Mayor Maile Wilson

December 15, 2013

By: Thom Prince

It’s not uncommon to find Charlotte School of Law students and graduates striving to make an impact in the local community.  Now, we have an alum making her presence felt all the way out in Iron County, Utah.  In May 2013, Maile Wilson graduated from CSL.  In November 2013, the citizens of Cedar City, Utah elected her as their first female mayor.  At age 27, she has positioned herself to be a great influence in her community.  Mayor-elect Wilson took some time out of her busy schedule preparing for her upcoming duties to chat with the Civil Rights Clinic.

Q:  What drove you to take on the task of an election and the responsibilities of being a mayor?

A:  I love my community and always knew that I would be very involved in serving the citizens.  Further I have always enjoyed local government and the direct impact that the decisions made have on the residents of the community.  I am fortunate to have a great City staff to work with and the support of the majority of the citizens of Cedar City and realize that together we can do great things over the next four years.

Q:  For those of us who are unfamiliar, please describe the demographics and social or political challenges faced by the population of Cedar City?

A:  Cedar City is located on the I-15 corridor, a major highway system connecting Montana, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and California with access to other major Highway systems including I-40, I-70 and I-80.  Over 8 million travelers pass through Iron County on the I-15 corridor each year.

Iron County is accessible to 48 million people or 86.5% of the western metropolitan population within one-day’s trucking.

Cedar City to:

  • Denver………………596 Miles
  • Las Vegas………….172 Miles
  • Los Angeles………446 Miles
  • Phoenix……………..398 Miles
  • Salt Lake City…….253 Miles
  • San Francisco……556 Miles
U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts (2010 Census)
Cedar City Population (2010) 28,857
Iron County Population (2010) 46,163
Persons under 5 years 9.5%
Persons under 18 years 28.2%
Persons 65 years and over 8.6%
Persons per household 2.75
Median household income 2006-2010 $40,382

 

 

 

 

Q:  What difficulties did you encounter during the election?

A:  One of the most difficult parts of the election came during the primary election when I was attempting to study for the bar exam while campaigning.  Thus, I had to work on time management and being very organized to try to fit everything that was required of me within the day.

Q:  Was there anything you experienced during your time at Charlotte School of Law that prepared you for these difficulties, or for the rigors of campaigning?

A:  Although I hated the Socratic Method during my time at CSL, it was one of the most beneficial aspects of my time at CSL.  Also, I quickly realized that how law school teaches you to “think”, public speaking, and overall being prepared for anything that is presented were very useful.

Q:  What do you wish you had done differently as a student?

A:  I would have participated and taken more skills classes and clinics because both actually teach you about the practice of law.

Q:  As an alum, what improvements would you like to see the school make for current and future students?

A:  I hope that CSL doesn’t get so big that students can’t get the personalized attention and support from the professors that I enjoyed during my time at CSL and instead just turn into a number like they do at some other schools.

For example, one of my Contracts professors knew enough about each of his students that he could explain things in terms that the students related to and were based on the individual student’s interests.  Thus, he explained the contract principals in sports terms to those students that like sports but would also explain the same concept in terms of shopping and shoes to those of us that understood those terms.  This truly brought the concepts to life and made them concrete.

Q:  Do you have any advice for students who are interested in a career in public service?

A:  Develop thick skin!  While that is true—also just love what you do, and if a career in public service is what you are passionate about, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and go after your dreams.

Q:  When should I expect my invitation to the inaugural ball?

A:  I get sworn in on January 6th.  You are welcome to come!!!


The Clinic Makes An Appearance on Charlotte Talks

December 10, 2013

By: CRC

After over three years of research and dedicated effort, the Civil Rights Clinic and other community players have prompted Charlotte’s city council to change some of the process and procedures of Charlotte’s Citizen’s Review Board (CRB). The Clinic’s fearless leader, Professor Jason Huber, recently appeared on WFAE’s Charlotte Talks to discuss the recent changes to the CRB. Click here to listen to the full episode on WFAE’s website.


One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Never Ending Dance with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, Part Two

December 8, 2013

By: Lindsey Engels

On August 5, 2013, following months of research and meetings, each of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ (“CMS”) 22 Task Forces presented their recommendations for changes to CMS policies and practices to Superintendent Dr. Heath Morrison. Dr. Morrison designed these task forces from the 22 largest identified concerns voiced at various public forums and town hall meetings and called for each task force to research and make recommendations based on one of the identified issues.[1] One of those task forces was the African-American Males Task Force.

