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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

Date Filed

May 06, 2011

Hundreds of guest workers from India, lured by false promises of permanent U.S. residency, paid tens of thousands of dollars each to obtain temporary jobs at Gulf Coast shipyards only to find themselves forced into involuntary servitude and living in overcrowded, guarded labor camps. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the workers, David v. Signal International, LLC. Three years later, a lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC v. Signal International, LLC, alleging Signal unlawfully discriminated against the Indian guest workers.

Children's Rights
Criminal Justice Reform

Date Filed

March 07, 2011

The Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center in Mississippi was the site of numerous abuse allegations. Security camera footage from the facility showed youths being slammed into walls and beaten by staffers. When Disability Rights Mississippi (DRMS) attempted to provide the youths with services to protect them from further abuse, Forrest County officials blocked access to them. The Southern Poverty Law Center and DRMS sued the county to force it to comply with federal law and allow DRMS access to the children. After county officials settled the suit by granting access, a second lawsuit was filed challenging the inhumane conditions found at the facility in Hattiesburg. County officials agreed to improve the conditions at the facility as part of a settlement agreement for the second lawsuit.

LGBTQ Rights

Date Filed

February 01, 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.

Criminal Justice Reform

Date Filed

March 21, 2012

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of Polk County youth, which charges that Polk County detains youth charged as juveniles under adult standards. It also charges that Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd allows guards to brutalize children and fails to provide these youth with adequate educational and rehabilitative services.

LGBTQ Rights

Date Filed

December 17, 2013

Destin Holmes was subjected to pervasive anti-LGBT bullying and harassment by fellow students, faculty and even administrators within the schools of Mississippi’s Moss Point School District. The harassment became so severe Destin was eventually driven out of school. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf to end the bullying and harassment in the district.

Children's Rights

Date Filed

February 13, 2014

Two North Carolina school districts discriminated against immigrant children by denying, delaying or discouraging their enrollment, incidents that appeared to be symptomatic of a larger problem in school districts across the state. The SPLC filed a federal civil rights complaint on behalf of two children who encountered discrimination by school officials.

Children's Rights

Date Filed

August 19, 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.

Criminal Justice Reform
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.

Immigrant Justice

Date Filed

July 08, 2011

Alabama passed an extreme anti-immigrant law in June 2011. The law threatened to chill children’s access to public schools by requiring school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents; authorized police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops; and criminalized Alabamians for everyday interactions with undocumented individuals. The SPLC led a coalition of civil rights groups in filing a federal class action lawsuit that resulted in an agreement that effectively gutted the law.

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