Today Plaintiffs in the North Carolina statewide redistricting case filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to hold that North Carolina’s House, Senate and Congressional redistricting plans are unconstitutional. As part of the research for that motion, plaintiffs’ found that 2056 voters in the state had been assigned to the wrong district in a sampling of 6 of North Carolina’s 100 Counties. 715 of those voters actually voted in the primary and 222 of them received the wrong ballot. Plaintiffs are asking for a hearing in mid-November. Any change in the maps won’t take effect until the 2014 elections, but the wrongly assigned voters could be corrected in time for the November 2012 general election. Attached below are the Motion and a one-page summary of the filings.
On September 20th Daryl Atkinson presented testimony on the importance of knowing the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction before entering a guilty plea. He joined Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and others on Capitol Hill for the launch of a new website created by the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and the National Institute of Justice. “Lifting the veil on these invisible punishments” will be easier for defense lawyers and for people facing criminal charges thanks to the new tool that will identify all the civil consequences of a criminal conviction. The site was modeled on North Carolina’s novel one stop portal (C-CAT) http://ccat.sog.unc.edu/ that provides North Carolina citizens a way to assess the full ramifications of their criminal justice involvement.
The Legal Times reports on the event here: http://legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2012/09/new-website-shows-collateral-consequences-of-criminal-convictions.html
The ABA website is: http://www.abacollateralconsequences.org/CollateralConsequences/map.jsp
When Patty Almond ran for Mayor of the town of Mt. Gilead in November, 2011, she lost by just two votes. However, in that election at least four African-American voters were improperly denied the right to vote when poll officials erroneously told them they did not live within the town boundaries. Even though they had voted in numerous previous city elections, this time they were turned away without a ballot and told to go to city hall to sort things out. Humiliated and discouraged, they returned home without being able to cast their votes. SCSJ’s staff attorney Clare Barnett represented Patty Almond in an election protest. After an appeal to Superior Court, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously on September 4th to order a new election for the office of Mayor of Mt. Gilead. The voters improperly denied the right to vote in 2011 will be allowed to cast their votes in the new election. Mt. Gilead, in Montgomery County, has a total population of 1,181, of whom 56% are Black.
National NAACP Releases Statement Praising DC Court’s Invalidation of TX Redistricting Plans Under Section 5 of the VRA. You may read The NAACP Redistricting Statement in the attachment below or under Press Releases.
SCSJ and the Texas State NAACP have scored a huge win: a panel of judges in D.C. rejected all three of Texas’ statewide redistricting maps as violating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The DC Court found that the Texas Congressional redistricting plan would have a discriminatory and retrogressive effect on minority voters. It also found that that the plan was motivated by discriminatory intent, based largely on evidence presented by SCSJ and the NAACP on how the state intentionally carved up the districts of the three black members of Congress from Texas so as to undermine the effectiveness of those districts. That finding of intentional discrimination may aid advocacy groups in defending Section 5 as a necessary voting rights tool. Additionally, despite the fact that the Department of Justice refused to defend Congressional District 25, the NAACP and other intervenors were able to persuade the court that the district was one in which minority voters must be protected.
The NAACP and SCSJ, with other groups, likewise convinced the DC court that the Senate redistricting plan must be rejected as intentionally discriminatory.
In the State House plan, the NAACP and SCSJ were able to protect the only district in which an Asian-American candidate is elected to the Texas State House of Representatives.
Finally, the decision presents strong language on the protection of coalition and crossover districts under Section 5, and will be a useful tool in defending those types of minority opportunity districts going forward.
For national comment on the significance of the opinion see:
On September 24, SCSJ filed a discrimination complaint against the Wake County School Board and the Wake County Public School System. The complainants include the NAACP, NC H.E.A.T. (a Wake student organization), and Quinton White (a Wake County high school student). The Title VI federal civil rights complaint alleges:
1. The School Board engaged in intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin when it made certain reassignments in April of 2010.
