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    Senate Fails to Confirm Nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights

    Statement by Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund


    I am deeply disappointed that the United States Senate failed to confirm Debo Adegbile for the position of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice. The Senate voted against cloture (closing debate) on the nomination. We call upon Senator Reid to bring the nomination of Adegbile before the U.S. Senate again.

    As one of the preeminent civil rights lawyers of his generation, Adegbile has committed most of his life's work to advancing civil rights in America. There is no question that Adegbile is immensely qualified for the position. He is a man of integrity, accomplishment, and passionate commitment to civil rights.

    Unfortunately, Adegbile has been subjected to an unfair smear campaign. Adegbile was attacked because the NAACP Legal Defense Fund became counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal during his tenure here. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund's involvement in Mumia Abu-Jamal's case reflects its institutional commitment to ensuring that the criminal justice system is administered fairly and in compliance with the U.S. Constitution for all Americans, no matter how controversial.

    Many public servants, including Chief Justice John Roberts, have donated pro bono time to the representation of death-sentenced prisoners in controversial cases. Ultimately, a federal appeals court agreed with us and ruled twice that the instructions given to Mumia Abu-Jamal's sentencing jury were incorrect and violated the Constitution. Thus, as explained by the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board, Adegbile "worked for an organization that believes in leaving no stone unturned in seeking justice for all."

    Much of the attention on the nomination has centered on the attacks, rather than the full story of Adegbile’s tremendous contribution to the civil rights movement.

    After working in private practice, Adegbile joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), the nation's leading civil rights law firm and a completely separate entity from the NAACP. At LDF, Adegbile quickly rose to become the Director of Litigation and later served as Acting President and Director-Counsel and Special Counsel.

    During his 12-year tenure at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Adegbile defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court twice (Shelby County v. Holder and Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder). In addition to being one of the nation's leading voting rights attorneys, Adegbile also worked on education, employment and criminal justice issues.

    During his career, Adegbile has represented voters, students, firefighters, police officers, Hurricane Katrina evacuees, families struggling with foreclosure, and victims of domestic violence.

    His nomination received widespread and bipartisan support by state attorneys general, prosecutors (including a prosecutor in Zacarias Moussai's trial), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Supreme Court lawyers, and a bipartisan group of members of the bar. Eighty-four civil rights, disability, women's, LGBT, labor and other organizations jointly submitted a powerful letter in support of his nomination.

    Adegible went from facing homelessness as a child to arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Half Irish and half Nigerian, Adegbile was born in New York City and raised by a single mother.

    The President of the American Bar Association, James Silkenat, described Adegbile's work as "consistent with the finest tradition of this country's legal profession."

    Three NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyers have held this critically important position.

    ###


    ### Click here to read LDF's previous statements on Debo's nomination and testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee

    Click here to read LDF's statement regarding representing Mumia Abu-Jamal

    President Obama called LDF "simply the best civil rights law firm in American history." Founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall, LDF’s mission has always been transformative: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society. LDF’s victories established the foundations for the civil rights that all Americans enjoy today. In its first two decades, LDF undertook a coordinated legal assault against officially enforced public school segregation. This campaign culminated in Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark ruling that will soon celebrate its 60th anniversary. LDF continues to be at the forefront of precedent-setting civil rights cases in education, voting rights, criminal justice and economic justice.

    NOTE: The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has been an entirely separate entity from NAACP since 1957. Therefore, if the name needs to be shortened, please refer to us as "NAACP Legal Defense Fund," "Legal Defense Fund," or "LDF."


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    Bloody Sunday Anniversary Commemorated in Several Events in Alabama including March Across Edmund Pettus Bridge

    NAACP Legal Defense Fund Calls for Passage of Voting Rights Amendment Act and Another Vote on Civil Rights Nominee


    This weekend marks the 49th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march that grew out of voter registration movements spearheaded by SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Lawyers from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, including President & Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill; Director of the Washington D.C. office Leslie Proll; and the Political Participation Group (Ryan P. Haygood, Natasha Korgaonkar, Leah Aden and Deuel Ross) will travel to Selma, Alabama to pay homage to those who marched and fought for the right to vote and to discuss the future of America’s important voting protections.

    "We continue to urge the Senate to strengthen and ultimately pass the proposed Voting Rights Amendment Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that was introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s devastating decision last June in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. At this very moment, millions of voters of color are even more vulnerable to voting discrimination in the wake of that decision. This bill, though not perfect, is measured, flexible and forward-looking, and will provide us with some of the protections we lost last year," said Ryan P. Haygood, Political Participation Group Director at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a separate entity from the NAACP.

    "As we commemorate the historic day, we are also mindful of a tremendous setback we suffered in the Senate this week. The United States Senate failed to confirm Debo Adegbile, the former Acting Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, for the position of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice. Although he is the preeminent civil rights lawyer of his generation, he was subjected to an unfair smear campaign based on a capital case the NAACP Legal Defense Fund took on during Mr. Adegbile’s tenure here. As one of the nation's leading civil rights lawyers, Mr. Adegbile was superbly qualified to enforce the nation's civil rights laws. With his depth and breadth of experience, there was simply no candidate more qualified for the position," said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is hosting an event in partnership with a dozen organizations in Selma from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 8th, to discuss voting rights. Media are welcome to attend. Location: Saint James Hotel, 1200 Water Avenue, Selma. Click here for more information.

