For the last fifteen years, the UNC School of Law's Center for Civil Rights has helped advocate for the state's poor and minority populations, providing legal advice and representation for those who may not have otherwise been able to afford it.
Now some members of the Republican-controlled UNC Board of Governors want it to stop, proposing that the center cease involving itself in civil rights litigation. As Raleigh attorney Steve Long explained last week, "Suing the state and its municipalities violates the mission of the university."
A BOG committee decided to study the issue. For now, the law school dean has promised that the center won't take up any new cases. So what sort of cases has the center taken on that have aroused the board's ire? We asked for a complete list; the center sent us synopses of the following nine cases, along with nine amicus briefs and a ton of advocacy work.
Judge for yourself whether this work truly runs afoul of the university's mission.
Leandro v. State: The center intervened on behalf of African-American students suing Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools over an inadequate allocation of resources. CMS and the state entered into a consent order on a school turnaround plan.
Gary et al. v. Halifax County: A primarily white city annexed a black community as part of an entertainment district without any notice to residents, then levied additional taxes, forcing some residents out. The center helped the community de-annex and recovered tens of thousands of dollars in property taxes for residents.
Everett et al. v. Pitt County Board of Education: Working with the Pitt County Coalition for the Education of Black Children, the center has been seeking to integrate schools in Pitt County for a decade. In 2008, it sued; a settlement in 2009 held that federal desegregation orders were still applicable. In 2010, the school board passed a new school-reassignment plan; the center sued again, but this time it lost in the Court of Appeals.
Johnson v. Fleming: The center filed a fair housing lawsuit on behalf of the Johnson family against a landlord, real estate agent, and real estate company in Moore County that refused to rent to the Johnsons because of their race. The lawsuit was settled in the Johnsons' favor.
Habitat for Humanity v. Upchurch et al.: The center helped file a lawsuit on behalf of Habitat for Humanity of the North Carolina Sandhills alleging racial discrimination related to a contract over an affordable housing development in Pine Bluff. The lawsuit was settled in Habitat's favor.
ROCCA et al. v. Brunswick County: The center sued to prevent Brunswick County from placing an industrial waste site in a low-income, African-American community. The county ultimately agreed to build an elementary school on that property instead.
In re: Redmond, In re: Hughes, In re: Smith: The center helped victims of the state's eugenics program, which ran from 1929–73, receive reparations. Many were people of color and lower income and would not have received compensation without the center's help.
Silver et al. v. Halifax County Board of Commissioners: The center sued to consolidate three small, low-performing, racially segregated school districts in Halifax County. This case is currently before the Court of Appeals.
Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools v. Johnston County Board of Education: The center sued after the Johnston County school board did not produce public records. The case was settled, and the records were provided.
This article appeared in print with the headline “+Civil Fights"