On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCRSF), I am making the bittersweet announcement of Monika Kalra Varma’s transition from her role as LCCRSF’s Executive Director. Monika will be moving back to Washington, DC and transitioning out of her role at the end of June.
Under Monika’s incredible skill and leadership, LCCRSF has grown tremendously since her arrival in 2017, more than doubling its staff and significantly increasing its budget and programmatic work. She has contributed to LCCRSF’s legacy as one of the oldest civil rights institutions on the West Coast, building up a team of talented leaders that have not only brought their expertise, but a deep passion and commitment to our mission. We have witnessed Monika create a culture at the organization that has fostered healing, care, and sustainability while working on issues that are often filled with trauma and violence. She has developed an organization that our community can thrive in – not only in the staff-client relationship, but as equal partners working in solidarity for a more equitable society.
We are exceedingly proud of the work that Monika has done to lay the strongest foundation for those who will carry on this work long after each of us is gone and for her deep commitment to centering our clients and community partners. Over the past three and a half years, LCCRSF has won incredible victories for racial, economic, and immigrant justice even under the repression of the Trump administration. It was during this tenuous time that we doubled down on our efforts to reimagine and build a new, equitable world and set civil rights precedents for the nation. Under Monika’s leadership, LCCRSF:
- Set a constitutional baseline for humane treatment in detention facilities across the country in the historic class action Doe v. Wolf lawsuit filed against Tucson Border Patrol
- Won a $2 million settlement against Caltrans for unhoused Californians whose civil rights were violated through the destruction and removal of their personal property
- Passed the first bill to legalize public banking in the state, AB 857
- Won some of the strongest COVID protections for detained immigrants and refugees in the country while also releasing more than half of detainees in two detention centers during the pandemic
- Repealed the City of Oakland’s loitering law, decriminalizing standing in public for Oakland Public Housing residents
The Board is deeply grateful for Monika’s contributions to LCCRSF, including her stewardship through a global pandemic, racial uprisings and continuing threats and challenges to the communities we serve. To ensure that we remain focused on our core objectives, the Board plans to form a Transition Committee and to initiate an external search for the next Executive Director towards the end of 2021. In the meantime, we are thrilled to share that Elica Vafaie, our talented Director of Pro Bono and Strategic Partnerships, will serve as LCCRSF’s Interim Executive Director starting on July 1, 2021. Our brilliant Legal Director, Elisa Della-Piana, will serve as LCCRSF’s Deputy and Legal Director. Many of us have taken a further commitment to provide support to staff beyond our roles at Board Members to further ease into the transition period. The entire LCCRSF team remains committed to our mission and the communities we serve. We are confident in LCCRSF and every staff member to continue to deepen and expand its work, through and beyond this moment of transition. As your community partners, the LCCRSF Board of Directors and staff will continue to sustain communication regarding our transition process.
Patrick S. Thompson
Chair of the Board of Directors
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area