Center for Civil Rights Newsletter

Center for Civil Rights Newsletter: Monday, March 28, 2011

About the Newsletter

The Center for Civil Rights newsletter is a publication about our work to further civil rights in North Carolina and throughout the South. In addition, the newsletter contains information regarding employment and pro bono opportunities; civil rights conferences and events at Carolina Law and beyond; and notable civil rights news and developments. If you currently are not receiving this newsletter and would like to subscribe, please email Benita N. Jones at civilrights@unc.edu.

A Message from the Directors

The Center's newsletters are not necessarily dedicated to a theme. But the items in this issue clearly suggest a theme: the engagement of law students in the work of the Center. This is noteworthy because such engagement is a core element of our mission. The Center is committed to ensuring that future generations of lawyers are interested and well-equipped to continue the struggle to achieve fair and equal opportunities for minority and low income people. Classroom instruction equips law students to understand legal concepts and theory. Fellowships, internships and pro bono experiences provide vital, hands-on skills and training needed to successfully practice civilrights law.

Since its founding in 2002, the Center has provided volunteer opportunities to dozens of law students during the school year, and since 2004 employed six to eight paid interns each summer. These students play a major role in the Center's legal research, case preparation, and outreach, and they critically enhance its capacity to help communities throughout the state and nation.

A glimpse of the scope and breadth of our work with students is provided below. The glimpse includes the fifth (and most successful) installment of the Pro Bono Wills Project, which takes students into low wealth communities to prepare wills and advance directives for clients; creating the opportunity for students to engage directly with Center staff by helping prepare for and attending an argument before the state court of appeals; and presenting our first series of public conversations among faculty, Center staff, and students about the real world challenges facing civilrights lawyers. As always, the benefits of these interactions with students are mutual. Students gain insights about and encouragement to pursue social justice law while the Center gains because students augment our capacity to help bring a measure of social justice to communities throughout the state.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention briefly the continuing need for funding to support our work. Although the Center is an integral part of the law school's education, research and service mission, we must secure grants and donations to support our program expenses and salaries. As we continue to pursue all available funding opportunities, we hope that individuals and organizations that share our vision of civilrights and social justice can help us continue this work. If you are interested in learning about how you can support the Center, please contact Mark Dorosin at 919.843.7896 or dorosin@email.unc.edu. You may also make a secure online donation now at https://www.law.unc.edu/alumni/support/gift/givenow/. To ensure your gift is forwarded to the Center for Civil Rights, please be sure to designate the fund by using the drop down menu to select "Center for Civil Rights Current Use (2741)".

Professor Charles E. Daye, Henry P. Brandis Professor of Law

The Docket

Brandy Creek De-Annexation Moves forward in N.C. Legislature

After five years of astonishingly high property taxes with no city services in return, the end is in sight for residents of the Brandy Creek/Wallace Fork community. Upon the city of Roanoke Rapids' request, the North Carolina Legislature passed a local bill in 2006 annexing this rural African American community as part of the Carolina Crossroads-Randy Parton Theater project, the city's failed economic development plan. Brandy Creek Wallace Fork residents received no notice of the proposed annexation, and were informed after the fact that they were now part of Roanoke Rapids.

The unjust annexation combined with land speculation around the theater project resulted in inequitable and enormous property tax increases in the community from 700 to 1100%, because residents were now paying city taxes as well as county taxes and their property was revalued upwards by staggering amounts. With the Center's help, property values were reduced to pre-annexation levels last year. Meanwhile, residents have seen no benefit from municipal services provided by Roanoke Rapids. The streets of the community, other than the one road maintained by DOT, are unpaved and plagued by potholes. Police and fire protection is minimal, and emergency calls from the community are still frequently routed to the county. Residents feel strongly that they are paying for services they are not receiving and for an annexation they neither requested nor had any opportunity to challenge.

Despite strong support from the mayor and two city council members, City Manager Paul Sabiston recommended against deannexing the community, and the council refused to pass a resolution endorsing deannexation. Nevertheless, state Senator Ed Jones introduced a bill to de-annex the community, and on March 15 Representatives Angela Bryant and Glen Bradley introduced the same bill in the House. The community remains hopeful that the legislature will rectify this injustice and release them from Roanoke Rapids.

Local Roanoke Rapids editorial cartoon lampooning the city manager's hypocritical use of the term "donut hole" to justify opposition to deannexing Brandy Creek (Reprinted from RRspin)

Read news coverage on Brandy Creek:

Wake County Advocacy Update

The Center continues to challenge the Wake County Board of Education's decision to dismantle the district's socio-economic diversity student assignment policy and other moves toward resegregation of Wake County schools on multiple legal fronts. To date, the Center and its allies have filed against the board an open meetings lawsuit, a Title VI civil rights complaint and a complaint with the district's accrediting agency.

