February 15, 2022, Washington, DC – Sanford Heisler Sharp today announced the Tom Henderson Civil Rights Fellowship. The annual one-year position will be available to a junior attorney who has demonstrated academic excellence and a passion for and commitment to civil rights throughout law school. It will honor a well-known national “civil rights warrior” and beloved member of the firm who died in October 2021.
“Tom Henderson led the life most of us dream of when we decide to go to law school,” said Sanford Heisler Sharp Chairman and Co-Founder David Sanford. “He knew what he was committed to and never once wavered in a career on the front lines of the fights for voting rights, consumer rights, school and housing desegregation, and the fights against environmental degradation and discrimination in housing and employment. And – although he loved using the law to fight for his clients’ rights – what he enjoyed most of all was mentoring young lawyers and staff. This Fellowship is one way our firm is committed to continuing his legacy.”
The attorney selected for the Tom Henderson Civil Rights Fellowship each year will be assigned work consistent with that of other junior attorneys at the firm, will be evaluated the same as attorneys holding Litigation Fellowships and the Deborah Rhode Fellowship, and may become an Associate at Sanford Heisler Sharp based on their performance and the firm’s needs at the conclusion of the Fellowship period.
Henderson, who was 69 when he passed away, joined Sanford Heisler Sharp in 2008, three decades after receiving his law degree at the University of Pittsburgh and serving as an attorney at Pittsburgh’s Neighborhood Legal Services Association from 1977 to 1983.
Following that, he was Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law from 1990 to 2004. In that role, he was instrumental in mobilizing U.S. law firms to assist Black churches burned to the ground throughout the South; organizing the first National Conference on African American Women in the Law; urging President Clinton to support affirmative action in federal procurement; and galvanizing attorneys’ support for the Voters Registration Act of 1993, hate crimes legislation, and improvements to the Helping America Vote Act of 292.
Under Henderson’s leadership, the Lawyer’s Committee also secured approval for a consent decree that provided millions in funding to desegregate housing in Dade County, FL; $26 million in CDBG funds to desegregate and revitalize housing in Pennsylvania; and three successes in cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996 and 1997.
After leaving the Lawyers Committee, Henderson joined the civil rights firm of Sprenger and Lang and became a member of the Board of the Employee Rights Advocacy Institute for Law and Public Policy. He was a member of the Institute Board when he joined Sanford Heisler Sharp.
Henderson played an instrumental role at the firm, leading many of its most high-profile race discrimination class action matters, including an ongoing case against the U.S. Marshal Service. Certified in 1994, it is one of the longest – if not the longest – class period in the nation’s history involving claims of discrimination. Henderson worked on this matter from the time he started at the firm until the day he died.
“Tom led our team of more than 30 professionals working on this class action for 13 years and was looking forward to trying it,” said Sanford. ”Although he will not be there, his efforts put us in a great position to win this case and bring justice to more than 10,000 African American U.S. Marshals. Tom’s work will live on in our work on behalf of the marshals and beyond as the Tom Henderson Civil Rights Fellows continue to follow in his footsteps.”
For more information about the inaugural Tom Henderson Civil Rights Fellowship at Sanford Heisler Sharp, please visit: https://www.sanfordheisler.com/join-us/the-tom-henderson-civil-rights-fellowship/.
About Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP
Sanford Heisler Sharp is a national public interest class-action litigation law firm with offices in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, San Diego, Nashville, and Baltimore. Sanford Heisler Sharp focuses on employment discrimination, Title IX, wage and hour, whistleblower, criminal/sexual violence, and financial services matters. The firm has recovered over $1 billion for its clients through many verdicts and settlements. The National Law Journal recognized Sanford Heisler Sharp as 2021 Employment Rights Firm of the Year and 2021 Human Rights Firm of the Year. Benchmark Litigation recognized the Firm as 2020 and 2021 Labor & Employment Firm of the Year.
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