Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCR)

October 31, 2012,


* Uses the courts to bypass the electorate and its officials in order to gain what it perceives as desirable and “just” outcomes
* Supports racial preferences and racially gerrymandered voting districts
* Opposes Patriot Act and other anti-terrorism security measures

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCR) was established at the request of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to eradicate race-based discrimination and the involvement of the private bar in enforcing civil rights legislation. Today LCCR uses the courts to mandate race-based affirmative action preferences in business and academia. Its “major objective” is “to use the skills and resources of the bar to obtain equal opportunity for minorities by addressing factors that contribute to racial justice and economic opportunity.” “Given our nation’s history of racial discrimination, de jure segregation, and the de facto inequities that persist,” LCCR elaborates, “the Lawyers’ Committee’s primary focus is to represent the interest of African Americans in particular, other racial and ethnic minorities, and other victims of discrimination, where doing so can help to secure justice for all racial and ethnic minorities.”

Among LCCR’s positions are the following: (a) mandating that employers be subjected to outside investigations of employment complaints, while allowing employers access only to redacted versions of those complaints; (b) interposing in the desire of a city to protect its citizens from the high levels of crime common to housing projects (City of Cuyahoga Falls v. Buckeye Community Hope Foundation; King v. City of Blakely Housing Authority); (c) suing to force communities to build low-income housing, regardless of the realities of the housing market in those communities (e.g., Huntington, NY); (d) pushing for the most radical possible reading of the Americans With Disabilities Act (e.g., Tennessee v. Lane); (e) requiring states to redraw voting districts in such a way as to guarantee minority representation (suits in Virginia, Rhode Island, and Alabama, inter alia); and (f) pushing for the broadest possible reading of “constructive discharge” in sexual harassment cases (Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders).

LCCR’s many affiliate offices have filed briefs against the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to limit the wholesale granting of green cards and to identify potential terrorists. The organization has also opposed measures to guarantee that airport security screeners are U.S. citizens. Many individual members of LCCR are members of the Lawyers’ Committee on Human Rights, which has consistently criticized the Patriot Act and America’s handling of military prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Other members of LCCR are affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union (with which LCCR is often joined in amicus curiae briefs) and the Center for International Rights.

LCCR’s activities are currently divided into six major campaigns:

Voting Rights Project: This project focuses on the reauthorization of provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Education Project: Founded on the conviction that “discriminatory educational practices” are widespread in American schools, this project “challenges discriminatory tracking programs, the disproportionate placement of minority students in special education and ‘dead end’ courses, … the biased administration of student discipline, [and] congressional initiatives that could have a detrimental impact on minority and low-income children.”

Housing, Lending, and Community Development Project: “All too often, substandard segregated housing in minority communities exacerbates economic, political and educational disparities. [This project] litigates fair housing lawsuits … to challenge discrimination in rental and private markets as well as in public and assisted housing.”

Environmental Justice: “Low-income communities and people of color are disproportionately burdened by environmental pollution and the myriad of health problems associated with poor air and water quality and toxic exposure. … Established in 1991, the Environmental Justice Project … seeks justice for people of color who are fighting to clean up contamination in their community …”

Employment Discrimination Project: This project “challenges all forms of racial, national origin, and sexual discrimination in the workplace … [and] dismantles systemic barriers faced by women and minorities in hiring and promotions.”

Minority Business Project: Launched in 2003 and based on the premise that “minorities face discrimination in establishing businesses and competing for contracts in the public and private sectors,” this project “works to advance affirmative action and implement innovative ways to ensure that minorities can compete and succeed in the marketplace.”

LCCR was a signatory to a March 17, 2003 letter exhorting members of the U.S. Congress to oppose Patriot Act II, on grounds that it “contain[ed] a multitude of new and sweeping law enforcement and intelligence gathering powers … that would severely dilute, if not undermine, many basic constitutional rights.” In addition, LCCR has given its organizational endorsement to the Community Resolution to Protect Civil Liberties campaign — a project of the California-based Coalition for Civil Liberties, which tries to influence city councils to be non-compliant with the provisions of the Patriot Act.

LCCR also endorsed the 2001 “Statement of Solidarity with Migrants,” which was drawn up by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and called upon the U.S. government to “[r]ecognize the contribution of immigrant workers, students, and families, and [to] end discriminatory policies passed on the basis of legal status.” Moreover, LCCR endorsed the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004, which was designed to roll back, in the name of protecting civil liberties, vital national-security policies that had been adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

LCCR’s Executive Director is Barbara R. Arnwine, a Washington, DC attorney/activist renowned for her work in the areas of poverty law, civil and human rights law, and environmental law.

LCCR is supported by grants from numerous large foundations, including the American Express Foundation; the Bauman Family Foundation ; the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; the Carnegie Corporation of New York; the Nathan Cummings Foundation; the Fannie Mae Foundation; the Ford Foundation; the Freddie Mac Foundation; the JEHT Foundation; the Joyce Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Mertz Gilmore Foundation; the Minneapolis Foundation; the Open Society Institute; the Rockefeller Foundation; and the Turner Foundation.


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