Ban the Box in the News

April 21, 2013

Over the past two months public dialogue about Ban the Box has increased, spurred on by the Charlotte City Council’s decision to send the issue to the Economic Development Committee.  Several local media outlets exposed the issue to a wider audience, and helped Charlotteans begin to understand the importance and details of the proposed ordinance.

Creative Loafing highlighted the contributions of Councilwoman Mayfield and the Civil Right Clinic in getting the City Council to consider the needs of the thousands of Charlotteans who have conviction histories and are looking for work.  Councilwoman champions ‘Banning the Box:’ Spearheaded by LaWana Mayfield, job application question regarding prior convictions debated in city committee.

The Charlotte Observer ran an editorial by Civil Rights Clinic member Cleat Walters III, which highlighted the benefits of the ordinance to the City.  Banning ‘the box’ eliminates unfair obstacle to jobs

Unfortunately, not all of the stories in the media were accurate.  While we all have sympathy for the family and fiance of murder victim Danielle Watson, who was killed during a robbery inside the Flying Biscuit, WBTV’s story highlighting his opposition to Ban the Box “Murder victim’s fiance outraged over bill to remove “felon” question from job application” fails to identify the fact that the ordinance does not prohibit criminal background checks for job applicants.

Hopefully, Charlotte will follow cities like Richmond that recently enacted a similar ordinance as reported by The Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Richmond City Council unanimously passes ‘ban the box’ ordinance.

Ban the Box is slated for discussion during the May 2nd meeting of the Charlotte City Council’s Economic Development Committee.  The coalition hopes the  meeting room CH-14 in the Government Center will be packed when they consider this important measure at 12pm that day.

Observer Ban the Box editorial

March 26, 2013

Here is a link to the Ban the Box editorial posted in today’s Charlotte Observer.

Legal Dose Episode 1, Spring 2013

February 15, 2013

The first episode of the Legal Dose for Spring 2013 is available on youtube for your listening pleasure!

Charlotte Coalition is bringing “Ban the Box” Movement to Charlotte City Council Meeting

February 6, 2013

Charlotte, North Carolina – January 25, 2012 – Grassroots movement “Ban the Box” is presenting a proposed ordinance to the Charlotte City Council at its February 25th 6:15 pm meeting in the Government Center.

Ban the Box’s model ordinance would, among other things, remove the question on the City of Charlotte’s initial employment applications that requires job applicants to check whether or not they have been previously convicted of a crime. The purpose of this provision is to ensure that conviction histories are not being used as an automatic bar to employment.  The ordinance also requires the City to give notice to municipal job applicants that it is going to conduct a conviction history check, delays conviction history checks until the city has extended a conditional offer of employment, and gives job applicants an opportunity to present evidence of their rehabilitation to the person making the hiring decision.

The model ordinance does not require that Charlotte hire individuals with conviction histories.  It merely seeks to level the playing field so that an individual with a conviction history may get a “foot in the door.” The goal of the ordinance is to reduce recidivism in the community while still ensuring community safety.

Ban the Box is on the agenda for the City Council with the following speakers:  Henderson Hill of the Center of Community Justice Coalition, Isaac Sturgill of Legal Aid of North Carolina, Erik Ortega of Community Transitions, Monique Maddox of Second Helpings Charlotte, and Tommy George, owner of Pasta Provisions.  Ban the Box is part of a larger effort by community leaders and the Civil Rights Clinic of Charlotte School of Law to reduce recidivism rates in Charlotte.

Ban the Box is asking for community support at the City Council meeting on Monday, February 25th at 6:15 pm.  All that is necessary to show support is to be present at the meeting.

Anyone interested in a copy of the ordinance or other Ban the Box information may contact:

Cleat Walters

Charlotte School of Law Civil Rights Clinic

By Hailey Strobel

If corporations are people, then…

February 2, 2013

We’ve found a couple of interesting takes on the idea of corporate personhood.  Take a look and post some ideas you have of how to interact on a personal level with a corporate person!

California man says he can drive in carpool lane with corporation papers

Also, see the reblogged post below about some women who decided the best partner is a corporate partner.

Free Speech for People Amendment: A Legislative Alternative to the Judicial Decision of Citizens United

October 18, 2012

Do independent expenditures by entities, such as corporations, create corruption or even the appearance of corruption thus diluting the people’s ability to control government?  The majority of the Supreme Court answered the question in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling with an emphatic “No.”

