John C. Brittain, a native of Norwalk, Connecticut, is the Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy Director for the Lawyer's Committee for civil rights under law. Brittain earned his B.A. and J.D degrees from Howard University in 1966 and 1969, respectively. Upon graduation, he moved to Mississippi to practice civil rights law. He then traveled to the Far West Coast to create his own small law firm with a partner in San Francisco. After eight years of civil rights and private law practice experience, he heeded the call to teach law, and joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut Law School. He remained in Hartford on the UConn Law School faculty for two decades while developing a special expertise in international and domestic human rights as a public interest advocate and author of published articles. He regularly taught civil and political rights, torts, administrative law and civil procedure. In addition, he coordinated the Business Law Research Project, and frequently served as faculty advisor for the Latino and Black Law Student Associations.
Brittain joined the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as the chief counsel and deputy director in March 2005 from a background of thirty-five years in the legal profession and the past twenty-eight years in legal education with substantial experience in public interest litigation.
Brittain is one of the lawyers who filed the landmark Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation case in 1989. This lawsuit challenged the racial, economic, and educational segregation between Hartford and the surrounding school districts as a denial of a student's fundamental right to an equal education under the Connecticut Constitution. The Connecticut Supreme Court issued a precedent setting ruling in July 1996. A majority of justices found that the extreme racial and ethnic isolation of African American and Latino students denied the schoolchildren in Hartford their fundamental right to an equal educational opportunity.
Further, this court became the only one to hold the State responsible for de facto segregation. In declaring the district boundary lines that separate urban and suburban school districts unconstitutional, the court placed an affirmative obligation on the legislature and governor to initially remedy the problem.
Brittain has devoted much of his time to public service in numerous leadership roles; his most notable, being that of President of the National Lawyers Guild from (1991-93). Currently, he is a member of the National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In the past, he has been an active leader as: a Senior Fellow in the American Leadership Forum (ALF); member of the Teach for America - Houston Advisory Board (TFA); legal counsel to the Connecticut Conference of the NAACP; Chairperson of the Hartford Charter Revision Commission; Chairperson of the Hartford Human Rights Commission; Chairperson of the ACLU Academic Freedom Committee, and a long time member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers and the National Bar Association. Further, Brittain was member of the Board of Directors of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the eighth largest community foundation, which had $550 million in assets, and it distributed nearly $26 million in grants for charitable purposes in 1999.
Brittain and his wife, Sondra, have been married for thirty-five years, and they have two adult children, Karim and Kensei.