should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the
government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert
to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers
to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but
— Justice Brandeis in Olmstead“
Welcome to the home page of the
Committee on Civil Rights for the New York State Bar Association.
The term “civil rights” means
many different things to many people. To some, the term evokes the epic
struggle of the latter half of the 20th century for racial and gender equality,
a struggle which still continues today. To others, it calls to mind the right
of the individual to be free from arbitrary government restraint on one’s
liberty and the exercise of freedoms held dear, such as the freedom of speech,
assembly and religion. Still others see “civil rights” as covering the rights
chiseled into local, state and federal laws preventing discrimination in
housing, in school and at the workplace. “Civil rights” fall under a broad
umbrella of due process and equal protection guarantees found in our
Constitution and laws. The understanding of a “civil right” has evolved and
continues to evolve with the forward progress of our national conversation in
the American experiment.
The Committee on Civil Rights
was founded in 1952 and over the years has worked on a broad range of issues
affecting the public and legal profession in New York. The Committee has been
active on issues of privacy and national security, Executive Detention and due
process, the rights of immigrants, marriage equality, solitary confinement, discrimination
in the workplace, and the links between Public Health and Environmental Laws to
The Committee's participation
on these various fronts takes many forms, from blog posts about current issues,
to sponsoring programs that spark informed debate, to authoring encyclopedic
reports and obtaining passage of relevant resolutions by the NYSBA’s House of
Delegates on signal issues of the day, to honoring those who have done the most
in our community to bend the long arc of history toward justice. If you want to
learn more about the Committee's work in general, please click on the tabs on
the left of this web page. If you would like to learn more about the
Committee's work on habeas corpus and Guantanamo in particular, access the
Today's political climate – with
the growing political divide in our own country, and authoritarian rule
throughout the world, bringing with it increased violence and a change in laws
and government policy – makes protecting civil rights absolutely vital. We
endeavor to bring the latest news regarding civil rights to light and do our
best to inform and advocate for everyone's civil rights.
Thank you for visiting the
Committee's website and we hope that you find it informative and maybe even a
little inspirational. Check back often for informative updates to the website
and timely blog postings.
View Our Online Community here (for committee members only)! A
committee roster can be found
Members of the Committee on Civil Rights pose with 2019 Haywood Burns Memorial Award winner John R. Dunne, Esq. during the Award Ceremony at CUNY Law School on October 16.
View additional photos from this event.
Mr. Dunne, former New York State Senator and U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, was Chair of the State Senate's Corrections Committee in 1971 when he traveled to Attica Prison during the riots to attempt to seek a peaceful resolution for the inmates and hostages.
The award is given in remembrance of the late civil rights lawyer and academic, Dean W. Haywood Burns. From the age of 15 until his untimely death at age 55 while visiting South Africa, the former head of the City University of New York School of Law sought to expand the civil rights of all people. He was a builder of bridges rather than walls, actively involved in trying to extend connections to diverse groups within the community as a whole.
Here is a history of past award winners.
Lead in Drinking Water: Its Environmental and Social Impacts | Thursday, January 30 as part of the Local and State Government Law Section's full-day CLE program.
Co-sponsored by the Committee on Civil Rights, the NYSBA Environmental and Energy Law Section's Committee on Environmental Justice and the NYSBA Local and State Government Law Section.
In recent years, lead
in drinking water has emerged as an area of environmental concern for the
public, law makers, practitioners, and engineers. Following the crisis in
Flint, Michigan it has become clear that improper management of public drinking
water systems can have disastrous consequences for public health. However, lead
occurs not only in those parts of the system controlled by municipal entities,
but also in service lines, internal plumbing, faucets and fixtures. The Panel
will discuss common sources of lead in drinking water, public health concerns
and public outreach and education efforts.
Legislation adopted in
2016 requires all school districts in New York to test potable water systems
for lead and to take responsive actions. However, the legislation does not
comply with EPA’s lead and copper rule and offers a modified testing protocol
with varying consequences. There is current legislation to extend this testing
requirement to public parks and other public facilities. The Panel will offer
insights on where legislation is going, implementation of the regulations, and
the impacts of modified testing protocols.
communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by lead as
lead in drinking water has a cumulative impact. These communities are more
likely to have other types of lead exposure as well increasing the risk of
negative health impacts to residents. The Panel will discuss public outreach and education
efforts, public health impacts of cumulative lead exposure and need for
additional attention to these communities.
Redeeming the Pledge...And Justice For All from New York State Bar Association on Vimeo.
Legal Developments in Transgender Rights
DISRUPTING IMPLICIT BIAS TO ADVANCE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: PRACTICAL STEPS TO COUNTER THE EFFECTS OF IMPLICIT BIAS IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION
Sponsored by the Committees on Civil Rights and Diversity & Inclusion
During NYSBA's Annual Meeting January 2017 a CLE program was held that took an empirical look at implicit bias and bias interrupters in the legal profession.
click hereto access the coursebook for Disrupting Implicit Bias to Advance Diversity & Inclusion CLE Program.
Please note, only people that were able to attend the program in-person are eligible for CLE credit.
VOTING RIGHTS LEGISLATION:
RESTRICTIONS, EXPANSION AND THE
IMPACT ON THE 2016 ELECTIONS
Sponsored by NYCLA and the Committee on Civil Rights
In October our panel of experts discussed The Voting Rights Act of 1965, amendments to the law, key decisions interpreting the law and the impact on the disenfranchised. Special attention was paid to the recent state actions imposing limits or restrictions
on voting rights, as well as some state actions that have actually made it easier for people to register to vote.
BAIL REFORM IN NEW YORK STATE: MOVING FORWARD
In April, the Committee on Civil Rights sponsored a MCLE Credit program (1.5 credits in professional practice) that examined current laws and addressed the issues regarding the need for reforming bail procedures in New York State courts.
click hereto access the coursebook for the Bail Reform in New York State: Moving Forward CLE Program.
Please note, only people that were able to attend the program in-person are eligible for MCLE credit.
THE 2016 CONSTANCE BAKER MOTLEY SYMPOSIUM: THE IMPACT OF IMPLICIT BIAS ON LAWYERS AND THE LEGAL PROFESSION
The Committees on Civil Rights and Diversity & Inclusion sponsored this program during The New York State Bar Association's 139th Annual Meeting. Whether you are a criminal defense attorney, judge, law school clinician, legal services attorney or
the managing partner of a major law firm, implicit bias affects you every day. This program demonstrated implicit or unconscious bias so all lawyers understand how it impacts our work. A few specific views of bias in our profession were explored: Are
law schools preparing lawyers who have awareness of the impact of bias? How can implicit bias affect setting bail or jury deliberations? When do we see implicit bias in the courtroom? How can we overcome the impact of bias in law firm employment determinations
including promotion and partnership?
“Justice, Race and Police Force -- Going Beyond Ferguson and Garner”
Report on Executive Detention, Habeas Corpus and the Military Commissions Act of 2006
Solitary Confinement in New York State: Committee on Civil Right's Report to the House of Delegates