UNC Center For Civil Rights May Lose Legal Fangs

15 hours ago

Supporters of the UNC Center for Civil Rights protest outside of a committee meeting of the UNC Board of Governors meeting on August 1, 2017.
Credit Dave Dewitt / WUNC

Since its beginnings in 2001, the UNC Center for Civil Rights has fought legal battles on behalf of low-income and minority communities across the state. But its ability to do so may soon come to an end.

The UNC Board of Governors is expected to vote Friday morning on a proposal to bar the Center from litigation.

The man behind the proposal is Board of Governors member and Raleigh attorney Steve Long, who believes the Center’s legal battles violate the university system’s educational mission. Long has said that one part of the state, such as the Center, should not sue another.

Critics of the proposal say the Center provides legal counsel to marginalized communities that most need it, and otherwise cannot afford it. They say the proposed ban is an ideological attack on the Center's social justice mission.

In one of its cases, the Center prevented the expansion of a landfill in a black community already home to an animal shelter, sewage treatment facility, and hog farm. In another, it fought modern-day school segregation.

Members of the Board of Governors are elected by the state legislature, which has weighed heavily Republican in recent years.

Long’s proposal was already approved by a Board of Governors committee in July. If it is approved by the full board, the Center will be allowed to continue litigation it has already started, but it will not be allowed to engage in any new cases.