Center for Civil Rights Newsletter

Center for Civil Rights Newsletter: Tuesday, September 28, 2010

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

As we proceed into a new semester, the Center, as usual, is heavily involved in activities, projects and transitions. We report on them in this newsletter. A highlight of the current term is the November 1-2, 2010 Conference on "Unfinished Work", recognizing the life's work of our Director Julius L. Chambers on the occasion of his retirement. (See The Docket) The Center is pleased to welcome a new staff attorney and a new fellow. (See Dicta) The Center also is pleased to note faculty who have civil rights interests which we hope to engage in the areas of their specialty. The able, dedicated staff has major work underway on vital matters including litigation in Wake County, reopening schools in Halifax County, community development projects in several communities, and entering a fair housing settlement to end litigation challenging obstruction of housing for low-income families. Another item high on the agenda is the search for a Director of the Center. A subcommittee of the UNC School of Law Appointments Committee will be undertaking the identification and recruitment task. We continue to miss Ashley Osment, Senior Attorney, who died May 28, 2010 after a gallant three-year struggle against ovarian cancer. Dean Boger wrote in part: "Ashley led the Center's advocacy efforts in public education for nearly five years, especially the Center's outreach to parent communities in the state...At the UNC Center, Ashley was charged with building the Center into a regional hub for advocacy, litigation and research in addressing school desegregation in the 21st century...She carried out her charge brilliantly, taking a major role in legal actions challenging resegregation." We will miss Ashley's drive, determination, and dedication. Her spirit remains to inspire us. We invite you to peruse the rest of the news.

The Docket

Upcoming Center Conference Honors the Career of Julius L. Chambers - Join the Center for Civil Rights and nation's most talented attorneys, advocates and scholars on November 1-2, 2010 at The Friday Center in Chapel Hill, NC for a national conference dedicated to the career and work of civil rights pioneer, Professor Julius L. Chambers. "The Unfinished Work": Advancing New Strategies in the Struggle for Civil Rights will unite practitioners, researchers, policymakers, community activists and students to examine the most promising strategies for pursuing equity and eliminating discrimination in the areas of the law that Professor Chambers' has championed most, including public education, housing, voting rights, employment and criminal justice. While new trends in engagement, organizing advocacy and public policy have shifted the ways we challenge racial and socioeconomic segregation and discrimination, the inequalities that these institutionalized problems create remain largely the same. This conference will explore these challenges and offer a range of innovative and strategic approaches for:

  • Applying the law;
  • Pursuing policy change;
  • Mobilizing well-informed grassroots activists; and
  • Encouraging the scholarly pursuit of public interest-oriented research.

Conference registration is open through October 24, 2010. For more information, please visit the conference website.

Center Coordinates Election Protection 2010 - On November 2, 2010, in conjunction with our annual conference, the Center and the UNC Pro Bono Program will coordinate a statewide Election Protection volunteer hotline in Chapel Hill. Sponsored by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Election Protection is the nation's largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. On Election Day 2010, hundreds of trained volunteers and free legal advisors around the country, including volunteers with the UNC project, will be available to answer questions and guide voters through the voting process, helping to ensure all eligible American citizens have the opportunity to exercise the right to vote. In 2008, 104 students (approximately 15% of the UNC Law School student body), 6 faculty members and 16 staff members from the UNC Law community answered phones in two-hour shifts from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and fielded over 1000 voter phone calls. Interested volunteers for Election Protection 2010 should visit the Election Protection Program National Website or contact Mark Dorosin at 919.843.7896 or dorosin@email.unc.edu.

Center Proceeds with Legal Action against Wake County Board of Education - On September 25, 2010, the Center, along with the National and NC Conference of the NAACP, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, NC Justice Center and other advocacy organizations announced the first stages of legal action to challenge directly the Wake Board of Education's decision to dismantle the system's socioeconomic diversity policy-the filing of a complaint against the Wake County Board of Education with the Department of Education under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting public institutions from using federal funds in a discriminatory manner). The complaint alleges that the Board's student assignment and disciplinary policies have disproportionately impacted non-White students and have denied African American and Latino students access to educational resources. The complaint also alleges that the Board intentionally discriminated against minority students and that its actions have resulted in a direct harm to their educational opportunities. The NC-NAACP filed a similar complaint against the Wayne County Board of Education late last year that is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice.