    ###


    Click here to read NAACP LDF's statement on the Senate's failure to confirm Debo Adegbile's nomination for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division at the DOJ.

    Click here to read NAACP LDF's analysis of the proposed Voting Rights Amendment Act.

    Click here for more information on NAACP LDF's events this weekend in Selma, Alabama.

    LDF is the country’s first and foremost civil rights law firm. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, LDF’s mission has always been transformative: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society. LDF’s victories established the foundations for the civil rights that all Americans enjoy today. In its first two decades, LDF undertook a coordinated legal assault against officially enforced public school segregation. This campaign culminated in Brown v. Board of Education the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1954, a unanimous decision overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine of legally sanctioned discrimination, widely known as Jim Crow.


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    NAACP Legal Defense Fund Challenges Method of Electing Judges to Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana’s Judicial District Court

    A Black Judge Has Never Been Elected to Serve in Terrebonne Parish


    Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana—The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and Louisiana attorney, Ronald L. Wilson, filed a challenge under the Voting Rights Act to Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana’s 32nd Judicial District Court. A Black candidate has never been elected as a judge on this parish court. A sitting judge on the court has been suspended for wearing blackface, an orange prison jumpsuit, handcuffs, and an afro wig to a Halloween party as part of his offensive parody of a Black prison inmate.

    “For nearly two centuries, Terrebonne Parish has used at-large voting to maintain a racially segregated 32nd Judicial District Court,” said Ryan Haygood, Director of the Political Participation Group at LDF, the nation’s leading civil rights law firm and a separate entity from the NAACP. “That system for electing judges has guaranteed that Black voters, in spite of having tried in election after election, cannot elect their judges of choice to this court. This lawsuit seeks to bring greater inclusion and democratic legitimacy to Terrebonne Parish’s political process through district-based voting.”

    Although Black residents comprise 20 percent of Terrebonne Parish’s population, are geographically concentrated within the Parish, and consistently vote together to attempt to elect candidates of their choice, no Black candidate has ever been elected to the 32nd Judicial District Court under the at-large system of election.

    For more than 15 years, Plaintiff Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP has advocated for the adoption of district-based voting to elect candidates to the 32nd Judicial District Court. Most recently, in 2011, the Terrebonne Parish NAACP urged the Louisiana legislature to adopt a fair method of electing judges to that court. That and other efforts to urge the state legislature to expand democracy in Terrebonne Parish failed.

    “Terrebonne Parish must open the political process and provide avenues of voting opportunity for all of its citizens,” said Leah Aden, LDF Assistant Counsel. “Louisianans have elected a number of Black judges on other Louisiana courts, including the Louisiana Supreme Court, from single-member districts. It is past time for Terrebonne Parish to stop resisting progress and end its discriminatory voting system.”

    Given that white voters in the Parish overwhelmingly do not vote for candidates that Black voters support, Black candidates cannot win a parish-wide election under the current electoral system. For example, in 2004, a Black candidate lost an election for the 32nd Judicial District Court after receiving substantial support (72 percent) from Black voters in Terrebonne, but securing just 1 percent of the vote from white voters in the Parish. That candidate lost the election to a white candidate. In another election in 2011, a Black candidate for tax assessor received more than 70 percent of support from Black voters in Terrebonne, but only 2.5 percent of the votes cast by white voters in the Parish. That candidate also ultimately lost the election to a white candidate. The Parish’s current at-large system of electing judges essentially guarantees these results.

    “This case is about finally providing an opportunity for me and other voters of color in Terrebonne to elect judges who are both guided by fairness and are accountable to us,” said Jerome Bokyin, President of the Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP, a Plaintiff in the lawsuit. “We simply have not had that in Terrebonne, as the suspension and subsequent re-election of a sitting judge, who publicly mocked Black people, clearly demonstrates.”

    In 2004, the Louisiana Supreme Court, at Mr. Boykin’s urging, suspended a sitting judge on the 32nd Judicial District Court after that judge attended a Halloween party dressed as a prisoner, and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and handcuffs, a black afro wig, and blackface makeup. A state body that investigated this incident determined that this judge’s portrayal of “African-Americans in a racially stereotypical manner . . . perpetuated the notion of African-Americans as both inferior and as criminals,” and “called into question . . . his ability to be fair and impartial toward African-Americans who appear before his court as defendants in criminal proceedings.” After his suspension, Terrebonne voters reelected that judge and he remains in office.

    “The unfortunate reality is that, in Terrebonne Parish, the courthouse has been closed to Black candidates who aspire to serve as judges,” said LDF cooperating attorney Mr. Wilson. “We seek to fundamentally change that reality and to instill confidence in the 32nd Judicial District Court in this lawsuit.”

    *******


    Since its founding in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has been a pioneer in the struggle to secure and protect the voting rights of Black people. Most recently, LDF defended the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. LDF successfully challenged the at-large electoral scheme for electing judges to the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Williams v. McKeithen. LDF also successfully litigated Chisom v. Roemer, holding that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act applies to judicial elections, and resulting in the integration of Louisiana’s Supreme Court.

    LDF has been a separate entity from the NAACP since 1957. Therefore, if the organization’s name needs to be shortened, please refer to it as “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “Legal Defense Fund” rather than simply “NAACP.”

    Visit LDF’s website at www.naacpldf.org.

