Case Docket

Summaries of our current and historical civil rights cases.

We have a rich history of litigating important civil rights cases on behalf of the most vulnerable in society. Our cases have smashed remnants of Jim Crow segregation; destroyed some of the nation’s most notorious white supremacist groups; and upheld the rights of minorities, children, women, the disabled and others who faced discrimination and exploitation. Many of our cases have changed institutional practices, stopped government or corporate abuses, and set precedents that helped thousands.

Currently, our litigation is focused on five major areas: children’s rights, economic justice, immigrant justice, LGBT rights, and mass incarceration.

Here are summaries, in a searchable format, of our current cases in addition to many over the previous four decades.

Showing 147 Results
LGBT Rights

Date Filed

December 15, 2013

After an Alabama man discovered that state laws refusing to recognize his lawful same-sex marriage from another state would prevent him from collecting the proceeds of a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of his deceased husband, the SPLC filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the laws. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage, a federal judge ruled that he could collect the proceeds as the surviving spouse.

LGBT Rights

Date Filed

September 30, 2013

Aldermen in the small town of Shannon, Miss., unjustly denied a business license to a lesbian who wanted to reopen a bar catering to the LGBT community. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit against the town and its leaders for violating the bar owner’s equal protection and free-speech rights under the First and 14th Amendments.

Economic Justice

Date Filed

August 27, 2013

Harriet Cleveland lost her job at a daycare during the height of the recession.  Unable to find steady work, Harriet tried to make ends meet by babysitting the children of friends and family and renting out rooms in her home. After doing everything she could, including pawning her car, Harriet ended up facing foreclosure and declared bankruptcy. During this time she had been unable to pay years old traffic tickets. In August, while babysitting her infant grandson, the Montgomery police came and arrested Harriet at her home. The Montgomery Municipal Court ordered her to serve 31 days in jail.

Children's Rights

Date Filed

August 18, 2013

An Alabama law gave tax breaks to families transferring their children to successful schools, discriminating against impoverished students in the state’s Black Belt region who were trapped in failing schools. The SPLC asked a federal court to permanently block the Alabama Accountability Act, saying the law violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because it impermissibly created two classes of students assigned to failing schools – those who can escape them because of their parents’ income or where they live and those who cannot.

Mass Incarceration

Date Filed

May 29, 2013

Prisoners at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian endured filthy and dangerous conditions at the for-profit prison, which operated “in a perpetual state of crisis” where prisoners were at “grave risk of death and loss of limbs,” even resorting to setting fires to receive medical attention. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the prisoners that described how prison officials had known of these conditions for years but failed to protect prisoners.

Children's Rights
Landmark Case

Date Filed

May 13, 2013

M.C. was born with an intersex condition – a difference in reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definition of male or female. When M.C. was just 16 months old and in the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services, doctors and department officials decided the child should undergo sex assignment surgery to make M.C. a girl. There was no medical reason to perform this surgery, which robbed M.C. of the opportunity to decide what should happen to his body. The SPLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of M.C.’s adoptive parents.

Immigrant Justice

Date Filed

February 06, 2013

When Alabama legislators revised the state’s anti-immigrant law in 2012, they passed a law requiring the state to maintain an online list of immigrants who are detained by law enforcement, who appear in court for any violation of state law, and who unable to prove they are not “unlawfully present aliens.” It provided no means for people to be removed from this “black list” if the listing is an error or if their immigration status changes. The Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies filed a federal lawsuit to stop this state-sanctioned “blacklisting” of immigrants, which could encourage harassment and violence.

LGBT Rights

Date Filed

November 26, 2012

Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) fraudulently claimed to provide services that “convert” people from gay to straight. These services, known as conversion therapy, have been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations. The SPLC filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against JONAH for fraudulent business practices. A jury found that JONAH violated the state’s consumer fraud law by offering services that purport to turn gay people straight. 

Immigrant Justice

Date Filed

October 21, 2012

In the spring of 2009, the U.S. Secretary of Labor suspended regulations for the H-2A guestworker program that would have slashed wages for guestworkers and U.S. workers alike. A federal court blocked the secretary’s suspension on the day it was to go into effect after a group of guestworker employers filed suit. The Southern Poverty Law Center intervened in the case on behalf of U.S. farmworkers and H-2A guestworkers to seek to recover the higher wages they would have earned under the suspension.

Immigrant Justice

Date Filed

October 08, 2012

After Alabama’s anti-immigrant law took effect, the U.S. Department of Justice obtained public school attendance records and found a decline in Latino student attendance. The Southern Poverty Law Center requested the same data to determine the law’s impact on Latino students’ access to a public education. The SPLC filed a lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Education after being denied the public records.

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