The Center also is continuing its advocacy on behalf of Wake County residents who are demanding more transparency from the Board of Education. In June, the Center and its co-counsel filed a notice of appeal in Garlock et. al. v. Wake County Board of Education, a lawsuit alleging that the Board violated the North Carolina Open Meetings Act by excluding members of the public from committee meetings through its ticketing policy and other actions. Although a lower court ruled that the Board acted unreasonably in some respects, it nevertheless dismissed the case. The plaintiffs are asking the North Carolina Court of Appeals to rule that, given the finding that the Board acted unreasonably, the Board violated the Open Meetings Act and that it should be enjoined from future violations.

Schools to Reopen in Halifax County - In July, 2010, following months of community organizing and engagement led by The Committee to Save Education in Halifax County, the Halifax County Board of Education voted to reopen Brawley and Eastman Schools. The Board previously closed these schools for the 2009-2010 school year, reassigning several hundred students to other middle schools throughout the county and creating tremendous disruptions for students and families. Throughout the last school year, the Center for Civil Rights worked with The Committee to develop research and proposals re-examining the process by which the schools were initially closed and the community and educational impacts of the closings. Following the Board's July vote, district administrators have assembled a local committee of educational leaders and community stakeholders to develop a plan for reopening these schools by 2011.

Since fall 2009, the Center has been working with The Committee on a strategy to address education issues in Halifax County. The Center conducted a series of well-attended parent trainings and community meetings in Halifax County during the 2009-2010 school year. At the Committee's First Anniversary Banquet in June 2010, the Committee recognized the Center's steadfast support and unwavering persistence in the development of communities, parents, and students in Halifax County through education on civil rights. The Center will continue its work with The Committee about the school reopenings and other educational issues in Halifax County throughout this school year.

Settlement Reached in Habitat for Humanity Fair Housing Lawsuit - In May 2009, the Center for Civil Rights and attorneys from the Winston-Salem office of Kilpatrick Stockton filed a lawsuit on behalf of Habitat for Humanity of the North Carolina Sandhills alleging violations of federal fair housing laws and interference with a 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 were named as defendants in the complaint, as well as the sellers and ultimate purchasers of the property.

During the fall of 2009, Habitat successfully challenged the removal of the case from state court to federal court based on the failure of all defendants to timely and unambiguously consent to removal. After defendants' motions to dismiss were denied, extensive discovery, and court ordered mediation, the parties were able to reach a confidential settlement.

Cameron Heights Begins Clearing Dilapidated Housing - Building on its experience with communities in Moore County, the Center has partnered with Cameron Heights Community Action Project to address issues of municipal exclusion and access to basic services facing this small African American community located just outside the city of Raeford, in Hoke County, NC. The community identified their greatest needs as clearing overgrown lots and removing dilapidated structures, which had become magnets for crime and illegal dumping and presented numerous public health problems. The Center helped the community association acquire grant funds through the Resourceful Communities Program and provided the legal documents necessary to begin clearing lots. To date, three lots in the community have been cleared and two decaying structures removed. In addition, one of the cleared lots will become a community garden.

Construction Begins on Midway Gardens - Even after achieving their goal of annexation last summer and securing community wide access to water and sewer service, the Midway Community Association has kept working. In order to help the community grow and attract new residents, Habitat for Humanity of the North Carolina Sandhills, the Midway Community Association, and the UNC Center for Civil Rights worked together to plan and begin construction of Midway Gardens, a 22 home Habitat community inside Midway. Construction began this summer on the new homes after nearly two years of work by the Center, Habitat, Self-Help Credit Union and the community to acquire the land. Although a recent rezoning petition which would have allowed Habitat to develop additional houses on the property was rejected following opposition from a nearby predominantly white neighborhood, the first homeowners, Nikeya and Michael Stancil, grew up in Midway and look forward to returning as homeowners.

Profile On...

