The Public Policy Project advocates for the effective advancement of civil rights law at the state and federal level working with other organizations as well as legislators.
Public Policy Platform
Progress has stalled on racial justice within our nation. Employment, housing, education, voting rights, healthcare, and the criminal justice system all reinforce a racial caste system.
Highlights from this year’s Public Policy Platform:
- Ensuring Racial Health Equity: We will fight to preserve and strengthen anti-discrimination provisions under the Affordable Care Act and relevant civil rights laws to ensure protections for people of color who experience discrimination in healthcare. We advocate for mandating the collection and release of health data based on race and ethnicity by the state and federal government agencies, and increase funding for hospitals and care centers providing COVID-19 treatment to communities of color to address the grave racial disparities in testing, treatment, and case outcomes.
- Promote Fair and Integrated Housing: We will fight to enforce the Fair Housing Act to its full extent by furthering fair housing and protecting people from housing discrimination, and ensure that disparate impact claims are preserved as a critical and necessary litigation avenue for people who experience discrimination in housing and lending.
- Protect Voting Rights: We will fight to make sure the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) is signed into law. This bill will ensure discriminatory voting laws and policies are blocked from taking effect, expand the access to vote to millions, and make clear that racist voter suppression tactics will not be tolerated.
A full list of Policy Priorities includes:
- Protecting voting rights
- Modernizing our election administration
- Selecting and appointing judicial nominees who are fair, impartial, and reflective of the racial diversity of the nation
- Ending the criminalization of poverty
- Promoting fair and integrated housing
- Promoting diversity in higher education and ensure equitable educational opportunity for all students
- Ensuring racial health equity
- Enacting comprehensive privacy legislation and protect online public accommodations
Our Most Recent Work:
On Nov. 19, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law released a brief, which found that racial, ethnic, and gender diversity on the federal bench does not accurately reflect the diversity of the United States. There is a significantly higher proportion of white and male judges in the Federal Judiciary than the reflected population. Currently, 73% of judges are white, compared to just 60% of the population.
Racial and ethnic diversity in the United States is growing quickly, and we must have courts that reflect the communities they serve to achieve a judiciary that the public respects and trusts. it is crucial that President-Elect Joe Biden prioritize nominating judges of color, women judges and judges from professionally diverse backgrounds to generate a federal bench that reflects the demographics of the United States.
Read the full brief here.
The Public Policy Project actively advocates for legislative and policy measures designed to reduce mass incarceration in the federal and state systems.
The Public Policy Project leads the Civil Rights Coalition on Police Reform, comprised of numerous civil and human rights organizations united against police abuse, excessive use of force, and the targeting of poor and minority of communities by law enforcement across the country. The Coalition is in regular contact with White House and Department of Justice officials regarding ongoing widely-publicized killings and excessive use of force by police in Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York, South Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland. Most recently, the Coalition sent a letter of support with over 70 signatories calling for the Department of Justice to initiate a pattern and practice investigation of the Baltimore Police Department in the wake of the killing of Freddie Gray while in police custody. The Department announced the investigation just a few days later.
- Comment to the U.S. Department of Justice on the National Use of Force Data Collection (December 5, 2016)
- A Legal Analysis of the Impact of the Criminal Code Improvement Act of 2015 and the Mens Rea Reform Act of 2015. (April 5, 2016)
- Comment Submitted to President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
- Testimony Submitted to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on “S. 2123, Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015” (October 19, 2015)
- Testimony Submitted to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Hearing on Civil Asset Forfeiture (April 14, 2015)
- Testimony Submitted to U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Over-Criminalization Task Force Hearing on Collateral Consequences (June 26, 2014)
- Testimony Submitted to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Hearing on “Stand Your Ground” Laws (October 29, 2013)
- Comment to the U.S. Sentencing Commission Supporting “All Drugs Minus Two” Amendment (March 18, 2014)
- Comment to the U.S. Sentencing Commission Supporting Retroactivity of “All Drugs Minus Two Amendment (July 7, 2014)
- Statement Submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Hearing on Racism in the U.S. Criminal Justice System (March 16, 2015)
In the News
- “Letter to the Editor: Fighting Debtors’ Prisons,” New York Times (March 25, 2016) by Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director
- “Missing From The Conversation: Black Women And Mass Incarceration,” Seattle Medium (February 24, 2016) by Kimberly Tignor, Public Policy Interim Director
For almost fifty years, the Lawyers’ Committee has advanced racial equality through highly effective and comprehensive programs including educational opportunity. We firmly believe education is a civil right – not a privilege afforded to few.
