Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute Archives logo
| HOME | HISTORY | PUBLICATIONS | DOCKETS | FINDING AIDS |

CIVIL LIBERTIES DOCKET
Vol. VIII, No. 4
August, 1963

Search in this volume

Case Number: 

Enter a specific case number or use * as wildcard, e.g., 303.15, 303.*

Case Title: 

Enter keywords from the title of a case, e.g., carpenters union

Case Description: 

Enter keywords from the description of a case, e.g., segregation school
   

HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS ISSUE


THE LONG, COLD SUMMER FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

This DOCKET of civil rights and liberties cases is published to disseminate information on threshold constitutional questions so that new concepts and recent court decisions can assist litigants throughout the country in their legal struggles for freedom and justice. It assumes that new concepts which are valid will be adopted by impartial courts committed to uphold the federal Constitution and the supremacy of federal law, and that lower courts and all law enforcement agencies will abide by decisions of the highest court.

The events of the Summer of 1963 have forced a reevaluation on a number of these points.

Traditional Segregation in Southern Courts

There have existed for many years in the southern states handicaps to the administration of justice largely unknown to the rest of the country. This summer realization of these practices spread more rapidly:

• There are in the deep south today only a handful of white lawyers willing to represent civil rights clients, and not more than fifty Negro lawyers in a position to do so. No white lawyer in Mississippi today is handling a civil rights case, nor has any white lawyer shown a willingness to do so. There are in Mississippi a total of 4 Negro lawyers, 3 of whom handle civil rights cases. Yet the volume of Mississippi rights litigation is enormous. (See cases at 500s.)

• In some southern states, Negro lawyers cannot attend meetings of the integrated state bar associations to which they are required to belong. (E.g., Louisiana.) In some southern states, Negro attorneys have been unable to obtain application cards to join state bar associations. (E.g., Georgia.) In several southern states, Negro and white attorneys retained in civil rights and liberties cases have been harassed by bar association grievance committees, and state and federal agencies. (See, e.g., cases at 373. in previous DOCKETS.)

• While the Supreme Court, in NAACP v. Button, declared that "association for litigation may be the most effective form of political association" open to the Negro people today, several southern communities have forbidden the NAACP and CORE to operate within their borders by statute or regulation. In 1956 Alabama stopped all NAACP work in the state and today, 7 years and 2 U.S. Supreme Court decisions later, the NAACP is still unable to operate while its third appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is pending. (204.1)

• In 1963 the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in courtrooms denies equal protection. (42.14) Yet in innumerable southern state courthouses today:

Negro attorneys are not called "Mr." by court attachés, and courtesy titles are never used for Negro parties or witnesses.

Negroes are systematically excluded from grand and petit juries by a variety of means, including use of registered voter lists from which Negroes have been unconstitutionally omitted.

Negroes are segregated from whites in courtroom seating (by custom or by formal or informal actions of bailiffs.)

Separate facilities are provided with signs designating racial use.

In sum, Negroes participate in the legal machinery only as plaintiffs or defendants, never as bailiffs, policemen, probation officers, jurors, or judges, even in communities in which half or more of the population is Negro.

Reevaluation in 1963

The quickened pace of the civil rights movement this summer in one community after another makes it very difficult to continue to write up each individual civil rights case.

But certain developments finally force the conclusion that it is futile even to try. When U.S. Supreme Court pronouncements are not carried out by state and local officials (as in the 1954 Prince Edward County school case and the 1963 courtroom segregation cases); when federal district courts issue sweeping injunctions in a voter registration campaign (as in Plaquemine, La. in summer 1963); when a federal district court remands back 1,000 cases removed from the state court which had issued sweeping injunctions and had enforced ordinances unconstitutional on their face (as in Danville); when lawyers' homes are bombed and felony charges are placed against Negro and white integration lawyers in Birmingham, Danville and New Orleans—then of what value to lawyers is a careful catalog of all pending civil rights cases?

Instead, starting in this issue, specific geographical areas will be reported in depth, and only significant cases from other areas will be reported. See the case study of litigation in one Negro lawyer's office in southwest Georgia (at 55.37-55.68, 54.6-54.7). And see the complex of Danville, Va. cases removed to and filed in federal court (at 55.35-55.36, 263.5).

Responsibility to Reality

The Recommendations adopted by the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association in Aug. 1963 deserve special study in the light of the situation just described. They are based, in part, on faulty assumptions: that lawyers and clients can respect and obey all local, state and federal laws—when the former frequently directly contradict the latter; that it is "the obligation . . . and privilege" of all lawyers to work in their bar associations, when Negro lawyers are prohibited from participating in many southern associations; that the need is to settle racial problems "around the conference table and . . . not . . . on the streets"—when government officials in city after city refuse to sit around the table with Negro leaders until repeated demonstrations have taken place in the streets, and even then refuse to get down to fundamental problems; that the need is "to seek solution on a local basis"—when the only gains which have yet been made in the south have been made because of federal action.

Federal Action—On Which Side?

Since 1961, the Albany, Ga. Movement has worked to register Negro voters and to desegregate local facilities. Leaders of the Movement made repeated requests to the FBI and Justice Department for assistance in stopping local obstruction of their efforts. They were usually told there was "no federal jurisdiction". Inaction came to be expected.

The final action of the federal government in the civil rights field this summer was the indictment of 9 integration leaders in Albany (8 Negroes and 1 white), charged with conspiring to obstruct justice and perjury. See 55.68.