2. These reassignments have a disparate negative impact on students on the basis of race, color or national origin.
3. The disciplinary policies employed by the Wake County Public School System have a disproportionately negative impact on African American students.
The Department of Education has begun an initial investigation process. Follow the links below to read the complaint , the appendix (containing detailed reassignment data), and all of the exhibits submitted in support of the complaint.
Title VI Complaint against Wake County School Board
Appendix A – Reassignment Maps and Figures
Exhibit 1 – 4/6/10 Board Meeting Minutes
Exhibit 2 – Greater Schools in Wake Coalition, “The Need to Know More about What the Academic Research Says”
Exhibit 3 – Wake County Public School System: Board Policy – Transfer of School Assignment (6203)
Exhibit 4 – Greater Schools in Wake Coalition: Student Transportation Fact Sheet
Exhibit 5 – Updated Node Membership Data
Exhibit 6 – Wake County Public School System: Student Assignment Policy (with deletions)
PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit today issued a sweeping decision striking down as unconstitutional the city of Hazleton’s law that would punish landlords and employers who are accused of renting to or hiring anyone the city classifies as an “illegal alien.”
The case, Lozano v. Hazleton, has been closely watched across the country because the Hazleton ordinance has served as a model for similar laws nationwide and was challenged by civil rights groups in a lengthy trial. The suit has been underway for more than four years in the federal district and circuit courts. Today’s unanimous appeals court decision is the latest legal victory against discriminatory state and local laws that target immigrants and invite racial profiling against Latinos and others who appear “foreign.” Many cities like Fremont, Nebraska and Summerville, South Carolina have voluntarily tabled or blocked these laws under legal pressure and local opposition.
“This is a major defeat for the misguided, divisive and expensive anti-immigrant strategy that Hazleton has tried to export to the rest of the country,” said Omar Jadwat, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The Constitution does not allow states and cities to interfere with federal immigration laws or to adopt measures that discriminate against Latino and immigrant communities.”
Hazleton adopted its first anti-immigrant ordinance in August 2006. A civil rights coalition including the ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Community Justice Project and the law firm Cozen O’Connor immediately filed a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of Hazleton residents, landlords and business owners. Today’s ruling upholds a July 2007 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania concluding that the Hazleton ordinances were preempted by federal law governing immigration.
“Hazleton’s discriminatory law decimated a town that used to be bustling with life and commerce,” said Vic Walczak, Legal Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and a lead attorney in the case. “Divisive laws like these destroy communities and distract from the very real problems that local governments are facing across the country. Immigration reform needs to come from the federal level. Local ordinances like these have a toxic effect on the community, injecting suspicion and discriminatory attitudes where they didn’t previously exist.”
During the trial, Hazleton officials claimed that undocumented immigrants were responsible for bankrupting the city, driving up healthcare costs and increasing local crime. In fact, the evidence at trial showed that from 2000-2005, Latino immigrants actually helped to transform a huge city budget deficit into a surplus, that the private hospital system made a $4 million profit and that the crime rate actually fell.
“The Latino plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit knew this law was intended to drive them out of Hazleton,” said Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The court clearly recognized this danger.”
Friend-of-the-court briefs opposing the Hazleton law were filed by numerous civil rights, religious, labor and business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the labor union coalition Change to Win, the American Jewish Committee, Capuchin Franciscan Friars, Lutheran Children and Family Services, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Legal Momentum, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the Anti-Defamation League and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Related issues involving state authority to enact laws addressing immigrant employment are pending before the Supreme Court in the case, Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria, brought by the ACLU and other groups challenging an Arizona statute.
Attorneys on the case include Jadwat, Lucas Guttentag, Jennifer Chang Newell and Lee Gelernt of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Walczak and Mary Catherine Roper from the ACLU of Pennsylvania; Shamaine Daniels of the Community Justice Project; Foster Maer, Ghita Schwarz and Jackson Chin of LatinoJustice PRLDEF; and Thomas G. Wilkinson and Ilan Rosenberg of Cozen O’Connor.
