NAACP Legal Department: Fields of Expertise
Legal Department Practice Areas
The NAACP Legal Department through the direction of the General Counsel is responsible for the internal or corporate issues concerning the NAACP as well as for civil rights advocacy. The General Counsel serves as the Secretary of the Corporation. The Secretary is the custodian of the seal, charter amendments, By-Laws, standing resolutions and all proceedings of the Board of Directors and its committees. Under the NAACP Constitution, the Secretary is the custodian of all financial reports and the membership register.
The Legal Department is comprised of the General Counsel, a Deputy General Counsel, and several Assistant General Counsels. Each Assistant General Counsel is charged with forging litigation in at least one substantive area of civil rights law.
The Legal Department is also counsels the Association in a number of internal practice areas including: internal governance and branch administration; trusts and estates; property; and contracts. The Legal Department's Civil Rights Practice Areas include:
- Criminal Justice
- Fair housing & public accommodations
- Environmental Justice
The Legal Department also accepts amicus request and requests for legal assistance.
The NAACP Redistricting Project is actively involved with state conferences, regional offices, and local units to assist in the formal presentation of redistricting plans that will yield for African-American voters their fair share of electoral power and realistic opportunities to elect their candidates of choice. These plans are designed to serve as a benchmark against which proposed government plans will be analyzed. The plans are not presented as the plan that a jurisdiction should adopt or as actual boundaries from which a legislator should run for the office in question. The submission of alternative plans as a benchmark means that the alternative plans should be used to determine whether the proposed plans comply with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, the alternative plans are presented to demonstrate the level of African-American voting empowerment that is possible in the jurisdiction and that should be found in a fair and equitable election district plan.
The Legal Department Criminal Justice Program seeks to eradicate discrimination in all aspects of the criminal justice system. Despite the civil rights victories of our past, racial prejudice still pervades the criminal justice system. The "war on crime" in America is too often waged against innocent individuals who are suspects solely because of the color of their skin. As a result, African-Americans are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested and imprisoned.
As President Mfume stated in April 2000, "[t]he fact of the matter is, if you are a person of color living in the United States, the police often look at you differently and with a level of suspicion. They always have, and until something is done to raise the level of accountability, they will continue to do so."
Racial disparities affect both innocent and guilty minority citizens. The unequal treatment of minorities in our criminal justice system has manifested itself in a national prison population that is overwhelmingly African-American. The unequal targeting and treatment of minorities throughout the criminal justice process -- from arrest to sentencing -- reinforces the perception that drives the inequality. More minority arrests and convictions perpetuate the belief that minorities commit more crimes, which in turn leads to racial profiling and more minority arrests. As a result of this pervasive problem, the 2000 U.S. Census found that one in every 20 black men over the age of 18 was in prison.
The NAACP Legal Department is committed to ending this over incarceration of African-Americans and has been leading the charge in our communities and our courtrooms to end this systematic injustice.
Fair Housing & Public Accommodations
The NAACP Legal Department's Fair Housing & Public Accommodations Program seeks to eradicate housing discrimination whether its in the private or public sector in renting or buying, throughout the United States. Moreover, the Program concentrates on eliminating redlining by insurance companies and realtors alike while seeking to thwart the efforts of predatory lenders. Finally, the public accommodations aspect of the Program attempts to address the ongoing phenomenon of public accommodations (e.g. hotels, restaurants, etc.) discriminating on the basis of race or color.
Over three decades ago, the NAACP recognized that, "in no area of civil rights is the need for national action more compelling than in the field of housing. Racial segregation in housing virtually assures segregation in school, recreation, community facilities, and severely limits access to new job opportunities."
While the overt segregation of centuries continues in only partially abated form, those who discriminate have found more subtle, yet equally pernicious, ways to mistreat historically disfavored groups like African Americans and other persons of color. In a recent study regarding sub prime lending the authors noted that African Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately represented in the area of sub prime home refinancing and that the disparity increases as minorities become more affluent.
The Program seeks to eradicate subtle and more overt barriers to housing as well as disparate treatment in access to mortgage capital by concerted testing efforts, litigation, legislative initiatives, and community education.
The NAACP Legal Department's Education Program is moving forward in the battle for an adequate, fair and equitable education for African American children nationwide. Though we have reached the fifty-year anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education, African American children continue to face vast chasms and undisputable disparities in public education.
The Legal Department's Education Program seeks to address disparities in testing, graduation rates, dropout rates, discipline, funding, resources, and employment within school districts across America as well as continued segregation and the perpetuation of separate and unequal education. The NAACP is committed to ensuring racial equality and fairness in access to higher education.
As result, the NAACP Legal Department's Education program has continued to address disparities through "grass roots" movements, administrative procedures and litigation.
The NAACP Legal Department's Environmental Justice Program provides assistance to NAACP units and communities of color involved in the struggle for environmental justice. The Program seeks to eradicate environmental disparities by advancing judicial precedent, legislative initiatives, and community education and empowerment in the area of environmental justice.
Environmental justice is a key concern for African Americans and other communities of color in the United States. It is well-documented that America's communities of color bear a disproportionate share of exposure to hazardous substances due to discriminatory land use, siting, and permit decisions. It is also widely recognized that communities of color receive disproportionately less environmental protection due to discriminatory enforcement and remedial actions. Without equal implementation and enforcement, America's environmental laws, regulations, and policies have had the effect of creating and perpetuating racial and ethnic discrimination against the nation's communities of color.
Environmental justice is fundamentally a civil rights issue. It is defined as the fair and equal treatment of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income level in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. No environmental action, whether intentional or unintentional, should disproportionately impact or disadvantage individuals, groups, or communities based on race, ethnicity, or income.