Michael H. Posner is an American lawyer, the Founding Executive Director and later the President of Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights), and the current Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) of the United States.
In 1978, Posner was recruited by Jerome Shestack and James Silkenat to become the founding executive director of the Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights, a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization with offices in New York and Washington, D.C. that works on a range of domestic and international human rights issues. He focused on refugee protection, advancing a rights-based approach to national security and combating discrimination. The organization was renamed to the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and, in 2003, renamed again to Human Rights First. In his role, Posner built the organization from a staff of two, a few volunteers and a budget of $55,000 to its current staff of 60 and an annual budget of almost $9 million.
At Human Rights First, he facilitated the growth of the largest and most successful pro bono legal assistance program in the United States for asylum seekers. Today Human Rights First represents more than 1,000 clients from 85 countries, with an average success rate of over 90 percent. In 1980, Posner played a key role in proposing and campaigning for the first U.S. law providing for political asylum, which became part of the Refugee Act of 1980.