From the Managing Attorney
We are hoping that 2012 will be an “annus mirabilis” for the Center for Civil Rights and the struggle for social justice, and it’s fair to say that the pace and scope of our work these first weeks have far exceeded expectations. In January, Center lawyers argued what may prove to be a landmark school desegregation case at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals; litigated the second full day of permitting hearings in opposition to a landfill being targeted for an African American community we represent; and challenged a county’s illegal property tax collection in a community unfairly targeted for “redevelopment.”
As you can see from the summary below of upcoming events, the breakneck pace of the work continues. Additional information on all of our current cases, public education and research, and student engagement, and as well as regular updates on everything in which the Center is currently involved, can be found our blog. You can also follow the Center on Twitter.
Finally, as you all know, funding to support our work is critical. Although the Center is an integral part of the law school's education, research and service mission, all of our program expenses and salary cost must be raised through grants and donations. This year we are hoping to increase our commitment to training the next generation of civil rights lawyers, by bolstering our internship and fellowship programs. As we continue to seek new grant and foundation opportunities to support these efforts, we are also hoping that individuals and organization that share our vision of civil rights and social justice can help. Every dollar contributed goes directly to the work and mission of the Center. If you are interested in learning more about how you can help support the Center, please contact me at 919.843.7896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thank you for your continuing support for the Center and for social justice.
Feb. 9: Distinguished Civil Rights Attorney Connie Rice Gives UNC Law 2012 Murphy Lecture [12:00 p.m., Law School Rotunda]
American civil rights activist, lawyer, and Co-Director of the Advancement Project Ms. Connie Rice is renowned for her unconventional approaches to tackling inequity and exclusion, including litigating major cases involving police misconduct, employment discrimination and fair public resource allocation. Ms. Rice will address UNC Law School after a private breakfast gathering with Center attorneys and UNC Law Students committed to civil rights law and activism. Read more.
Feb. 10: Center attorneys present "Fair Housing and Community Exclusion: Issues and Strategies for Broadening the Scope and Impact of the Fair Housing Act" at UNC Festival of Legal Learning [10:20 a.m. – 11:20 a.m., Friday Center]
Senior Attorney Elizabeth Haddix and Community Inclusion Attorney-Fellow Peter Gilbert will present a CLE on the Center's cutting-edge community legal work. Community exclusion is the manifestation of structural racism at the neighborhood level, and its impacts include lack of access to basic public services and equitable educational opportunities, limited civic engagement, and the siting of environmentally hazardous land uses. This session will examine new and emerging legal strategies under state and federal fair housing legislation to combat community exclusion and its impacts. Students may attend for free. Read more.
Feb. 11: HK on J: Historic Thousands on Jones Street [9:30 a.m., Downtown Raleigh, NC]
Center attorneys will join the NC NAACP, the UNC Poverty Center, and a coalition of civil rights and advocacy organizations for the sixth annual march and rally in Downtown Raleigh. HK on J advocates for a universal 14 Point People's Agenda advocating progressive legislative action in education, employment, healthcare, voting, housing, financing, criminal sentencing, environmental justice, immigration, civil rights, and peace. Read more.
Feb. 13: NC Supreme Court Oral Argument: In re TAS [11:00 a.m., NC Supreme Court]
Local attorney and UNC adjunct professor Ms. Geeta Kapur will argue on behalf of a juvenile in an upcoming North Carolina Supreme Court hearing on In The Matter of T.A.S. The UNC Juvenile Justice Clinic and the UNC Center for Civil Rights, along with several other civil and students' rights organizations in the state, have submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the juvenile. Students who would like to attend may contact Attorney Fellow Taiyyaba Qureshi for carpool information.
In The Matter of T.A.S. involves a school-wide, student body search for drugs at the Brunswick County Academy (an alternative school) that extended from students' personal effects to beneath female students' outer clothing. The Court of Appeals ruled that the search was unconstitutional, holding that: "Where the blanket search of the entire school lacked any individualized suspicion as to which students were responsible for the alleged infraction or any particularized reason to believe the contraband sought presented an imminent threat to school safety, the search of T.A.S.'s bra was constitutionally unreasonable and we reverse the trial court's order denying her suppression motion." The State of North Carolina has appealed.
Feb. 13: Brunswick Special Exception Permit Hearing [1:00 p.m., Bolivia, NC]
The Center continues to represent the Royal Oak Concerned Citizens Association (ROCCA) in opposition to Brunswick County's efforts to construct a new Construction and Demolition Landfill in the majority African American Royal Oak Community. At the next Special Exception Permit Hearing before the Brunswick Planning Board, Operation Services is expected to finish presenting its case for approval of its permit application. The Center will present testimony from residents of the Royal Oak community as well as from expert witnesses, including a real property appraiser and public health researcher. Read more and read more.
