Vice President of Criminal Justice
James leads the pretrial justice portfolio, which focuses on bail reform, court diversion, prosecution, and jails. He joined Arnold Ventures after serving as the inaugural director of the Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where he led a team of civil rights lawyers, researchers, policy experts, organizers, and archivists.
Previously, James served as Counselor to the Attorney General of the United States at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). There, he oversaw a broad criminal justice portfolio, including helping to design comprehensive federal reentry reforms; serving as a lead staffer on an initiative to reduce the use of solitary confinement at the Federal Bureau of Prisons; developing national community policing initiatives; and supporting Access to Justice programs.
Earlier in his tenure at DOJ, James also held positions as Senior Counselor and Director of Policy & Planning in the Civil Rights Division and as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Division. In these roles, he worked on a variety of landmark policy initiatives, including President Obama’s Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group; advising the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative; serving on the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva; and helping implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act across government agencies. Before those roles, James was a Special Assistant at the Department of Defense, where he was Executive Editor of the Pentagon’s report to Congress on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” For his distinguished government service, James was recognized with the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Award for Excellence.
During the 2008 presidential election, James co-directed Obama For America’s voter protection program in Ohio. He began his career as a litigation associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP.
He received an A.B. from Princeton University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.