Stephen B Persing

Stephen B. Pershing


Washington, DC

Steve Pershing is an experienced litigator and law teacher with a lifelong passion for civil rights. From the late 1980s to the mid–’90s, he developed and litigated civil rights and liberties cases as legal director of the Virginia ACLU, and ever since then has served on its legal panel. From 1996 to 2005, he was a senior attorney in the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Justice Department, litigating for minority voting rights across the nation.


Steve then served for four years as senior counsel at the Center for Constitutional Litigation, P.C., in Washington, a boutique aligned with the plaintiffs’ trial bar which litigates civil justice issues nationwide under the U.S. and state constitutions. From 2009 to 2011 he was the first full-time director of the UCDC Law Program, the intensive Washington semester program for the law schools of the University of California, and in 2011 he founded a similar program of his own as a nonprofit consortium of law schools. He has taught voting rights law as an adjunct at George Washington since 1999, and has also taught law at William & Mary and American University. He has been of counsel to the plaintiff-side civil litigation firms Hall & Sethi and Charlson Bredehoft Cohen & Brown, both in Reston, and The Chavers Firm, LLC, in Washington, representing civil rights plaintiffs and other individuals and businesses in a wide variety of matters.


In an article for Law360, Steve explained that employment law is the busiest area of civil rights litigation and often involves the most vulnerable members of our community. “Workplace injustice isn’t going out of style,” he said. “And in a society like ours, where people’s identity is so wrapped up in their work, I feel the predicament of my employee clients especially keenly.” Read the full article here.


In a separate profile for Washington Lawyer Magazine, Steve explains the driving forces behind his passion for civil rights law. “The ultimate purpose of this work, for all of us who do it, is to help brave people stand up for everyone’s civil rights and to combat unlawful discrimination in all its forms,” he said. “The modern U.S. civil rights movement is now over half a century old, and it has become a beacon to the world even as the society that birthed it continues to struggle with its demons.”


Steve is a 1979 graduate of Harvard College and a 1987 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, where he successfully sued his alma mater on behalf of student protesters under the First Amendment. From 1987 to 1989 he was law clerk to U.S. District Judge Julian A. Cook, Jr., of the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, who presided over the $1 billion Northwest Flight 255 air crash litigation.


Steve grew up in Huntsville, Ala., and New York City. He is a devoted amateur classical violinist and a former public radio music producer, long-distance cyclist, and recreational sculler. In his nonexistent spare time, he is a freelance editor and voice-over artist. He lives on Capitol Hill with his spouse and son. You may see him zipping around town on his silver Vespa 250.

Bar and Court Admissions


  • Virginia (1990)
  • D.C. (2006)
  • Maryland (2014)
  • U.S. Supreme Court (1994)
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Cir. (1990), 1st Cir. (2007), D.C. Cir. (2020)
  • U.S. District Courts, Eastern & Western Districts of Virginia (1990), District of Columbia (2013), District of Maryland (2015)

Professional Associations and Memberships


  • Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association (MWELA)
    Member, board of directors, 2019–present. Vice president, 2021–present. Activities in service of employee representation in employment matters.
  • District of Columbia Bar
    Steering committee, Courts Section, 2007–13; co-chair, 2008–11; chair, access to justice committee, 2012–present. Events and advocacy for the underserved.
  • Washington Council of Lawyers
    Member, Issues Committee, Low Bono and Modest Means Working Group, 2014–present.
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia
    Member, board of directors, 1998–2000; legal panel, 1997–2000, 2005–present. President, Northern Virginia chapter, 1998–2013.
  • American Bar Association, (1990–present) Member, Individual Rights and Social Justice Section
  • National Employment Lawyers Association (2018–present)
  • D.C. Trial Lawyers Association (2016–present)
  • National Lawyers Guild, Southern Region; D.C. Chapter (1985–present)
  • Association of American Law Schools, Clinical Section
  • Clinical Legal Education Association
  • American Constitution Society

Published Works


  • Supreme Court Employment Law Cases in 2024: What to Watch For, and Why – Part 2, HR Daily Advisor (February 20, 2024)
  • Supreme Court Employment Law Cases: What to Watch For in 2024 (and Why), HR Daily Advisor (January 12, 2024)

  • Amicus brief, District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Bryant v. District of Columbia (January 2024)
  • Amicus brief, United States Supreme Court, Muldrow v. City of St. Louis (September 2023)
  • Response, RNC v. DNC: Absentee Voters and the Partisan Pandemic, Geo. Wash. L. Rev. On the Docket (Apr. 13, 2020).
  • Book review, James A. Gardner, Interpreting State Constitutions: A Jurisprudence of Function in a Federal System, TRIAL Magazine, January 2006.
  • The Voting Rights Act in the Internet Age: An Equal Access Theory for Interesting Times, 34 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 1171 (2001).
  • Graduation Prayer after Lee v. Weisman: A Cautionary Tale, 46 Mercer L. Rev. 1097 (1995).
  • “Entreat Me Not to Leave Thee”: Bottoms v. Bottoms and the Custody Rights of Gay and Lesbian Parents, 3 Wm. & Mary Bill of Rts. J. 289 (1994).

Law Teaching


  • George Washington University Law School
    Adjunct faculty, voting rights, 1999 to present; government lawyering, 2002.
  • Washington College of Law, American University
    Adjunct faculty, civil rights and education, 1998, 1999.
  • Marshall-Wythe Law School, College of William and Mary
    Adjunct faculty, sexuality regulation, 1996-99.