Panel March 12th on the Militarization of the Police

March 3, 2015

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CSL’s ACLU chapter is hosting an event next Thursday, March 12th, on the militarization of the police.  A captain from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the legal director of the North Carolina ACLU chapter will be debating the merits of the common practice of using military grade equipment to carry out simple–yet dangerous–police duties.  There will also be a substantial amount of time devoted to audience questions for either side. For more information, contact Cynthia Vogler at voglerc@students.charlottelaw.edu.

Advice Clinic for Community Nonprofits

February 17, 2015
Clinical student representatives from the Community Economic Development Clinic.

Clinical student representatives from the Community Economic Development Clinic.

The clinical students from the Community Economic Development Clinic recently held an Advice Clinic for Community Nonprofits at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Ten community nonprofits benefited from the Clinic’s service, making this quite a successful event!

 


Register NOW for the CSL Law Review Symposium!

February 6, 2015

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Charlotte Law Review is hosting another Hot Topic CLE this year! Please join us Friday, February 13th for a Symposium on the Right to Privacy. We will have two panels – a morning panel including some of your favorite CSL professors, professors from other law schools, and Chief Judge Whitney, and an afternoon panel consisting of both prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys. The Symposium is worth 5.0 total CLE credits and is offered to CSL Alumni at the reduced rate of $90 for those who pre-register. General public and students are also welcome! This is an awesome chance to network with both educators and practicing attorneys in the area. Please visit www.charlottelaw.edu/cle for more information or contact sasnetta@students.charlottelaw.edu.


Professor Turowski Published in Renowned National Journal

January 26, 2015

One of our highly esteemed professors, Professor Carol Turowski, was recently published in The Champion.  The Champion is the renowned journal of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ (NACDL).  Professor Turowski’s article, “Capital Cases,” provides insight on lethal injections and is very interesting read.  The following excerpt made us all want to keep reading more.  Congratulations, Professor Turowski!

“The recent spate of botched lethal executions in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Arizona has many legal experts in the country questioning whether methods used for carrying out these killings violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Over the years, states have used various methods to carry out these deaths from public hangings, to the electric chair, to the gas chamber, to firing squads, and, starting in the late 20th century, to death by lethal injection. The majority of states that still allow capital punishment use the lethal administration of drugs because it is considered the most humane and cheapest method for killing a human being — or is it?”

Originally published in The Champion magazine. (c) National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

 

The CRC would like to thank The Champion for allowing us to post this excerpt.  To find out more about The Champion and to access Professor Turowski’s article online, click here.  To download the article, click: Turowski Article 1 and Turowski Article 2.

 


L.A. Clippers Owner Tips Off Public to Prevalent Racial Issues

April 30, 2014

By Professor Christie Matthews

Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling’s, recent racist comments have ignited public outcry– and rightly so.  The private conversation, recorded by his black and Latina girlfriend, revealed a man with bigotry so deep yet so conflicted that he seemingly demands that his girlfriend “whitewash” her ethnic heritage and disassociate herself publicly from blacks and other minorities.  Sterling allegedly says his girlfriend can meet with blacks and sleep with blacks but not take pictures with them or bring them to Clippers games. When she protests, he allegedly calls his girlfriend naïve and “stupid” as to the ways of the world when it comes to race, even as she responds that she can’t help it if she cannot be racist in her heart.

Now most fair-minded and good-hearted people can see Sterling’s viewpoints for what they are—offensive, ugly, detestable—particularly so because he is an owner in a league comprised of over 80% minorities, minorities who help fatten his bank accounts.

But do we recognize the exchange between Sterling and his girlfriend for what it really represents? Is this conversation not simply a microcosm of the much more mammoth issue of race relations in America? On the one hand, there are those with good intentions that eschew bigotry and hatred, and as such are more reluctant to recognize that racism is alive and kicking in 2014.  On the other hand, there are still those, many in positions of power, who embody a Plessy v. Ferguson mentality—the 1896 case in which the Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal” was Constitutional and in doing so confirmed that there is a property right to whiteness.  Is it that Sterling’s comments are reflective of this ugly truth– being white has value still today—better job opportunity, higher pay, less police intrusion, greater perceived intelligence and competency?

Most of us prefer to view Sterling’s viewpoints as atypical, aberrant, the juice from a bad apple. Yet studies show that nearly everyone has racial bias, even if subconsciously, and that racial bias plays out in many spaces—on the job, in the courtroom, and in the political arena, to name a few.  Is it that Sterling is simply tapping into what most of us would see if we dared lift the veil of post-racial propaganda and eschewed the color-blind approach evidenced in such court decisions like Shelby County v. Holder, which eliminated pre-clearance requirements for election law changes?  Is it that Sterling is simply reflecting the harsh reality—race, and racial associations, do still matter, and that those in power are not blind to its effects on their reputations and, in turn, their pockets?

