Justice Anita Earls is a civil rights attorney and Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Anita Sue Earls was born in Seattle, Washington on February 20, 1960, and raised there by her father, Garnett Austin Brooks, and her mother, Hazel Elliott Brooks, both deceased. Her father was a certified urology associate and her mother was a registered nurse. Anita attended public schools and was awarded a National Achievement Scholarship upon graduation from high school.
Anita received a Lehman Scholarship from Williams College, where, in 1981, she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Economy (with honors) and Philosophy.
Upon graduating, Anita was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to pursue the study of cooperative work organizations and the role of women in Tanzania. Returning to the United States after three years abroad, Anita obtained her J.D. from Yale Law School, where she was a Senior Editor on the Yale Law Journal and published a note titled “Petitioning and the Empowerment Theory of Practice”. She was the first Robert Masur Fellow in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Nation Institute in 1987.
Following law school, in January 1988 Anita joined the firm of Ferguson, Stein, Watt, Wallas, Adkins & Gresham in Charlotte, North Carolina. In private practice, she litigated in state and federal courts, handing family law, criminal defense, personal injury, voting rights, police misconduct, school desegregation, and employment discrimination cases.
Anita was appointed by President Clinton in 1998 to serve as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. From 2000 to 2003, she directed the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Returning to North Carolina in 2003, she joined Julius Chambers at the UNC Center for Civil Rights as Director of Advocacy.
In 2007 Anita founded the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a non-profit legal advocacy organization, and served as its Executive Director for ten years. While there Anita litigated voting rights and other civil rights cases.
Anita has taught at the University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina law schools, and in the African and African-American Studies Department at Duke University. She is admitted to practice in North Carolina, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Supreme Court.