Feb. 14: Race and the Law: Address by Ms. Charmaine Fuller-Cooper, Executive Director of the NC Victims of Sterilization Foundation [12:00 p.m., UNC School of Law, Room 5042]
North Carolina enacted its first sterilization law in 1929 and, under the state's eugenics program, began the forced sterilization of people deemed "undesirable," such as those convicted of crimes and the mentally handicapped. The practice of forced sterilizations had been sanctioned by the U.S Supreme Court's decision in Buck v. Bell, wherein Justice Holmes notoriously wrote "three generations of imbeciles are enough."
While most states decreased the number or ended forced of sterilizations in the second half of the 20th century, North Carolina bucked the trend and increased sterilizations, continuing the practice until 1974. Nearly 7,600 people, mostly women, were sterilized from 1929 to 1974. The North Carolina program disproportionately targeted African Americans, and some victims were as young as 10.
North Carolina issued an apology to victims of the sterilization program in 2002. The N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation was established in 2010 to provide justice and compensate those who were forcibly sterilized by the state. More Read more. See also post on Faculty Lounge by UNC Law Professor Al Brophy.
UNC Center for Civil Rights Argues Pitt County School Desegregation Case in Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Seeking to Reaffirm the School Board's Continuing Duty to Desegregate (Jan. 27, 2012)
Plaintiffs, Center attorneys, and UNC Law Students stand outside the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals after oral arguments in Everett vs. Pitt County Schools
The UNC Center for Civil Rights argued a critical school desegregation case before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, Jan. 26. Representing several African American parents and the Pitt Coalition for the Education of Black Children, the center argued that the Pitt County School District's 2011-2012 student assignment plan increases segregation and racial isolation in the county's schools and violates the school board's affirmative legal duty to remedy the vestiges of race discrimination in the district.
The original cases, which were brought against the then-separate city and county school districts, found that both districts maintained racially separate schools and ordered that the districts fully desegregate. The now-unified case, Everett et al. v. Pitt County Schools, was re-opened in 2008 when the school board sought clarification from the court on the status of the 1970 desegregation orders and the board's obligations regarding those orders.
In 2009, the court concluded that the school board still had not completely complied with the orders to fully desegregate the schools or eliminate the vestiges of discrimination, and that it needed to address this delinquency: "It is time for the School Board to follow course and fulfill its obligation to attain unitary status so that it may reclaim complete control over its schools."
Despite the court's admonition, the board adopted a student reassignment plan in 2010 that failed to meet stated proficiency and capacity targets, according to Mark Dorosin, managing attorney at the UNC Center for Civil Rights. "The board also projected significant increases in racially-identifiable, non-white schools with low student achievement, maintained the presence of racially identifiable white schools, and opened a new elementary school that is one of the most racially isolated and lowest achieving schools in the district," Dorosin said.
The Center for Civil Rights went back to court to enjoin implementation of the reassignment plan, but the motion was denied. The court's approval of the 2011-2012 reassignment plan was the focus of the center's appeal.
During the argument before the Court of Appeals, the Center for Civil Rights asserted that the district court applied the wrong standard of law when it failed to require the board to demonstrate that its actions are in compliance with its duty to eradicate the vestiges of the racially discriminatory system.
"By improperly relieving the board of the well-established legal burden imposed on districts like Pitt that are still under court order, the court also abdicated its continuing role to oversee and enforce the controlling law of the case," says Dorosin. "Most importantly, by denying relief, the district court let the school board lock another generation of students into racially isolated schools, continuing the inequality and stigma condemned by Brown."
Audio recording of the oral argument is available on the Fourth Circuit's website. A decision is expected from the Court of Appeals in the next few months.
More news coverage of the argument
Recent Blog Posts
Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty in North Carolina (Jan. 25, 2012)
The Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty in North Carolina organized by the NAACP, the NC Justice Center, and the UNC Center on Poverty Work and Opportunity, on January 19th and 20th visited six counties in North Eastern North Carolina to hear from some of the most excluded and exploited residents of North Carolina about their experience of poverty. Story after story revealed the truth that poverty is not an individual or personal problem, does not result from laziness or personal morality, but too often results from specific government action or inaction. The most recurring problems we heard were issues the UNC Center for Civil Rights focuses on - manifestations of community exclusion, including lack of access to water and sewer, segregated and underfunded schools, and unreasonably high electric bills. Read more.
