Areas of Expertise:Civil RIghts, Criminal Justice, Democracy & Civic Engagement, Education
Sonja Diaz is a practicing civil rights attorney and policy adviser. As Founding Director of UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI), Diaz co-founded the first multi-issue think tank focused on Latinos in the University of California. Diaz is responsible for overseeing all aspects of LPPI, including strategy, fundraising and development, research, external partnerships, and leadership development. Prior to LPPI, Diaz served as policy counsel to U.S. Sen. Kamala D. Harris during her first and second terms as California’s attorney general, managing legal and policy issues of statewide and national importance, including civil rights, consumer protection, criminal justice, immigration, and privacy and technology policy. During her tenure, Diaz served as co-counsel on an industrywide investigation of for-profit online charter schools that garnered a $168.5 million settlement from K12, Inc., was lead counsel on a voting rights investigative package, and directed all aspects of the attorney general’s 21st Century Policing, Immigrant Rights, and Cyberexploitation working groups.
In 2016, Diaz directed a robust voter protection program to support Democratic candidates in Virginia as part of the Clinton-Kaine presidential campaign’s battleground state apparatus, including a commonwealth-wide election monitoring program for language minorities. Diaz has also managed domestic policy portfolios at three California nonprofits, clerked in the White House’s Domestic Policy Council under President Barack Obama, and supported litigation efforts at MALDEF, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and California’s Bureau of Children’s Justice.
Diaz received her J.D. from UC Berkeley’s School of Law, holds a M.P.P. from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, and a B.A. in politics from UC Santa Cruz. She is a Public Policy & International Affairs fellow, valedictorian of People for the American Way’s Frontline Leaders Academy, and LatCrit’s unanimous student scholar awardee in 2012 for her paper on Latino voting rights.