Ken Zimmerman directs the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs. A lawyer with more than two decades of leadership in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, he has devoted his career to justice and equality, focusing on access to opportunity for people of color and low-income communities.
Since joining the Open Society Foundations in July 2012, he has built U.S. Programs’ core commitments related to democratic practice, criminal justice reform, full civic participation for immigrants and communities of color, and equitable economic growth. In addition to his role as head of U.S. Programs, Zimmerman is codirector and board member of the Open Society Policy Center, the Open Society Foundations’ advocacy arm.
Prior to joining Open Society, he was a litigation partner heading the pro bono practice group at Lowenstein Sandler PC, where his work ranged from Supreme Court litigation to developing innovative approaches to help communities respond to the foreclosure epidemic. He served on the presidential transition team for the Obama Administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development and helped HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan develop the proposed fair housing planning rule ultimately issued in 2014. Zimmerman was also chief counsel to New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine (2006–2008) when the state abolished the death penalty. He previously served as the first executive director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, where he spent seven years building the organization into a leading force creating innovative programs and policy to support the revitalization of Newark, New Jersey.
Zimmerman began his legal career as a legal services lawyer in Oakland, California, and as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. He has been a nonresident fellow with the Brookings Institution and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. He received his BA from Yale University and JD from Harvard Law School, both magna cum laude.