Armand Derfner is a litigator specializing in class actions, especially in the areas of labor, employment, and consumer law. He has been practicing civil rights law for 40 years, as a staff lawyer for civil rights organizations in Mississippi and Washington, D.C., and in private practice in Charleston.
His focus on voting rights began with representing voters in Greenwood, Mississippi in August 1968 on the first day the Voting Rights Act became effective. He has helped shape
the Voting Rights Act through his Supreme Court arguments in several of the earliest cases, including Allen v. State Board of Elections
Perkins v. Matthews
(1971), as well as many other voting rights cases. He has testified before the Judiciary Committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives
about extensions of the Voting Rights Act, as well as other pro bono legislation. With his late wife, Mary Frances Derfner, he assisted in passage of the Civil Rights Attorneys'
Fees Awards Act of 1976, as well as the Equal Access to Justice Act of 1980. For more than 20 years, he has represented litigants in two long-running suits to desegregate and
end racial inequality in the higher education systems of Alabama (Knight v. Alabama
) and Mississippi (Ayers v. Fordice
In addition to these cases, he has been involved in numerous other civil rights and public interest cases, including successfully representing civil rights demonstrators, death row inmates, victims of employment discrimination, targets of free speech restrictions, and community organizations seeking to advance the public interest. In 2002, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice named Derfner as Trial Lawyer of the Year (with co-counsel); and in 2007, he and the partners of Derfner & Altman were recognized with a Pro Bono Publico Award from the American Bar Association.