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Clara Kent posted a blog on Mar 7, 2013

Nonprofit VOTE releases report on national turnout and voting trends

Nonprofit VOTE recently released America Goes to the Polls -- a report on national turnout and voting trends. The report features useful insight from across the country, including data to support same day registration and its ability to dramatically increase voter turnout. Check out the full America Goes to the Polls report for more details.

 

Clara Kent posted a blog on Feb 14, 2013

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Applauds Obama Administration’s New Regulation on Housing Equality

The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (CLC) commends the regulation that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued on February 5, 2013 entitled “Implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Discriminatory Effects Standard.”   The regulation reinforces that the Federal Fair Housing Act makes illegal not only policies and practices intended to discriminate, but also policies and practices that are neutral on their faces but have discriminatory effects, or a disparate impact.

 

The Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for both public and private entities to discriminate in housing based on race, national origin, familial status, physical or mental disability, sex, and religion.  The Act protects basic fairness by seeking to eliminate housing discrimination and promote inclusive communities for all Americans.

 

Holding housing actors responsible for the discriminatory effects of their policies safeguards the right to a fair chance for everyone.  Where you live determines the school your child attends, where you work and how you get there, and your access to health care, nutritious food, and other resources.  Unfortunately, policies and practices still exist that – intentionally and unintentionally - keep some people out of quality housing they can afford simply because of who they are.

 

  The new regulation clarifies that neutral policies of both government and private actors that have a disparate discriminatory impact on a protected group, or create, perpetuate or increase segregation, are illegal under the Fair Housing Act. This interpretation is consistent with the uniform interpretation of the Act by HUD and the federal courts, which have consistently, for decades, have supported legal liability for policies with disparate impact.

 

Examples of neutral policies with discriminatory disparate effects include:

- lender policies and practices not based on the risk of the loan, such as requiring a credit score above the Federal Housing Authority minimum, or minimum loan amount policies;

- municipalities restricting construction of multifamily or affordable housing in areas of opportunity;

- municipalities restricting the siting of group homes for people with disabilities;

- landlords unreasonably limiting occupancy of apartments to, for example, three persons per unit; and

- landlords placing their (predominantly African-American) Housing Choice Voucher tenants in their inferior buildings in neighborhoods with relatively fewer amenities.

 

Staff and volunteers with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee’s Fair Housing Project educate tenants, homeowners, landlords, and others about their rights and duties under fair housing and fair lending laws, advocate for progressive laws and public policies, and provide legal representation to individuals and groups in asserting and enforcing their fair housing rights and securing equal housing opportunities to affirmatively further fair housing in the Chicago area.

 

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. protects and promotes civil rights by bringing the strength and prestige of the private bar to bear on the problems of poverty and discrimination. Founded in 1969, the Committee champions equal justice and community development for underrepresented people by partnering with volunteer lawyers to provide litigation and transactional representation.

For further information, contact Fair Housing Project Director Betsy Shuman-Moore, bshuman-moore@clccrul.org.

 

See the reg. at: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=discriminatoryeffectrule.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Shubra Ohri posted a blog on Feb 8, 2013

The Chicago Lawyers' Committee's Review of Alternatives for Non-Violent Offenders

             Incarceration is one of the most important civil rights issues of our day. With approximately 2.4 million people incarcerated, America has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  The problem is especially acute in Illinois.  Non-violent offenders comprise over 60% of the prison and jail population in America, and in Illinois they constitute almost 70% of inmates.  In 2010, Illinois reported the largest increase of its prison population among all other states.  Incarceration is also overtly racial, despite the fact that African Americans use drugs at the same rate as Whites and Latinos, African Americans represented an average of 80 percent of all persons admitted to Illinois prisons for drug offenses in the 1990s.  The critical need for incarceration reform prompted the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights to review nationwide reforms that are providing alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. 

            The following article assesses the current landscape of incarceration reform by identifying specific reforms seeking to provide incarceration alternatives for non-violent offenders, highlighting states that have implemented comprehensive versions of these reforms, and taking a critical look at Illinois’ policy towards non-violent offenders. 

            Implementing reforms for non-violent offenders has gained momentum recently, and such reforms have been accompanied by notable success.  All 17 states that have cut their imprisonment rates also experienced a decline in crime rates.  Moreover, keeping non-violent offenders out of the incarceration system saves resources and allows states to reallocate those resources for offenders who pose a threat to public safety.  States have implemented reforms by widely establishing drug courts and diversion programs, updating legislation to reduce the severity level of non-violent offenses, relying on alternative sentencing options, and decriminalizing marijuana. 