As previously stated in part one of this blog series, the African-American Males Task Force was given the mission to “identify the drivers for African-American male academic achievement and recommend sustainable, systemic solutions to increase overall excellence,” targeting specifically how to increase focus on African-American males’ success, increasing their graduation rate, and opportunities for post-secondary education.[2] As one of the nine recommendations, the Task Force advised CMS to revise its discretionary discipline policy because it disproportionately affects African-American male students.[3]  The Task Force stated,  “African-American males have the highest incidence of being referred to In-School Suspension (ISS) and Out-of-School Suspension (OSS). Also, as the out-of-class time increases for [African-American males], academic achievement is impacted in a negative way as instructional time is lost[4].”  North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction’s (“DPI”) 2011-12 Consolidated Report on school violence and suspensions further states:

Small, but significant, positive correlations have been found for the relationships between crime and short-term suspension, between crime and dropout, and between short-term suspension and dropout… [T]he factors are associated with one another. Sometimes correlations occur not because one factor causes another, but because an underlying factor causes both. Underlying factors could include demographics such as socioeconomic status or school factors such as management strategies[5].

Additionally, in this report, DPI details that one in seven North Carolina students receives at least one short-term suspension per year, and most high school students included in that ratio receives at least two.[6]  Further, “male students, black and American Indian students, ninth graders, and students receiving special education services are among the groups that continue to be disproportionately represented among suspended students.”[7] Across the state, five out of ten African-American male students, or fifty percent, were short-term suspended in 2011-12.[8]  Out of 100,000 Black males, 352 were long-term suspended.[9]. While expulsion rates significantly decreased, 6,494 African-Americans and 9,766 males were disciplinarily reassigned to alternative learning programs or alternative schools.[10] The Schott Foundation further identified North Carolina as having a 16.3% African-American Out-of-School Suspension risk rate, as compared to a White risk rate of 6.1%, a 2:7 Black/White ratio.[11]

In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, there were 541 reported acts of crime, averaging 14.37 acts per 1000 students.[12] Black males were short-term suspended 20,090 times and long-term suspended 35 times.[13] This is compared to 2,643 short-term suspensions and 8 long-term suspensions for white males.[14] There were no expulsions;[15] however, this data did not reflect specific local education agency (“LEA”) data for disciplinary reassignment to alternative placements.[16]

After reviewing this data, the Task Force looked to the Civil Rights Project’s Center for Civil Rights Remedies’ report Out of School & Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools, which showed that “about one in four Black secondary school children today, and nearly one in three Black middle school males, were suspended at least once in 2009-2010,” an increased risk of school suspension of 18 points for Black students[17] The Task Force further looked to a study of Texas schools, stating African-American students and those with particular educational disabilities were disproportionately likely to be removed from the classroom for disciplinary reasons.[18] Students who were suspended and/or expelled, particularly those who were repeatedly disciplined, were more likely to be held back a grade or to drop out than were students not involved in the disciplinary system; and when a student was suspended or expelled, his or her likelihood of being involved in the juvenile justice system the subsequent year increased significantly.[19] Both studies reflect a direct correlation between school suspensions and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Again, in his Strategic Plan 2018, none of Dr. Morrison’s six goals reflected the Task Force’s recommendation for a revision of the discretionary discipline policy, nor the data that they presented in support of that recommendation.[20] Further, there is no evidence the Task Force has continued to meet to monitor progress as recommended, nor that such a recommendation has even been explored as there have been no minutes posted for this task force since May 2013.[21] The future of all students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools depends on policy makers taking these recommendations for change in disciplinary policies seriously, and it is my hope that Dr. Morrison and the CMS Board of Education consider these recommendations such that in the future no child is disproportionately affected by an administrator’s discretionary decision.


[1] 22 Task Force Recommendations for the Superintendent, 1 (August 2013), available at http://www.cms.k12.nc.us/mediaroom/taskforce/Documents/22_Task_Force_Recommendations%20online%203.pdf

[2] Id. at 10.

[3] 22 Task Force Recommendations for the Superintendent at 11.

[4] Id.

[5] Public Schools of North Carolina State Board of Education, Department of Public Instruction, Report to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee: Consolidated Data Report, 2011-2012, 1 (15 March 2013), available at http://dpi.state.nc.us/docs/research/discipline/reports/consolidated/2011-12/consolidated-report.pdf.

[6] Id. at 2.

[7] Id. at 23.

[8] Id. at 28. Short-term suspension lasts 10 days or less. Id. at 24.

