White supremacist attorney Kirk Lyons' quixotic quest to establish "Confederate Southern Americans" as a legally protected minority has run into a serious roadblock — again. This time, the future of Lyons' Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC) could be in jeopardy.
Last summer, Lyons took up the case of seven longtime DuPont employees in Richmond, Va., who had been forbidden by the chemical giant to wear or display the Confederate battle flag at work.
The employees claimed they were being discriminated against because of their Southern heritage — a classic "heritage violation" in Lyons' book. Lyons charged in court that DuPont was helping perpetuate "erroneous, bigoted, discriminatory and offensive stereotypes against" the plaintiffs, simply because its other employees may be offended by an "innocent display of Confederate symbols."
As usual, Lyons' case was dismissed for lack of merit. He promptly filed an amended complaint describing "Confederate Southern Americans" as a diverse people with their own culture and religion. The plaintiffs, he claimed, were being discriminated against because of their "national origin."
No luck there. Richmond's U.S. District Court rejected Lyons' claims three times before DuPont attorneys asked the court to sanction Lyons for litigation abuse and to bill his clients for Dupont's attorneys' fees.
In February the court took that unusual step, personally sanctioning Lyons for $10,000 — a big sum for the financially shaky SLRC to pay. The clients whose cause Lyons was championing were slapped with total fines of $26,100.
The court couldn't decide whether Lyons' claims were the result of "bad faith or just poor judgment." But it was certain that the national-origin claim was "frivolous, unreasonable, and without foundation."
True to form, Lyons plans to appeal. "I have pledged to help my clients through this and I will not abandon them," he wrote in an E-mail.
The plaintiffs may have different ideas. Jimmy Jones, who's worked at DuPont for 30 years, told the Intelligence Report the fines are a hardship and that he "doesn't understand the whole dang-gone thing." But he says the group will pursue the case, possibly by turning to a very different set of lawyers.
"We're going to go ahead and talk to the ACLU," says Jones. "There's so many different issues in this whole discrimination charge that hopefully there's something they can sink their teeth into."