Of course, I am not saying that there is any excuse whatsoever for Sterling’s comments.  He has rightly been subject to swift and harsh discipline by the league—a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine. But I am saying that the real injustice will be for us to write him off as pathological and allow ourselves to be lulled into believing that these types of racists comments don’t continue to take place across America.  Racist views are prevalent, deep-seated and complex.  Perhaps the Sterling controversy can best be used as a catalyst for examining our own internal biases in order to realize racial progress.


Charlotte Law Gives Students $10,000? Sign Me Up!

April 19, 2014

By: Brittany Moore

Many students are aware Florida Coastal and Charlotte Law (“CSL”) are owned by the same parent company—InfiLaw. However, what most students don’t know is that Florida Coastal and Charlotte Law are pioneers of a new program: The Assured Outcomes Partnership (“Program”). Currently, Florida Coastal and Charlotte Law are the only two law schools in the nation with a program like this.

What is the Assured Outcomes Partnership? It is a Program where a student may receive $10,000 if they meet the requirements of the Program and fail the bar exam twice. The Program at CSL applies to students who take either the North or South Carolina Bar Exam.

I will admit, when I first heard of this Program, I was a little mad; actually, very mad. It made me mad because I equated this Program to incentivizing people who fail the bar exam twice, while those who pass the Bar get nothing more than a pat on the back. I also assumed my tuition was going towards paying students who do not pass the Bar. Because I had such an intense initial reaction, I wanted to find out more about the Program, so my opinions would be more informed. To learn more, on February 10, 2014, I met with Assistant Dean Odessa Alm of Student Success, head of the Program.

Prior to joining CSL in 2013, Dean Alm served as the Director of Academic Success at Florida Coastal (her alma mater) for nine years. Dean Alm designed a comprehensive academic success and bar prep program at Florida Coastal during that time. Dean Alm said the purpose of the Program is to help students who utilize all of the resources available to continue to work towards a successful path to passing the bar. Dean Alm stated, “I don’t want anyone to get $10,000.00.” At first this statement shocked me because initially I thought the Program would result in numerous students receiving the money while bar passage rates at CSL declined., However, Dean Alm stated she believed in the effectiveness of the bar passage programs offered by CSL and, because of that belief, the students who follow the Program will have more resources available to help them pass the bar.

In order to qualify for the program, the student must obtain an acknowledgement form from Dean Alm and submit it to her. The student must also meet the following requirements:

  1. Attend 75% of the voluntary Charlotte Law Academic Success (CPAS) workshops offered during the student’s first and second year at CSL;
  2. If placed on academic probation or academic alert status, the student complied with all probationary or alert status counseling requirements;
  3. Score greater than 50% on the Multistate Bar Examination Preview (MBEP) at the end of your first year of law school or score greater than 55% on a subsequent attempt at the MBEP;
  4. If you earn a first year law school G.P.A. of less than 2.31, you must successfully pass course equivalents of Remedies, Real Estate Finance and Family Law;
  5. Complete the 3-day Kaplan Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) course during the bar season immediately prior to your first and second Bar exam attempts;
  6. Attendance rate of 100% at Operation PASS Workshops during the bar seasons immediately before the first and second Bar exam attempts;
  7. Complete 100% of the Operation PASS Essays during the bar season before your first and second attempts, and timely submit the essays for feedback;
  8. Successfully complete the Carolinas Distinctions or MBE Strategies course with a grade of C or better;
  9. Been enrolled in a commercial bar review course/BEAR (CSL Bar Exam Advanced Review) before the first and second attempts at a bar exam; and
  10. Provide CSL with written permission to access the first and second attempted bar exam scores and essays.

That is quite a list. The Program requires student participation beginning in their first year. So, sorry upper-classmen, we can’t participate. However, a student’s failure to comply with all requirements disqualifies them from the Program. Now, I can see why Dean Alm doesn’t think a student will reach the $10,000; because the Program is set up to require interested students to complete requirements the Bar Passage Program at Charlotte Law thinks a student should be doing anyway in order to pass the bar. If the student complies with all of the requirements, passing the bar exam within two attempts is obtainable.

After my interview with Dean Alm, my feelings about the Program did change a little. I no longer feel like the program is a “waste of tuition” or a program that would be subject to abuse by students. However, I am still concerned that some students may seek and find loopholes that will circumvent the purpose of the Program in assisting students pass either the NC or SC Bar Exam. After the interview, my opinion changed; now I agree with Dean Alm. If a student complies with all of the requirements, and puts the time and effort into the Program then it is less likely a student will receive the $10,000. My new outlook is that the Program will actually increase CSL’s bar passage rates, in which case both the school and the students win.


I Am Not My Record

March 13, 2014

By Brittany Moore

Four and a half years ago former Civil Rights Clinic (“CRC”) members initiated a project called Ban The Box (“BTB”) in an attempt to persuade the City of Charlotte (“City”) to remove the question on initial employment applications asking about an applicant’s criminal history. On March 1, 2014, we accomplished that goal.[1] This blog will take you through what BTB is, the history of the BTB movement in the City, the future of Ban The Box in North Carolina, and my personal reflection on BTB and the recent outcome.

