Guided by a mission of racial justice and community-based lawyering, the North Carolina Regional Office engages in impactful civil rights work across a number of areas. Our team challenges discriminatory laws, cruel polluting industries, unfair schooling practices, and much more.
The North Carolina office is led by Mark Dorosin and Elizabeth Haddix, two veteran civil rights lawyers who were previously the co-directors of the Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights. Dorosin and Haddix are continuing the cases that the Chambers Center was already pursuing, as well as expanding their efforts, to ensure they are working for the communities Chambers sought to serve.
Case: Pugh et al. v. Howard et al.
In 2019, we represented the community-based organization Chatham For All (CFA) to advocate that the Chatham County Board of Commissioners take down a confederate monument at the historic county courthouse at the center of Pittsboro, N.C. After the vote to remove the monument passed, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) sued to prevent the monument from being removed.
We successfully intervened on behalf of CFA and the local NAACP branch presenting the monument’s ongoing racist history, and succeeded in getting the UDC’s case dismissed. The UDC has appealed that dismissal, and the N.C. Court of Appeals is hearing the appeal without oral argument on April 13, 2021.
Case: Episcopal Farmworker Ministry et al v. NC Dept. of Labor
In October 2020, on behalf of a number of community and labor rights’ organizations, we petitioned the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) to issue emergency rules to protect essential workers—specifically, meat-packing plant workers—who risk contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. The NCDOL admitted that there is a higher chance of workers’ exposure to COVID-19 in certain occupational settings, yet declined to enact a rule to protect workers from COVID, and so we have petitioned for judicial review in state court.
In February, we also filed an administrative complaint with the federal Department of Labor arguing that the NCDOL failed to meet federal guidelines to protect workers in the workplace as mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Our complaint argues that the NCDOL has abdicated its legal responsibility to protect the health and safety of North Carolina workers during the pandemic, which has disproportionately hurt workers of color who are overrepresented in workforces with higher rates of COVID-19.
Case: Monica and Dameon Shepard v. Jordan Kita et al.
On Jan. 26, 2021, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit in Pender County, North Carolina against members of a white mob, including a now, former New Hanover County Sheriff’s Deputy and a dozen other individuals – some carrying guns– who menaced a Black family in their North Carolina home late at night last year. They are being sued for trespass; assault; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; invasion of privacy; and violations of North Carolina’s civil rights and fair housing statutes. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Monica and Dameon Shepard, a mother and son who were threatened when the mob tried to enter their home after falsely accusing them of hiding a young woman they were looking for.
This case is a present-day example of the long and ugly history of white mobs acting with impunity and reckless disregard in the extrajudicial pursuit of Black Americans.
Case: NC NAACP et al v. N.C. State Board of Elections et al
In August 2020, we challenged the use of ballot marking devices for voting in 21 North Carolina counties. Our lawsuit argues that the required use of these machines violates the North Carolina Constitution, because they are insecure, vulnerable to hacking and because they tabulate votes using a barcode that is unreadable by humans and cannot be adequately verified or reviewed.
This case is currently still pending as we continue our fight for voting rights in North Carolina.
Case: NAACP et al. v. City of Charlotte
In June we filed a lawsuit that challenges the unconstitutional and planned use of force and violent tactics (including tear gas and rubber bullets) used by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CPMD) during peaceful protests by Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist activists following the murder of George Floyd. The CPMD also used violent and unconstitutional force against people protesting during the Republican National Convention.
The North Carolina Constitution guarantees the right to assemble, to free speech and to due process. Our lawsuit alleges that police violated those constitutional rights when they attacked demonstrators by assaulting them with tear gas, pepper spray, flash bang grenades and rubber bullets.
Case: Justice 4 the Next Generation et al v. Cole et al
On Nov. 2, we filed a lawsuit with claims under the First and Fourth Amendments, Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1871, known as the KKK conspiracy act against members of the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO)and Graham Police Department (GPD).
On October 31, 2020, the last day of early voting and same-day voter registration in North Carolina, the ACSO and GPD pepper sprayed hundreds of peaceful participants in a voting rights march to the polls. Marchers, who included children, elderly, and people with disabilities, were pepper sprayed again by police as they tried to leave the area, and police blocked exits leading to the One-Stop Early Voting and Registration site. ACSO deputies arrested and charged participants criminally who remained in the area.
