Center for Civil Rights Newsletter

Center for Civil Rights Newsletter: Tuesday, July 7, 2009

About the Newsletter

The Center for Civil Rights newsletter is a new 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 are not currently receiving this newsletter and would like to subscribe, please email Sarah Krishnaraj at civilrights@unc.edu.

A Message from the Directors

A core aspect of the Center's Mission is to train the next generation of civil rights advocates. The Summer Fellows program is one way the Center involves students in its work with the goal of modeling advocacy for civil rights and social justice. The benefits are mutual: the students perform vital hands-on tasks of great benefit to the Center and, in turn, learn from an on-the-ground experience of working with Senior Attorneys and Center Fellows on our current projects. We are delighted to have eight Summer Fellows for 2009 from UNC, NCCU and Campbell Law Schools.

Nam Douglas, Shayla Guest, and Angie Spong are working on a range of the Center's community development projects. These include researching possible changes to the state fair housing act, assessing the scope and impact of heirs property ownership in two client communities, and developing strategies to prevent gentrification and protect minority communities.

Potso Byndon, Justin Anderson, Stephanie Horton, and Najib Azam are focusing on the Center's education projects. These Summer Fellows are assisting with the Center's outreach to parents and other advocates of integration in Wake County public schools, helping create accessible educational materials to document how students benefit from policies that integrate students by race as well as socioeconomic status and rebut the assertions by integration opponents seeking to dismantle integration plans in favor of "neighborhood schools."

Charmaine Troy, an MPA student from NCCU, is helping build the Center's administrative, fundraising and organizational capacity.

Given our small core staff and the overwhelming need for social justice advocacy and legal engagement throughout the state, the work of these Summer Fellows is critical to enhancing the Center's capacity and maximizing our ability to promote and expand our work. We look forward to continuing to work with them, and with other law students, as part of our ongoing efforts to help develop and engage new civil rights lawyers.

The Docket

Policy Briefing - New Initiatives for Integrated Education in the Obama Era: Reversing the Resegregation of the Past Two Decades - On June 12, 2009, the Center, along with the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA, the Education Policy and Evaluation Center at UGA, and the Forum for Education and Democracy, convened a policy briefing on Capitol Hill for policymakers and others committed to racially integrated public schools. The briefing was part of the Center's goal to advance calls for school integration into the federal, state, and local education agendas. Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who has sought to address many of the inequities found in segregated schools through a Student Bill of Rights and an Opportunity to Learn Commission, co-hosted the event.

Moderated by Gary Orfield of the Civil Rights Project, the briefing was an extension of the Center's April conference at UNC, which was also co-sponsored by the Civil Rights Project and the Education Policy and Evaluation Center. The briefing brought together a group of nationally acclaimed social scientists and lawyers from the April conference to share short and long-term policy recommendations for achieving racially integrated schools. After the presentations, Francisco Negrón of the National School Boards Association responded to the policy proposals, and the program concluded with a lively question and answer session.

Learn more about the participants and view a video of the briefing.

Access links to media coverage of the briefing.

COMMUNITY INCLUSION MOVES FORWARD IN MOORE COUNTY

Midway: A Community Included - On Tuesday June 23, 2009, residents of the Midway community realized their goal of becoming full citizens of the town of Aberdeen when the bill to legislatively annex the historic African-American community was ratified by the General Assembly. This historic event marked not only the fulfillment of the community's long-term goal, but also advanced the Center's mission to assist excluded communities gain access to public services and an equal voice in the political decisions that most directly impact their lives.

Annexation under existing state laws proved virtually impossible for the community. Midway's historic underdevelopment, particularly the lack of public water and sewer service, left it unable to meet the density or development minimums to qualify for involuntary annexation. Additionally, voluntary annexation, which requires one hundred percent of property owners to agree to the annexation, was not a viable option for Midway because it contains a substantial amount of heirs property (land that has been passed down for generations, often without a will, and collectively owned by numerous family members, many of whom may live out of state or be unknown.) The only available option for the community and the Town was to request a legislative annexation of Midway. Unlike the stringent statutory annexation requirements, the state legislature's power to annex property to a city is not limited by development standards or approval of the property owners.