What this ruling did, in effect, is give corporations much of the same rights to political speech as individuals.  It means that virtually all restrictions on corporate money in politics have been removed.  In a Slate article, titled The Numbers Don’t Lie, Richard L. Hasen, a leading expert on campaign finance and professor at the University of California at Irvine stated, “after Citizens United, the courts . . . and the FEC [Federal Elections Committee] provided a green light for super PACS to collect unlimited sums from individuals, labor unions, and corporations for unlimited independent spending.  The theory was that, per Citizens United, if independent spending cannot corrupt, then contributions to fund independent spending cannot corrupt either.  . . . So what was once questionable legality before the court’s decision was fully blessed after Citizens United.”

This summer the Supreme Court had an opportunity to take another look at the Citizen’s United ruling and declined.  The Montana Supreme Court upheld the state’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act limiting independent political spending by corporations.  In a 5-4 ruling the U.S. Supreme Court voted to summarily dismiss the Montana case without oral arguments.

Montana’s Attorney General, Steven Bullock, argued that overturning the Corrupt Practices Act would “make our political process unrecognizable.”  He provided instances of not just the appearance of corruption, but actual corruption caused by this type of spending in the case.  Montana’s Supreme Court held in Tradition Partnership v. Bullock that the ban on such funding in Montana state elections was constitutional.  The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to not hear the case, unfortunately, proffered no rebuttal to the facts presented by Mr. Bullock and appears to have shut out the possibility of Citizens United being overturned by the current Supreme Court.

Is there anything we can do to change this unfortunate precedent? Well, yes, there is a grass roots movement to support a constitutional amendment!  The amendment, banning independent expenditures by special interest groups, has already been introduced in Congress.   Free Speech for People is helping organize efforts amongst concerned citizens to stir municipalities and other local governmental entities to call for Congress and states to act.  Their site provides an opportunity to sign a petition supporting H.J. Res. 88, a bi-partisan Congressional resolution that will amend the Constitution and overturn the Citizens United ruling.  The organization also provides resources to help you promote this amendment in your local and state governments.

The amendment process will eventually require ratification by2/3rds of the states and this grassroots effort helps to inform the electorate of the Amendment and gives representatives notification of what the People want.  According to a survey of 1,000 likely voters, 62 percent of all voters oppose the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  In a poll conducted by Free Speech for People 82 percent of independent voters, 68 percent of Republican voters, and 87 percent of Democratic voters support the amendment.  This isn’t a political issue, this is voter’s rights issue, as Citizens United has allowed special interests to supplant the power of our founding principle of “one man, one vote” with the idea of “more money, more influence.”

For further reading, Corporations Are Not People, by Jeffrey D. Clements, and Republic Lost, by Lawrence Lessig, provide a thorough overview of the problem and its effect on our country. Also, the nationally-recognized expert in election law and campaign finance regulation, Professor Richard Hasen, will be joining the American Constitution Society for an event on Monday, October 22nd at noon.  Professor Hasen will be joining us via Skype and UNC Charlotte Professor of Political Science, Martha Kropf, will be on campus.

The time to act is now.  If you are interested in becoming part of this movement, please email Brandy Hagler,, or Cleat Walters III, for more information.

By Cleat Walters III and Brandy Hagler

Charlotte Law Students Train to Become CHA Hearing Officers

September 21, 2012

Charlotte School of Law hosted a training session on Friday September 14th for students and faculty interested in becoming hearing officers for grievance hearings conducted at the Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA).  Henri Smith, David Samloff, and Cedric McCorkle from CHA, along with attorneys Chad Crockford and Isaac Sturgill from Legal Aid of Charlotte were in attendance as facilitators for the training.

The prospective hearing officers received a training manual, and watched a presentation of the essential elements necessary to successfully facilitate a grievance hearing for persons who have been notified by CHA that their Housing Voucher is being terminated.  Hearing Officers provide a judgment on whether or not the recipient will have their voucher terminated, or continued, based on a hearing of evidence from both CHA employees and the voucher recipient.  Though the hearing officer’s decisions are not final, the Director of the Charlotte Housing Authority may only overturn the decision if it is contrary to applicable Federal, State or local law including HUD regulations.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a hearing officer, please contact Cleat Walters III at

Written by Cleat Walters III

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