Fifty-six students at the historically black university, Elizabeth City State University, were removed from the voter registration rolls by the Pasquotank County Board of Elections after challenges by the local Republican Party Chair. During an 8 hour hearing, the Pasquotank GOP Chair, Richard Gilbert, challenged the registration of 60 voters, 59 of whom were registered […]
Over a decade ago Benjamin was convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Watch how his life was changed forever: Collateral Consequences: Benjamin’s Story Produced by Vanessa Patchett and Cristina Fletes-Boutte, with support from the Drug Policy Alliance: http://www.drugpolicy.org/
Jasmyn Prioleau was a 20-something when she had a run-in with the law, and said she didn’t think about the lifelong consequences – although the crime was minor. Three years ago, she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, and the criminal record left her unable to obtain certifications for classes she took for two professions – […]
Today the Southern Coalition for Social Justice is standing with the LGBTQ community and fair minded North Carolinians in asking all North Carolina voters to stand up to hate by voting AGAINST Amendment One.
Amendment One, which seeks to define marriage as a union between one woman and one man would:
• take domestic partnership benefits from all unmarried people
• take health benefits from kids of all unmarried people, and
• restrict the rights of domestic violence survivors who are being hurt by people they are not married to
This amendment would have broad impacts on many North Carolinians, but it explicitly seeks to attack LGBTQ community members. In North Carolina, same sex marriage is not legal, thus at its core this amendment seeks to further alienate LGBTQ people from our communities.
As a social justice organization, we stand for the equal rights and humanity of all persons. Please, go to the polls today to vote NO on Amendment One and make sure your friends and family know why you are against this amendment.
We thank everyone who has been involved in this important human rights struggle.
For more information about Amendment One see:
On Monday, the United States Department of Justice objected to a proposed reduction in the size and method of election of the Pitt County Board of Education. The changes were the result of a local bill passed by the General Assembly last year. On behalf of the North Carolina State Conference of NAACP Branches, SCSJ filed a comment letter with DOJ, explaining how the proposed change would be retrogressive for black voters in the county. DOJ agreed that the change would make black voters worse off, and issued an objection letter on April 30.
Attached are the comment letter filed by SCSJ and the DOJ Objection Letter.
Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association and NC NAACP Score an Environmental Justice Victory in the NC Court of Appeals
Yesterday, a 3-judge panel on the North Carolina Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a trial court decision in Waste Industries v. NC upholding the constitutionality of a state law that limits the size and location of new large landfills built in the state. The Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association and the NC NAACP had intervened in the litigation to defend the law, passed in 2007, because large landfills are often sited in low-income, minority communities. The NAACP had pushed the General Assembly to consider environmental justice when dealing with new landfills. The decision from the Court of Appeals expressly recognized the environmental justice protections provided by the challenged statutes.
Attached is the May 1 opinion from the Court of Appeals.
Last Friday SCSJ staff attorney, Allison Riggs, represented the Florida NAACP in asking the Supreme Court to declare the new Senate redistricting plan constitutionally invalid. She argued that in invalidating the first Senate plan earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court had not factored in the effects of racially polarized voting in determining whether a district with a dramatically reduced black voting age population, will still allow black voters to elect the candidates of their choice. The redrawn Senate plan would have significant negative effects on minority voters in Northeast Florida. The position of the NAACP is that the evidence before the Court indicated that there still is, especially in northeast Florida, a substantial amount of racially polarized voting, and that black voters cannot rely on white crossover voters. She showed how redrawn Senate districts in which the BVAP has been dramatically lowered, those districts violate the state constitutional prohibition on diminishing the ability of minority voters to elect the candidates of their choice.
It is expected that a decision will be made by next Friday.
To read some of the press coverage see:
Last week community members in Greene County, Georgia succeeded in convincing the Department of Justice to issue an objection to the County’s proposed redistricting plans. Using its authority under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Department prevented the implementation of new election districts that would have prevented black voters in the county from being able to elect candidates of their choice. In the objection letter dated April 13th, 2012, the Assistant Attorney General writes, “The elimination of both ability-to-elect districts was unnecessary and avoidable. Although there has been a decrease in the black share of the county’s population over the past ten years, the ability to draw at least one black ability-to-elect district still existed.”
This victory was a result of the efforts of the local NAACP chapter, and African American leaders who paid close attention to the redistricting process, and then organized to ensure their voices were heard. SCSJ board member, Jerry Wilson, who lives in Greene County, helped to ensure that the local group got the assistance they needed. . He says that SCSJ played an important support role. Community members attended meetings, engaged county commissioners and school board members opposed to the proposed changes, drew alternative maps demonstrating it was possible to maintain an ability-to elect district for Black voters, and wrote letters talking about how they would be affected by the changes.
The objection is significant for Black Belt counties like this one in Georgia. Over 60% of the county formerly was African American, before an influx of white retirees, people moving out of Atlanta, and investors began to settle in the area and developed major resorts around Lake Oconee. According the 2010 census, the county is now only 38.4% African American. Without this action by the Department of Justice, black voters in the county would have lost their voice in local government.
