Who Are the Commissioners?
Bios of the Commissioners of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

          The United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) is composed of eight Commissioners: four are appointed by the President and four are appointed by Congress.  Not more than four members shall at any one time be of the same political party.  As of Nov. 10, 2005 the following eight commissioners are serving:
Chairman:
Chairman Gerald Reynolds
Gerald Reynolds
Vice-Chair:
Vice Chair Abigail Thernstrom
Abigail Thernstrom
Commissioner:
Commissioner Jennifer Braceras
Jennifer Braceras
Commissioner:
Commissioner Peter Kirsanow
Peter Kirsanow
Vice-Chair:
Vice Chair Abigail Thernstrom
Abigail Thernstrom
Commissioner:
Commissioner Ashley Taylor, Jr.
Ashley Taylor
Commissioner:
Commissioner Michael Yaki
Michael Yaki
Commissioner:
Commissioner Arlan Melendez
Arlan Melendez

Gerald A. Reynolds, Chairman

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USCCR Chairman Gerald Reynolds
GERALD A. REYNOLDS
Chairman
Political Affiliation:  Republican
          President George W. Bush designated Gerald A. Reynolds to serve as Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on December 6, 2004. Mr. Reynolds serves as Assistant General Counsel at Great Plains Energy, Inc., an integrated electric utility. As Assistant General Counsel, Mr. Reynolds provides strategic advice to GPE executives and manages the day-to-day operations of the company's law department.

          Prior to joining GPE, Mr. Reynolds served as a Deputy Associate Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice. He provided legal and strategic advice to the Associate Attorney General on matters ranging from terrorism-related litigation to spent fuel litigation. Mr. Reynolds also provided oversight for several litigation components within the Department's Civil Division, including consumer protection and immigration.

          In March of 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Mr. Reynolds to serve as Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office for Civil Rights. With 714 employees, including 200 attorneys, and 12 regional offices, Mr. Reynolds managed one of the largest civil rights law enforcement agencies in the federal government. He advised the Secretary of Education on all legal and policy matters relating to civil rights laws. While at OCR, Mr. Reynolds oversaw the revision of civil rights regulations and directed settlement negotiations of all complaints having policy implications.

          Mr. Reynolds has served as President for the Center for New Black Leadership and worked as a legal analyst for the Center for Equal Opportunity. Mr. Reynolds has also practiced law with the firm of Schatz & Schatz, Ribicoff & Kotkin.

          Mr. Reynolds has written articles on several public policy issues. These articles have appeared in Black Family Today, The Dallas Morning News, The CQ Researcher, Orange Register and The Washington Times. In addition, he has edited a book on the criminal justice system entitled Race and the Criminal Justice System: How Race Affects Jury Trials.

          Mr. Reynolds received his law degree from Boston University School of Law, where he served on the editorial board of the American Journal of Law and Medicine. He received his B.A. in History from the City University of New York, at York College.


Abigail Thernstrom, Vice Chairman

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Vice-Chair Abigail Thernstrom
ABIGAIL THERNSTROM
Vice-Chair
Political Affiliation:
Republican
          Abigail Thernstrom is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York, a member of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, and a commissioner on the United States Commission on Civil Rights.   She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Government, Harvard University, in 1975.

          Thernstrom and her husband, Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom, are the co-authors of America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible (Simon & Schuster), which the New York Times Book Review, in its annual end-of-the-year issue, named as one of the notable books of 1997. They are currently working on a new book: Getting the Answers Right: The Racial Gap in Academic Achievement and How to Close It.

          The Thernstroms are also the editors of a forthcoming volume, Beyond the Color Line: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity, and their lengthy review of William G. Bowen and Derek Bok's much-noticed book, The Shape of the River, appeared in the June 1999 issue of the UCLA Law Review

          Abigail Thernstrom's 1987 work, Whose Votes Count? Affirmative Action and Minority Voting Rights (Harvard University Press) won four awards, including the American Bar Association's Certificate of Merit, and the Anisfield-Wolf prize for the best book on race and ethnicity. It was named the best policy studies book of that year by the Policy Studies Organization (an affiliate of the American Political Science Association), and won the Benchmark Book Award from the Center for Judicial Studies.

