Deborah Archer recalls that when she was eight years old, someone spray-painted “KKK” on the garage of her family’s Windsor, Connecticut home. Archer, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, says it was one of the first moments that she realized the existence of racial injustice.
“My scholarship is very much shaped by who I am,” Archer says. “A first-generation American citizen, a first-generation college graduate, a woman of color, and a mother—particularly a mother. It may sound a bit corny, but so much of my teaching and my advocacy and my scholarship is focused on trying to make sure my children and other people’s children can grow up to live full lives and enjoy the joys those lives have to offer.”
As a litigator and scholar in racial discrimination and civil rights cases, Archer has built her career advocating for the rights of this generation and the next. This fall, Archer joins NYU Law as an associate professor of clinical law, teaching the yearlong Civil Rights Clinic.
After earning her JD from Yale Law School, Archer clerked for Judge Alvin Thompson in the US District Court for the District of Connecticut. As the Marvin H. Karpatkin Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, she worked on state and federal racial justice litigation; as assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, she litigated cases involving voting rights, employment discrimination, and educational equity. “To work at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund had always been a career dream of mine,” Archer says. She joined New York Law School (NYLS) in 2003 and became a professor of law in 2007.
At NYLS, Archer co-directed the Impact Center for Public Interest Law and directed the Racial Justice Project, which focuses on protecting constitutional and civil rights. She engaged NYLS students in right-to-vote cases for victims of Hurricane Katrina during the 2008 presidential election and in drafting an amicus brief for the 2014 appeal in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case in which the US Supreme Court ultimately upheld admissions policies that sought to promote diversity at the school.
“Archer has done remarkable work in a large number of areas,” says Vice Dean Randy Hertz, professor of clinical law and director of clinical and advocacy programs at NYU Law. “Through her teaching of clinics on civil rights, food equity, special education, education reform, and poverty law, and in her volunteer work outside the academy, she is widely regarded in the national clinical legal education community as one of the best clinical teachers in the field.”
Last fall, Archer brought her civil rights clinic to NYU Law as a visiting professor. The selective, eight-person clinic combines seminar-style instruction with direct representation opportunities, including litigating racial justice cases in partnership with organizations such as the New York Civil Liberties Union and drafting amicus briefs. The course will be expanded into a yearlong clinic in the fall. “The Civil Rights Clinic was a pivotal experience in my career,” says Victoria Wenger ’19.
To unwind, Archer heads to the kitchen. “I am a fabulous cook,” she says. “I like to cook any- and everything, but my baking is off the charts.” Her husband, former New York City deputy mayor Richard Buery, and their two sons, ages 12 and 14, enjoy the benefits of her culinary expertise. Another passion is photography. “I’m excited to take my lens down to the Village in the fall,” she says.
Archer was drawn to NYU Law, she says, by an admiration for the advocacy and scholarship of professors of clinical law such as Claudia Angelos, Kim Taylor-Thompson, and Anthony Thompson, faculty director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law. “I was impressed,” she says, “by the way that faculty collaborate with each other and the way that faculty collaborate with students. Certainly, as a clinical professor, there isn’t a more dynamic place to be.”
Posted September 4, 2018