June 11, 2021

Ted Shaw Receives the American Constitution Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award; Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Named 2021 Progressive Champion


Contact: Pablo Willispwillis@acslaw.org 

Washington, DC — Theodore M. Shaw, the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law at UNC School of Law and director of the school’s Center for Civil Rights, was honored as the recipient of the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Constitution Society during its 2021 Virtual National Convention. 

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition also was honored with ACS’s 2021 Progressive Champion Award for their work fighting against voter disenfranchisement of returning citizens with former convictions in Florida. 

“It’s a great privilege to award the ACS Lifetime Achievement Award to Theodore M. Shaw,” said ACS President Russ Feingold. “Throughout his whole career Theodore has been a staunch advocate for civil rights and one of our country's brightest legal minds, fighting for fair and equitable treatment in housing, labor, and education law. We are incredibly grateful to have him as a loyal member of the ACS family.” 

Shaw teaches Civil Procedure and Advanced Constitutional Law. His research areas include the Fourteenth Amendment, affirmative action, election law, and housing law. He joined UNC in 2014 and has guided the Center for Civil Rights to national prominence as a bastion for strategic civil rights advocacy. 

“Many years ago, the need for an organization dedicated to a progressive vision of the U.S. Constitution became apparent,” Shaw said. “That need called the American Constitution Society into being. Today, the American Constitution Society is one of our nation’s most important organizations. Dedicated to ‘the promotion of individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, access to justice, democracy, and the rule of law,’ the need for ACS is greater now than ever before. I am deeply honored to receive the ACS Lifetime Achievement Award. I accept it with great humility, with the hope that when my life’s achievements are complete, I will have proved myself worthy, and as a reminder of how much I am still called to do in pursuit of the principles of the American Constitution Society.”  

Shaw worked as a civil rights litigator for over 26 years bringing suit in a variety of cases related to secondary and higher education, capital punishment, housing, and voting rights. He served as an Honors Trial Attorney for the civil rights division of the US Department of Justice from 1979 to 1982. He helped establish and co-direct the west coast regional office of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) from 1987-1990 where he represented victims of civil rights abuses in education, labor, and housing-related cases. Shaw then taught at the University of Michigan Law School from 1990-1997, where he helped initiate a review of the school’s admission policy which was later upheld by the US Supreme Court in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger. Shaw served as the Director-Council and President of LDF from 2004-2008.  

Shaw previously taught at CUNY School of Law at Queens College, Temple Law School, and Columbia University School of Law.  

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FFRC) is a grassroots organization founded by returning citizens. FFRC commits itself to create a more humane reentry system, ending prejudice and disenfranchisement against formerly convicted people.  

“Voting rights are under attack across our country with conservative state governments enacting repressive policies meant to silence historically marginalized communities. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is one of the most effective and remarkable grassroots organizations fighting against voter suppression,” said Feingold. “ In 2018 the FRRC lead by their dynamic President Desmond Meade worked tirelessly to pass Amendment 4, restoring the right to vote to formally convicted people. After this historic win the FRRC has not stopped there and in 2020 the organization has been on the frontlines paying down fees and other financial barriers ensuring formerly convicted people can vote. We are incredibly honored to award the 2021 Progressive Champion Award to The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.” 

In 2018, the FFRC led the successful statewide ballot measure effort behind Amendment 4 which restored voting rights to persons previously convicted of a felony upon completion of their term. The measure was approved by over five million Florida voters. After the passage of the amendment, a federal appellate court ruled in favor of Governor DeSantis’s administration that completion of the term also meant paying off all associated court fees. Since then, FFRC has sprung into action raising $28 million dollars to register voters and paid off the fines and fees of over 44,000 formerly convicted people. In 2020, Florida voter turnout was at a 28 year high.  

“I am honored that the ACS has chosen to recognize my work to restore the franchise to individuals with a previous felony conviction,” said Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC). “It is only when every citizen can have an unencumbered right to vote that we can have a democracy that’s “of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is my desire that by receiving this honor people are inspired to realize that each of us can play a role in creating a more inclusive and vibrant democracy.”  



ACS believes that the Constitution is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We interpret the Constitution based on its text and against the backdrop of history and lived experience. Through a diverse nationwide network of progressive lawyers, law students, judges, scholars, and many others, we work to uphold the Constitution in the 21st Century by ensuring that law is a force for protecting our democracy and the public interest and for improving people’s lives. For more information, visit us at www.acslaw.org or on Twitter @acslaw.