The Public Policy Project advocates for the effective advancement of civil rights law at the state and federal level working with other organizations as well as legislators.

Criminal Justice

The Public Policy Project actively advocates for legislative and policy measures designed to reduce mass incarceration in the federal and state systems.

The Public Policy Project leads the Civil Rights Coalition on Police Reform, comprised of numerous civil and human rights organizations united against police abuse, excessive use of force, and the targeting of poor and minority of communities by law enforcement across the country. The Coalition is in regular contact with White House and Department of Justice officials regarding ongoing widely-publicized killings and excessive use of force by police in Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York, South Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland. Most recently, the Coalition sent a letter of support with over 70 signatories calling for the Department of Justice to initiate a pattern and practice investigation of the Baltimore Police Department in the wake of the killing of Freddie Gray while in police custody. The Department announced the investigation just a few days later.

 

Recent Work

In the News

Education

For almost fifty years, the Lawyers’ Committee has advanced racial equality through highly effective and comprehensive programs including educational opportunity. We firmly believe education is a civil right – not a privilege afforded to few.

The Public Policy Project advocates for the effective advancement of civil rights laws at the state and federal level, working with other organizations as well as directly with legislators, federal agencies and the White House. As part of the Project’s work on education, the Project works very closely with the Educational Opportunities Project on legislative priorities.

The Lawyers’ Committee advocates for equitable educational opportunities for students of color in k-12 and higher education, including diversity and integration standards in the classroom, better parental involvement strategies and enforcement mechanisms, the maintenance of federal civil rights protections, and support for a private right of action for a quality education.

Fact Sheets and Talking Points 

Employment

For over 50 years, the Lawyers’ Committee has advanced racial equality in the areas of community development, criminal justice, educational opportunities, fair employment and business opportunities, fair housing and fair lending, immigrant rights, judicial diversity and voting rights. As a national leader in combating employment discrimination, the Lawyers’ Committee has undertaken numerous initiatives, including the Access Campaign, a program that has attacked the indiscriminate use of criminal and credit history information through litigation, public education, federal, state and local legislative advocacy. Additionally, as co-chair of the Employment Task Force of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights – a coalition of over 150 organizations – the Lawyers’ Committee works with the larger civil rights community on numerous employment issues generally, as well as with the necessary enforcement agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Justice.

Increasingly, minority applicants face employment discrimination as the result of information in their credit history and through the use of criminal background checks. Recent reports estimate that approximately 47 percent of employers use credit checks to screen job applicants and upwards of 80 percent of employers apply criminal background checks – often ignoring statutes that limit or regulate the use of this personal information. The effects of these checks are felt most harshly by minorities, who are twice as likely to be disqualified on the basis of credit history and because of mass over-incarceration, have a disproportionate rate of criminal histories.

As part of the Project’s work on employment, Public Policy works very closely with the Employment Discrimination Project on legislative priorities that ensure strong government enforcement of fair employment laws, including legislation that will give all Americans an equal opportunity to work hard without discrimination or bias.

Nominations & Judicial Diversity

District Courts and Courts of Appeals Nominations

Nomination of Steven Menashi to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights opposes the nomination of Steven Menashi to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. Menashi’s inflammatory writing, anti-civil rights and anti-immigrant record demonstrate that he cannot serve as a fair and impartial appellate judge. If confirmed, Menashi would cause significant harm to our country, particularly to African Americans and other communities of color, and to the integrity of the federal bench.

Nomination of Michael Park to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Nomination of Kenneth K. Lee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Senate Resolution 50: Reduction in Post-Cloture Consideration Hours

Executive Nominations

Nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as United States Attorney General

Nomination of Betsy Devos to serve as United States Secretary of Education

Nomination of Dr. Ben Carson to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

 Supreme Court Nominations

Nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court

Lawyers’ Committee Releases Report Evaluating Supreme Court Nominee Judge Merrick Garland’s Full Record on Civil Rights Cases and Issues Statement to U.S. Senate Urging Immediate Hearing and a Vote.

Lawyer’s Committee Statement on President’s Nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to United States Supreme Court.

National Lawyers’ Committee Reacts to Past 100 Days of Inaction by Senate Majority to Fill the Vacant U.S. Supreme Court Seat.  Click here for the statement.

Nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court

Judge Neil Gorsuch – Fact Sheet

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Issues Response to President’s Nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court.  Click here for the statement.

Nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Issues Response to President’s Nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.  Click here for the statement.

 Judicial Diversity

The Judicial Diversity Program seeks to improve the judicial system through increased representation from people of diverse backgrounds working on the judicial bench. The American Bar Association has cited the need to attain greater diversity in the judiciary, and to prove systematic, structured advisory support to the judiciary.  This program seeks to satisfy that need.

The Lawyers’ Committee works toward the goal of judicial diversity in three ways:

  1. A mentorship and networking program for attorneys and law students who might be interested in joining the bench.
  2. Educating the public on the benefits of increased diversity on the bench.
  3. Advocating for structural reforms to increase transparency and accountability in the judicial selection process.

Currently, the Lawyers’ Committee’s judicial diversity work is focused on programs in Washington and North Carolina.

Please visit our resources page for research, guidebooks, and general information on judicial diversity.

    Voting Rights

    The Public Policy Project advocates for the effective advancement of civil rights laws at the state and federal level, working with other organizations as well as directly with legislators, federal agencies and the White House.

    The Lawyers’ Committee has been at the forefront of advocating for necessary changes to our voting laws through advocacy, litigation and as a leader in the nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition. In the 2012 Presidential Election, over half of all problems reported to Election Protection were related to our antiquated voter registration system, problems at the polling place, and the misapplication of voter ID laws. The Lawyers’ Committee advocates modernizing our voter registration system so that it is automatic, permanent, and allows for Election Day correction. Moreover, voters in this past election were intentionally misinformed by individuals or organizations attempting to sway elections for a particular candidate or party. Voting reform should include increased attempts to prevent voter deception by organizing various task forces within both the federal and state governments, in addition to harsher punishments for those who would attempt to deprive fellow citizens of the constitutional right to vote.

    As part of the Project’s work on voting rights, the Project works very closely with the Voting Rights Project on legislative priorities that ensure equality in voting rights for racial and ethnic minorities and other traditionally disenfranchised groups. This includes legislation that addresses the need for voter registration modernization; will address different forms of voter suppression like deceptive practices and voter intimidation; and will remedy the dismantling of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

     

    Fact Sheets and Talking Points 

    Take Action

    The importance of contacting your legislator:

    One of the best ways to help create change on the federal level is to get in contact with your members of Congress. As a constituent, your needs and concerns are of major importance to the house member or senator representing you on the national level. Because it is often hard for lawmakers to conceptualize the direct impact of legislation they work with—how it impacts real people their day to day lives—describing your personal connections with or opinions on a specific issue is a valuable act.

    How to construct a letter to your legislator:

    When attempting to contact a member of congress, it is always best to reach out to the representative from your area or the senators from your state. These legislators are aware that your needs, as a constituent, are what matter most. So they are more likely to take your needs into consideration.

    Try to focus your letter on a single topic or issue. This allows your legislator to focus directly on the issue that matters most to you. At the beginning of your letter, be sure to write who you are and why you are writing. Try to include as many details as possible—if talking about a certain bill, include the correct title or number. If you need help in finding the number of a bill, use the Thomas Legislative Information System.

    Most importantly, explain how the issue you are discussing affects you and others. Try to close your letter by requesting a specific action for your legislator: voting for or against a bill, or changing a general policy.

    Helpful format information:

    Addressing Members of Congress

    To Your Senator:
    The Honorable (full name)
    (Room #) (Name) Senate Office Building
    United States Senate
    Washington, DC 20510

    Dear Senator:

    To Your Representative:
    The Honorable (full name)
    (Room #) (Name) House Office Building
    United States House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515

    Dear Representative:

    Finding Their Addresses

    Senate and House of Representatives

    U.S. Senators (web sites and mailing addresses)

    Write Your U.S. Representative (A service of the House that will help you by identifying your Congressperson in the U.S. House of Representatives and providing contact information.

    Cite these legislation identifiers when writing to members of Congress

    House Bills: “H.R._____
    House Resolutions: “H.RES._____
    House Joint Resolutions: “H.J.RES._____
    Senate Bills: “S._____
    Senate Resolutions: “S.RES._____
    Senate Joint Resolutions: “S.J.RES._____

    Sample Letter: