Civil Rights, Criminal Justice, Democracy & Voting Rights, Education, Health
Founding Executive Director
UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
Sonja Diaz is a practicing civil rights attorney and policy advisor. As Founding Director of UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI), Diaz co-founded the first multi-issue policy think tank focused on Latinos in the University of California. Diaz is responsible for overseeing all aspects of LPPI, including strategy, research, mobilization, and leadership. With a deep background in both policy and advocacy, Diaz is a regular contributor to the organization’s research portfolio, co-authoring The Power of the New Majority: A 10 State Analysis of Voters of Color in the 2020 Election, a report that emphasizes the critical role of voters of color in American politics, and The Current State of the Latino Physician Workforce: California Faces a Severe Shortfall in Latino Resident Physicians, which provides further evidence that California’s healthcare workforce pipeline is broken.
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 routinely briefs state legislators and local elected officials from across the U.S. on evidence-based governance and emerging trends in domestic policy. Her research and commentary have been mentioned in major news outlets, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, NBC, NPR, Politico, and Univision. She is a contributing political analyst to KTLA 5, a benchmark of Los Angeles news television, for the 2020 Election.
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 University of Michigan Public Policy & International Affairs fellow, valedictorian of People for the American Way’s Frontline Leaders Academy, and LatCrit’s unanimous student scholar awardee for her paper on Latino voting rights.