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    NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Praises Judiciary Committee Vote on Adegbile Nomination

    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) applauded today’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to report favorably the nomination of Debo Adegbile to be the next Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

    “We are one step closer to the confirmation of an exceptionally talented leader for the Civil Rights Division,” said Leslie Proll, Director of LDF’s Washington Office. “Debo’s personal background, his vast litigation experience and his passion for civil rights make him a superb choice for this important position. We look forward to his speedy confirmation by the full Senate,” Proll added.

    Adegbile held several leadership roles with LDF before becoming senior counsel to Chairman Patrick Leahy. He spearheaded and supervised litigation on a range of civil rights issues involving education, employment, voting and criminal justice. During his tenure at LDF, he argued two cases before the Supreme Court in defense of the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act -- Shelby County v. Holder and Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder.

    Known as a consensus builder in both his litigation and advocacy, Adegbile commands support from all corners of the law. He is backed by state attorneys general, prosecutors, Supreme Court lawyers, a bipartisan group of members of the bar, and dozens of civil rights organizations whose communities he will be charged with protecting as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Officials from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement attended today’s Senate Judiciary Committee vote in demonstration of their strong support for Adegbile.

    Click here to read past LDF statements on Debo Adegbile's testimony to Senate Judiciary Committee and his nomination.

    Click here to read a statement from LDF President & Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill regarding representing Mumia Abu-Jamal.

    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. is the nation’s premiere civil rights law firm. LDF was started in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall and has been a separate entity from the NAACP since 1957. LDF litigated and argued Brown vs. Board of Education.

    Please refer to us as NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. We are not affiliated with the NAACP.

    Please visit our website www.naacpldf.org.

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    Disclaimer
    The articles on this site are provided as a public service and to be used for information purposes only. BlackRefer.com does not accept any responsibility or liability for the use or misuse of the article content. Use at your own risk.

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    NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Commends Introduction of Bipartisan Voting Rights Act Amendment As A Significant First Step

    Applauds Congress’s Swift, Bipartisan Effort to Respond to Supreme Court’s Shelby County, Alabama vs. Holder Decision


    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) commends the Members of Congress who today, in a strong bipartisan showing, introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014.

    The introduction of this bill—just seven months after the Supreme Court’s devastating ruling in Shelby County, Alabama vs. Holder—demonstrates Congress’ recognition of the urgent need to ensure the protection of the right to vote.

    “Although not perfect, this bill is an important first step,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF. “There is much more work for Congress, civil rights groups, and communities to do. Our common aim is to ensure that all Americans can participate equally in the political process. The bill released today provides an excellent starting point for public engagement in this process. It’s imperative that we all work together to ensure that no one is denied the right to vote, particularly on account of their race or language minority status. We applaud the courageous, bipartisan effort to press through a voting rights bill, despite the many other urgent matters facing our Congress.”

    LDF is committed to ensuring that the final legislation protects all Americans’ right to vote. “We will work with Congress, community groups, and our colleagues in the civil rights community over the next weeks and months to strengthen this bill to ensure that it protects all voters against discrimination,” said Leslie Proll, Director of LDF’s Washington office.

    In Shelby County, the Supreme Court struck as unconstitutional the provision of the Voting Rights Act that required certain states and localities with chronic histories and ongoing experiences with racial discrimination in voting to receive pre-implementation review of their voting changes.

    This new bill includes several important provisions, including: a mechanism that identifies those places with the worst recent record of voting discrimination and requires them to receive pre-implementation review of their voting changes; a provision that enhances the ability to obtain preliminary injunctive relief when challenging voting changes likely to be discriminatory; a provision that expands the authority of federal courts to order pre-implementation review for jurisdictions found to have discriminated against voters of color; and a nationwide notification of potential voting changes to enhance transparency and accountability and enable communities to challenge potentially discriminatory changes before elections.

    “Millions of voters of color were made even more vulnerable to racial discrimination by the Supreme Court’s devastating ruling in Shelby County,” said Ryan Haygood, Director of LDF’s Political Participation Group. “Today, less than a year after that shameful ruling, Congress took a bold step toward restoring our nation’s discrimination checkpoint, and helping to ensure that voters of color have full, equal, and active access to ballot box, the fundamental right that is preservative of all other rights.”

    LDF continues to encourage community leaders to actively engage in the legislative process by contacting their representatives and urging them to support legislation like the VRAA. We also continue to ask communities to be our eyes and ears on the ground and report potentially discriminatory voting changes at vote@naacpldf.org. We will continue to track and monitor states’ responses to the Shelby County decision and challenge discriminatory voting changes in the decision’s wake.

    Despite the skepticism of some political observers, who wrongly predicted that Congress would be both unwilling and unable to respond to the Shelby County decision, the introduction of legislation today demonstrates that congressional leadership is working to safeguard the political process and protect everyone’s right to vote.

    ###


    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the country’s first and foremost law firm fighting for racial justice in America. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, LDF’s mission is to achieve racial equality and an inclusive society. LDF has been a separate entity from the NAACP since 1957. Therefore, if you need to shorten our name please refer to us as “Legal Defense Fund” or “NAACP Legal Defense Fund.” More information about LDF is available at naacpldf.org

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    Statement of Sherrilyn Ifill, Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. Regarding Representing Mumia Abu-Jamal

    Debo Adegbile is an excellent choice to be the next Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. He is eminently qualified. For years, Debo Adegbile has worked tirelessly to defend the American promise of equality for all of its citizens. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. issued this statement when his nomination was announced.

