance Party for Eva Paterson is scheduled for Saturday, December 10, 2022, from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at The UC Theatre, 2036 University Ave, Berkeley, Calif. We’re honored to have Ms. Renel Brooks-Moon as our Honorary Event Chair and emcee. The evening will feature music by The Coolerators: Elizabeth Cabraser, David Chiu, Paula Collins, Bill Hing, Bob Hirsch, Eva Paterson, Brad Seligman, Cheryl Stevens, and Bill Tamayo.

Buy your tickets or sponsorship today at

%d bloggers like this: