Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rights Nominee Brings `a Sense of Owing a Lot'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rights Nominee Brings `a Sense of Owing a Lot'

Article excerpt

DEVAL PATRICK grew up in a poor neighborhood in Chicago and climbed to the upper echelons of education and law. But he never forgot his boyhood experience.

From his years at Harvard Law School to his current job with a prestigious Boston law firm, Patrick has built a reputation as an advocate for the needy and disenfranchised.

President Bill Clinton nominated Patrick on Tuesday to serve as assistant attorney general for civil rights.

To many people who know Patrick and have worked with him, he is a logical choice. "You look at his whole life and you see somebody who's tremendously committed to public service," said James Vorenberg, who taught Patrick at Harvard Law School and remains a friend.

"He just cares very much. He has some sense that by a combination of luck and character, he has been able to make it. He has a sense of owing a lot."

Patrick, 37, would fill a job that has remained vacant for more than a year. Clinton withdrew his original nominee, Lani Guinier, after conservatives criticized her writings on the Voting Rights Act.

Guinier and Patrick worked together at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, teaming up to win a voting rights case in Alabama in 1985. Patrick joined the civil rights organization in 1983 after graduating from law school and spending three years working on capital punishment and voting rights cases in the South.

In a bit of irony, Patrick helped sue Clinton when the president was governor of Arkansas to lower barriers for blacks to register to vote there. Patrick told a newspaper interviewer last year that the dispute was "nothing personal."

"He's got a deep commitment to principle, but he can also work with people and see a problem from all sides," said Kerry Scanlon, assistant counsel for the legal defense fund.

In 1986, Patrick joined the Boston law firm of Hill & Barlow, where he has done corporate litigation as well as civil rights work. …

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