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Constance Rice Biography

Members of Congress from both parties are now calling for an independent investigation into possible abuses at Guantanamo. But even with the painful lessons learned from Abu Ghraib, the White House says "no." Civil rights crusader and regular NOW contributor Constance Rice says that there are parallels between the treatment of prisoners in American prisons, those in Abu Ghraib, and the prison camp at Guantanamo that are instructive. "Am I saying that our prisons are as bad as Abu Ghraib? No,” she says. "But do we have conditions that are illegal, unconstitutional and cruel and unusual? Yes."

Constance Rice

Constance Rice, co-director of The Advancement Project, is known for her success in tackling problems of inequity and exclusion. She 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.

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 2 billion dollars be spent to improve the bus system. And 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 1990s, 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." And in October 2000, CALIFORNIA LAWBUSINESS named her, along with Governor Gray Davis and Warren Christopher, as one of California’s top 10 most influential lawyers. In May 2003, Rice received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Occidental College.

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.

More from Constance Rice:

View Constance Rice's June, 2005 appearance on NOW.

View Constance Rice's February, 2005 appearance on NOW.

View Constance Rice's 2004 appearance on NOW.

Articles referred to in the February 2005 discussion:

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