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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.
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.
The SPLC filed a federal class action lawsuit against Tennessee for Medicaid practices that deprived thousands of people of health care coverage despite eligibility. These policies resulted in some residents – including those with serious medical conditions – going needlessly without health care.
Judicial Correction Services (JCS), a private probation company, collected money from impoverished Alabamians by threatening them with jail when they fell behind on paying fines from traffic violations or other citations in the city of Clanton. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit accusing JCS of violating federal racketeering laws.
The city of Alexander City, Alabama, operated a modern-day debtors’ prison for at least a decade by arresting and jailing low-income people unable to pay their fines and court costs for traffic tickets and misdemeanors.
In a town where almost 30 percent of the population lives below the...
The SPLC filed a judicial ethics complaint against Perry County (Alabama) Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins after he required people unable to pay court fines to either donate blood or go to jail.
The complaint described how Wiggins threatened defendants in his court with jail on Sept. 17,...
A city court judge in Bogalusa, Louisiana, operated a modern-day debtors’ prison by illegally jailing indigent people unable to pay fines or court costs – including a man fined for stealing $5 worth of food to feed his family. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit to stop the unconstitutional...
The money bail system in Randolph County, Alabama, violated the constitutional rights of people charged with misdemeanors or felonies because it created a “two-tiered” system of justice based on wealth. The Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies filed a federal class action lawsuit to end...
Two New Orleans bail bond companies working with two other businesses charged clients hidden and illegal fees – even sending armed bounty hunters to kidnap clients and extort money from their friends and family. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit to stop the practice.
The private company Professional Probation Services (PPS) has a contract with a municipal court judge and the city of Gardendale, Alabama to illegally place defendants who cannot pay their fines and court costs on probation. The Southern Poverty Law Center sued on Oct. 23, 2017 in federal...