The Public Policy Project advocates for the effective advancement of civil rights laws at the state and federal level, working with other organizations as well as directly with legislators, federal agencies and the White House. As part of the Project’s work on education, the Project works very closely with the Educational Opportunities Project on legislative priorities.
The Lawyers’ Committee advocates for equitable educational opportunities for students of color in k-12 and higher education, including diversity and integration standards in the classroom, better parental involvement strategies and enforcement mechanisms, the maintenance of federal civil rights protections, and support for a private right of action for a quality education.
Fact Sheets and Talking Points
For over 50 years, the Lawyers’ Committee has advanced racial equality in the areas of community development, criminal justice, educational opportunities, fair employment and business opportunities, fair housing and fair lending, immigrant rights, judicial diversity and voting rights. As a national leader in combating employment discrimination, the Lawyers’ Committee has undertaken numerous initiatives, including the Access Campaign, a program that has attacked the indiscriminate use of criminal and credit history information through litigation, public education, federal, state and local legislative advocacy. Additionally, as co-chair of the Employment Task Force of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights – a coalition of over 150 organizations – the Lawyers’ Committee works with the larger civil rights community on numerous employment issues generally, as well as with the necessary enforcement agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Justice.
Increasingly, minority applicants face employment discrimination as the result of information in their credit history and through the use of criminal background checks. Recent reports estimate that approximately 47 percent of employers use credit checks to screen job applicants and upwards of 80 percent of employers apply criminal background checks – often ignoring statutes that limit or regulate the use of this personal information. The effects of these checks are felt most harshly by minorities, who are twice as likely to be disqualified on the basis of credit history and because of mass over-incarceration, have a disproportionate rate of criminal histories.
As part of the Project’s work on employment, Public Policy works very closely with the Employment Discrimination Project on legislative priorities that ensure strong government enforcement of fair employment laws, including legislation that will give all Americans an equal opportunity to work hard without discrimination or bias.
Nominations & Judicial Diversity
Supreme Court Nominations
Nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the Supreme Court
The Lawyers’ Committee Releases Report Evaluating Supreme Court Nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Full Record and Issues Statement Opposing the Nomination.
- Read Full Letter on Behalf of the Board of Directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Lawyers’ Committee Statement on President’s Nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court.
Watch our Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett & the Threat to our Civil Rights Briefing on What’s at Stake for Women and People of Color with the Nomination.
Read our Blog Recapping Judge Barrett’s Nomination Hearings Before the Senate Judiciary Committee October 12-15, 2020.
The Lawyers’ Committee Urges Postponement of Supreme Court Nomination Process Until the Presidential Election Has Been Decided and the Next President Inaugurated.
- Read Full Letter on Behalf of the Board of Directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- Read Lawyers’ Committee Statement and Full Letter from Over 2100 Attorneys Urging Postponement of Supreme Court Nomination Process Until the Presidential Election Has Been Decided and the Next President Inaugurated
Nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court
Lawyers’ Committee Releases Report Evaluating Supreme Court Nominee Judge Merrick Garland’s Full Record on Civil Rights Cases and Issues Statement to U.S. Senate Urging Immediate Hearing and a Vote.
Lawyer’s Committee Statement on President’s Nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to United States Supreme Court.
National Lawyers’ Committee Reacts to Past 100 Days of Inaction by Senate Majority to Fill the Vacant U.S. Supreme Court Seat. Click here for the statement.
Nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court
Judge Neil Gorsuch – Fact Sheet
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Issues Response to President’s Nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court. Click here for the statement.
Nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Issues Response to President’s Nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. Click here for the statement.
District Courts and Courts of Appeals Nominations
Nomination of Cory Wilson to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law opposes the nomination of Cory Wilson to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. Wilson’s egregious record perpetuating myths of voter fraud and opposing access to healthcare would pose a significant threat to Black Americans and other people of color if he were confirmed.
- Read Full Letter
- Read Full Letter from the Board of Directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Opposing the Nomination of Wilson
- Read Press Release: Civil Rights Organizations Call for Defeat of Cory Wilson’s Nomination to Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
Nomination of Steven Menashi to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights opposes the nomination of Steven Menashi to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. Menashi’s inflammatory writing, anti-civil rights and anti-immigrant record demonstrate that he cannot serve as a fair and impartial appellate judge. If confirmed, Menashi would cause significant harm to our country, particularly to African Americans and other communities of color, and to the integrity of the federal bench.
