Case History

Selected Highlights

1968. Thirteen lawyers founded the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of the Boston Bar Association. Don Belin served as the first Chair of the Committee.

1970. Published “The Quality of Justice in the Lower Criminal Courts of Metropolitan Boston”, a widely read study which helped lead to badly needed court reforms.

1972 – 1974. Morgan v. Hennigan, 379 F. Supp. 410 (D. Mass. 1974). The Boston public schools desegregation case. The federal courts ordered the school system to desegregate in 1974, a decision upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

1978. Castor v. Beecher, NAACP v. Beecher. Challenged discriminatory police and fire department entry level hiring practices in various communities, including Boston. As a result of consent decrees, there are now hundreds of police officers and firefighters of color in Massachusetts.

1978. Mass. Assn. Of Minority Law Enforcement Officers v. Boston Police Department. Suit filed alleging racial discrimination in the administration of the civil service exam for promotion to the rank of sergeant. Case settled by consent decree; first people of color appointed permanent Boston police sergeants. This consent decree was later challenged, unsuccessfully, as “reverse discrimination” in Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers (MAMLEO) v. Boston Police Department, 106 F.R.D. 80 (D. Mass.1985), aff’d, 780 F.2d 5 (1st Cir.1985). A challenge to the extension of the extension of the consent decree and its extension to lieutenants and captains was rejected in Stuart v. Roache, 739 F. Supp. 54 (D. Mass. 1990), aff’d 951 F.2d 446 (1st Cir. 1991).

1978. NAACP v. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Class action against HUD for failure to ensure that federal funds for City of Boston were used in a non-discriminatory manner. The case was settled thirteen years later after court’s finding of discrimination.

1978. Latin Association for Progress and Action v. Worcester Public Schools. Plaintiffs challenged the policies of the Worcester Public Schools in its failure to provide equal educational opportunities to children of limited English proficiency. The parties negotiated a consent decree which is still in effect.

1978. Latinos Unidos de Chelsea en Accion v. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, et al., 607 F.2d 514 (1st Cir. 1979) (standing), 799 F.2d 774 (1st Cir. 1986). Challenge to the disbursement of federal funds under the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 to the City of Chelsea.

1979. Charles Tyrone Brown v. City of Salem, 44 Mass.App. 627, 693 N.E. 2d 1026 (1998) (sub nom. City of Salem v. Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination). A successful racial discrimination employment case which challenging the refusal of the City of Salem to hire Mr. Brown, who had been rated first on the Civil Service examination for the position of police officer. Mr. Brown was awarded $229,000 in back pay, $100,000 in emotional distress damages, and attorney’s fees.

1981. Hispanic Parents Advisory Council v. City of Holyoke, Civil Action No.80-0172-FHF. Successful school desegregation case against Holyoke. Settlement included bilingual education and special education plans.

1981. Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830 (1982). A writ of certiorari was sought and granted on behalf of teachers in an allegedly private school in Brookline that existed to implement the state’s special education program. When several teachers spoke in defense of students’ right to air their grievances they were fired. While the Supreme Court affirmed lower court rulings that there was no state action, a more recent decision supports the arguments made in Rendell-Baker.

1982. Established Project to Combat Racial Violence.

1983. Latino Political Action Committee v. City of Boston, 568 F. Supp.1012 (D. Mass. 1983), stay denied, 716 F.2d 68 (1st Cir. 1983), stay denied, 463 U.S. 1319 (1983)(Latino PAC I) (“one person, one vote); 581 F.Supp. 478 (D. Mass. 1984)(regarding legislative immunity), 609 F. Supp. 739 (D. Mass. 1985), aff’d 784 F. 2d 409 (1st Cir. 1986)(Latino PAC II)(Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act). Federal court invalidated Boston’s redistricting plan for violation of the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote” and rejected plaintiffs’ voting rights dilution claims under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

1986. Established Fair Housing Project.

1987. Hispanic Parents Advisory Council v. Kouloheras. Comprehensive school desegregation/bilingual education lawsuit in Lowell. Successful settlement with on-going efforts to assist schools in meeting their obligations.

1987. Thong Lim v. Somerville Housing Authority. Federal class action suit against the SHA for its failure to protect minority tenants from racial violence and harassment.

1988. NAACP v. Boston Housing Authority. Class action lawsuit against Boston Housing Authority for maintaining racially segregated public housing.

1988. Black Political Task Force v. Connelly, 679 F. Supp. 1019 (D. Mass.1988). Decision of three-judge federal court invalidated state House of Representatives’ redistricting plan based on the 1985 state census as violation of “one person, one vote” principle. First Latino state legislator elected from newly created Boston district.

1992. Culbreath v. BayBanks. Comprehensive $11 million settlement that resolved allegations that BayBanks’ indirect home improvement financing program violated consumer protection and civil rights laws.

1993. McDuffy v. Secretary of the Executive Office of Education, 415 Mass.545 (1993). SJC struck down the Massachusetts system of public school financing which relied heavily on local property taxes, resulting in gross disparities between districts. SJC found that the Commonwealth had a duty to all children of the Commonwealth, regardless of where they live or the wealth of their communities, to an adequate education under the education clause of the state constitution.

1993. Bennett v. City of Boston. Federal court lawsuit on behalf of families alleging unlawful searches and seizures by police during the Carol Stuart murder investigation.

1996. Barrett v. Danca Realty World. MCAD awarded $60,000 for emotional distress in housing discrimination case, the largest amount ever awarded at the time.

1996. Mak v. Fall River Housing Authority. The Committee, together with the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, asserted claims against the Fall River Housing Authority for failing to protect Cambodian tenants from racial violence and harassment, resulting in a consent decree that provided not only compensation, but increased facilities for the tenants, translation of Authority documents, and other benefits.

1997. Julks v. Neptune Towers. Lengthy litigation against federally subsidized housing development settled after finding that the landlord maintained a pattern and practice of racial discrimination.

1998. Thornton v. Amtrak. The Committee, working together with the Washington Lawyers Committee for civil rights to bring a class action suit on behalf of minority track workers, resulting in a $16 million settlement, as well as systemic changes in hiring, training, promotion and discipline.

1999. Jane Doe v. Boston Housing Authority. On behalf of fourteen families of color, the Committee filed a class action housing discrimination case against the Boston Housing Authority for its failure to protect the families from chronic racially motivated violence and harassment at its public housing developments. After the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development made its first ever finding of “systemic discrimination,” the BHA agreed to a settlement of $1.5 million and to completely revise its procedures.

2000. Mendes v. Sullivan. Jury verdict in favor of Cape Verdean couple who filed housing discrimination/racial violence lawsuit against white neighbors who, inter alia, assaulted our client with a cinder block and vandalized the family’s property. Federal court also issued permanent injunction barring one defendant from the premises where he had been staying.

2000. Seaport Development Litigation. City of Boston and Boston Redevelopment Authority agreed to invalidate prior agreement to give majority of “linkage” payments from waterfront developers to South Boston, despite discriminatory impact on other more racially diverse neighborhoods.

2001. Established Economic Justice Project.

2001. Morris, et al. v. City of Lawrence, et al., Civil Action No. 01-11889-WGY (Preliminary Injunction Nov. 5, 2001). Obtained federal court injunction prohibiting the City of Lawrence from implementing a voter identification requirement that would have discouraged Latinos from voting.

2002. Mayor of Cambridge v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 765 N.E.2d 749 (Mass. 2002). Filed an amicus curiae brief with the SJC to protect several majority African American State House districts.

2003. Grutter Amicus Brief. Co-authored the amicus curiae brief filed by the Boston Bar Association and several Boston law firms with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of the University of Michigan Law School admissions program and affirmative action in law school admissions.

2003. Comfort, et al. v. Lynn School Committee, 263 F.Supp.2d 209 (D. Mass. 2003). Filed an amicus brief, along with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, supporting the Lynn School District’s Voluntary Desegregation Plan and the Massachusetts’ Racial Imbalance Act against a constitutionality attack. The court ruled that neither the plan nor the act violated the state or federal constitution.

2004. Black Political Task Force et al. v. Galvin, 300 F.Supp.2d 291 (D. Mass. 2004). Three-judge federal district court struck down the 2001 enacted Massachusetts House redistricting plan for seventeen State House districts serving Boston and enjoined the Commonwealth from holding House elections for any of those seats until a new plan approved by the court could be drawn. The court held that the plan, which engaged in “extreme and unexplained packing of the 6th Suffolk district” and “the unnecessary (and never convincingly explained) stripping of minority voters out of the 11th and 12th Suffolk districts,” violated section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act.

2004. Alshrafi v. American Airlines, 321 F. Supp. 2d 150 (D. Mass. 2004). Federal court ruled that a discrimination claim by an Arab American passenger who was barred from a flight after 9-11 is not pre-empted by the Airline Deregulation Act.

2005. Arise for Social Justice v. City of Springfield, Civil Action No. 05-30080 (D. Mass. 2005). Voting rights case challenging Springfield’s “at-large” election system, which diluted the voting power of minority citizens in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and the 15th Amendment. Resulted in a favorable settlement.

2006.EEOC v. Home Depot USA, Inc., Civil Action No. 05-11921 (D. Mass. 2005). Employment discrimination case involving African-American employee of Home Depot who experienced a racially hostile work environment and was wrongfully terminated after he filed an internal complaint. Resulted in a favorable settlement.

2007. Bridges v. Comm. of Mass., Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, 29 MDLR 85 (2007). Employment discrimination matter involving African-American applicant for an investigator position at the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC), who alleged discrimination on the basis of age and race, after he was turned down for the position in favor of two significantly less qualified white applicants. The MCAD found that the ABCC had unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff, awarding back pay, emotional distress damages, and attorneys’ fees.

2008. Amara v. Fairmont Copley Plaza, Civil Action No. 09-11802 (D. Mass. 2009). Employment discrimination case involving seven Moroccan and Muslim employees of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, who faced discrimination on the basis of their religion and their national origin. Resulted in a favorable settlement.

2009. EEOC v. Autozone, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:10-11648 (D. Mass. 2010). Employment discrimination case involving Autozone employee who experienced discrimination on the basis of his religion, Sikhism. Autozone failed to accommodate his religious practices (not allowing him to wear a turban and requiring him to cut his facial hair), and subjected him to a hostile work environment. Resulted in a favorable settlement.

2010. Bonds v. City of Boston School Committee, No. 06-0965 (Mass. Super. 2006); No. 2010-P-2180 (Mass. App. Ct. 2010). Employment discrimination / retaliation matter involving African-American teacher at Boston Latin School, who was given less desirable teaching assignments than a less qualified white teacher, and faced retaliation when he complained. Resulted in a favorable settlement.

2012. NAACP v. Galvin, No. 12-10872 (D. Mass. 2012) Voting rights case brought on behalf of the New England Chapter of the NAACP alleging that the State of Massachusetts violated the National Voter Registration Act by failing to offer voter registration services to recipients of public assistance. Resulted in a favorable settlement under which the state agreed to comply with federal law and agreed to oversight and monitoring to ensure ongoing compliance. As a result of this case, thousands of low-income individuals now have access to voter registration opportunities in Massachusetts.

2014. City of Brockton v. Energy Facilities Siting Board, 469 Mass. 196 (2014) (amicus). Environmental justice matter  challenging the Energy Facilities Siting Board’s decision to locate a fossil fuel power plant in Brockton, Massachusetts, a low-income and minority community that already has a disproportionate concentration of hazardous industrial facilities.

2014. Not Measuring Up – School Discipline Report. Published groundbreaking report analyzing school discipline data from Massachusetts schools and finding that students of color, students with disabilities, and charter school students are disproportionately likely to be suspended, particularly for minor misbehavior. Report brought national attention to disparities in school discipline rates.

2015. Doe v. Peyser, Civil Action No. 2015-2788 (Mass. Super. 2015). Intervention filed on behalf of disadvantage students — including students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners — in support of retaining Massachusetts’ cap on charter schools. In a landmark ruling, the court upheld the constitutionality of the charter cap. Favorable outcome preserved resources for traditional public schools serving low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners.

2016. Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice v. William Evans, Civil Action No. 16-0175 (Mass. Super. 2016). Lawsuit brought to compel the Boston Police Department to disclose public records concerning the racial impact of its employment practices. Resulted in a settlement under which the BPD agreed to release the requested information and documents. At a time of growing tension between police departments and communities of color, the data contained in the records was the subject of intense public scrutiny concerning the lack of diversity in the police force.

2016. Boston Latin School Complaint. In partnership with community allies, federal civil rights complaint requested that the U.S. Attorney investigate racial harassment and discrimination at Boston Latin School. U.S. Attorney launched investigation and found that Boston Latin School violated federal law by failing to adequately respond to school-based racial harassment. An agreement was reached with the City of Boston to take a number of steps to improve the racial climate at the school.

2016. Fisher v. Univ. of Texas at Austin, 579 U.S. ____ (2016) (amicus). U.S. Supreme Court case concerning use of a race-based admissions policy at the University of Texas at Austin. Amicus brief, filed on behalf of prominent national empirical scholars, argued that the “mismatch” theory espoused by affirmative action opponents is based on flawed research. The Supreme Court upheld the race-based admissions policy, affirming colleges’ ability to consider race as one of many factors in admitting a diverse student body.