          Her frequent media appearances have included Fox News Sunday, Good Morning America, the Jim Lehrer News Hour, Both Sides with Jesse Jackson, and Black Entertainment Television. For some years, she was a stringer for The Economist, and continues to write frequently for a variety of journals and newspapers, including , Commentary, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Public Interest.

          She serves on several boards: the Center for Equal Opportunity, and the Institute for Justice, among others. From 1992 to 1997 she was a member of the Aspen Institute's Domestic Strategy Group.

          President Clinton chose her as one of three authors to participate in his first "town meeting" on race in Akron, Ohio, on December 3, 1997, and she was part of a small group that met with the President again in the Oval Office on December 19th.


Jennifer Braceras, Commissioner

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Commissioner Jennifer Braceras
JENNIFER C. BRACERAS
Political Affiliation:
Republican
          Jennifer C. Braceras is a lawyer and free-lance writer. In December, 2001, President Bush appointed her to a six-year term on the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights.

          Ms. Braceras’s articles on politics, culture, and law have appeared in the Boston Globe (where she was a regular contributor during the 2000 presidential election), as well as in the Boston Herald, Legal Times of Washington, National Review Online, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, and The Women’s Quarterly.

She has appeared as an expert on politics and legal issues on a variety of broadcasts, including CNN Morning News, ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, Fox Special Report with Tony Snow, and New England Cable News (NECN).

          Ms. Braceras, who has taught courses in federal anti-discrimination law at Suffolk Law School, is also a former Senior Fellow for Legal Policy with the Independent Women’s Forum.

          From 2000 until 2002, Ms. Braceras was a research fellow at Harvard Law School, serving first as the Charles Hamilton Houston Fellow and then as a John M. Olin Fellow in Law. During her time at Harvard, Ms. Braceras’s research focused on Equal Protection Clause jurisprudence and civil rights challenges to standardized tests. In 2000, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly recognized Ms. Braceras as one of the state’s top ten Lawyers of the Year.

          From 1996-2000, Ms. Braceras practiced law at the Boston firm of Ropes & Gray, where she counseled a variety of institutions on employment-related matters. Prior to joining Ropes & Gray, Ms. Braceras served as a law clerk to the Honorable Ralph K. Winter of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ('95-'96), and to the Honorable William G. Young of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts ('94-'95).

          Ms. Braceras is a member of the Committee for Justice, the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) and the Civil Rights Practice Group of the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies.

          Ms. Braceras lives in Concord, Massachusetts.


Peter Kirsanow, Commissioner

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Commissioner Peter N. Kirsanow
PETER N. KIRSANOW
Political Affiliation:
Republican
          Peter N. Kirsanow is a partner with the law firm Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, and Aronoff LLP in the Labor and Employment Practice Group.

          He focuses his practice on representing management in employment-related litigation as well as in contract negotiations, NLRB proceedings, EEO matters, and arbitration.   He frequently testifies before and advises members of the U.S. Congress on various employment laws and issues.

 

          Mr. Kirsanow formerly served as senior labor counsel of Leaseway Transportation Corp. and labor counsel for the city of Cleveland. He has extensive experience in public sector employment matters as well as in industries such as heavy manufacturing, trucking, health care, radio and television, and employee leasing. Mr. Kirsanow is chair of the board of directors of the Center for New Black Leadership and is on the advisory board of the National Center for Public Policy Research. He received his B.A. in 1976 from Cornell University and his J.D. with honors in 1979 from Cleveland State University, where he served as articles editor of the Cleveland State Law Review.


Ashley Taylor, Commissioner

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Commissioner Ashley L. Taylor, Jr.

ASHLEY L. TAYLOR, JR.
Political Affiliation:
Republican

          Ashley Taylor was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by President George W. Bush on December 6, 2004.  Mr. Taylor is a partner at Troutman Sanders LLP and served as the Deputy Attorney General for Virginia from 1998-2001.

          Mr. Taylor focuses his practice in the areas of employment law, commercial litigation and matters involving governmental entities. He has represented public and private clients in a wide range of litigation and administrative matters at both the federal and state levels and before regulatory agencies.

