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

January 31, 2012

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.

Children's Rights

Date Filed

January 10, 2012

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.

Immigrant Justice

Date Filed

November 17, 2011

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.

Immigrant Justice

Date Filed

November 16, 2011

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.

Children's Rights

Date Filed

November 08, 2011

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.

Immigrant Justice

Date Filed

October 18, 2011

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.

Children's Rights

Date Filed

October 18, 2011

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 that ended the practice.

Immigrant Justice

Date Filed

October 12, 2011

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.

Hate & Extremism

Date Filed

September 06, 2011

In the early morning hours of June 26, 2011, a black man was attacked in the parking lot of a Jackson, Miss., motel and then fatally run over by a truck. The Southern Poverty Law Center joined Mississippi attorney Winston J. Thompson III, in filing a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the man’s family. The civil lawsuit accused seven white teenagers of deliberately setting out to harass a black person.

LGBT Rights

Date Filed

July 21, 2011

Students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District have been subjected to harassment based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, at least in part the result of a gag policy that prevents teachers from discussing issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people.

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