The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCR) aims “to secure equal justice for all through the rule of law, targeting in particular the inequities confronting African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities” who have been harmed by “our nation’s history of racial discrimination, de jure segregation, and the de facto inequities that persist.”
LCCR was established in the summer of 1963 after a group of clergyman from the National Council of Churches (NCC), who were doing civil-rights work in Mississippi, requested legal assistance on behalf of demonstrators who were either being denied permits or were being arrested in the course of their activism. In response, President John F. Kennedy called for the formation of a Committee to enlist the financial and professional resources of the private bar in combating racial discrimination. The nascent LCCR subsequently urged passage of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In response to the 1968 Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorder and Unrest, LCCR initiated its Urban Areas Project to staff local lawyers’ committees in ten major U.S. cities. The Ford Foundation was a major supporter of this campaign.
Around that same time, LCCR launched a Southern Africa Project in support of lawyers representing political dissidents who challenged that nation’s apartheid system.
In pursuit of “desegregat[ion],” LCCR in the 1970s urged the defeat of proposed constitutional amendments that sought to prevent the mandatory busing of public school children. Also in the ’70s, the Committee vocally backed race-based affirmative-action preferences in business and academia – a practice it continues to support even today.
In 1987 LCCR opposed President Reagan’s nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, and four years later it opposed George H.W. Bush’s nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Court.
LCCR contributed to the development and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which decreed that employers with 15 or more workers would be considered guilty-until-proven-innocent of discrimination if their labor force did not statistically resemble the demographic makeup of the surrounding community. Faced with the frightening prospect of frivolous discrimination suits that could spell their financial ruin, business owners quickly came to understand that hiring by race was the only safe course of action.
LCCR supported the Voter Registration Act of 1993, which dramatically weakened protections against potential voter fraud and greatly increased the likelihood that low-income recipients of taxpayer-funded social-welfare benefits – i.e., people who tend overwhelmingly to support Democrats at the polls – would become registered voters.
In the mid-1990s, LCCR mobilized approximately thirty law firms in six U.S. states to help black religious congregations deal with what the Committee described as a sudden “rash” of arson fires targeting “black churches at various locations mostly in the South.” Notwithstanding LCCR’s alarmist rhetoric, it was eventually learned that in fact, the incidence of black church fires had increased only slightly, and temporarily, above their historically low levels, and that such fires, on a per capita basis, continued to be significantly less common than fires at predominantly white churches. By the end of 1998, just three of the more than seventy black church fires investigated by the Justice Department could be tied to racial motives, and a number of the arsonists responsible for the black church fires were themselves African Americans.
In the landmark 1997 _Pigford vs. Glickman_lawsuit, LCCR sided with the plaintiffs – 91 African-American farmers who claimed that as a result of racial discrimination years earlier, they had been unfairly denied loans by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After those plaintiffs won their case in 1999, many thousands of additional blacks—as well as Hispanics, Native Americans, and females—joined the Pigford lawsuit and capitalized financially by filing mostly fraudulent claims of discrimination. By 2013, more than 90,000 people had filed such claims, and the payouts had reached a staggering $4.4 billion.
In 2001, LCCR representatives participated in planning sessions for the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, which was held in Durban, South Africa. That Conference featured an NGO Forum that: (a) focused a hugely disproportionate share of its criticisms on the alleged transgressions of Israel and the United States; (b) called for “the launch of an international anti-Israeli Apartheid movement” to punish the Jewish state for its “racist crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing [and] acts of genocide”; (c) sought to extract Western cash as compensation for the transatlantic slave trade, colonialism, and the vaguely defined “economic and political exclusion” of various peoples”; and (d) endorsed a resolution denouncing free-market capitalism as a “fundamentally flawed system.”
In 2001 as well, LCCR endorsed the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights‘s “Statement of Solidarity with Migrants,” which exhorted the U.S. government to “[r]ecognize the contribution of immigrant workers, students, and families, and [to] end discriminatory policies passed on the basis of legal status.” Moreover, LCCR endorsed the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004, which was designed to roll back, in the name of protecting civil liberties, vital national-security policies that had been adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In 2003, LCCR filed amicus briefs in two major Supreme Court decisions – Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger – which ruled that the use of race as a factor in university admissions was constitutional.
In 2008, LCCR challenged Arizona’s “Proposition 200,” a 2004 voter-identification law that required people to provide proof-of-citizenship when registering to vote.
In the midst of the cataclysmic financial crisis and housing-market collapse of 2008, LCCR denied any suggestion that policies like the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) – a federal law requiring banks to extend credit to undercapitalized, high-risk borrowers in low-income, mostly-minority areas – had played any role in the calamity. Rather, the Committee endorsed a statement declaring that “CRA is an antidote, not a cause of the current crisis.”
LCCR opposed the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to invalidate Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, an anachronistic provision requiring that in fifteen separate (mostly Southern) states, no existing election laws could be altered in any way without first being pre-cleared by either the Justice Department or a federal court. By the Committee’s telling, Section 5 remained necessary to protect “voters of color” from the entrenched racism of American society.
LCCR’s major programs today include the following:
LCCR is supported by grants from numerous large foundations, including the American Express Foundation; the Bauman Family Foundation; the Carnegie Corporation of New York; the Fannie Mae Foundation; the Ford Foundation; the Freddie Mac Foundation; the JEHT Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Joyce Foundation; the Mertz Gilmore Foundation; the Minneapolis Foundation; the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; the Nathan Cummings Foundation; the Open Society Institute; the Rockefeller Foundation; and the Turner Foundation.
For additional information on LCCR, click here.
 John Perazzo, The Myths That Divide Us (World Studies Books: Briarcliff Manor, NY, 1999), pp. 259-260.
 “Hiding Behind the Smoke,” Washington Post (June 18, 1996), p. A 13.
 Ibid. “Indiana Man Admits to 50 Church Arsons,” The New York Times (February 24, 1999), p. A 18.