NAACP LDF

  • January 31, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Alabama officials seeking to gut the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 claim racial discrimination in voting is no longer a problem in their state. Specifically officials in Shelby County, Ala., a largely white county, are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to find Section 5, the law’s major enforcement provision, unconstitutional.

    The NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund (LDF), representing voters in Alabama, is waging a vigorous defense of what many consider one of the nation’s most important and effective civil rights law. In its recently filed brief, the group urges the high court to uphold Section of 5 arguing that “racial discrimination in voting is ‘not ancient history.’” The Court will hear oral argument in Shelby County v. Holder on Feb. 27.  

    Section 5 requires certain states and localities, mostly in the South, with long histories of racial discrimination in voting to obtain “preclearance” from the Department of Justice or a federal court in Washington, D.C. for changes to elections procedures. LDF, in its brief, says Section 5 “remains essential to safeguard our democracy from racial discrimination. The record documents hundreds of examples of persistent unconstitutional efforts by covered States and localities to deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, including widespread efforts to circumvent remedies imposed for prior VRA violations, which were only blocked by Section 5.” (Click picture to enlarge to show covered jurisdictions of Section 5.)

    Earlier this month, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange filed a brief in the Shelby County case supporting the County officials. The state still grapples with “race relations issues, but they are the same kind of issues every state currently is endeavoring to solve,” Strange argues in his brief.

    LDF’s brief states there is ample evidence “of ongoing voting discrimination in Alabama specifically, and the covered jurisdictions generally, exceeds, by many orders of magnitude, that in the non-covered jurisdictions. Shelby County studiously avoids this evidence; instead, it selectively points to individual jurisdictions outside of Alabama that it asserts should not be covered.”

  • January 11, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Hardly surprising, but another Alabama official is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate an integral provision of the Voting Rights Act. Efforts to suppress the votes of minorities no longer exist, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange argues in a brief lodged with the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear oral argument on Feb. 27 in a case challenging provisions of the landmark civil rights law, including its primary enforcement provision, Section 5.

    The attorney general concedes in his brief that the state still “grapples with race relations issues, but they are the same kind of issues every state currently is endeavoring to solve,” reports Mary Orndorff Troyan for the Montgomery Advertiser.

    Strange’s brief is filed in support of a lawsuit brought by Shelby County, Ala., “a conservative, mostly white county south of Birmingham,” as Troyan describes it. In Shelby County v. Holder, the officials argue that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional because it covers some but not all states. Section 5 requires all or parts of 16 states to obtain “preclearance” of proposed changes to voting procedures from the Department of Justice or a federal court in Washington, D.C. Section 5 of the law was intended to ensure that states and localities and with long histories of suppressing the vote of minorities do not create discriminatory voting procedures.

    The NAACP LDF, which has intervened in the case to represent voters, argues that Section 5 remains central to the Voting Rights Act because it works to block discrimination before it occurs. LDF and other civil rights organizations have noted that the Supreme Court has ruled on numerous occasions that Section 5 is constitutional and that in 2006 Congress overwhelmingly reauthorized the Voting Rights Act. Congress, in reauthorizing the law, created a record “consisting of 15,000 pages of evidence” supporting the ongoing need for a strong enforcement provision.

  • November 19, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    One of the nation’s preeminent civil and human rights groups, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), tapped as its new leader one of the nation’s foremost civil rights attorneys and scholars Sherrilyn Ifill. The late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall helped found LDF in 1940 and led the battle in its first couple of decades to end segregation of the public schools.

    Ifill (pictured), a frequent ACS participant, who has also occasionally provided guest posts for ACSblog, will be LDF’s next president and director-counsel in January. She is also a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law, and as The Root notes is “no stranger to LDF’s work.”

    The Root continues:

    Early in her career, before joining the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Law, authoring On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century, and making a name for herself as a respected civil rights strategist, she served as assistant counsel in LDF’s New York office. There, she litigated voting rights cases, including the landmark Voting Rights Act case Houston Lawyers' Association vs. Attorney General of Texas.

    In March, LDF’s sixth Director-Counsel and President John Payton died. Payton, like his predecessors at LDF, was also a tireless advocate for civil liberties and human rights. In a tribute piece to Payton, ACS Board member and former LDF Director-Counsel and President Theodore M. Shaw said Payton’s “advocacy on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the excluded reached beyond the United States. He worked against the apartheid in South Africa, and traveled around the world in support of rights.”     

  • June 30, 2009
    Guest Post


    By Josh Civin, Assistant Counsel, NAACP LDF. Mr. Civin's analysis of Ricci v. DeStefano is part of an ACS online symposium, "Experts on Ricci," being published here.

    Today's ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano should prod New Haven and every other employer-public as well as private-to place a premium on carefully developing practices for hiring and promoting employees. Most municipal employers use a better approach to evaluate job candidates than New Haven did here. According to a 1996 study cited by Justice Ginsburg in her dissent, nearly two-thirds of surveyed municipalities used assessment centers, which provide a simulation of the real-world work experiences. This movement away from written, multiple-choice tests makes sense especially for firefighting jobs. As Justice Ginsburg notes, "‘there is a difference between memorizing . . . fire fighting terminology and being a good fire fighter. If the Boston Red Sox recruited players on the basis of their knowledge of baseball history and vocabulary, the team might acquire [players] who could not bat, pitch, or catch.'" Slip Op. at 28, n. 12 (quoting Boston Chapter, NAACP v. Beecher, 504 F.2d 1017, 1023 (1st Cir. 1974)).

    It is likely that the Justices in the majority would not have objected if New Haven had decided from the outset to follow most other fire departments and use an assessment center to select firefighters for promotion to lieutenant and captain. As Justice Kennedy's majority opinion explains, our nation's core equal employment opportunity law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, "does not prohibit an employer from considering, before administering a test or practice, how to design that test or practice in order to provide a fair opportunity for all individuals regardless of race." Slip Op. at 25.

    What separated the majority and dissenting justices was their conflicting views about what legal standard should apply after an employment practice has been put in place and a municipality takes action to remedy its flaws. The majority's newly created "strong basis in evidence" standard will make it harder-but not impossible-for employers to abandon discriminatory employment practices after they have decided to use them. For this reason, this new standard is contrary to Congress's intent in enacting Title VII and completely neglects the long history of racial exclusion and discrimination especially in fire departments nationwide.

  • January 22, 2009

    John Payton, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, in an interview with ACS, says the federal cases that “anchor” our understanding of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment should be relegated to a “little pigeonhole in the past.” Following a recent panel discussion, co-hosted by ACS, regarding the evolution of the Civil War or Reconstruction Amendments, Payton talked with ACS about the hope for reviving the 14th Amendment’s protection of equal rights for all Americans. Video of the interview is below.