SCSJ Ensures Equal Representation on Guilford County Board of Commissioners
On February 7, 2012, SCSJ filed suit on behalf of the NAACP-Greensboro Branch and individual Guilford County voters to ensure equal representation on their county Board of Commissioners. SCSJ’s Complaint alleged the General Assembly’s Guilford County redistricting plan left thousands of residents without a county commissioners, while others received disproportionately large representation. United States Middle District of North Carolina Judge William L. Osteen granted Plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction finding the legislation in question caused “unequal representation on the Board of Commissioners… violating… residents’ equal protection rights” in his March 14, 2012 Judge Osteen changed the election schedule to ensure equal representation on the Board, and SCSJ continues to work to rectify further anomalies found in the redistricting plan.
Memorandum Opinion is attached.
SCSJ conducted its sixth wills’ clinic in Tarboro, North Carolina, on February 18-19. These wills’ clinics are part of SCSJ’s efforts to prevent heirs’ property passing without a will, a leading cause of family land loss in the South. During the most recent clinic, 20 Edgecombe County residents had 74 end of life documents made free of charge. This was the most individuals ever participating in an SCSJ wills’ clinic as well as the most documents produced. Coordinating partner and Edgecombe County Extension Service Community Rural Development Agent Jamilla Hawkins says, “This clinic is invaluable to our county. I am delighted to see so many people take advantage of this service.” Many thanks to everyone who made the service possible: SCSJ staff attorney Chris Brook, the office of the Edgecombe County Agricultural Extension, and the nine law student volunteers from Carolina and Campbell Law who interviewed clients and assisted with end of life document drafting.
Staff attorney Chris Brook spoke at Carolina Law on February 21, detailing SCSJ and the Carrboro community’s successful 2011 effort to repeal the town’s unconstitutional anti-loitering law and how it represented the capacity of the North Carolina immigrant community to overcome the challenges it faces. The panel discussion, entitled “The Street Corner Next Door,” was sponsored by the Immigration Law Association and the National Lawyers Guild and also featured representatives from the North Carolina DREAM Team, the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the North Carolina Immigrants Rights Project, and the ACLU of North Carolina. Brook highlighted how the ordinance applied only to the Carrboro street corner frequented by predominantly Latino day laborer, making it more difficult for them to find employment as well as infringing upon their First Amendment rights. The panelist agreed immigrants faced an inhospitable climate through the nation as well as within North Carolina currently, but held out the Carrboro example, among others, as demonstrating the power of community-drive efforts.
On February 6, the three judge panel ruled that the statewide redistricting lawsuits in North Carolina will go forward. The judges’ denied in part the State’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit SCSJ filed on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP, Democracy NC, the League of Women Voters, NC A. Philip Randolph Institute and 44 individual voters. The judges also refused to dismiss the redistricting lawsuit brought by Democratic officials and voters. Although the judges’ dismissed some of the plaintiffs’ claims, the case will proceed on the majority of the claims including claims that State House, State Senate and Congressional plans draw racially gerrymandered districts, divide too many counties and split an excessive number of precincts. The judges’ ruling allows claims to go forward against every district challenged by the plaintiffs including Congressional Districts 1, 4, 10 and 12. As the lawsuits move through the courts, SCSJ and the plaintiff organizations are working to minimize voter confusion and problems that may arise during the May primaries.
SCSJ staff attorney Chris Brook spoke January 27 at the fourth annual Duke Law Forum for Law and Social Change symposium on “A Just Transition to a Green Economy.” While hailing the opportunities available in the transition to a green economy, Brook highlighted the potential dangers for low wealth communities of color. Too often industries “push destructive projects to communities of color as green job producers.” Brook focused on SCSJ’s successful effort to oppose the re-opening and expansion of the White Street Landfill in Greensboro, a proposal that began under the auspices of pursuing waste to energy possibilities. Check out Chris’s full discussion here:
SCSJ in 2- Week Trial Urging the D.C. District Court to Find Texas’ Redistricting Plans Racially Discriminatory
SCSJ represents the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches in Texas v. United States, litigation in the federal District Court for the District of Columbia in which the state of Texas is seeking federal preclearance for its Congressional, State House and State Senate redistricting plans. The NAACP is joining with the United States Department of Justice in arguing that these plans were crafted with racially discriminatory intent and will have a retrogressive effect on minority voters.
Trial begins on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 and will conclude at the end of the following week, with closing arguments on February 3. The outcome of this trial will be key in what plan is in place for the 2012 elections conducted in Texas this fall. Texas is an incredibly diverse state, and the NAACP stands with all minority voters in resisting the state’s longstanding and egregious attempts to minimize the voting strength of African-American, Latino, and Asian-American voters in Texas.
SCSJ has been lead counsel representing the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches in litigation challenging the discriminatory redistricting plans enacted by the Texas state legislature. Because of Texas’ failure to obtain federal approval of their redistricting plans, a federal court in San Antonio drew interim plans to govern the 2012 elections. Those interim plans were constructed with the input of all parties, including the NAACP. Unlike the redistricting plans enacted by the state, the interim plans were fair to minority voters, preserving the gains made by such voters and drawing districts that recognized the incredible minority population growth over the last decade.