Faculty Members With Civil Rights Interests - As UNC School of Law welcomes six new faculty members and several visitors this year, the Center especially is pleased that two of these new faculty members - Kareem Crayton and Catherine Kim-and visiting faculty member Derek Black, have special interests and backgrounds in civil rights law.

  • Kareem U. Crayton joins the faculty as Associate Professor with a background in voting rights. Professor Crayton's scholarship examines ongoing scholarly and public controversies about race, ranging from voter polarization and electoral campaigning to legislative caucus behavior and partisan competition, and including topics such as felon disenfranchisement laws and the emerging dimensions of American racial politics in the era of the Obama Presidency. He has previously taught at the University of Southern California and Vanderbilt Law Schools. Professor Crayton is teaching courses on Election Law and Comparative Constitutional Law this fall and will facilitate the voting rights panel at the Center's upcoming conference.
  • Catherine Y. Kim joins the faculty as Associate Professor with a background in civil and immigrant rights. Professor Kim has written extensively on the relationship between American law and the school-to-prison pipeline, an emerging trend that pushes large numbers of at-risk youth-particularly children of color-out of classrooms and into the juvenile justice system. Before joining the UNC Law faculty, Professor Kim was a staff attorney with the National Legal Department of the ACLU Foundation in New York where her practice focused on juvenile justice issues. Professor Kim is teaching Civil Procedure this fall, and will teach Civil Rights Law in the spring. She currently serves on the planning committee for the Center's upcoming conference and will serve on a subcommittee with Professor Charles Daye, the Center's Deputy Director, to seek a Center Director.
  • Derek W. Black is a visiting professor for the 2010-2011 school year. He is an Associate Professor at Howard University School of Law and the Director and founder of its Education Rights Center. Professor Black's scholarship focuses on educational inequalities and systemic racial discrimination. Prior to teaching, he was a staff attorney at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He has served as pro bono counsel in numerous civil rights cases and was a member of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Professor Black is teaching Torts this fall, and will teach Constitutional Law in the spring. He has already begun working with the Center on education issues and will participate in a discussion on economic justice at the Center's upcoming conference.

Calendar Call

October 15, 2010 - Submission Deadline for "The Unfinished Work" Conference Law Student Writing Competition

October 22-23, 2010 - Fall Break Wills Trip in Moore County and Richmond County, NC

November 1-2, 2010 - Center for Civil Rights Conference, "The Unfinished Work": Advancing New Strategies in the Struggle for Civil Rights, The Friday Center, Chapel Hill, NC

November 2, 2010 - Election Protection 2010, Chapel Hill, NC

In the News

Senior Managing Attorney Mark Dorosin Featured in NC Lawyer's Weekly Profile - Civil Rights Attorney Battles 'Institutionalized Inequity' , NC Lawyers Weekly, August 12, 2010

Center Comments on Wake County and School Resegregation - Arrests Highlight Education Busing Issues, CNN, July 21, 2010

Center Partners with the Kirwan Institute for Diversity Discussion in Pitt County, NC - Community Dialogue Discusses Diversity in Public Schools , WNCT, July 13, 2010

Dicta

Center Welcomes New Staff Attorney and Fellow, Bids Farewell to Former Fellow - The Center experienced several staffing changes this summer. Sarah Krishnaraj, the Center's 2008-2010 Community Inclusion and Economic Development fellow, completed her fellowship in July following the birth of a healthy baby boy, Nayan Elias Krishnaraj. We wish Sarah and Baby Nayan a heartfelt farewell!

In May, Peter Gilbert joined the Center as the new 2010-2012 Community Inclusion and Economic Development fellow. Peter was a summer intern with the Center in 2007 and earned his J.D. from UNC School of Law in 2009, where he twice co-chaired UNC Law's annual Conference on Race, Class, Gender, and Ethnicity. Peter graduated from Yale University in 2003. After college, Peter worked as a graduate student teaching assistant in Physics at North Carolina State University, where he met his partner Elena. Prior to entering law school, Peter worked for the United Food and Commercial Workers to help organize the Smithfield Foods packing house in Tar Heel, NC. Immediately prior to joining the Center, Peter served as a law clerk to the Honorable Judge William Osteen Jr. in the Middle District of North Carolina.