            Although Illinois has enacted legislative changes that effect non-violent offenders, there are still important reforms it can adopt to critically impact its incarceration rate of non-violent offenders.  The current trend of reforms nationwide provides useful examples for Illinois to draw upon.   The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights is alert to the need for reform, and hopes this article prompts a preliminary discussion on strategic ways to implement such reforms.

To read the full report, click here.

Clara Kent posted a blog on Dec 13, 2012

CLC Delivers Testimony to the Senate on Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline

For the first time in history, the school-to-prison pipeline was the focus of a Senate hearing. "Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing was a milestone for a movement that has fought to raise awareness about these kinds of policies in schools around the country." To read more, click HERE.

To read the Chicago Lawyers' Committee's testimony to the Senate, click HERE.

Chris Furuya posted a blog on Nov 6, 2012

WBEZ Interviews Marissa Liebling re: Election Protection

 

Voters aren’t required to show a photo ID in order to vote in Illinois, but some of them might have trouble voting with or without one, mostly because of a state law that allows anyone at a polling place to challenge another's right to vote. Marissa Liebling, an attorney with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights and the head of that group's Voting Rights Project, says she’s concerned by the increasing number of these voter challenges she has seen in the last few years.

“Especially when some organizations do use them in minority or low income communities, or communities where there’s more students or elderly,” she says. “So one of the things I’ll be looking for is making sure the challenges aren't being used to intimidate or keep any communities from voting.”

Full Story here.

Chris Furuya posted a blog on Oct 5, 2012

Letter to the Editor: Jay Readey, CLC Executive Director, to the Chicago Tribune

 

Thank you so much for Diane Rado’s excellent Tribune article, "Minorities Unequally Disciplined in High School" (Page 1, Sept. 26). At the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights we have been working to combat many of the inequities discussed in your article and have found that lack of data is proving to be a substantial hurdle in the fight for egalitarian discipline. 
 
Although the Office of civil rights is now logging information about police referrals, their data continues to have substantial gaps. No data is provided on which individual schools within a given district are suspending and expelling the most students. No breakdown is provided by individual offense. No information is given about the individual records of students facing suspension or expulsion. 
 
Last month, Daniel Losen and Jonathan Gillespie at the Civil Rights Project at UCLA published a comprehensive analysis of this year’s Office for Civil Rights report. Yet despite having access to the full range of data provided, their ultimate recommendations were focused largely on the need for still more data. They advise parents and children’s advocates to request data on discipline from your school and district, and suggest that members of the media request that districts provide disaggregated discipline data on a regular basis and report it to the public.
 
School officials are able to hide behind these gaps in data. It can be all too easy for a principal with no access to school-by-school data to say, “This problem isn’t me, it isn’t my school. The absence of a breakdown by individual offense and prior disciplinary history allows individuals to persist in the erroneous belief that black and Hispanic students are punished more harshly solely because they are committing more serious offenses.
 
These gaps in data have stymied the legal community as to how best to fight the problem. The Educational Equity Project at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee is able to fight the issue on a case-by-case basis by providing pro bono representation to Chicago Public Schools students facing expulsion. Many other organizations, including Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Equip for Equality, The Legal Assistance Foundation and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless are running similar expulsion representation projects, sometimes providing services to suburban students as well. We are also able to litigate some of the inequities that may play a causal role in creating disciplinary discrepancies. For instance, we are currently a part of a lawsuit dealing with inequities in resource distribution between primarily white and primarily Hispanic schools in the Elgin Public Schools system. But in order to bring a large-scale lawsuit on disparities in school discipline we need more data, and so far CPS has been able to deflect our Freedom of Information Act requests by declaring that providing the needed information would be unduly burdensome.
 
We are working to convince CPS officials to release comprehensive data on suspensions voluntarily. After all, Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigned on a platform of transparency, Arnie Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, has sung the praises of the new, and CPS CEP, Jean-Claude Brizard, has clearly stated that he aims to reduce suspensions in CPS schools this year. Releasing the data on suspensions would help start a dialogue on where the problem is most serious.  It would help the legal community figure out the next steps for tackling this problem. And it would pave the way for suburban communities like those discussed in your article to follow suit.
 