[9] Id. at 37. Long-term suspension lasts 11 days or more. Id. at 32.

[10] Id. at 104-05. The data did not reflect a data set for African-American males as a specific set.

[11] The Urgency of Now at 35.

[12] Id. at 18.

[13] Id. at 67.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[18] The Council for State Governments Knowledge Center, Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement, ix-xi (July 2011), available at http://knowledgecenter.csg.org/kc/system/files/Breaking_School_Rules.pdf.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.


The NC State Bar Substantially Curtails Prosecutors from Forcing Defendants to Waive their Civil Rights

December 5, 2013

By: Celia Olson

As a result of the CSL Civil Rights Clinic’s (“Clinic”) inquiry filed over a year ago, the North Carolina State Bar (“Bar”) recently issued a Formal Ethics Opinion significantly curtailing the use of Release-Dismissal Agreements (“RDA”).

RDAs are “deals” offered by a district attorney to wrongly convicted, and in many instances incarcerated, individuals.  In exchange for the district attorney moving to dismiss the case, a defendant waives his or her right to sue any persons involved in his or her prior arrest, prosecution, conviction, or detention.

The Clinic was approached over a year ago by a man who served ten years of a life sentence for a sexual assault he did not commit, and who had signed an RDA to get out of prison.  At the time, RDAs were not per se invalid and were often legally enforceable.  However, the Clinic was so astounded at the coercive nature of his circumstances that it decided to research the practice of RDAs both in North Carolina and across the country.

Not surprisingly, North Carolina had never addressed this issue head-on, as was the case in most other states.  However, those states that had prohibited RDAs gave a foundation for the Clinic to begin its research.  The Clinic drafted a formal inquiry to the Bar detailing the various ethical approaches other states use to address RDAs, and detailed the appropriate response for North Carolina in response to the problem: to ethically prohibit RDAs in all circumstances, from arrest to post conviction.

The Clinic joined forces with the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and its liaison to the Bar, Burton Craig, to lobby for an ethical prohibition.  After over a year of hard work and persistence, the Bar recently addressed this matter.   While the Bar chose not to explicitly ban all instances of Release-Dismissal Agreements, it does provide significant limitations on their use.

First, the opinion prohibits a prosecutor from conditioning a motion to vacate a conviction due to newly uncovered evidence upon signing a waiver (RDA).  Second, before negotiating a waiver with a pro se prisoner, it requires the prosecutor to seek judicial approval of pro se representation.

Further, and most importantly:

“[A] prosecutor may only negotiate an agreement that includes a waiver of the prisoner’s potential civil claims against the sovereign or public officials if the prosecutor has the legal authority to represent the interests of the sovereign or those officials with respect to such civil claims.  It would be unethical for the prosecutor explicitly or implicitly to misrepresent the scope of the prosecutor’s authority to negotiate with respect to such civil claims.”

This limitation is critical because, in North Carolina, prosecutors do not have the authority to represent most police agencies and government actors in civil proceedings, which effectively bars release-dismissal agreements in the most common situation in which they would arise.

The Clinic is satisfied with the opinion because these limitations strengthen the ethical fabric protecting the civil rights and remedies of wrongfully convicted individuals.  However, their efforts did not stop there.  The Clinic was (and is not) satisfied that the majority of state bars have never addressed this issue.  So, after filing an inquiry in North Carolina, the Clinic filed similar inquires in eighteen other states.  Several states have declined the invitation to issue an opinion but many are still considering the substance of the Clinic’s inquiry.  Virginia was the first to issue an opinion which prohibits the “routine” use of RDAs, and subjects any non-routine use to intense ethical and legal scrutiny.

To read the entire Formal Ethics Opinion published by the North Carolina State Bar, go to http://www.ncbar.com/ethics/ethics.asp.

If you would like more information or have any questions about the Civil Right Clinic’s work contact Jason Huber at jhuber@charlottelaw.edu.


CRB Reform: One Step Closer

December 1, 2013

By: Isabel Carson

The Citizens Review Board (CRB) project started with a public records request over 3 years ago, developed into a nationwide study, and returned to local and state-wide legislative advocacy.   After Reviewing CRB documents, talking to former complainants who had been through the process, and reaching out to Board members—it became apparent to the Clinic that there was a flaw in the system.  The flaw was not solely evidenced by a 0-79 track record for the CRB, but by the perceptions of both complainants and Board members, and the utter lack of accessibility or transparency for the process.