With the support of the Town and the community, Senate Bill 432 - Midway Community (Aberdeen) Annexation - was introduced by Senator Harris Blake and passed the Senate chamber on April 8, 2009 by a vote of 48-0. Rep. Jamie Boles was instrumental in shepherding the bill through the House of Representatives, where it passed by a vote of 115-2 on June 22, 2009. Midway Community Association President Maurice Holland, who witnessed the bill pass the House, reflected on the milestone of Midway's annexation. "I am grateful to have lived to see this day and believe this is the foundation for growth and new ideas in our community. I am looking forward to the revitalization of Midway and the opportunities that await its residents."

Additional information about Midway's struggle to attain inclusion into Aberdeen can be found in the April edition of our newletter.

Pictured from left to right: Mark Dorosin, Rep. Jamie Boles, Maurice Holland

<Pictured from left to right: Mark Dorosin, Rep. Jamie Boles, Maurice Holland>

Water & Sewer Construction to Begin in Waynor Road - On June 1, 2009, Southern Pines issued a Notice to Proceed to Temple Grading and Construction to begin water and sewer construction in the Waynor Road community.

Waynor Road is a predominantly African-American community populated by more than 75 residents that sits on the outskirts of Southern Pines. Even though town water and sewer lines run less than 400 yards from the community, Waynor Road residents have no access to water and sewer service.

Waynor Road lies within Southern Pines' extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) which subjects the community to the land use, zoning and development restrictions of the municipality, but excludes residents from the ability to vote for the town officials, thereby limiting their ability to exert political influence on the local government.

In 2001, in an effort to advocate for the community's needs, residents began meeting and networking with other communities facing similar situations, including Midway and Jackson Hamlet. In 2006, with help from the Center, residents formed Waynor Road in Action, a 501(c)(3) organization, to pursue their goal of access to basic municipal services and inclusion. As a result of the community's organizing efforts, and with the support and commitment from of the Town, Southern Pines secured a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to provide water and sewer to Waynor Road residents.

Despite some inconveniences, residents have welcomed the sight of the large trucks and equipment and view them as a tangible reminder of their achievements as a community. Construction is slated to continue through the fall and near completion in December 2009.

CDBG Funds Awarded for Phase II of Water & Sewer Construction in Jackson Hamlet - Jackson Hamlet is a predominantly African-American, unincorporated community of 300 residents that is almost completely surrounded by the Moore County towns of Pinehurst and Aberdeen. Residents have a dedicated community organization, Jackson Hamlet Community Action, which has been working since 1969 to establish and maintain a community center, provide opportunities for local youth, and unite residents around issues affecting the community, including access to water and sewer.

Working with town officials, Jackson Hamlet residents have already secured $920,125 of CDBG funding to extend sewer to one-third of its homes (Phase I). Phase I is nearing completion and approximately 15 households have already been connected to public sewer. Jackson Hamlet and the Town had been planning to meet an August 2009 application deadline to secure funding for Phase II when special CDBG monies became available through the federal stimulus package. The Town was awarded that funding in mid-June, meaning the Phase II sewer project and the provision of sewer service to the majority of the Jackson Hamlet residents will proceed on an expedited schedule.

Pinebluff Land Deal Prompts Habitat Suit - On May 22, 2009 attorneys from the Center and the Winston-Salem office of Kilpatrick Stockton, working as pro bono co-counsel with the Center, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Habitat for Humanity of the North Carolina Sandhills alleging violations of federal fair housing laws and interference with contract related to Habitat's purchase of land and proposed affordable housing development in Pinebluff, NC. Pinebluff's mayor, board of commissioners, and town attorney are named as defendants in the complaint, as well as the sellers and purchasers of the property.

