Jocelyn F. Samuels

Executive Director, The Williams Institute

  • B.A. Middlebury College, 1977
  • J.D. Columbia University School of Law, 1982

Jocelyn Samuels is Executive Director of the Williams Institute. From July 2014 through the beginning of 2017, Samuels was the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, where she oversaw civil rights enforcement with respect to hospitals, healthcare providers, insurers, and human services agencies. In that role, Samuels spearheaded development of regulations implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act—the first broad-based federal law to prohibit sex discrimination in federally-funded healthcare. The regulations that she developed represented a groundbreaking development for LGBT equality, protecting LGBT individuals by prohibiting discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity.

Earlier in the Obama Administration, Samuels served as Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, and held other positions as a political appointee within the department. She oversaw work across a range of civil rights issues, including voting rights, systemic reform of police departments, prosecution of hate crimes, and protections for individuals with disabilities. Samuels also managed efforts to extend Title VII and Title IX protections against sex discrimination to LGBT people, and she oversaw the Civil Rights Division’s work to implement United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision striking down sections of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Earlier in her career, she worked as a senior policy attorney at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and as Labor Counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy. Samuels’ service in the Obama Administration came after eight years as the Vice President for Education & Employment at the National Women’s Law Center. There she led efforts to promote gender equality, among other things spearheading the campaign that led to enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill signed into law by President Obama.

Samuels earned her bachelor’s degree magna cum laude with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Middlebury College. She is a graduate of Columbia University Law School where she was Note Editor for The Columbia Law Review and was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. She is married and has two grown daughters and two dogs.