Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL)
1401 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20005
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was created in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy. "Expressing dismay at the lack of respect for the commands of the Constitution as interpreted by the American judicial system, the President appealed to [top] American lawyers to support the struggle for equal opportunity for Black citizens." In response to this request, two attorneys, Harrison Tweed and Bernard G. Segal, formed the committee.
Overall, the goals of the committee resemble those of other civil rights organizations. In the words of one staff member "The Lawyers' Committee is a national organization committed to the provision of quality legal services for poor and minority individuals on major civil and Constitutional rights cases, both through representation of clients in suits alleging unlawful discrimination, and by influencing the development and application of civil rights law."
Structurally, the committee maintains two fully-staffed (ten full-time attorneys) offices, one in Washington, D.C., and one in Jackson, Mississippi, and has affiliates in several locations throughout the United States. Beyond these offices, the committee "relies heavily upon pro bono services donated by participating law firms" throughout the United States and cooperates with a number of like-minded groups including the NAACP LDF, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the ACLU.
This unique combination of affiliates and pro bono attorneys, coupled with an operating budget of $2.4 million, allows the national LCCRUL to litigate as a sponsor and amicus in a broad range of legal issues, including voting rights, employment discrimination, and other areas of concern to black Americans.
Typically, the committee prefers to sponsor cases directly from the trial court level. Such cases come from a variety of sources, including referrals from similar local and community organizations, direct contacts with potential plaintiffs seeking assistance, and "a nationwide network of pro bono attorneys [who] bring to [its] attention local requests for assistance." In one suit involving employment discrimination, Eastland v. TVA (1983), for instance, the LCCRUL's District of Columbia affiliate sponsored the case at the federal trial court level. Then, the national LCCRUL aided the D.C. office on appeal. In a more recent suit, LCCRUL lawyers challenged a city's at-large election system on the grounds that it diluted black voting strength (Collins v. City of Norfolk, 1987).
In some instances, LCCRUL has been involved in precedent-setting U.S. Supreme Court litigation. In Chandler v. Roudebush (1976) the group won an important victory when the Court ruled that "A federal employee has the same right to a trial de novo under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to proceed with a complaint of sexual and/or racial discrimination as a private sector or state government employee."
The LCCRUL also files amicus curiae briefs (approximately six to seven per year) at the court of appeals or U.S. Supreme Court level. In Hammon v. Barry (1987), for example, its attorneys supported an affirmative action hiring plan for a District of Columbia fire department. On other occasions, it will jointly file briefs with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund with a particular emphasis on affecting the development of civil rights case law.
In addition to the work of the National Committee, the LCCRUL has created four special projects—Employment Discrimination, Voting Rights, South Africa, and Federal Education; all sponsor (financially or otherwise) litigation and run educational programs. The South Africa Project, for example, "provides financial assistance supporting legal counsel representing defendants in political trials in South Africa and Namibia; and it initiates or intervenes in domestic legal proceedings to defer official or private actions supporting apartheid when such activities violate U.S. law; it also provides educational programs to alert the American legal profession to the erosion of the Rule of Law in South Africa."
Council for Public Interest Law (1976). Balancing the Scales of Justice.
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (1973). Ten Year Report.
Stewart, J. and E. V. Heck (1982). "Insuring Access to Justice," Judicature 66:84-95. Stewart, J., and E. V. Heck. (1983). "The Day-to-Day Activities of Interest Group Lawyers," Social Science Quarterly 64:173-182.
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