We commend you and other members of the media for your excellent coverage of the harsh inequities in discipline that students in the Chicago area face and hope that we can work together to push for increased transparency and accountability with respect to school disciplinary procedures.
 
— Jay Readey, Executive Director, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee
Chris Furuya posted a blog on Oct 5, 2012

INWIN's Renee Hatcher discusses 2012 Presidential Debate

 

http://www.wbez.org/some-indiana-debate-watchers-give-points-romney-102891

 

 

Some Indiana debate watchers give points to Romney

But, overall, Obama supporters say the president had the edge.

October 4, 2012
By: Michael Puente, WBEZ
 
Voters in Northwest Indiana lean Democrat but a few observers of last night’s first presidential debate say Republican nominee Mitt Romney scored some points against Barack Obama.
 
“I definitely think that the Romney campaign was very serious when they said there were going to reset the campaign,” says attorney Renee Hatcher. “I think this was the first chance that we saw of that evidence that they had a complete reset.”
 
Hatcher watched Wednesday’s debate at Jelly’s Pancake House in Merrillville with about three dozen other viewers.
 
The debate party was put on by the non-partisan group, Emerging Leaders of Northwest Indiana.
 
Hatcher comes from a long line of Democrats.
 
Her father, Richard, served as mayor of Gary for two decades while older sister Ragen served on the Gary City Council.
 
But even with that, Renee Hatcher gives credit to Republican Mitt Romney in the first debate.  
 
Hatcher says Romney’s positions on several issues seemed to have changed which played to his advantage.
 
“He’s been espousing certain view points and policy proposals for the last 18 months that are completely different than what he plans to do moving forward. I think that kind of tripped Obama up a little bit,” Hatcher said. “I think, all in all, it was a draw.”
 
Hatcher says Romney will need to provide more specifics on some of his proposals.
 
“The clear thing about this election that there’s a real choice for the first time in several election cycles,” she said.
 
Richard Leverett, a Gary native, says Romney brought more passion to the debate.
 
“Romney sounded convincing. He sounded passionate but there was nothing concrete there,” Leverett said. “Romney probably won on the passionate piece there and he seemed more steady. The President seemed like he was just chasing and trying to hit a moving target.  The next time, the President is going to have to go on target on what he plans to do the next four years.”
 
Meanwhile, Robert Ordway of Valparaiso says the debate didn’t do much to help those still on the fence come off of it.
 
“I think very few votes were moved in either camp. I think people who are undecided are still in
that camp,” Ordway said.

 

Chris Furuya posted a blog on Aug 15, 2012

CLC Signs Amicus Brief Defending Affirmative Action at University of Texas at Austin

 

Re-printed from The Lawyers' Committee website, here.
 

Groups Urge Court to Uphold Precedent; Call Diversity "a Compelling Interest"

 
Washington, D.C. -- Sixteen civil and human rights groups have joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in filing an amicus, or  friend-of-the-court, brief with the Supreme Court in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Attorneys with the firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP provided lead counsel for the brief.
 
The brief argues that, in order for students to receive the educational benefits associated with diverse campus environments, the Court should reaffirm previous rulings such as Grutter v. Bollinger acknowledging that diversity is a compelling state interest and that it is constitutional for universities to use race as one of numerous factors when making individualized admissions decisions to further that diversity interest.
 
As the Court noted in Grutter, diversity in education remains important "in a society like our own, in which race unfortunately still matters."
 
The brief cites past court opinions and social science research documenting that a diverse student body leads to a range of educational and societal benefits for all students:
 
As this Court has recognized, the presence of a diverse student body on campus leads to a range of educational benefits, including improved learning outcomes and better preparation for work and citizenship. Because race and ethnicity continue to affect the experiences and perspectives of individuals in society, racial and ethnic diversity are important aspects of the diversity that promotes the best educational outcomes. (Pg. 3) ...
 
Admissions decisions, including efforts to realize the benefits of racial diversity, require numerous judgments about the students to be admitted and the nature of their interactions inside and outside the classroom. These judgments require expertise in higher education that universities clearly possess and that is squarely within their constitutional domain. (Pg. 5)
 
"Diversity benefits all of us," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "U.T. Austin's effort to provide the most diverse and academically enriched campus for its students should be commended as a model for the nation, not subjected to a politically divisive judicial attack on a well-established precedent that preserves equal opportunity for all."
 