In September, Elizabeth Haddix joined the Center as its new Staff Attorney. A former high school Spanish teacher, she earned her B.A. from Duke University in 1992 and her J.D. from UNC School of Law in 1998. Following law school, she was awarded a fellowship from the National Association for Public Interest Law, which she used to represent low-income workers as a staff attorney at the North Carolina Justice Center. Haddix then entered private practice with the employment and civil rights firm of Edelstein & Payne in Raleigh, NC and continued to represent workers as support attorney to UE Local 150, the NC Public Service Workers Union, whose principal challenge continues to be winning public employee collective bargaining rights for North Carolina workers. Prior to joining the Center, Haddix ran a bilingual solo law practice serving low-income workers across the state, where she specialized in employment discrimination claims under both state and federal law. Welcome Peter and Elizabeth!

Former Summer Interns Join Center for 2010-2011 Academic Year - Three Center interns from Summer 2010 have returned to the Center for internships during the 2010-2011 school year. Tessa Benjamin, a 2L at UNC Law, and Nigel Edwards and Christie Trice, both 3Ls at UNC School of Law, will continue their work on Center projects throughout this school year. Welcome back Tessa, Nigel and Christie!

Law Student Writing Competition - The Center invites all students currently enrolled in any North Carolina law school to submit papers for a writing competition in conjunction with its upcoming conference. Papers should build on Professor Julius L. Chambers' body of work by discussing a current social justice struggle relevant to North Carolina. Papers may address any combination of legal issues relevant to the modern civil rights movement, including K-12 and higher education; housing and community development; criminal and racial justice; employment; voting rights; and/or economic justice. Entries must be original, unpublished works between 6-10 single-spaced pages (including endnotes). The best law student paper submitted for this competition, as judged by this year's Conference Planning Committee, will be published in the Long Civil Rights Movement online collection dedicated to this conference. The writer of the winning paper will receive a scholarship to attend the conference and may receive a nominal monetary prize as well. All entries must be sent VIA EMAIL to Adrienne M.B. Davis, Director of Research, Community Services and Student Program at ambdavis@email.unc.edu by Friday, October 15, 2010.

Please visit the conference website for additional information about the writing competition.

Applications for the 2011-2013 Educational Advancement and Fair Opportunities Fellowship Now Being Accepted - The UNC School of Law Center for Civil Rights invites applications for its two-year Educational Advancement and Fair Opportunities Fellowship for recent law school graduates. Fellows work under the direct supervision of the Center's senior attorneys. Fellows have primary responsibility for one program area and may contribute to other program areas as well. Fellows conduct legal research, provide direct representation to Center clients, help coordinate community outreach and public education, supervise law students working with the Center, and draft legal and policy documents submitted to the courts, other advocacy organizations and the media. Applicants must have a strong commitment to civil rights and social justice work, excellent verbal and written communications skills, be self-directed, have the ability to manage multiple assignments simultaneously, work confidently with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and exhibit promising leadership potential through professional experiences or law school activities.

Position Requirements: Graduation from an ABA accredited law school within the last two years (Class of 2011 graduates are eligible); and admission to a State Bar within one year of employment. North Carolina State Bar preferred, but not required.

Interested candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, law school academic record, three references, and two writing samples (at least one should be legal in nature) to: Adrienne M. B. Davis, Director of Research, Community Services and Student Programs, UNC School of Law Center for Civil Rights, Attention: Civil Rights Fellowship Program, CB#3382, Law School Annex, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3382, civilrights@unc.edu. Application review will begin March 1, 2011. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Please do not fax application materials.

Additional information is available on the Center's website.

Applications for 2011 Summer Internships Now Being Accepted - The Center provides summer internships for rising 2L and 3L law students. Summer interns assist with the Center's current case load, participate in special projects, and have opportunities to meet lawyers, advocates, and community leaders engaged in social justice work. Interested law students should submit a cover letter, resume, and current (unofficial) law school transcript to: Adrienne M. B. Davis, Director of Research, Community Services and Student Programs, UNC School of Law Center for Civil Rights, CB#3382, Law School Annex, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3382, civilrights@unc.edu. (Please do not fax application materials.) Application deadline is 5:00 p.m. November 1, 2010.

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 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.