The ruling is online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/lozano-v-hazleton-opinion
A video with interviews with ACLU attorneys and clients is online at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8vr66MYZn8
More information on the case, Lozano v. Hazleton, is online at: www.aclu.org/hazleton
More information on the case, Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria, is online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/chamber-commerce-v-candelaria
SCSJ has Moved!
Our new address is:
Two Environmental Justice Victories!
The Gates County Citizens Against OLF successfully pressured the Navy to suspend its process for constructing a practice landing field in Gates County. The Navy announced that it will halt the process at least until 2014. SCSJ represents Citizens Against OLF. Read more about it in our recent blog post.
The New Hill Community Association, represented for the past two years by SCSJ, has settled its litigation against the Western Wake Partners over the Partners’ decision to site a wastewater treatment facility in the New Hill community. The Association received $500,000 to build a community center, a long-held goal of New Hill residents. Read more about it in our press release.
Voting Rights Victory
On December 16, SCSJ ensured that a federal judge reject a challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a key tool in defending minority voting rights. Read more about the case on our blog.
Check out the cover story in an Indy magazine publication to learn about the courageous stance an immigrant woman took against an Immigration official. SCSJ represented the woman. And read our blog post about it.
This morning, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF), the North Carolina Justice Center, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice launched an investigation into the practice of targeting Latino churchgoers by the Zebulon Police Department and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.
On Tuesday, March 23, 2010, the Wake County school board votes 5-4 to dismantle the county’s nationally acclaimed diversity policy. About 300 students and community members came to voice their opinions.
The North Carolina organizations supporting the Trail of Dreams are inspired by the Dream Walkers’ courageous commitment to their vision and to their journey from Miami to Washington, DC, to demand justice for all immigrants.
We welcome the walkers into North Carolina as activists challenging multiple oppressions and look to connect their stories and struggles with organizing work of all oppressed communities in the South.
We support their demands for fair and humane immigration reform, access to college education, workers’ rights, and an end to unjust immigration enforcement policies. As organizations engaged in immigrants’ rights work, we support the leadership and self-determination of those most directly affected by unjust policies. We also honor their place in a long history of social justice movements in our state in which young people have played a leading role.
As each walker shares his or her story, it touches everyone – even to those who do not agree with their demands. We believe that storytelling humanizes policies and is a powerful tool for transformation. The courage of the walkers as they challenge injustice, in spite of the risks they face as undocumented youth, has brought energy and inspiration to our work in North Carolina. We honor them by continuing our work building and strengthening local and statewide movements for immigrant justice, human and civil rights, and progressive social change.
Adelante Education Coalition of North Carolina
North Carolina Justice Center
Reform Immigration For America
Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Student Actions with Farmworkers
To learn more, check out our Blog, Press Release, or some of this great press coverage by The News & Observer, The Herald Sun, and 1360 WHCL.
Join the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and award-winning film producer Ruth Cowen for a documentary about the female judges who make up 18% of South Africa’s male-dominated judiciary.
The film will be followed by a conversation with female North Carolina judges.
Breaking News: Supreme Court Ruling on Voting Rights Act, Court Upholds Full and Equal Right to Vote
On Monday, June 22nd, in a case in which SCSJ joined an amicus brief submitted on behalf of grassroots organizations in the south, the Supreme Court did not strike down any part of the recently reauthorized Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional and instead held that all jurisdictions should be allowed to “bailout” if they have compiled with the Act’s requirements. SCSJ argued to the Court that Section 5 of the Act, the “preclearance” requirement, is an important protection for minority voting rights. That provision will now continue to be in effect. Click here to read the Court’s 8 – 1 decision.
SaveFreemanBeach.com is a new website about the history of Freeman Beach in an effort to save this beachfront property from development.
You can now take the Create the Change Community Survey online by clicking here!