Mark Dorosin presents oral argument in the North Carolina Court of Appeals

On Thursday, February 24, 2011, Senior Managing Attorney Mark Dorosin argued before the North Carolina Court of Appeals in the Center's open meetings suit against the Wake County School Board. In Garlock v. Wake County Board of Education, the Center and co-counsel allege that the board violated state law on March 23, 2010 during a highly controversial meeting at which the board voted to end the county's socio-economic diversity student assignment plan. The board required the public to obtain tickets to gain access to the meeting, then changed its ticketing policy without public notice, completely excluded the public from its committee meeting, and engaged in other actions that limited public access. In May 2010, the lower court ruled that the board acted unreasonably in some respects, but dismissed the case. In June 2010, the Center and its co-counsel filed a notice of appeal, asking the court of appeals to rule that the board violated the state open meetings law and should be enjoined from future violations. A decision is expected later this year.

Attorneys from the Center, co-counsel, plaintiffs, a large group of UNC Law students and other community supporters attended the oral argument. In preparation for the court session, Dorosin mooted his oral argument and answered questions about the state open meetings law in an open session with UNC Law students.

Center for Civil Rights Senior Managing Attorney Mark Dorosin takes questions from the press after the oral argument

Read news coverage on the oral argument:

U.S. Department of Education continues to investigate civil rights complaint

On Wednesday, March 16, 2011, attorneys and investigators from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) returned to Raleigh to interview complainants, board members, and district staff regarding the Title VI civil rights complaint filed against Wake County Schools in late September 2010. The complaint alleges that the board's student assignment and disciplinary policies have disproportionately impacted non-White students and have intentionally denied Black and Hispanic students' access to educational resources. OCR began their investigation with an initial visit to Wake County to interview district staff and community members in December 2010.

Since OCR's initial visit, the board has continued to reassign students in a manner that increases racial segregation. The board's student reassignments for 2011-12, approved in February 2011, will further resegregate the Wake County's schools. The most troubling reassignments for next year concern Walnut Creek, a new elementary school opening in Southeast Raleigh. In a major deviation from past practices, Wake County will open a racially identifiable, majority-minority school with over 80% of students eligible for free or reduced lunch and over 50% of students working below grade level. The Center updated OCR with a memo detailing these and other racially motivated reassignments for next school year.

OCR will continue its investigation and return to the area to interview more parents, students and community leaders about the ongoing impacts of the board's actions. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits the board from using federal education funding in a discriminatory manner, and a negative outcome from this investigation could jeopardize the district's federal funding allotment. The Center, along with co-counsel, represents the national, state, and three Wake County branches of the NAACP; NC H.E.A.T. (Heroes Emerging Among Teens); and Quinton White, a Wake County student, in this complaint.

AdvancED places Wake County under "accreditation warned" status

On the same day as the OCR visit to Wake County, AdvancED, the accrediting agency for Wake County's high schools, issued a report placing Wake under "accreditation warned" status. Following an on-site investigation in February 2011, AdvancED found "sufficient evidence to support a finding that the actions and decisions of the Board of Education are in violation of AdvancED Accreditation Standards and policies". The investigation and report are in response to a complaint filed in March 2010 by the NC NAACP (also a party to the Title VI complaint) alleging that the actions and behaviors of members of the board were in violation of district and AdvancED policies and would have a negative impact on the quality of education in the district's high schools. The board must implement significant changes and host a monitoring visit from AdvancED before November 30, 2011 to keep its accreditation.

Center to release report on state of Halifax County Schools

The Center will release a report this spring that evaluates the state of education in Halifax County. The forthcoming report examines how the existence of three separate school districts in the county: Halifax County Public Schools, Weldon City Schools, and Roanoke Rapids Graded School District, impacts the resources available and educational outcomes for all students in the county. The Halifax County and Weldon districts are predominantly Black, while the Roanoke Rapids district is predominantly White and has the highest level of academic achievement among the three. The Center and many Halifax residents believe that addressing the historic racial isolation and segregation in these three districts is a necessary first step to improving educational equity in the county.

Following the release of the report, the Center and community partners in Halifax County will host a series of discussions and presentations about strategies for countywide educational improvement and racial justice. Visit the Center's website for more information about the report release and presentation schedule.

Excluded Community in Brunswick County Fights Landfill Expansion

The Royal Oak Community is a historic African American low income rural community located in the unincorporated town of Supply, NC in Brunswick County. The population of Brunswick County is over 80% white. Like many of the excluded communities with which the Center works, the Royal Oak community lacks water and sewer service, even though the water and sewer lines stop just short of the community's borders.

