After nearly eight years leading the North Carolina Justice Center in its mission to improve the lives of poor families and communities across North Carolina, Melinda Lawrence will retire as Executive Director at the end of 2014.

Melinda has spent 40 years as an advocate for civil rights and social justice in North Carolina and beyond. Since February 2007, Melinda has led the Justice Center as a passionate, effective advocate for a more just, compassionate, and prosperous state. Under Melinda’s leadership, the Justice Center has grown substantially. It has deepened its expertise and capacity for work in core policy areas, and expanded its ability to employ key strategies, particularly strengthening its communications, research and analysis, and public engagement.

Prior to joining the Justice Center, Melinda served as a partner with the firm of Patterson, Harkavy and Lawrence LLP for over 25 years. Her practice concentrated in civil rights, consumer, and employment rights litigation. She represented countless individuals challenging discriminatory treatment in their workplaces, schools, and communities. Melinda litigated the Willie M v. Hunt case, which established new rights and services for mentally handicapped children, and Small v. Martin, resulting in a major reform of prison conditions in North Carolina. She has also worked as a city planner for the city of New York, a school counselor in rural North Carolina, and a lobbyist promoting consumer protections.

The Justice Center’s reputation as an inimitable leader in social justice here in North Carolina and across the nation has grown tremendously during Melinda’s tenure as Executive Director. Melinda leaves the Justice Center in a stronger position to advocate for North Carolina’s families.