What is BTB?

BTB is a grassroots movement that began in 2004 in California by encouraging public and private employers to remove the application question that asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime other than minor traffic offenses.” This postpones inquiry into an applicant’s criminal history until later in the hiring process.

BTB does not propose that employers mandated by law to conduct criminal background checks for the particular position, for example police officer, remove the question from their applications nor does it propose that employers never be allowed to conduct a criminal background check.

The purpose of the BTB movement is to level out the playing field for job applicants who have a criminal history. Removing the conviction inquiry box from job applications allows the applicant to be considered objectively for a position based upon their qualifications.  As a result a person who would otherwise be qualified for a job, absent their criminal

 history, is given an opportunity to be interviewed and demonstrate to the potential employer they are both qualified and rehabilitated. Another goal removing the box achieves is removing the mental barrier experienced by those who have a criminal history when they are applying for jobs. Many people have said they feel as though their application is thrown in the trash or not considered because they have checked the box when it is being reviewed next to an applicant who does not have a criminal history, and unfortunately this may actually be the case. To date, over fifty cities and municipalities have BTB, six of these are in NC, including Charlotte, and ten states have adopted statewide BTB ordinances.[2]

 

CRC and BTB

LaWanna Mayfield, All Of Us Or None, MOURN, local business, and individuals with criminal histories; who took on BTB in an effort to persuade the City of Charlotte to BTB.  Research indicates there are three major issues affecting Charlotte: homelessness, recidivism, and unemployment.[3] The students reached out to the community regarding BTB and rapidly gained support. On February 27, 2013, the CRC and over one-hundred community members and representatives from local organizations and businesses, wearing the BTB red, rallied and spoke in an attempt to persuade the City Council to send BTB to the Economic and Development Committee (“Committee”) for further review—which it did by a six to four vote.[4] Organizations and businesses in attendance included Changed Choices, Pasta & Provisions, Democracy NC, Action NC, Charlotte Community Justice Coalition, and Center for Community Transitions (“CCT”), just to name a few. Unfortunately, after reaching Committee, BTB lost some momentum generated at the Council Meeting in February and did not have enough votes to get out of Committee and into the City ordinances.In 2009, the CRC clinic members were part of a coalition which included CCT, 

Disappointed at the lack of support generated for BTB in Committee, Brittany Moore, Cleat Walters II, Isaac Sturgill, and Erik Ortega (“The Group”) reconvened to strategize and find a new way to bring BTB back to the forefront of the City’s mind. On November 26, 2013, The Group and a citizen affected by the box met with Charlotte City Manger Ron Carlee, Assistant City Manager Ron Kimble, and Director of Human Resources Cheryl Brown. The Group provided statistics to Carlee, Kimble, and Brown showing that 190 of 203 persons who utilized CCT’s assistance in obtaining a job maintained that job and did not recidivate, showing a mere 6% recidivism rate compared to Mecklenburg County’s recidivism rate of 37%. The City already practices progressive non-discriminatory policies, as they currently employ persons with a criminal history, so The Group stressed that by BTB the City would be affirmatively demonstrating this to the citizens.

A citizen personally affected by the box gave some insight into the barriers faced by persons with criminal histories when applying for jobs. The box creates a mental barrier to those with criminal histories in search of a job discouraging them from applying when forced to check the box. Applicants with a criminal history are also discouraged, after applying and checking the box, when an initial interview is not extended. On March 1, 2014, the City removed the box from the City’s job application thereby removing one initial barrier in obtaining employment and encouraging those with criminal histories to actively seek employment and not recidivate.

Civil Rights Clinic Helps Ban the Box

Future of BTB

Students in the CRC are currently planning on lobbying surrounding counties to BTB in an effort to support taking BTB statewide in NC. Additionally, the CRC will be lobbying for private companies to also ban the box, following the lead of Target Corporation,[5] who enacted a BTB policy in 2013 and is the largest privately owned company to date to do so. This would significantly increase employment opportunities for those with prior convictions. Stay tuned to the CRC Blog to follow the expansion and growth of BTB.

Personal Reflection

I began working on BTB through the CRC in August 2013, a slow period in the project. After learning BTB did not have enough votes to get out of Committee, it was a little discouraging so we had to find a way to either regenerate the momentum gained in February 2013 or abandon the project. The latter was not an option because of the countless hours put into the movement so far in Charlotte and the sheer number of persons impacted by the movement. So I began working with the CCT, Erik, Isaac, and Cleat on this project and was honored to do so. Isaac and Cleat were among the initial members to begin BTB and it is humbling to watch their hard work and initial research pay off. Additionally, working with Erik at CCT and the continuous support and resources he provides to persons affected by the box is remarkable. In my short time working on this project I have become heavily invested in the outcome, progression, and future of BTB in NC and nationwide. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for the BTB movement and charge you all to become involved and be a part of something that millions can benefit from.


 


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