People For the American Way (PFAW) today announced that Kathryn Kolbert, renowned civil rights lawyer and advocate, an expert on the federal courts, and the executive producer of the National Public Radio series "Justice Talking," has been named president of the national advocacy organization dedicated to preserving constitutional liberties and promoting American values. Kolbert will take the reins of PFAW and its affiliate organization, People For the American Way Foundation, in mid-March.
Kolbert is currently a Senior Research Administrator with the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where she created a nationally recognized public education program about law and American life. Its cornerstones — Justice Talking (hosted by Margot Adler) and the educational website Justice Learning (produced with The New York Times Learning Network) — together have won 21 national journalism awards since 2000. Kolbert is also known for her distinguished career as a public interest attorney specializing in women’s rights. Commentators widely credit her with saving Roe vs. Wade, the landmark case legalizing abortion, with her 1992 argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.
"We are thrilled to have found someone whose passion for the Constitution is matched by her ability to use culture and technology to engage Americans in its defense," said Norman Lear, founder of People For the American Way and a member of the board's presidential search committee. "We welcome Kathryn Kolbert into the People For family with full confidence that her leadership will inspire Americans to join us in promoting and protecting our country's highest ideals."
"Throughout its 25 year history, People For the American Way has been a powerful force for justice and a strong voice against intolerance and bigotry. We have a tremendous opportunity to advocate for core American values such as justice, equality and religious tolerance at a critical turning point in our nation's history," said Kolbert.
Kolbert will succeed Ralph G. Neas, who led People For the American Way for eight years, and is now president of The Neas Group, a firm that advises nonprofit and for-profit organizations.
"Kathryn Kolbert is an excellent choice for People For, with a spectacular record of accomplishment in legal advocacy and journalism," said Neas. "I know that, backed by the dedicated staff of People For, Kathryn will be an extraordinarily effective leader and advocate for the Constitution."
A graduate of Temple University School of Law and Cornell University School of Arts and Sciences, Kolbert has been an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania and has co-authored several books including Justice Learning's Hip Pocket Guide to the U.S. Constitution published by Oxford University Press.
Prior to joining the Annenberg Public Policy Center, Kolbert was a founder and vice president of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (since renamed the Center for Reproductive Rights). During her early career she developed the state legislative advocacy program at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and was a staff attorney at the Women's Law Project in Philadelphia.
Kolbert has lived in Philadelphia with her partner Joann Hyle for nearly 30 years. They have two children, Sam and Kate.