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Joseph J. Wardenski
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(202) 728-1888


J.D., Northwestern University School of Law

M.P.P., Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government

A.B., Princeton University, cum laude

Bar Admissions

District of Columbia
New York


Mr. Wardenski practices primarily in civil rights litigation.

Prior to joining Relman, Dane & Colfax, Mr. Wardenski served as a trial attorney in the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he was lead attorney on a variety of matters enforcing federal civil rights laws protecting students in public schools, colleges, and universities from discrimination. While at the Justice Department, Mr. Wardenski also served as co-chair of the Civil Rights Division’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) Working Group. Previously, Mr. Wardenski was a litigation associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP in New York.

Mr. Wardenski received his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law, where he was a Senior Articles Editor of The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. He received a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He received his A.B., cum laude, from Princeton University.

Professional Activities

Mr. Wardenski is a member of the National LGBT Bar Association and the Disability Rights Bar Association.

Selected Cases

Mr. Wardenski’s better-known cases include:

  • Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District, 858 F.3d 1034 (7th Cir. 2017) (affirming preliminary injunction barring school district from denying plaintiff, a transgender boy, access to boys’ restrooms at school, under both Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause);
  • Buckeye Community Hope Foundation v. Village of Tinley Park, No. 1:16-cv-04430 (N.D. Ill.) (obtaining $2.45 million settlement to housing developer in Fair Housing Act case challenging municipality’s unlawful actions to delay and derail a proposed 47-unit affordable housing development in response to discriminatory community opposition);
  • Cowan v. Cleveland School District, 186 F. Supp. 3d 564 (N.D. Miss. 2016) (ordering school district to adopt Department of Justice’s comprehensive plan to desegregate the district’s secondary schools after over 50 years of litigation).

Honors and Awards

While serving at the Civil Rights Division, Mr. Wardenski was twice awarded the Assistant Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award. In 2012, Mr. Wardenski was recognized by the National LGBT Bar Association as one of the “Best LGBT Attorneys Under 40.”