Karen Baynes-Dunning is interim president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) after its board voted unanimously to name her effective immediately.
She takes the helm of SPLC during a trying period for the organization, whose leadership has been embroiled in allegations of workplace discrimination and harassment. This has led to numerous resignations and firings including Baynes-Dunning’s predecessor, Richard Cohen. He stepped down at the end of March—a week after the SPLC publicly fired its co-founder, Morris Dees.
A judge on the Fulton County Juvenile Court in Atlanta from 1998 to 2002, Baynes-Dunning has devoted her career to improving the lives of disadvantaged youth and families.
After earning a juris doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley and prior to her appointment to the juvenile court bench, she was the first executive director of the Court Appointed Special Advocates Program as well as the Fulton County Juvenile Court’s director of program development and management.
More recently, Baynes-Dunning has served as the federal court-appointed monitor of reform efforts at the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services. She also founded and is the current president of Baynes-Dunning Consulting LLC. Additionally, a large portion of her career has been spent in the education sector.
Starting in the summer of 2002, Baynes-Dunning helped lead the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government as its associate director for governmental services and research. She has also taught and conducted research as an associate professor at the University of Alabama and as a visiting professor at the Emory University School of Law.
“It is an honor to be able to serve and help guide this vital institution in a time of needed growth and change,” Baynes-Dunnning said in an emailed statement about her appointment. “As we look inward to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace, our determination in fighting for justice and equality in this country and the communities we serve will not waver.”
Karen Baynes-Dunning will serve as president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center indefinitely as it conducts a national search for a permanent leader.