Loretta Lynch, who served recently as U.S. attorney general under President Barack Obama, has been selected by the University of Virginia to receive this year’s Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law.
Sponsored jointly by UVA and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals are awarded each year to recognize the achievements of those who embrace endeavors in which Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. president, excelled and held in high regard. The law medal, and its counterparts in architecture, civil leadership and global innovation, are UVA’s highest external honors.
To mark the occasion, Lynch will give a talk at the Law School during the Founder’s Day festivities April 12-13. Details will be announced at a future date.
“Attorney General Lynch has dedicated her extraordinary career to enforcing justice and promoting the rule of law,” said Dean Risa Goluboff. “She believes that government officials need to earn the trust of the people they represent, and she has herself been a model of such service, integrity and courage.”
Lynch was sworn in as the 83rd U.S. attorney general on April 27, 2015, and was the first African-American woman to hold the position. She previously served in the Obama administration for the five years prior as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She also led the office, located in Brooklyn, from 1991 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton. She first joined the office in 1990.
During her career, Lynch has successfully prosecuted cases involving narcotics, guns, organized crime and public corruption.
One of those victories was in the high-profile civil rights case of Abner Louima. Lynch served on the prosecution team in the high-profile civil rights case of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was sexually assaulted by uniformed police officers in a Brooklyn police precinct in 1997.
Lynch served in private practice between administrations, joining Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) in 2002 as a partner in the firm’s New York office. Her pro bono work while at the firm included service as special counsel to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, where she investigated allegations of witness tampering and false testimony.
Lynch first became interested in the justice system when her father, who was a pastor, would take her to watch court proceedings in their hometown of Durham, North Carolina. She credits her mother, an English teacher and librarian, with instilling in her a love for public service.
Lynch holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an A.B., cum laude, from Harvard College.