- Read Full Letter
- Read Full Letter from the Board of Directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Opposing the Nomination of Menashi
Nomination of Michael Park to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Nomination of Kenneth K. Lee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Senate Resolution 50: Reduction in Post-Cloture Consideration Hours
Nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as United States Attorney General
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Announces Opposition to Senator Jefferson Sessions’ Nomination to Serve as Attorney General of the United States
- Letter From Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law In Opposition To Senator Jefferson Sessions’ Nomination To Serve As Attorney General Of The United States
- Jeff Sessions, The Marion Three, and Why We Need an Attorney General Who Will Fight Voter Suppression
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Response to Anticipated Nominations of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of the United States
- Jeff Sessions Would Gut Civil Rights Enforcement
- Jeff Sessions says he handled these civil rights cases. He barely touched them
Nomination of Betsy Devos to serve as United States Secretary of Education
Nomination of Dr. Ben Carson to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
The Judicial Diversity Program seeks to improve the judicial system through increased representation from people of diverse backgrounds working on the judicial bench. The American Bar Association has cited the need to attain greater diversity in the judiciary, and to prove systematic, structured advisory support to the judiciary. This program seeks to satisfy that need.
The Lawyers’ Committee works toward the goal of judicial diversity in three ways:
- A mentorship and networking program for attorneys and law students who might be interested in joining the bench.
- Educating the public on the benefits of increased diversity on the bench.
- Advocating for structural reforms to increase transparency and accountability in the judicial selection process.
Please visit our resources page for research, guidebooks, and general information on judicial diversity.
The Public Policy Project advocates for the effective advancement of civil rights laws at the state and federal level, working with other organizations as well as directly with legislators, federal agencies and the White House.
The Lawyers’ Committee has been at the forefront of advocating for necessary changes to our voting laws through advocacy, litigation and as a leader in the nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition. In the 2012 Presidential Election, over half of all problems reported to Election Protection were related to our antiquated voter registration system, problems at the polling place, and the misapplication of voter ID laws. The Lawyers’ Committee advocates modernizing our voter registration system so that it is automatic, permanent, and allows for Election Day correction. Moreover, voters in this past election were intentionally misinformed by individuals or organizations attempting to sway elections for a particular candidate or party. Voting reform should include increased attempts to prevent voter deception by organizing various task forces within both the federal and state governments, in addition to harsher punishments for those who would attempt to deprive fellow citizens of the constitutional right to vote.
As part of the Project’s work on voting rights, the Project works very closely with the Voting Rights Project on legislative priorities that ensure equality in voting rights for racial and ethnic minorities and other traditionally disenfranchised groups. This includes legislation that addresses the need for voter registration modernization; will address different forms of voter suppression like deceptive practices and voter intimidation; and will remedy the dismantling of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Fact Sheets and Talking Points
The importance of contacting your legislator:
One of the best ways to help create change on the federal level is to get in contact with your members of Congress. As a constituent, your needs and concerns are of major importance to the house member or senator representing you on the national level. Because it is often hard for lawmakers to conceptualize the direct impact of legislation they work with—how it impacts real people their day to day lives—describing your personal connections with or opinions on a specific issue is a valuable act.
How to construct a letter to your legislator:
When attempting to contact a member of congress, it is always best to reach out to the representative from your area or the senators from your state. These legislators are aware that your needs, as a constituent, are what matter most. So they are more likely to take your needs into consideration.
Try to focus your letter on a single topic or issue. This allows your legislator to focus directly on the issue that matters most to you. At the beginning of your letter, be sure to write who you are and why you are writing. Try to include as many details as possible—if talking about a certain bill, include the correct title or number. If you need help in finding the number of a bill, use the Thomas Legislative Information System.
Most importantly, explain how the issue you are discussing affects you and others. Try to close your letter by requesting a specific action for your legislator: voting for or against a bill, or changing a general policy.
Helpful format information:
Addressing Members of Congress
To Your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
To Your Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Finding Their Addresses
Senate and House of Representatives
Cite these legislation identifiers when writing to members of Congress
House Bills: “H.R._____“
House Resolutions: “H.RES._____“
House Joint Resolutions: “H.J.RES._____“
Senate Bills: “S._____“
Senate Resolutions: “S.RES._____“
Senate Joint Resolutions: “S.J.RES._____“