In September 2017, the University of North Carolina's Board of Governors (BOG) adopted a policy stating that no University center or institute could: file a complaint, motion, lawsuit or other legal claim in its own name or on behalf of any individual or entity against any individual, entity, or government or otherwise act as legal counsel to any third party; or employ or engage, directly or indirectly, any individual to serve as legal counsel or representative to any party in any complaint, motion, lawsuit, or other legal claim against any individual, entity, or government or to act as legal counsel to any third party. Although nominally applicable across the University of North Carolina (UNC) system, the revised policy was targeted at the Center for Civil Rights at the UNC School of Law, which was the only entity impacted by the restriction. The advocacy ban was the culmination of a three year attack on the Center for Civil Rights (CCR), which was established in 2001 by legendary civil rights lawyer, Julius Chambers. CCR's mission includes direct advocacy and legal representation, research and public education, and training the next generation of civil rights lawyers. CCR's work was focused on dismantling the legacy of institutional discrimination and racial exclusion, and its docket included education, fair housing, environmental justice, civic engagement, and equitable access to basic public services. The targeting of CCR was not an isolated or anomalous occurrence. In North Carolina, it was part of a partisan and ideological attack on the public university system in general and UNC Chapel Hill in particular. It was also part of a sweeping statewide and national campaign to restrict access to justice for people of color and low-wealth individuals and communities, particularly when they challenge race discrimination by government entities and powerful for-profit corporations. The former implicates issues of academic freedom and the First Amendment; the latter, issues of structural racism and the Fourteenth Amendment. This article explores both the legal and political context of the BOG's action. It shows, through the legal precedents and similar past attacks on legal clinics in other states, that the same tactics have been used before to interfere with academic freedom, restrict access to the courts, and preserve a racially discriminatory status quo. More importantly, this article cautions that the attack on CCR is part of a larger ideological agenda being pushed on university campuses across the country.
Elizabeth Haddix & Mark Dorosin, Backlash Against Justice: The Ideological Attack on the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights, 40 N.C. CENT. L. REV. 23 (2018).