Derwyn Bunton is the Southern Poverty Law Center’s chief legal officer. He is responsible for the strategic direction of the SPLC’s litigation to ensure that every case its attorneys pursue advances the organization’s four key impact goals: fighting to protect our democracy, dismantling white supremacy, eradicating poverty and ending mass incarceration.
Previously, Bunton led the Orleans Public Defenders office in Louisiana, where he drew attention from state and national media for his dogged defense of indigent defendant rights. Bunton took a department that was criticized as inadequate and unconstitutional and led an effort that transformed it into one of the most respected public defender offices in the nation. The office won major awards for outstanding achievement in providing legal defense for indigent people from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, the National Association for Public Defense and the Southern Center for Human Rights.
Earlier, Bunton worked for the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL), which challenged the unconstitutional conditions within the state’s juvenile prisons. Amid this effort, the population of these juvenile facilities declined from 2,000 children to fewer than 400.
After leaving JJPL, Bunton served as executive director for what is now the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. He represented children in New Orleans charged with crimes. During his tenure, Bunton worked to protect innocence, fighting for clients and community while also holding power accountable.
Bunton received his bachelor’s degree in political science from San Diego State University and his law degree from New York University School of Law.