Habitat claims that the town of Pinebluff, through its Mayor and commissioners, conspired with a group of private citizens (known as "Friends of Thunder Road") to prevent the development of a Habitat community in their town. Prior to this lawsuit, Habitat had already engaged in a lengthy legal battle with the town over its denial of a conditional use permit (CUP) for the proposed development. After the Superior Court ruled in favor of Habitat and ordered that the CUP be issued, the Town both upzoned the property and appealed to the N.C. Court of Appeals. Habitat's purchase of the property, which was contingent on approval of the CUP, was delayed pending the ruling from the Court of Appeals. In December 2008 the Court ruled in favor of Habitat and ordered the issuance of the CUP. The Board of Commissioners nonetheless delayed issuing the permit for two months, creating the opportunity for members of the "Friends of Thunder Road" group to purchase the property and prevent the Habitat development.

Read the complaint filed in this case.

Center for Civil Rights Settles Fair House Lawsuit - On May 19, 2009, the U.S. District Court approved the settlement of a fair housing lawsuit brought by the Center and the Moore County law firm Van Camp, Meachem and Newman on behalf of Richard and Nicole Johnson and their minor children. The lawsuit stated claims for race discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and § 1982 as well as a claims for unfair trade practices, wrongful eviction, breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, and trespass to real and personal property.

The Johnsons' claims arose from a dispute over a rental agreement for a house located in Whispering Pines, North Carolina. The property owners, real estate agent, and real estate company were all named as defendants.

The lawsuit alleged that shortly after the Johnsons arrived from out of state, signed the lease and moved their personal belongings into the property, the owners refused to honor the lease and rent the property to the Johnsons. The complaint further alleged that when the Johnsons asserted that they believed they had a valid and enforceable lease, the owners evicted the Johnsons, locking them out of the house with all their personal belongings still remaining inside.

After substantial discovery, the parties engaged in a mandatory mediated settlement conference and were able to reach a confidential settlement of all matters in controversy between them.

Read the complaint filed in this case.

In the Matter of J.D.B.- Earlier this month the Center joined with attorneys from the UNC School of Law Juvenile Justice Clinic, the Office of the Juvenile Defender, Advocates for Children's Services, and Legal Aid of North Carolina to file an amicus brief before the North Carolina Supreme Court in support of the juvenile-appellant J.D.B. The amici brief focuses on ensuring that the constitutional and statutory rights of children are fully protected and requests that the Court clarify the appropriate standard for determining when a juvenile is in custody and therefore entitled to Miranda warnings as well as state statutory protections. The case is scheduled for oral argument in September.

Read the brief.

Calendar Call

On June 13, 2009, Senior Attorney Mark Dorosin served as a panelist at a conference held by the National Archives in Atlanta entitled "Documented Rights: A Symposium on the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement." Dorosin was part of the panel "Civil Rights and the Courts," and presented a paper on Griggs v. Duke Power, the landmark 1971 employment discrimination case originally brought by the Center's Executive Director Julius Chambers. The paper discussed the history of the Griggs litigation, the theory of disparate impact discrimination, and the potential impact of the Ricci v. Destefano case.

Read the paper submitted to the conference.

In the News

Pine Bluff Land Deal Prompts Habitat Suit

Center for Civil Rights Director Receives Award: Worked to Help Empower Kids

Dicta

Senior Attorney Ashley Osment was one of seven UNC Law staff members to be named a 2009 Star Heel award recipient for her outstanding service to Carolina Law. Learn more about the award.

The UNC Center for Civil Rights now has a Facebook page. Please join our online community!

Pro Bono 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 to work on a pro bono project, please contact Mark Dorosin (dorosin@email.unc.edu).


To subscribe or unsubscribe to this newsletter, please email Sarah Krishnaraj at civilrights@unc.edu.