Center continues to represent Royal Oak Concerned Citizens Association in opposition to Brunswick County landfill (Jan. 24, 2012)
The Center continues to represent the Royal Oak Concerned Citizens Association (ROCCA) in opposition to Brunswick County's efforts to construct a new Construction & Demolition landfill in the majority African American Royal Oak community.
At the continuation of the Special Exception Permit (SEP) hearing before the Brunswick Planning Board on January 9, 2012, a real estate appraiser retained by Operations Services gave his opinion that the proposed landfill will be in harmony with and not substantially injurious to properties in the vicinity. The appraiser was unaware of the number of residential properties near the proposed site - many of which are owned by ROCCA members who were present at the hearing - and had never spoken with surrounding residents. The appraiser's opinion was based on a "ring study" of property values from tax records and on comparisons with properties near landfills in other counties that have been closed and capped - some with added parks and green spaces. One Planning Board member commented during the hearing: "You come here, in my opinion, with comparisons of landfills that are not comparable and are not showing the impact that citizens of this county would potentially feel if the expansion was approved."Read more.
Center argues for refunds of illegally collected property taxes in Halifax County (Jan. 6, 2012)
The Center for Civil Rights continued its longtime efforts to bring justice to the residents of the Brandy Creek/Wallace Fork Road community, appearing before the Halifax County Commissioners to argue for a refund of illegal property taxes collected from this small African American community. Community Inclusion Attorney Fellow Peter Gilbert presented the argument before the county commissioners.
In 2005, without any advance notice, residents of Brandy Creek/Wallace Fork were legislatively annexed into the City of Roanoke Rapids as part of the plan to make way for the planned development of a theater and entertainment district. As a result of the annexation, taxes in the community immediately went up, as they were now paying city as well as county taxes, even though they received minimal additional services. In the immediate wake of the annexation, a land speculator purchased 32 rental properties in the community from a single owner for approximately $2.8 million. The tenants living in those properties were evicted and the homes demolished, immediately eliminating almost half of the community. Read more.
Unconstitutional anti-lingering ordinance repealed (Dec. 14, 2011)
In late November, after months of engagement by day laborers and civil rights activists, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to repeal the town's unconstitutional anti-lingering ordinance. Purportedly adopted to target public alcohol consumption, littering and verbal harassment, the ordinance made it illegal to "stand, sit, recline, linger, or otherwise remain" in a small area of town where day laborers congregated to wait for work each day. No other part of the town was subject to this restriction. Read more.
Community Leaders: Maurice Holland, Sr. teaches law students about municipal exclusion and community advocacy (Dec. 6, 2011)
Midway community leader Maurice Holland spoke to UNC Law students volunteering at the Fall 2011 Wills Trip in Moore County, NC. Mr. Holland spoke about the challenges facing excluded communities and the history of the Midway community's political and legal activism to get municipal services.
Talking about living in Aberdeen's Extra Territorial Jurisdiction area, Maurice said "living in Midway, I've been excluded all my life…..I was 65 years old before I could vote in the municipal elections, even though we lived one mile from City Hall. But the city could zone us and put any restrictions on us. We lived only half a mile from the police station, but if someone was robbing my house, I'd have to call the station in Carthage, eighteen miles away."Read more.
Center to argue school desegregation case at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (Dec. 4, 2011)
The Center for Civil Rights, on behalf of several African American parents and the Pitt Coalition for the Education of Black Children ("the Coalition"), recently appealed a decision from the Eastern District of North Carolina denying their motion for relief, which sought a judicial determination that Pitt County Schools' ("PCS") 2011-2012 student reassignment contravened the 1970 desegregation orders still governing the district. PCS is one of the few remaining school districts in the country still under a federal desegregation order, and the board's affirmative duty to show that its actions move the district toward unitary status is at the core of the appeal to be argued before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on January 26, 2012. Read more.
Canary in the Coal Mine: Overcrowded and low-performing Walnut Creek Elementary shows the future of Wake County's neighborhood schools approach (Nov. 29, 2011)
In the 2011-2012 school year, the brand-new Walnut Creek Elementary school in Southeast Raleigh became both the first test of the Wake County School Board's neighborhood schools assignment plan and an example of the racially discriminatory effect of the model.
Given a blank slate, the Wake County School Board's conservative majority opened Walnut Creek as a racially segregated, high poverty, crowded school – troubling demographics that were not only easily avoidable today, but also would have been unacceptable under the previous socioeconomic diversity plan.
Mark Dorosin commented on Walnut Creek's continued overcrowding and low-performance problems on Cash Michael's "Make it Happen" radio show, Nov. 17, 2011: "The school board had a blank slate, a tabula rasa, [and they] created a brand new school that was a racially isolated, high poverty, low performing school. Read more.
In the News