Elizabeth Wydra Named New President of Constitutional Accountability Center

Longtime chief counsel succeeds CAC founder Doug Kendall.


By Tony Mauro


The liberal Constitutional Accountability Center is set to announce Wednesday that Elizabeth Wydra, its longtime chief counsel, will succeed founder Doug Kendall, who died in September, as president.


“It was clear that we did not have to look far to find the most worthy successor to Doug Kendall, someone extraordinarily well-qualified to lead CAC and to build on its record of success,” board chair Eldie Acheson said. “With Elizabeth as our new president, I could not be more optimistic and excited for CAC as we advance Doug Kendall’s vision through the organization that is his legacy.”


The center was founded in 2008 to “recapture” the debate over the Constitution from conservative originalists by highlighting the founding document’s progressive text and history. It has become an influential voice in Supreme Court cases, playing a key role in defense of the Affordable Care Act. Recent projects include an in-depth analysis of the Roberts Court in its tenth year, and a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment.


Wydra, who was Kendall’s first hire, said Tuesday night, “It has really been exciting to see how we’ve grown since day one as an organization with three people to a larger team where we are in the middle of every important Supreme Court case and every constitutional conversation.” The staff has grown to more than a dozen.


The 39-year-old Wydra is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College and Yale Law School, and joined the center after working in private practice at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. She was also a teaching fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center appellate litigation clinic, a law clerk for Judge James Browning of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and a lawyer at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. In 2014 The National Law Journal recognized her as one of its D.C. Rising Stars.


Wydra said she is humbled to be offered the new position at the beginning of a presidential campaign. Though the nonprofit center cannot endorse candidates, Wydra said the organization will speak out on “how central the court is to the election” because of the possibility of numerous vacancies in the next four years. In addition, she said, “election years prompt constitutional conversations,” and the center will participate. 


“I could never expect to fill Doug’s shoes,” Wydra said of Kendall, who died of colon cancer. “But I hope to do him proud.”

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