Case: Alamance NAACP et al v. Peterman et al. (Alamance I)
On July 2, 2020 we filed a First Amendment suit against the town of Graham, N.C. and Alamance County Sheriff Office (ACSO) along with a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Graham had a city ordinance requiring a permit from the chief of police to protest, picket or parade in the city limits, which the city and the ACSO have used to prohibit BLM protests, as well as on-going protests at the historic county courthouse in the center of Graham, which hosts a confederate monument on its north side.
In this case we represented the Alamance County branch of the NAACP and seven individual protestors, some of whom were arrested or threatened with arrest for standing on the sidewalk near the monument with anti-white supremacy signs. The county and sheriff continued to prevent protestors from going on the courthouse grounds, so we filed a second TRO motion at the end of July. The court granted our preliminary injunction motion on August 14, finding the ounty’s policy of restricting access to the courthouse grounds unconstitutional.
This case officially settled on March 16, and approval of the settlement via consent order is pending before the court now. Anti-racist protests continue around the courthouse and the monument, despite ACSO and GPD’s violent use of force on October 31, 2020.
Case: N.C. NAACP et al v. State of North Carolina
On April 30, 2020, we filed a constitutional challenge to North Carolina House Bill 514 “An Act to Permit Certain Towns to Operate Charter Schools.” The Act allows a municipality to establish and operate a charter school and creates an admissions preference to any municipal run charter for municipal residents—but the act only applies to four, predominantly white and wealthy towns in Mecklenburg County. Our lawsuit alleges that allowing these communities to establish their own charters with a geographic admissions preference will create significant segregation, both in the schools as well as the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools from which they draw students. The court recently denied the State’s motion to dismiss the case.
Case: REACH et al. v. State of N.C. et al
In June 2019, the Regional Office filed a constitutional challenge in state court to the North Carolina General Assembly’s amendments to the Right to Farm Act, which eliminate the ability to sue the hog industry for nuisance. These amendments came in direct response to multi-million dollar verdicts against hog producer giant Smithfield Foods in nuisance actions filed by nearly 600 residents, almost all of whom are Black.
The amendments insulate all that agricultural or forestry operations from nuisance liability, but completely eliminate the remedy as to hog operations. The nuisance actions against Smithfield have proven to be the most effective way to hold the industry accountable for the health and environmental impacts stemming from its thousands of football field-sized open-air cesspits containing hog waste which are located in eastern N.C. communities that are disproportionately Black, Latinx, and Native American.
Case: Hoke County Board of Educ. et al v Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools [CMS], State of North Carolina, North Carolina State Board of Education [Leandro]
The Regional Office represents the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP, parents and students in the more than 20-year-old ongoing school-equity Leandro case, in which the N.C. Supreme Court ruled that the State was failing its constitutional mandate to guarantee all students the opportunity to a sound basic education. We were instrumental in getting the new judge assigned to the remedial stage of the case to engage an expert consultant—WestEd—to advise the court on what the State must do to meet its constitutional obligations, including how much those measures would cost.
Last summer, the parties submitted a joint Year 1 Implementation Plan, outlining the first measures the state would implement to meet its constitutional obligation to provide every student with a “sound basic education.” As a result of our demands and leadership in the negotiation, the Year 1 Plan includes the targeted funding for underserved student populations, as well as funding to hire support staff (nurses, social workers, counselors) in high-needs schools and districts; and a commitment to begin to track and report annual school report cards school-level information on the race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and other demographic information of all students and staff.
This case is ongoing and negotiations with defendants and plaintiffs and the Governor’s office continue.
Advocacy Work & Resources
Environmental Justice Work:
The regional office has sent letters to various agencies across the North Carolina government to secure environmental justice for communities of color and low-income communities, who have been disproportionately harmed by the hog industry, and concrete and asphalt companies. North Carolina politicians and institutions have tried to break laws and legal agreements that prevented the hog industry, and concrete and asphalt companies, from polluting the land and violating their communities. Our letters called out the injustices and inherent racism in these actions.
- Read the letter to the Attorney General of North Carolina.
- Read the letter to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
- Read the letter to the North Carolina Division of Air Quality.
Registering to Vote in North Carolina:
North Carolina residents can visit the state Board of Elections website to register to vote.
Webinar: Monuments of Hate: Addressing the racist legacy and impacts of confederate monuments in North Carolina
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the NC Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System (NC CRED) co-sponsored “Monuments of Hate,” a webinar to discuss how communities can advocate for the removal of monuments to white supremacy, and explain the laws surrounding those monuments. The panelists for this discussion were Mark Dorosin of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson, the Dean of the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities at Shaw University; and Barrett Brown, President of the Alamance County NAACP, and the moderator was Karen Howard, a Chatham County Commissioner.