E-Alerts & Press Releases

PJC in the Human Rights Arena

The Public Justice Center endorsed, and in one instance, significantly contributed to, three shadow reports filed with the U.N.'s CERD Committee in response to the April 2007 U.S. State Department's second Periodic Report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This Committee is responsible for monitoring compliance of all nation states, including the U.S., with the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). As is customary, nongovernmental organizations frequently file "shadow" reports, providing critical analysis and substantial additional information which governments choose not to share. Click on the links below to read the full reports. The PJC joined in the filing of Access To Civil Justice: Racial Disparities and Discriminatory Impacts Arising from Lack of Access to Counsel in Civil Cases (Dec. 10 2007). This report was prepared at the Northeastern University School of Law's Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy. In consultation with the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (coordinated by the PJC) , this document explains the severe disparate impact on racial and other minorities of the lack of access for the poor to legal representation in civil matters involving basic human needs. It demonstrates how this disparate impact contributes to persistent and pernicious racial bias in the administration of civil justice across the U.S. The key recommendation is recognition of a right to counsel in critical civil legal proceedings, with adequate funding to implement such a right. The PJC assisted in the preparation of this report by brokering language concerning the recommendations to keep them consistent with the goals of domestic advocates for a civil right to counsel and the civil legal services community. The PJC endorsed two other reports. The first is the Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Racial Discrimination in Homelessness and Affordable Housing in the United States (Dec. 10, 2007). Prepared by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and others, this report details the ongoing and crushing disparate impact of homelessness and the affordable housing crisis on racial minorities throughout the U.S. Among this reports recommendations are decriminalization of homelessness, creation of a fully funded National Housing Trust for the creation of new and preservation of existing affordable housing stock, full funding for the Housing Choice Voucher Program (the goal of which is deconcentration of poverty and desegregation of residential communities). An additional recommendation of particular interest to the PJC is publicly funded legal representation for indigent tenants facing eviction proceedings. The PJC also endorsed a report entitled The Lack of Access to Courts and Effective Remedies to Enforce Civil Rights Violations in the United States of America (Dec. 2007), prepared by the National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights. This document details the retrenchment by the U.S. Supreme Court during the last several decades from effective enforcement of the nation's invaluable civil rights protections. In decision after decision, the Court has drastically narrowed the ability of private individuals to enforce laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, public services, etc. The laws remain on the books, but the Court has closed the courthouse door on those who need the protection of those laws. At the same time, the federal government has starved the agencies charged with their public enforcement. The report recommends investigation of the impact of these changes on the overall effectiveness of civil rights laws in eliminating racial discrimination, passage of federal legislation to reverse the many judicial interpretations that have strangled private enforcement, and adequate funding for public enforcement offices.

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