Oregon Attorney General John Kroger today announced his appointment of Portland lawyer Diane Schwartz Sykes to lead the new Oregon Department of Justice Civil Rights program.
"I hired Diane because when we called through the list of her references, the all said, 'She is fearless,'" Attorney General Kroger said. "As the first head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights division in 30 years, that's going to be helpful."
"I've dedicated my career to civil rights," Sykes said. "I intend to aggressively enforce the civil rights laws of this state."
Formerly employed as the first managing attorney of the Oregon Law Center in Portland, Sykes formed a civil legal services unit focused on employment, housing, consumer protection, individual rights, public benefits and predatory lending.
Sykes also worked for Legal Aid Services of Oregon where she represented farm workers, domestic violence victims and other victims of discrimination. She has extensive trial experience in state and federal courts and worked with the Oregon Department of Justice on an Unlawful Trade Practices case against a notary public in Washington County.
In his race for attorney general, Kroger announced that he intended to restore the Department of Justice Civil Rights program that had been eliminated during the recession of the 1980s. Despite the current economic downturn, Kroger gained legislative support for funding to restore the program.
Kroger credits retired Sen. Margaret Carter, D-Portland, with securing money for the program.
Sykes graduated in 1992 from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.A. in Psychology. She was a member of the Student Honor Society and the Psi Chi Honor Society. Sykes obtained her law degree from the University of Oregon in 1997. She is treasurer of the Oregon State Bar Diversity Section Executive Committee; a member of the Oregon State Bar Labor & Employment Section; and formerly served on the Oregon State Bar Civil Rights Executive Committee and the VOZ Worker Rights Education Project Advisory Committee.
Sykes is fluent in English and Spanish.