          He is resident in the Richmond, Virginia office of Troutman Sanders LLP and is a member of the firm's Complex Commercial Litigation Practice Group and a secondary member of the Governmental Law Practice Groups. On October 1, 2004, he was elected as a member of Troutman Sanders' Executive Committee.

          He has appeared in federal courts and before the Virginia Supreme Court in cases concerning Medicaid lien disputes, healthcare licensing and/or regulation, and significant Constitutional issues. In addition, he played a primary role in negotiating favorable terms with The Department of Justice in connection with its civil rights investigation of the Commonwealth's mental health and mental retardation facilities. While much of his practice involves litigation, he also represents clients before regulatory agencies and provides advice on issues related to civil rights matters and federally regulated benefits.

          Prior to joining Troutman Sanders, he served as a Deputy Attorney General for Virginia responsible for the Health, Education and Social Services Division, which consist of over fifty lawyers. In this role, he provided counsel to twenty state agencies in the areas of Medicaid, Medicare, federal compliance, health and health professionals, social services and education. He also provided counsel to the Secretary of Health and Human Resources and Secretary of Education.

          He serves on the Executive Committee of the Virginia Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and serves as a member of the faculty of the Virginia State Bar Course on Professionalism. In 1999, the American Bar Association State and Local Government Section recognized him as the "Up and Comer" of the year at its Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia and was selected in 2000 to serve as a delegate to Australia by the American Council of Young Political Leaders.

          He received his J.D. from Washington & Lee School of Law in 1993 and a B.A. in Economics from the Virginia Military Institute in 1990. Following law school, he served as a Law Clerk to a United States District Court Judge.


Michael Yaki, Commissioner

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Commissioner Michael Yaki
MICHAEL YAKI
Political Affiliation:
Democrat
          Congress appointed San Francisco attorney Michael Yaki to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in February 2005.

          A partner in private practice since 2001, Mr. Yaki is a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and past District Director in Rep. Nancy Pelosi's office.

          While a supervisor, Mr. Yaki chaired the board's Committee on Economic Development, Transportation and Telecommunications.

          He chaired the first Citywide Summit on Children and Youth and served as chair, San Francisco Transportation Authority (1999-2001); Director, Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District (1998-2001); Director, California State Association of Counties (1996-2001); Director, Bay Area Air Quality Management District (1999-2001); Director, San Francisco Employee Retirement System (1996-2999).

          He was a lecturer in Political Science/Urban Studies at San Francisco State University (1996-2000) Mr. Yaki graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and Yale Law School. Following law school, he clerked for a California Court of Appeals judge.

          Among other awards, Mr. Yaki received the Community Service Award from the Organization of Chinese Americans, and Legislator of the Year from the FDR Club for Persons with Disabilities. Mr. Yaki is also a frequent contributor to newspapers such as the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.


Arlan D. Melendez, Commissioner

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No photo is available for Arlan Melendez
ARLAN D. MELENDEZ
Political Affiliation:
Democrat
          Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid appointed Arlan D. Melendez to the Commission in September 2005.  Mr. Melendez is Chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, a Federally recognized Tribal Government representing 840 Paiute, Washoe, and Shoshone tribal members.  As such, he oversees a Tribal Government employing approximately 300 people.

          Mr. Melendez was elected Chairman of the nine-member Tribal Council in 1991.  He is the second American Indian to serve on the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights.

          Mr. Melendez also is Vice President of the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, representing the twenty-seven tribes in the state of Nevada; he is a Board member of the National Indian Business Association.  In addition, Mr. Melendez serves as the Western regional vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, and Co-chair of its Taxation Sub-committee. He is a strong advocate for a strong tribal tax base, which has enabled the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony to build a viable tribal economy.

          An Armed Forces Veteran, Mr. Melendez served in the United States Marine Corp during the Vietnam era and is a Selective Service local board member.  He graduated from Truckee Meadows Community College and attended the University of Nevada.

          Mr. Melendez lives on the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony with his wife Joyce; they have four grown children.

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