Black board member: It’s a ‘base canard’ that we’re attacking civil rights
Law students usually get practical experience through university legal clinics, where their work representing disadvantaged clients for free is part of an educational program.
The University of North Carolina’s law school has long had something different: a heavily politicized law center, not associated with any educational program, that likes to file social-justice litigation against the conservative-leaning state.
That shtick has worn thin for the UNC Board of Governors.
As expected, it voted Friday to ban all university centers from filing litigation, the 16-year-old Center for Civil Rights included. The ban doesn’t apply to legal clinics.
The News & Observer reports that the litigation ban would functionally end the law center’s work – “currently funded with private donations” – unless it spins off into a separate nonprofit or becomes a traditional legal clinic. Board members who voted for the ban said it’s improper for one government entity (the UNC system) to sue others (state government, school districts, counties).
One of those voting for the ban was Bill Webb. He said he supported the Center for Civil Rights’ work but that legal clinics “are the proper vehicle through which litigation should take place”:
Webb, a former magistrate judge from Raleigh, added that it was a “base canard” that people have suggested the board doesn’t support civil rights. “I would not serve on such a board,” said Webb, who is African-American.
One of the center’s attorneys showed his students how to act in court when they don’t get their way – by spouting off like lawyers in movies. The Associated Press reports:
And as he left the meeting, center managing attorney Mark Dorosin yelled at the board members that they weren’t being honest about their support for civil rights. When one complained that Dorosin was out of order, he yelled, “You’re out of order. To say you support civil rights is out of order.”
Protesters also yelled ungrammatical slogans outside the meeting, including “If we don’t get no justice, you don’t get no peace.”
Reiterating the racism claims made against board members who don’t think one government entity should sue others, the center’s director, the bullhorn-wielding Ted Shaw, said the center would “continue the struggle on behalf of black and brown poor people”:
“Shame on these folks, shame on them, but they’re on the wrong side of history,” he said of the board.
Critics of the decision, including UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt, have yet to say why the law center cannot become a legal clinic:
Steve Long, the Raleigh lawyer who proposed the ban, said legal clinics can still support the poor. “Our commitment to civil rights is strong, including mine,” he said. …
[Board Chair Lou] Bissette said he didn’t have any problem with the civil rights center becoming a law clinic at UNC. Law clinics are formed under guidelines of the American Bar Association, and are primarily for law students’ education through casework.