    It is unfortunate that Debo Adegbile and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. have been criticized for LDF’s representation of Mr. Mumia Abu-Jamal. Almost 25 years after Mr. Abu-Jamal’s trial and conviction in state court, LDF chose to support Mr. Abu-Jamal’s federal court jury selection challenges, and later to represent him. We did so for the same reason that we have represented people accused and convicted of crimes since Thurgood Marshall was LDF’s first Director-Counsel – because LDF is committed to ensuring that the American criminal justice system is administered fairly and without regard to race, such that all individuals charged with or convicted of crimes are afforded the safeguards guaranteed by the constitution. Given the persistent, arbitrary and uncontroverted role of race in the administration of the death penalty, this mandate is particularly imperative in racially charged capital cases. When racial discrimination or other constitutional defects enter any aspect of the criminal justice system, it imperils the integrity of that system for everyone.

    In Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case, after LDF became counsel-of-record, his death sentence was conclusively found to be unconstitutional because his sentencing jury had been improperly instructed. Indeed, the federal court of appeals found in 2008, and again in 2011, that LDF’s claim of constitutional error was correct. At no time during LDF’s representation of Mr. Abu-Jamal did LDF lawyers disparage Officer Daniel Faulkner in any way. Indeed, Officer Faulkner’s name is never mentioned in any of the briefs LDF filed on Mr. Abu-Jamal’s behalf.

    LDF has always supported and respected law enforcement officers for the valuable role that they play in protecting our society. Indeed, over the course of its history, LDF has represented hundreds of police officers (and other first responders) in cases that sought to ensure equal employment opportunities without regard to race, ethnicity or gender.

    LDF has also defended countless individuals charged and/or convicted of crimes, regardless of whether they maintain their innocence (like Mr. Abu-Jamal) or are factually guilty of their crimes, in cases where there is evidence of racial bias or discrimination in the process. Thus, LDF now represents Mr. Duane Buck, an African-American man who is on death row in Texas. Although Mr. Buck is guilty of the crime for which he was convicted (and has expressed sincere remorse for his crimes), his death sentence is fundamentally unfair because it was imposed after an “expert” witness testified that Mr. Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black. Mr. Buck is, today, on death row, under threat of execution. LDF is therefore fighting for Mr. Buck’s life and to ensure that no one faces a death sentence because of their race.

    Because Mr. Adegbile and LDF’s representation of Mr. Abu-Jamal (and other condemned prisoners) is consistent with the highest principles of due process set forth by our Constitution, it is deeply troubling that some have suggested that this vitally important work diminishes Mr. Adegbile’s outstanding qualification to serve as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and discredits the unparalleled reputation of LDF. Contrary to these assertions, such an unwavering commitment to the Constitution, equality and justice, is an essential quality for any individual, or institution, committed to protecting civil rights.

    ###


    Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the leading law firm fighting for racial justice in America. LDF has been a separate entity from the NAACP since 1957. LDF has litigated many precedent setting cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. The organization focuses on voting rights, education, economic justice and criminal justice. More information is available at naacpldf.org

    Editor’s note: If the organization’s name must be shortened please refer to us as “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “Legal Defense Fund” instead of simply “NAACP” because that is a separate organization.


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    The NAACP Legal Defense Fund Applauds President Obama's Decision to Commute Inflated Drug Sentences

    - Statement from Sherrilyn A. Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. -


    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. applauds President Obama's decision today to commute the sentences of eight people currently serving extraordinarily inflated prison terms for nonviolent crack cocaine offenses. The President's ability to commute sentences is an extraordinary power, and his decision to exercise that power in these cases sends a powerful signal that the White House is committed to reducing mass incarceration and working to restore fairness to the criminal justice system.

    Excessive sentencing has devastated African American communities around the country and has resulted in dislocation and economic destabilization, as well as broken family and community ties. In acknowledgment of this, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) in 2010 to reduce the unfair, arbitrary, unjustified, and racially discriminatory crack cocaine/powder cocaine sentencing ratio from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. LDF has continued to argue that there is no disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

    Today's announcement comes on the heels of a decision by a sharply divided Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that the FSA does not apply retroactively to the thousands of people still serving time for nonviolent crack cocaine offenses, the majority of whom are African-American. Seven of the judges on that court dissented from the majority decision. In his dissent, Judge R. Guy Cole wrote “Congress repealed the law because the ratio is unjustified, with the full awareness of its discriminatory effects. Using the ratio to deny sentence modifications continues to treat African-American offenders more harshly than White offenders, despite Congress’s aim to the contrary.”

    Vincent Southerland, Senior Counsel in the Criminal Justice Practice who presented oral argument before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of individuals serving sentences based on the 100-to-1 ratio, urged the court to apply the Fair Sentencing Act’s new 18-to-1 crack-powder cocaine sentencing ratio to those still serving sentences under the old 100-to-1 ratio.

    We are extremely pleased that President Obama has decided to commute the sentences of eight nonviolent drug offenders and hopeful that he will continue the work of remedying an unfair drug sentencing regime—one that has destroyed individuals, families and communities for far too long.

