New York Lawyers for the Public Interest has appointed J. McGregor Smyth as its executive director. Smyth now oversees the civil practice at The Bronx Defenders, a nonprofit legal services provider. Smyth, who will succeed the late Michael Rothenberg, takes up his new post on Feb. 4.

The public interest law firm’s mission is to advance equality and civil rights, with a focus on health justice, disability rights and environmental justice. It also matches community organizations and non-profits with pro bono attorneys from law firms and corporate legal departments in New York.

In 2000, Smyth established the civil action practice at The Bronx Defenders, which integrated the civil and criminal defense services at the group and provides civil legal representation to clients for immigration, housing, employment, public benefits and civil rights needs. He also established and directs the organization’s Reentry Net, an online resource for advocates on prison, reentry and the consequences of criminal charges. A Yale Law School graduate, Smyth represents two certified classes in federal court of more than 20,000 people who claimed they were falsely arrested by the New York City Police Department.

“McGregor Smyth’s success in building a creative and effective legal services program and his proven dedication to the pursuit of civil rights make him the ideal candidate to lead NYLPI as executive director,” said Hector Gonzalez, chairman of the group’s board and a Dechert partner. “We are confident that he will bring a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the role, and that his guidance will only enhance NYLPI’s ability to effectively serve underrepresented communities.”

Smyth said he is “honored” to have been chosen to head NYLPI. “NYLPI has a culture of innovation that fights for the civil rights of New Yorkers in true partnership with underserved communities,” he said. “Its tenacious brand of advocacy empowers these communities to achieve their own vision of social justice.”