President Joe Biden has selected a veteran civil rights lawyer who teaches at the University of Michigan to lead the civil rights office at the Agriculture Department, which is under pressure to address long-standing complaints about discrimination.

Margo Schlanger, announced Thursday as Biden's pick to be USDA's assistant secretary for civil rights, founded and directs the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, a national storehouse of information about large-scale civil rights cases. The nomination must be confirmed by the Senate. 

A Yale University Law School graduate who once clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Schlanger was the presidentially appointed civil rights officer for the Department of Homeland Security in 2010 and 2011, and she also has served as a trial attorney and senior trial attorney in the Justice Department's civil rights division. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has made addressing discrimination concerns and equity issues a major priority of his tenure. In a statement, Vilsack said Schlanger "will be an essential voice in our effort to ensure access, inclusion and fairness in all of our services and programs."

A stimulus bill passed in March funded an equity commission to study equity commission to identify “systemic racism” in USDA programs.

A White House bio says Schlanger “has written and testified about how federal agencies can better implement civil rights goals, and has served as a court-appointed monitor in a statewide federal case protecting the rights of prisoners with disabilities. She was the principal drafter of the American Bar Association’s influential Standards on the Treatment of Prisoners, and author of the leading casebook on prisoners’ rights.”

She first joined the University of Michigan law school faculty in 2009.

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