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Three young North Carolina black men once sentenced to die for the rape of a white woman were freed from prison in 1975 under a settlement negotiated by SPLC attorneys as their case went to trial a second time. They spent two years in the Edgecombe County jail in Tarboro, N.C., before gaining their freedom.

Immigrant Justice

After learning that police in Fairfield, Alabama, may have been using a city ordinance to harass low-wage Latino day laborers, the SPLC and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network asked the police chief for public records to determine if Latinos were being targeted. When the police chief refused to respond, the SPLC and the day laborer group filed a lawsuit to compel him to release the records. 

Date Filed

October 22, 1970

"Dehumanizing." "Intolerable." "Grossly deficient." These were some of the words a federal judge used to describe conditions at Alabama's mental health facilities in the 1970s. Center attorneys worked with others for years to bring Alabama into compliance with the minimum standards of care ordered by the judge.

Children's Rights

Date Filed

February 03, 1975

Although this constitutional challenge to horrific conditions at a juvenile center was filed by other lawyers in 1975, the Center and the Mississippi Center for Justice took over in 2003 to enforce a judgment that had been ignored for more than 25 years.

LGBT Rights

Date Filed

April 13, 1980

In 1977, Marie Von Hoffburg, a female service member of the United States Army, was discharged due to her alleged sexual orientation. The Southern Poverty Law Center appealed the decision on her behalf alongside the American Civil Liberties Union.

Children's Rights

Date Filed

February 09, 1982

The Southern Poverty Law Center sought a permanent injunction in 1982 to stop operators of the church-run Bethesda Home for Girls from physically and emotionally abusing the "wayward" girls sent to them for care and instruction.

Hate & Extremism

Date Filed

June 04, 1984

In the mid-1980s, a North Carolina Klan group was one of the most militant and violent, engaging in paramilitary-style training, using U.S. military personnel to prepare recruits for combat. After a series of terrorizing incidents, the Center sued the Klan and won court orders shutting down their illegal training camps.

Criminal Justice Reform

Date Filed

January 18, 1988

On Christmas Day 1987, Loyal Garner, a black man who had never been in trouble with the law, was beaten to death in an East Texas jail after being arrested on a traffic charge. After a state court jury acquitted the three implicated in the killing, the SPLC won financial security for Garner’s widow and six children in a federal civil rights action. Evidence uncovered by SPLC investigators led to the subsequent criminal conviction of the three lawmen.

Date Filed

May 10, 1988

In 1988, only 11 of Alabama's 223 trial judges were black. The Center sued to end a system denying racial minorities the chance to elect judicial candidates of their choice. The federal district court disagreed, upholding a voting system found unfair in other states.

Criminal Justice Reform

Date Filed

December 11, 1995

In 1995, a prison inmate confined to Alabama's segregation unit filed a pro se complaint to protect his First Amendment rights to receive newspapers and magazines. The ruling lifted a statewide ban against segregated inmates receiving outside reading materials.

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