The community faces a severe and continuing environmental injustice: the proposed expansion of the county's only landfill, an unlined construction and debris landfill built on top of a previous unlined municipal landfill. The community already hosts most of the other environmental hazards in the county, including a waste transfer station, a sewage treatment facility, the animal shelter, a hog farm, a fish farm, and numerous sand mines. All of these facilities can have a significant impact on the water quality and the depth of the water table, which is particularly worrisome to a community that relies entirely on well water. The community also sits on top of unique wetlands as identified by DENR, and is labeled an "Important Bird Area" by the North Carolina Audubon society.

In partnership with the Cedar Grove Institute and the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NC EJN), the Center is beginning to survey the community, conduct well tests, document the extent of the existing environmental and public health hazards, and develop legal strategies to support the community's opposition to the landfill.

On March 26, 2011 the NC EJN will hold its quarterly public meeting in Royal Oak to call attention to the community's plight. On April 4, 2011, the Brunswick County Commission will hold a public hearing on the rezoning for the landfill, and approval of the rezoning could happen as soon as April 18th.

Because of the Center's prior successes in stopping the placement of waste management facilities in the excluded communities of Rogers Road (Orange County) and Lincoln Heights (Halifax County), and the commitment of our partners, the Center is optimistic about our ability to help this community.

Homes in Royal Oak on the Middle River, directly across the street from the proposed landfill expansion

Read news coverage of Royal Oak:

Lifting barriers to fair housing

In the Spring 2011 issue of the Journal of the North Carolina State Bar, Mark Dorosin and Peter Gilbert argue for direct access to state courts under the North Carolina Fair Housing Act (NCFHA), challenging the assumption that a plaintiff must exhaust her administrative remedies available through the North Carolina Human Relations Commission (NCHRC) before proceeding in court under the state act. The language of the North Carolina statute, the interpretation by federal courts of the parallel Federal Fair Housing Act, and the recent analysis of the nearly identical Florida Fair Housing Act in Milsap v. Cornerstone Residential Management, Inc., all suggest that exhaustion is not and should not be required under the NCFHA.

An analysis of available data from the NCHRC shows that the agency has struggled, presumably due to a lack of resources, to investigate and process claims of discrimination in a timely manner as required by both state and federal law. The lack of resources, especially when coupled with the perceived exhaustion requirement, causes costly delay that likely deters plaintiffs from pursuing complaints, unfairly postpones the resolution of claims, and disproportionately impacts low income plaintiffs. These delays, if not the imposition of an exhaustion requirement itself, may threaten the "substantial equivalency" certification of the NC fair housing enforcement scheme and jeopardize federal funding. The absence of an exhaustion requirement would not only relieve the burden on the NCHRC, but would provide a greater choice of forums and expedited proceedings which could increase settlements and deter discrimination, furthering the goals of the State Fair Housing Act and the state's commitment to addressing residential segregation.

Read the full article

In the News

  • Center Client and Excluded Community, Lincoln Heights, Fights for Environmental Justice - The Waste Land, Independent Weekly, February 16, 2011
  • Senior Managing Attorney Mark Dorosin Comments on Elimination of Chatham County Human Relations Commission Director, Equality office victim of Chatham budget cuts, WRAL, January 20, 2011
  • Center for Civil Rights Report on Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Cited by NAACCP Leader , Second Letter from Nantambu, Charlotte Observer, February 15, 2011
  • Attorneys Mark Dorosin and Elizabeth Haddix Oppose Tax Credits for Private Education and Lifting the Charter School Cap, Op-Ed, Two strikes at N.C.'s public schools, News and Observer, March 4, 2011
  • Attorney-Fellow Peter Gilbert Argues for Annexation Reform to Benefit Excluded Communities , Op-Ed, Annexation reform for excluded areas, News and Observer, March 23, 2011

Calendar Call

Dicta

J.D.B. v. State of North Carolina goes to U.S. Supreme Court

On March 24, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in J.D.B. v. State of North Carolina. The case, arising out a middle school in Orange County, focused on the Miranda rights of a juvenile when being questioned by police. Thirteen year old J.D.B. was pulled out of class by the uniformed school resource officer (SRO) and escorted to the principal's office. The door was closed and the youth was subsequently questioned by a juvenile detective in the presence of the SRO, the assistant principal and another adult about a crime that took place off school grounds. J.D.B. was never read his rights or given the opportunity to contact his guardian, nor was his guardian contacted by the police or the school. After he was told to "do the right thing" and tell the truth and told that the officer might take him into custody if he failed to cooperate, J.D.B. confessed.