Texas appealed those interim plans to the United States Supreme Court. SCSJ, on behalf of the NAACP, briefed the issues extensively for the Supreme Court, helped prepare the attorney who argued the case for all plaintiffs, and attended the Supreme Court argument on Monday, January 9th. SCSJ was encouraged to see many Justices recognize that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act dictates that unprecleared redistricting plans may not be implemented. A decision from Supreme Court will likely be delivered soon. The Supreme Court cases were consolidated under Perry v. Perez, No. 11-713, 11-714, and 11-715.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice has been representing the Texas State Conference of Branches of the NAACP in ongoing litigation over Texas’s statewide redistricting plans. On Friday, November 25, a three-judge panel in Texas ordered the implementation of a court-drawn interim plan for Congressional elections in 2012. This plan corrects almost all of the major problems that the NAACP identified in the state’s enacted plan.
In the court-drawn plan, Congressional Districts 9, 18, and 30—districts currently electing the candidates of choice of African-American voters—are not weakened, as they were in the state’s enacted plan. The court-drawn plan respects the cores of the district and does not split significant communities of interest, as the state plan did. The court’s drawing of these districts in a way that respects the integrity of the districts and complies with the Voting Rights Act makes even clearer the discriminatory intent that infected the drawing of minority districts in the state’s plan.
In the state’s enacted plan, Texas had purposefully destroyed a Congressional District 25, a multi-ethnic coalition district based in Austin. The state’s plan carved up East Austin, a historically significant African American community that had always been represented by a single representative, into multiple districts, in order to dilute the voting strength of African American voters in that area. The court’s plan retained the core of CD 25, and kept East Austin intact.
Finally, the court-drawn plan creates a new African-American opportunity district in Tarrant County, in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area. After the 2010 Census, Texas gained 4 Congressional representatives because of population growth of the last decade—population growth that was almost entirely from increases in Latino and African-American population. Despite this fact, the congressional plan that Texas drew created no new African-American opportunity districts and no net increase in Latino opportunity districts. Congressional District 33 is majority-minority, with African-Americans constituting a strong plurality of the citizen voting age population. The drawing of Congressional District 33 is fair and complies with the Voting Rights Act, and will enable the minority community in the Dallas-Fort Worth region to elect a candidate of their choice.
The Carrboro Board of Aldermen unanimously rescinded the town’s anti-loitering ordinance, which had previously made it a misdemeanor for any person to “stand, sit, recline, linger, or otherwise remain” on the corner of Jones Ferry and Davie Roads between 11AM and 5AM. This corner is the gathering place for predominantly Latino day laborers to find employment in Carrboro. The ordinance’s rescission culminates a four month campaign against the ordinance led by SCSJ, beginning with a letter from SCSJ staff attorney Chris Brook highlighting the ordinance’s unconstitutionality continuing through a press conference noting how the ordinance made it harder for day laborers to find work and ultimately leading to the unanimous vote.
Ordinance opponents jammed Carrboro Town Hall Tuesday evening with speaker after speaker underlining how the ordinance was inconsistent with Carrboro’s worker and immigrant friendly reputation. Amongst these speakers were three Latino day laborers who had lost work opportunities during the four years the ordinance was in place. “I respect the community. I respect the police. All I want is to work,” said day laborer Santiago Hernandez. Town Hall erupted in applause at the close of the Board’s vote to rescind.
“Carrboro residents, more than 150 of whom signed a letter to the Board of Aldermen calling for the ordinance’s repeal, made their voices heard loud and clear on this issue,” said SCSJ staff attorney Chris Brook. “Its repeal is a victory for the dignity of individuals simply seeking to put food on their families’ tables. We applaud the Board for rescinding this ordinance and hope it is the first step in bringing Carrboro together to collaboratively and creatively address the challenges facing day laborers in our community.”
In addition to the more than 150 Carrboro residents signing onto the letter to Board of Aldermen, the effort to rescind the ordinance mobilized an unprecedented number of groups in community including SCSJ, the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, the Carolina Law Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic, the Carolina Law Civil Clinic, the Chapel Hill/Carrboro branch of the NAACP, the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Human Rights Center, the ACLU of North Carolina, the North Carolina Justice Center, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and the N.C. Immigrant Rights Project.
SCSJ staff attorney Chris Brook spoke November 8 at an NC Central panel discussion on environmental justice. Addressing the Central Law Black Law Student Association, Environmental Law Society, and Constitutional Law and Civil Rights Society, Brook generally outlined the origins of the environmental justice movement in Warren County, North Carolina. He also spoke of SCSJ’s recent successes in obtaining a benefits package for the New Hill community, which struggled against the placement of a sewage treatment plant in their community, as well as stopping Greensboro’s efforts to re-open the White Street Landfill in predominantly African-American Northeast Greensboro. “Too often environmental impacts are placed in communities of color,” said Brook. “This was a great opportunity to make the scope of these ongoing challenges known.”