"As the Supreme Court affirmed less than a decade ago, race still matters and shapes much of a student's life experiences," said Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Barbara R. Arnwine. "We know that the educational benefits of diversity flow to all students - not just students of color - and it is crucial that the Court's consideration of this case be informed by the vast amounts of research showing these benefits depend on both the character and the frequency of interactions among students."  
 
Click here for a PDF of the brief.
 
A full list of signers is below:
 
  • Appleseed
  • Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc.
  • Children's Defense Fund (CDF)
  • Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
  • Grand Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity (the "Boule")
  • Japanese American Citizens League
  • Lambda Legal
  • The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
  • National Council of Negro Women, Inc.
  • National Immigration Law Center (NILC)
  • National Urban League
  • Public Advocates Inc.
  • The Rainbow PUSH Coalition
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
  • YWCA USA
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.
 
The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure equal justice for all through the rule of law, targeting in particular the inequities confronting African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities.  For more information on the Lawyers' Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.
 
Contacts:
Stacie Royster,  202.662.8317, sroyster@lawyerscommittee.org
Scott Westbrook Simpson,  202.466.2061, simpson@civilrights.org

 

Clara Kent posted a blog on Aug 9, 2012

Opportunity Nation Spotlights CLC

Story here.

Clara Kent posted a blog on Aug 8, 2012

Now Hiring: Staff Attorney, Fair Housing Project

FAIR HOUSING STAFF ATTORNEY

The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc., a not-for-profit organization with a long and successful history of civil rights litigation and advocacy, seeks applicants for a 60% time Fair Housing Staff Attorney. Working with the Fair Housing Project team, the Staff Attorney investigates, evaluates, and litigates housing discrimination cases based on race, ethnic origin, disability, familial status, source of income and other factors in court and at administrative agencies. He/she acts as co-counsel with volunteer lawyers on cases, advocates for policy and legislative change to affirmatively further fair housing, and participates in the Project’s outreach and education efforts. The attorney also assists in developing both litigation and non-litigation strategies to address community needs and in documenting Project activities and accomplishments.

Minimum of four years litigation experience and experience in fair housing, civil rights, or related area. Must be admitted to the Illinois bar and have excellent writing and speaking skills. 24 hours/week with flexibility required. Individual must be outgoing and have a demonstrated commitment to civil rights and social change. Bilingual Spanish/English pref. Salary depends on experience; excellent benefits.


POSITION DESCRIPTION

Position: Fair Housing Staff Attorney, 60% time

Reports to: Director, Fair Housing Project

Organization: Founded in 1969, the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a cooperative venture of Chicago law firms that provides legal representation on civil rights and poverty-related issues. The Fair Housing Project was founded to address the legal and societal challenges that are the result of Chicago’s segregated housing market, the practices and policies that fail to encourage integration, and the impact of these on the affected populations. It particularly focuses on discrimination based on race, national origin, familial status, source of income, disability, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.

Job Responsibilities: Working with the Fair Housing Project team, the Staff Attorney investigates, evaluates, and litigates fair housing cases in court and at administrative agencies, and is responsible for:

  • Placing cases with lawyers from Chicago Lawyers' Committee (CLC) member law firms who volunteer to represent clients.
  • Acting as co-counsel with volunteer lawyers on cases, supervising and assisting them, and monitoring case progress.
  • Advocating for policy and legislative change to affirmatively further fair housing.
  • Conducting community and professional outreach and education.
  • Developing both litigation and non-litigation strategies to address community needs, and providing strategic advice and input for program planning, implementation and evaluation within the context of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee's priorities and structure.
  • Documenting Project activities and accomplishments for funders, particularly the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the CLC board.
  • Other duties as assigned by the Project Director.

Qualifications:

  • Minimum of four years litigation experience and experience in fair housing, civil rights, or related area.

  • Admitted to the Illinois bar.

  • Excellent writing and speaking skills.

  • Demonstrated commitment to civil rights and social change.

  • Bilingual Spanish/English preferred.

E-mail cover letter, resume, writing sample of no more than 5 pgs. by Feb. 8, 2013, to Elesha Jackson, ejackson@clccrul.org. Hard copy applications discouraged. The Chicago Lawyers' Committee is an Equal Opportunity Employer and encourages all qualified applicants to apply. No phone calls please.