    ###


    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., was started in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall. It is the nation's oldest civil rights law firm. LDF has been a separate entity from the NAACP since 1957.

    naacpldf.org
    @naacp_ldf
    Facebook.com/naacpldf
    jparker@naacpldf.org
    212-965-2783(w)
    917 386 5579 (c)




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    Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Heard Oral Argument in an Appeal from a Ruling That Louisiana Violated National Voter Registration Act


    Today, Natasha Korgaonkar, assistant counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's Political Participation Group, and Sarah Brannon, attorney for co-counsel Project Vote, presented oral argument before a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that Louisiana has violated the National Voter Registration Act by failing to provide mandatory voter registration opportunities to public assistance clients -- a failure which disproportionately affects indigent voters and voters of color.

    The federal statute, signed into law in 1993 and referred to as the "Motor Voter Act," was passed in order to broaden voter registration opportunities for citizens of color, citizens receiving public assistance benefits, and young voters.

    InScott, et al. v. Schedler, et al., the District Court, in the first ruling of its kind, found that Louisiana's Secretary of State and two state agencies violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which requires certain state public assistance agencies to provide their clients with an opportunity to register to vote.

    Today’s hearing focused on the extensive record indicating that, under the argument advanced by the LA Secretary of State, over 80 percent of Medicaid applicants in Louisiana, and a majority of SNAP applicants in Louisiana, would be excluded from the reach of Section 7 of the NVRA, which requires that benefits clients be given voter registration applications each time they apply for public assistance. A significant portion of the argument also addressed whether LDF's clients have standing -- that is, have been injured sufficiently to bring the lawsuit. Korgaonkar's arguments echoed the points articulated in LDF's District Court win.

    ###



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    Divided Federal Court Rules Crack Cocaine Sentencing Reforms Do Not Apply To Those Already in Prison


    Today, a sharply divided Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), which reduced the unfair, unjustified, and racially discriminatory crack cocaine/powder cocaine sentencing ratio from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1, does not apply to thousands of individuals who are currently incarcerated pursuant to sentences imposed under the discredited 100-to-1 regime. Seven judges concluded that the FSA should apply to those serving sentences under the 100-to-1 federal sentencing structure, and ten judges declared that it should not.

    “We are deeply disappointed in the outcome of this case. Thousands of people, the majority of whom are African-American, are still serving time under an unfair drug sentencing regime that has destroyed individuals, families and communities. Today’s decision demonstrates that those who are working to eliminate the impermissible role of race in criminal prosecutions and sentences still have much more work to do. We will continue to press this issue in the court,” said Sherrilyn A. Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., a leading civil rights law firm and a separate entity from the NAACP.

    “We are heartened that seven judges on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals were willing to rule in favor of a just application of the Fair Sentencing Act. Their powerful dissents encourage us to remain steadfast in our effort to win the release of those held under draconian and discriminatory sentences,” Ifill added.

    In 2010, Congress passed the FSA to reduce the irrationality and unfairness occasioned by a federal sentencing structure under which 100 grams of powder cocaine triggered the same sentence as a single gram of crack cocaine. Congress made this change in recognition of the fact that powder cocaine and crack are indistinguishable from one another and the fact that the law was imposed in starkly racially disproportionate ways. Indeed, Judge Karen Nelson Moore, who joined the majority and concluded that the law does not apply to those who are already serving 100-to-1 prison sentences, acknowledged that the 100-to-1 ratio “led to the mass incarceration of African-American men and has bred distrust of law enforcement in the larger African-American community.” Nationwide, nearly 9,000 individuals—90% of whom are African American--are serving out sentences imposed on them under the 100-to-1 ratio.

    In its amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in this case, LDF argued that the court’s failure to apply the FSA to individuals serving sentences based on the 100-to-1 ratio would perpetuate an irrational and racially discriminatory sentencing regime. In oral argument, Vincent Southerland, Senior Counsel in the Criminal Justice Practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., urged the court to apply the Fair Sentencing Act’s new 18-to-1 crack-powder cocaine sentencing ratio to those still serving sentences under the old 100-to-1 ratio.

    Mr. Southerland noted that “everyone—from all three branches of government to the law enforcement community and the American public—has recognized that the old 100-to-1 crack cocaine sentencing ratio was unfair and racially discriminatory. The Fair Sentencing Act was enacted to end that old discriminatory sentencing ratio. It is extremely disheartening that a majority of the judges on the Sixth Circuit failed to see the inherent arbitrariness and unfairness in perpetuating the unjust 100-to-1 sentencing ratio, despite Congress’s command in the Fair Sentencing Act.”

    In his dissent, Judge R. Guy Cole agreed, explaining, “Congress repealed the law because the ratio is unjustified, with the full awareness of its discriminatory effects. Using the ratio to deny sentence modifications continues to treat African-American offenders more harshly than White offenders, despite Congress’s aim to the contrary.”

    ###


    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall, has been a separate entity from the NAACP since 1957. LDF litigated and won Brown v. Board of Education.

    NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund


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    NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND SUPPORTS CHANGE IN SENATE RULES ALLOWING CONFIRMATION


    Thursday, November 21, 2013

    LDF stands in support of the Senate's action today to resolve the judicial confirmation crisis that has interfered with the essential functioning of our federal judiciary.

    Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel stated:
    "With one of every ten federal judgeships vacant, it is imperative that the confirmation process work properly. Our clients and countless victims of discrimination around the country must rely on the federal courts to enforce their statutory and constitutional rights. Those courts must be fully staffed before justice can be served. Moreover, the refusal to confirm judges has interfered with President Obama’s praiseworthy efforts to diversify the federal bench with women, people of color, and lawyers from a broad range of practice experience.

    The Constitution provides that the President holds the power to nominate federal judges. The Senate has the constitutional obligation to ensure that qualified nominees are confirmed, so that the critically important business of the third branch of government can go forward. The federal judiciary has been held hostage far too long by the unprecedented use of the filibuster against judicial nominees. The very foundation of our democracy is threatened when the Senate can no longer exercise its advice and consent role in appointing federal judges.

    For these reasons, we strongly support the vote by the Senate today. We look forward to the resumption of the Senate's traditional role in providing advice and consent on nominees to the federal bench.

    ###


    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. is the nation’s oldest civil rights law firm. Started in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall, LDF has been a separate entity from the NAACP since 1957. LDF litigated and won Brown vs. Board of Education.


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    NAACP Legal Defense Fund Alumnus Nominated to Become Government’s Top Civil Rights Lawyer


    “I am very pleased that President Obama has nominated Debo Adegbile to be the next Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Our country needs someone like Debo with significant experience in voting rights to protect the deeply held American value that each person has the right to a voice in our democracy. Debo has worked tirelessly to ensure that our nation lives up to its promise of equality for all Americans,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), the leading civil rights law firm in America and a separate entity from the NAACP.

    “He is highly respected as one of the Nation’s leading civil rights attorneys,” continued Ifill. “Debo has precisely the type of broad civil rights experience that is required at this pivotal moment in our country.”

    Mr. Adegbile held various positions at LDF during a ten-year period (2003-2013), including Acting President and Director-Counsel, Director of Litigation and Special Counsel. Mr. Adegbile contributed to LDF’s work on education, economic justice and criminal justice, and his legal work on voting rights brought him to the center of two of the most important recent civil rights cases in a generation.

    While at LDF, Mr. Adegbile twice defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court (Shelby County v. Holder, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder). He also represented evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in the first post-Katrina federal voting rights lawsuit.

    “I deeply admire and respect Debo’s considerable legal acumen, his tireless work ethic, and his commitment to practicing law at the highest levels with professionalism and integrity. Debo possesses an unwavering commitment to advancing equality for all Americans,” said Ryan P. Haygood, Director of LDF’s Political Participation Group, who worked with Mr. Adegbile for nearly a decade.

    “Debo is an example of what can be possible for every child in America when we open the doors of opportunity. As a child, Debo and his single mother fought grinding poverty and homelessness in New York City. Debo later financed his college and law school education with scholarships, employment and loans, and ultimately twice argued in the United States Supreme Court. These experiences have influenced his commitment to protect the rights of the most vulnerable among us, and our nation will benefit from his service,” continued Haygood.

    ###


    Founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is the leading law firm fighting for racial justice in America. LDF has been a separate entity from the NAACP since 1957. LDF has litigated many precedent setting cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. The organization focuses on voting rights, education, economic justice and criminal justice. More information is available at naacpldf.org

    Editor’s note: If the organization’s name must be shortened please refer to us as “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “Legal Defense Fund” instead of simply “NAACP” because that is a separate organization.


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    U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Hears Oral Argument in Fisher v. University of Texas


    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments today in Fisher v. University of Texas, following the Supreme Court’s decision this past June in which it declined to end the University’s race-conscious admissions plan and sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. Josh Civin, Counsel to the Director of Litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), presented oral argument on behalf of LDF's clients the Black Student Alliance at the University of Texas at Austin (BSA) and Black Ex-Students of Texas, Inc. (BEST).

    Today’s hearing focused on the extensive record regarding the race-neutral efforts the University of Texas (UT) employed prior to pairing those approaches with a race-conscious admissions component. And a significant portion of the argument also addressed the relevance of UT’s history and experience in developing its policy. Judge Patrick Higginbotham, who authored a 2010 Court of Appeals opinion that upheld the constitutionality of UT’s admission plan, noted the danger of stereotypes that race-conscious holistic review is designed to address.

    Civin’s arguments echoed the points articulated in the supplemental amicus brief LDF submitted on behalf of BSA and BEST, and highlighted the constitutionality and meaningful impact of the University’s admissions policy.

    In its June decision in Fisher, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its prior decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, the 2003 University of Michigan affirmative action case, articulating the constitutionally compelling interest in diversity in higher education and the continued use of narrowly-tailored race-conscious admissions policies. The Supreme Court recognized that a diverse campus brings important benefits, “including enhanced classroom dialogue and the lessening of racial isolation and stereotypes.”

    At this stage of the case, the Court of Appeals will decide a narrow constitutional issue—whether the University’s modest use of race in admissions, modeled after the plan the Supreme Court found constitutional in Grutter, is narrowly tailored to the University’s goal of diversity. As a part of that inquiry, the court will determine if workable, race-neutral alternatives could have promoted the University’s compelling interest in the educational benefits of diversity about as well as its current race-conscious individualized review plan. The results of the UT’s experiment with race-neutral admissions between 1997 and 2004 demonstrate that the answer is no.

