As Human Rights First’s inaugural Chief Legal Officer, Licha Nyiendo is responsible for overseeing the full spectrum of legal matters for the organization, including risk and compliance programs, advancement of high impact litigation that addresses social justice issues, and legal representation of refugees and asylum seekers.
Ms. Nyiendo previously served as the Commissioner for the New York State Division of Human Rights, the chief executive of the state agency responsible for enforcing New York’s Human Rights Law. She oversaw all agency operations in twelve offices across the state, including investigation and prosecution of discrimination complaints, settlements, public hearings, development of proposed legislation, public awareness campaigns and community outreach events.
Earlier in her career, Ms. Nyiendo served as the Deputy Special Counsel for Public Integrity in the Office of the Governor of the State of New York. She managed litigation matters and advanced racial justice initiatives, including review and recommendation of pardon and commutation applications by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals.
She served for eight years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, serving as Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Unit and then Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Unit. She was trial counsel on several federal criminal trials, including sex trafficking, forced labor, civil rights abuses committed by law enforcement officers, drug-related homicide and international narcotics conspiracies. She also conducted a weeks-long human trafficking training in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania for local law enforcement and advocacy groups. Ms. Nyiendo began her career as a litigation associate at Sidley Austin LLP.
Early in her career, Ms. Nyiendo clerked for the Honorable Theodore A. McKee, United States Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She also clerked for the Honorable George B. Daniels, United States District Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Ms. Nyiendo earned her B.A. from Harvard University and received her J.D. from Duke University School of Law.