Nicole Austin-Hillery is Human Rights Watch's inaugural U.S. Program Executive Director. In this newly created role, Ms. Austin-Hillery leads Human Rights Watch’s efforts to end violations in abusive systems within the United States. Her work focuses on improving the U.S. immigration system, tackling race discrimination, rights problems within the domestic criminal justice system, and advocating for national security policies informed by international human rights standards.
Previously, Ms. Austin-Hillery was the first Director and Counsel of The Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C. office which she opened in March 2008. At the Brennan Center, she oversaw the growth and development of the Center’s advocacy and policy development work in Washington and served as its chief representative before Congress and the Executive Branch.
Ms. Austin-Hillery has testified before state and local legislative bodies as well as Congress. She has published numerous pieces for major news outlets including Time Magazine, The Hill, CNN.com and a host of others. She is a frequent speaker on a host of progressive issues.
Prior to her time at the Brennan Center, Ms. Austin-Hillery litigated at the law firm of Mehri & Skalet, PLLC as part of the firm's civil rights employment class action practice and as the George N. Lindsay Civil Rights Law Fellow at the national office of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C. where she focused on housing litigation and policy.
She served as the 2018-2019 President of the Washington Bar Association, is a past President and current Board member of the Washington Council of Lawyers, serves as an Advisory Committee Member of the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law, serves on the Board of Common Cause and as co-chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Defense Function Committee. She has also been an adjunct civil rights professor at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and is a former Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School. Ms. Austin-Hillery is a graduate of the Howard University School of Law and Carnegie Mellon University.