    Even with the enactment of the Top Ten Percent Plan and UT Austin’s implementation of other race-neutral options, African-American students never exceeded 4.5% of the entering class—far below the 13% of Texas high school graduates who are African Americans. And during that period, 79% of classes at UT Austin had zero, or only one, African-American student. This type of data, and the experiences of LDF’s clients BSA and BEST, who are current and former UT students, show that although the University of Texas has made great progress in overcoming its legacy of exclusion, it still has far to go in order to fully achieve the benefits of diversity.

    There has been a vast outpouring of support for the University’s efforts to build a racially diverse campus, by taking race into consideration in a modest fashion. In addition to a multi-racial coalition of current UT students and alumni, support has come from major corporations, former military leaders, over 100 colleges and universities, religious organizations, labor unions, and other civil rights advocates.

    ###


    Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the leading law firm fighting for racial justice in America. LDF has been a separate entity from the NAACP since 1957. For seven decades, LDF has worked to dismantle racial segregation and ensure educational opportunities at every level of education. In its first two decades, LDF undertook a coordinated legal assault against officially enforced public school segregation. This campaign included LDF’s legal advocacy in the five cases that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1954 that has been described as “the most important American governmental act of any kind since the Emancipation Proclamation.” LDF has been involved in Fisher v. University of Texas from the outset. LDF’s efforts in Fisher carry forward the legacy of our past leaders, beginning with Thurgood Marshall, LDF’s first Director-Counsel and the first black Supreme Court Justice, whose advocacy in Sweatt v. Painter led to the desegregation of UT Austin Law School in 1950.

    Editor’s note: If the organization’s name must be shortened please refer to us as “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “Legal Defense Fund” instead of simply “NAACP” because that is a separate organization.


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    It’s Time for a Black Feminist to Head the NAACP

    - Imani Gandy is a recovering attorney turned political blogger and women's rights activist. She was the publisher of Angry Black Lady Chronicles (winner of the 2012 Black Weblog Award for Best Political Blog) from 2009-2013. She is currently Editor-at-Large of This Week in Blackness (TWiB!) and co-host of TWiB! in the Morning. Her work has been featured at The Grio.com, AlterNet, and she appears regularly on the Hal Sparks Radio Program on WCPT in Chicago. -


    The right woman could help the NAACP ensure that reproductive rights, as well as voting rights and civil rights, are couched as human rights.

    On Sunday, NAACP President Ben Jealous announced he will resign at the end of the year to spend more time with his family. Jealous took the helm of the 104-year-old civil rights organization in 2008 at a time when complaints abounded that the organization was out-of-touch. Five years later, the NAACP has been re-energized, with thousands of new young members, a staggering influx of revenue, a social media presence where none existed before, and hundreds of thousands of new voter registrations.

    read entire article


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    Harry Belafonte Joins More Than 100 Civil Rights Leaders, Elected Officials, Clergy, Former Prosecutors and Judges, Past ABA Presidents, and a Former TX Governor in Calling For a New, Fair Sentencing Hearing For Duane Buck


    (New York) Harry Belafonte, a renowned activist and musician, released a statement on his Facebook page calling for a new, fair sentencing hearing for NAACP LDF's client, Duane Buck. Mr. Buck was sentenced to death by a jury that was told he was more likely to be dangerous because he is Black.

    “I am proud to join the efforts of more than 100 civil rights leaders, elected officials, clergy, former prosecutors and judges, a former TX governor and others call for a NEW, FAIR sentencing for Duane Buck. Add your voice at Change.org: http://chn.ge/ZS0yov,” Mr. Belafonte wrote.

    At Mr. Buck’s capital sentencing hearing sixteen years ago, the prosecutor elicited testimony from a psychologist who said Mr. Buck posed a future danger to society because he’s Black. Based on this testimony, the prosecutor then urged the jury to issue a death sentence — which they did.

    By this statement, Mr. Belafonte joins hundreds of signatories throughout Texas and the country who write: “The State of Texas cannot condone any form of racial discrimination in the courtroom. The use of race in sentencing poisons the legal process and breeds cynicism in the judiciary. No execution should be carried out until the courts have a meaningful opportunity to address the evidence of fundamental injustice in Mr. Buck’s case. A new, fair sentencing hearing for Mr. Buck is absolutely necessary to restore public confidence in the criminal justice system."

    “We’re delighted that Harry Belafonte is among the many civil rights leaders, lawyers, activists, and elected officials who are calling for a new, fair sentencing hearing for our client Duane Buck” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel. “Mr. Buck's death sentence is the clear product of racial discrimination, of which there’s a long history in Texas’s capital punishment system.”

    "Mr. Belafonte has dedicated his life to the struggle for civil and human rights. By joining the call for a new, fair sentencing hearing for Duane Buck, Mr. Belafonte makes plain that Mr. Buck's racially biased death sentence undermines the integrity of the entire criminal justice system in Texas and threatens fundamental principles of justice," said Christina Swarns, Interim Director of Litigation and Director of the Criminal Justice Practice.

    ###

    NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is a leading voice in the struggle to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, LDF has been recognized as the nation’s finest civil rights law firm. Although initially affiliated with the NAACP, LDF has been an entirely separate organization since 1957.


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    Statement on the Passing of Former NAACP Legal Defense Fund President & Director-Counsel Julius Levonne Chambers


    The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and this country have lost one of our great civil rights lawyers and leaders. Julius Chambers, the third Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and former Chair of its Board, died on Friday August 2 in North Carolina after a long illness. He was 76 years old.