The core issue in the case was whether the age of a suspect should have any bearing on the Miranda standard (would a reasonable person believe they were not free to leave, i.e. that they were "in custody"). When the matter was before the North Carolina Supreme Court, the Center, Professor Barbara Fedders from the UNC Juvenile Justice Clinic, and juvenile rights lawyer Hannah Demeritt filed an amicus brief on behalf of J.D.B. A divided state supreme court upheld the confession. A decision from the U.S. Supreme Court is expected in late spring.

Read the Center's brief

Transcript of the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court

Selected news coverage of the case:

Expungement Report

The UNC Center for Civil Rights recently released a new report, Juvenile Delinquency Adjudication, Collateral Consequences, and Expungement of Juvenile Records: A Survey of Law and Policy in Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. We hope this manual will assist juvenile justice practitioners, judges, court administrators, and youth counselors, but also inform policy makers of the need for fundamental reforms to address the long-term collateral consequences of the juvenile justice system. The report demonstrates that there are real consequences to a juvenile adjudication. A juvenile arrest or adjudication can impact public school attendance, college admission, driving privileges, access to public housing, and future employment. It also notes that none of the states studied requires administrators of the juvenile justice system to notify offenders or their guardians of the consequences of juvenile adjudications or of the opportunity to expunge those records.

The report was written by former Center summer intern Jennifer Marsh, funded by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, and made possible by the invaluable insight, guidance, and support of Professors Tamar Birckhead and Barbara Fedders at the UNC School of Law Juvenile Justice Clinic.

Read the full report

Race and the Law, Theory and Practice

With the Education Law and Policy Society, and the Office of Public Service Programs, the Center for Civil Rights is hosting a series of three conversations with UNC Law faculty on contemporary legal questions that bear on the Center's work. We hear from both critics and allies that an emphasis only on integration is not always the communities' priority, or not the best strategic choice. Is this a step backwards to the pre-Brown period of "separate but equal," or recognition of the need for new strategies where traditional civil rights approaches have advanced the cause as far as the law or society will accept?

In the first two conversations, Dean John Charles (Jack) Boger, Professor Charles E. Daye, Assistant Professor Catherine Y. Kim, and Visiting Associate Professor Derek W. Black engaged with Center attorneys Mark Dorosin and Elizabeth Haddix to discuss a range of questions we face in our work, including:

  • Is residential and school integration the primary goal of civil rights law?
  • If our goal remains integration, does a focus on equity makes more sense as a legal strategy given the current composition of the federal courts?
  • Is integration itself merely a necessary means to equity, or does the law recognize integration as an affirmative value?
  • Does integration and diversity necessarily encourage assimilation of people of color and immigrant communities?
  • Does the current civil rights regime provide channels for addressing issues of discrimination within a racially diverse school (i.e. steering children of color into remedial classes), or is it limited to integrating a building?

Watch the first two sessions

Pro Bono Opportunities

Spring Break Wills Trip Report

On March 7-9, 2011, Center attorneys, the UNC Law Pro-Bono Program, and attorneys from two Legal Aid of North Carolina offices collaborated in eastern North Carolina for the fifth Pro Bono Wills Project. The project provides training to law students to prepare wills, powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney and living wills for low wealth and elderly residents in underserved communities. This spring over 30 students participated in the program (two groups travelled to the eastern part of the state, one to the far west). Focusing on counties where the Center has relationships and client communities, Center lawyers worked with students in clinics in Edgecombe County (Rocky Mount), Halifax County (Weldon and Scotland Neck), and Lenoir County ( Kinston). All the communities visited this year were new sites for the project, and we worked with two new Legal Aid Offices: Wilson and Ahoskie.

UNC Law students Adam Parker and Emily Wallwork assist their client in Rocky Mount

Over the three days, and under the supervision of lawyers from Legal Aid and the Center, 19 students drafted 179 documents for 67 clients exceeding the goal of 20 clients per day, and setting a new record for the program.

The Center for Civil Rights reached out to its clients in Rocky Mount and Halifax County during the week leading up to the trip. In addition, Lincoln Heights community leader Florine Bell spoke to the students about community advocacy and organizing in Halifax County, and provided unique insights to the challenges facing residents in the community the students were visiting. The students also got a firsthand look at the realities of community lawyering when they joined Center staff at the Roanoke Rapids City County meeting where the Brandy Creek deannexation resolution (above) was discussed.

Students and Center Attorneys at Gardner's BBQ in Rocky Mount, after the first day of the trip

Read news coverage of the trip:

Read student reflections from the trip

Ongoing Opportunities

There are ongoing pro bono opportunities at the Center for law students. Projects vary in time commitment and can often be completed off-site. If you are interested in volunteering for a project, please contact Mark Dorosin, Senior Managing Attorney, at 919.843.7896 or dorosin@email.unc.edu.


To subscribe or unsubscribe to this newsletter, please email Benita N. Jones at civilrights@unc.edu.