When the Observer published its first story on the CRB in February 2013, the project picked up momentum. As the Clinic continued to move forward, it was met with unrelenting and invaluable community activism.  CRB Reform Now, a coalition formed after a single conversation between the Clinic and a local public servant, moved to the forefront in amplifying and solidifying the community’s voice—putting pressure on City Council to be accountable in its actions and garnering the attention of the media throughout the process.  While the Clinic and the Coalition took different approaches within the political atmosphere and throughout the stakeholder process, both had one goal—to serve the citizens of this community through meaningful and articulated reform.

On Monday, November 25, the voices of City Council members unanimously rang out in favor of reforming the Citizens Review Board.  This vote marked a huge success for the community coalitions, the Clinic, and the greater Charlotte community.  After ten long months of media coverage, community activism, research, and revised proposals, the City has taken a step in the direction of meaningful reform.

The adopted changes include:

  • Extending the time for a complainant to file an appeal to 30 days
  • Providing the CRB with the entire Internal Investigations file rather than a summary of the investigation prepared by the Police Chief
  • Changing the threshold burden the complainant must meet before the CRB will conduct a full fact-finding hearing to “substantial evidence of error regarding the disposition of the disciplinary charges entered by the chief of police”
  • Changing the standard at the full fact-finding hearing to “whether, by the greater weight of the evidence, the Chief of Police clearly erred”
  • Providing “cultural awareness training” for the CRB members and enhancing the visibility of the complaint and hearing process of the CRB

While these changes are a direct reflection of some of the thoroughly researched and supported recommendations from community stakeholders, change does not stop here.  As the Clinic prepares to take this project state-wide, we recognize those areas where the ordinance still remains deficient.

First, there is no opportunity for the CRB during the appeals process to subpoena and question or cross examine the police officer who is the subject of the complaint.  Because the Council-Manager Relations Committee and Task Force have framed this review process as a continuation of the Police Department’s internal administrative processes, the only parties to the appeal proceedings are the police department and the complainant.  Without subpoena power, the CRB does not have the ability to evaluate the credibility of the subject officer or to verify statements made about the subject officer.  Any and all evidence about the underlying conduct (which is the main subject of the Police Chief’s discretionary decision) is simply hearsay.  While the citizen complainant is explicitly subject to cross-examination, he/she is not afforded that same right against the subject officer.  This could easily become a game of he said – she said.

Second, the language used for the new standards of review does not clearly define what is required of the complainant.  The “substantial evidence” standard seems out of place in the initial hearing phase of the appeals process.   Under the new ordinance, the only reason the CRB chooses to conduct a full evidentiary is if it determines that further fact-finding is necessary.  This leads one to question: how can a complainant meet a substantial evidence standard if the CRB thinks there is insufficient evidence to come to a final disposition? Both the initial standard of review and the final hearing standard of review (“greater weight of the evidence”) focus on whether there was an error in the Police Chief’s decision.  What access does the complainant have to the internal processes of Internal Investigations and the Police Force?  What evidence can the complainant offer other than his/her direct conflict with the subject officer (the conduct complained of)?  Again, without the opportunity to cross-examine the subject officer or independently investigate the actual conduct complained of, the standard of review and lack of independent investigatory/subpoena power leave the CRB appeals process as a one-sided arena.

Third, while the new ordinance touts encouragement of creating visibility within the CRB appeals process, it does not lay out any explicit guidelines to ensure public participation/awareness or transparency.  Many municipalities with civilian oversight boards maintain independent websites, list the names of the board members, provide contact information for a board representative, and publish yearly reports of the Boards’ activities, findings, and dispositions.  These annual reports are done without exposing private personnel information—but rather by offering a big picture perspective of the Board’s effectiveness.   Our city website provides a brief and uninformative description of the general duties of the CRB.  As a product of the stakeholder process, the City has provided more information about the complaint and appeals process, but these are found on an entirely separate webpage. In order to promote visibility and accessibility, all information pertaining to the appeals process and CRB activities should be located on the same webpage.  Board members’ names should be listed.  Statistics and annual findings should be published rather than filed away by the City Clerk.

The Clinic recognizes the strides this City’s representatives have taken to address community concerns and promote democratic participation throughout the process of CRB reform.  The changes made and the time and effort devoted to the stakeholder process were a true testament to Charlotte’s perpetually progressive potential.  While we are thankful for the opportunities to instill change, we know that change does not ever signal the end.  Our motivations are not solely to serve the citizens of Mecklenburg County, but the citizens of North Carolina as a whole, and the fundamental rights of each citizen in this country to participate and seek redress in a meaningful and just way.


%d bloggers like this: