Prisoners at the Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana endured rampant violence, multiple sexual assaults and neglect. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman, charging the sheriff’s indifference created the brutal and inhumane conditions at the jail. The SPLC reached an agreement with officials in December 2012 to address the brutal and inhumane conditions at the Orleans Parish Prison.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of Polk County youth, which charges that Polk County detains youth charged as juveniles under adult standards. It also charges that Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd allows guards to brutalize children and fails to provide these youth with adequate educational and rehabilitative services.
Tracey Cooper-Harris, an Army veteran, was denied disabled veteran benefits for her spouse, though her same-sex marriage was recognized by California. The SPLC filed suit on behalf of Cooper-Harris and her wife, charging that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) discriminated against them by denying these benefits while granting them to spouses in heterosexual marriages. The lawsuit resulted in a historic ruling that declared unconstitutional sections of a statute that prevented the VA from granting benefits to her spouse.
African-American students in Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Public Schools were disproportionately arrested for minor rule violations across the school district. These students often experienced physical abuse while being detained, including one student whose arm was broken as sheriff’s officers detained him. They were also subjected to racially offensive language and other inappropriate comments while being detained. The U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint describing these conditions.
As part of a harsh anti-immigrant law, the Alabama Department of Revenue required people who owned or maintained mobile homes in the state to prove their lawful immigration status before they could pay annual fees for an identification decal required for all mobile homes. The Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies filed a federal class-action lawsuit challenging the immigration check as a violation of the Fair Housing Act that threatened to leave families across the state homeless.
Charelle Loder, a U.S. citizen, and “Jack Doe,” an undocumented immigrant from Haiti, had been a couple for five years. When they decided to marry, they could not obtain a marriage license from the Montgomery County Probate Office in Alabama because the office denied licenses to couples unable to prove both partners have legal immigration status. The policy was not required by any federal or state law. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit challenging the policy.
The state of Georgia discriminated against students with disabilities by funding public schools through a formula that encouraged schools to unnecessarily segregate students with disabilities to receive greater funding. The Department of Justice launched an investigation after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint with the department charging the state of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Education with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Linda Smith, a U.S. citizen, and “John Doe,” an undocumented immigrant, had been a couple for more than nine years. When they decided to marry, they could not obtain a marriage license from the Montgomery County Probate Office in Alabama because the office denied licenses to couples unable to prove both partners have legal immigration status. The policy was not required by any federal or state law. The SPLC filed a lawsuit challenging the policy.
The state of Florida denied in-state college tuition rates to U.S. citizens living in the state but unable to prove the lawful immigration status of their parents – an unconstitutional policy that more than tripled the cost of tuition. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit to end the practice.
South Carolina passed an extreme anti-immigrant law in 2011. The law required police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops when they have “reasonable suspicion” that a person is an undocumented immigrant. It also criminalized everyday interactions with undocumented immigrants. The SPLC joined a coalition of civil rights groups in filing a federal class action lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional. A settlement reached in 2014 blocked major provisions of the law.