2024 Haywood Burns Memorial Award Ceremony

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 Civil Rights.

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 Committee’s blog.

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.

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