    Mr. Chambers devoted his entire life to civil rights law. His dedication to equality and justice was shaped by his formational experiences as a boy in segregated North Carolina. He was a brilliant law student at University of North Carolina Law School where his reputation first caught the attention of then-LDF Director-Counsel, Thurgood Marshall. He graduated first in his class from UNC Law School, and was editor-in-chief of the law review. While teaching at Columbia Law School, he obtained a Master of Laws degree.

    Mr. Chambers was one of the first two LDF scholarship recipients. The other was Marian Wright Edelman, now President of the Children’s Defense Fund. He was also LDF’s first Legal Fellow. This began his lifelong association with LDF, where he worked as an intern and lawyer, cooperating attorney, board member and board chair, and finally as President and Director-Counsel, a position he held from 1984-1993.

    In 1993 Mr. Chambers left LDF to become Chancellor at North Carolina Central University, his alma mater. He remained chancellor until he retired in 2001, when he rejoined the firm of Ferguson, Stein & Chambers.

    Mr. Chambers was a founding member of Ferguson, Stein & Chambers, the first integrated law firm in North Carolina. The firm became a model for civil rights law firm practice in the private bar. Over his years in practice at the firm, and later at LDF, Chambers litigated and argued landmark civil rights cases in the Supreme Court, including Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg (North Carolina school desegregation), Thornburgh v. Gingles (voting rights), Ablemarle v. Moody (employment discrimination), Shaw v. Hunt (redistricting) and many others.

    Mr. Chambers was known for his sharp mind, his relentless focus on law as a means of advancing civil rights, his understated sense of humor, and his unflappable demeanor. He was a man of tremendous courage. His home and his car were firebombed on separate occasions in 1965, and his office was burned to the ground in 1971, during the height of some of his most contentious civil rights litigation in North Carolina. When he spoke of these events, Chambers was typically matter-of-fact, insisting always that you “just keep fighting.” Mr. Chambers sat among the greats – Thurgood Marshall, Jack Greenberg, Constance Baker Motley, Robert Carter – and he formed the connective tissue with the next generation of civil rights lawyers – many of whom he personally hired at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Julius was an avid golfer, and while at LDF he founded the Julius Chambers Golf Invitational, a LDF fundraiser that for many years attracted golfers from all over the country.

    Mr. Chambers is survived by his daughter, his son and his grandchildren. His beloved wife Vivian Chambers passed away in 2012.

    As soon as it is available, information about funeral and memorial services will be posted at http://www.naacpldf.org.

    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is the country’s first and foremost civil and human rights law firm. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, who subsequently became the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, LDF was launched at a time when the nation’s aspirations for equality and due process of law were stifled by widespread state-sponsored racial inequality. From that era to the present, LDF’s mission has always been transformative: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society.

    Editor’s note: If the organization’s name must be shortened please refer to us as “Legal Defense Fund” or “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” rather than simply “NAACP” because it is a separate organization.

    For immediate release: August 3, 2013
    Contact: Margot Friedman at 202-332-5550 or mfriedman@dupontcirclecommunications.com
    http://www.naacpldf.org

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    Statement by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s President and Director-Counsel in Response to the Jury’s Verdict in the George Zimmerman Trial


    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is deeply troubled by the jury’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Trayvon Martin’s tragic and senseless death was the direct result of Mr. Zimmerman’s false and offensive assumption that Trayvon was a criminal because he was African American. His unnecessary death exposes the entrenched nature of racial prejudice in our country and reflects the unfinished struggle to fulfill this country’s promise of racial equality and justice for all. LDF will therefore ask United States Attorney General Eric Holder to undertake a comprehensive federal review of Mr. Zimmerman’s conduct. LDF also expects and encourages Trayvon Martin's family to pursue any and all civil legal action that is available to them. Regardless of the outcome of these proceedings, LDF hopes that this painful episode will inspire a much-needed and long-overdue dialogue around race and criminal justice in America.

    All Americans must peacefully mobilize and demand protection for our children. We must remember that it was the collective action of individuals and communities nationwide that spurred the arrest of George Zimmerman. Without the vigilance and vocal demands of people throughout this country, Mr. Zimmerman would never have been arrested or prosecuted. Now we must use that same power to continue our fight against racial profiling, and to demand that the lives of our children are honored and valued in society and our criminal justice system.

    By continuing to commit ourselves to this work, regardless of the outcome of any single criminal trial, we pay tribute to Trayvon’s life and guarantee that he—and the countless others like him--have not died in vain. These efforts, along with sustained community organizing, civic engagement, public education, activism, and advocacy are at the heart of the struggle against this country’s legacy of racism. Fighting together, we will one day achieve the moral and constitutional imperative of racial equality. And when that day comes, children like Travyon will be treated as the teenagers that they are, regardless of their race, with the unfettered hopes and dreams to which all Americans are entitled.

    Founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is the leading law firm fighting for racial justice in America. LDF focuses on voting rights, educational opportunity, criminal justice, and economic justice. LDF has been a separate entity from the NAACP since 1957.

    Editor’s note: If the organization’s name must be shortened please refer to us as “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “Legal Defense Fund” instead of simply “NAACP” because that is a separate organization.

    Contact: Valerie Holford, 301/926-1298 or valerieholford@starpower.net

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