Armand Derfner, LL.B. has practiced civil rights law and constitutional law for more than a half century. He has tried civil and criminal cases, argued appeals in courts ranging from Justice of the Peace and Magistrate’s Courts to the Supreme Court of the United States. He has represented community organizations, drafted legislation, testified in Congress, taught and written about law, been held in contempt several times and been arrested once, in the middle of a courtroom. He has never been disbarred but he was once accused in open court (falsely, he says) of threatening to put a bullet in the back of a client’s head.
He received a National Merit Scholarship the first year they were offered. He has an A.B. from Princeton University (1960), where he received the Koren Prize in History and a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellowship. He has an LL.B. from Yale (1963), where he was Note & Comment Editor of the Yale Law Journal, and was Order of the Coif.
After graduation he clerked for Hon. David L. Bazelon, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was then an associate at Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C., before going to Mississippi for several years as a civil rights lawyer. After several years back in Washington, he came to Charleston, South Carolina, where he has been a partner in a succession of small firms ever since, except for another period in Washington where he lobbied for the Voting Rights Act and spent a year as Visiting Professor of Law at the Washington College of Law of the American University.
Currently he is a partner at Derfner & Altman, of Charleston, South Carolina.
He has specialized in voting rights litigation, especially cases under the Voting Rights Act. He argued the first Supreme Court case to interpret Section 5 of the Act, Allen v. State Board of Elections 1969), and many other Voting Rights Act cases since then.
In 2002, he and his co-counsel were named Trial Lawyer of the Year by the American Trial Lawyers Association, for a 25-year case to desegregate the public universities of Mississippi. In 2007, his firm was named Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year from the American Bar.
He was born in Paris, France, and came here as an immigrant with his parents when he was two years old. He now lives in Charleston with his wife, Mary Giles. He has two sons, Joel and Jeremy, both writers, who live in New York and Seattle.
More information is available in a High Profile article about him in the Charleston Post & Courier, November 16, 2002.