News & Media

Almost 50 Civil Rights, Criminal Justice Groups Endorse the Private Prison Information Act (H.R. 1980)

WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), a non-profit organization that has spent nearly thirty years advocating for the rights of people held in U.S. detention facilities, joined with 45 other civil rights and criminal justice groups and individuals to demand greater transparency from private prisons that contract with the federal government. 

Almost one out of every five prisoners held by the federal government, and two out of every three immigrant detainees, are housed in for-profit prisons that contract with federal agencies. Unlike government-operated facilities that are required to comply with federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, private prisons operate under a veil of secrecy.


Equal Rights Center Files Lawsuit Against Uber For Providing Services That Are Inaccessible To Wheelchair Riders

Investigation reveals higher fares and longer wait times for wheelchair users

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, the Equal Rights Center (ERC)—a national non-profit civil rights organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.—filed a lawsuit against Uber Technologies, Inc., alleging that Uber has designed and operated its transportation service in the District of Columbia in a way that effectively excludes wheelchair users from its basic “UberX” product,  and instead, directs them to the limited number of accessible DC taxi cabs through their “TAXI WAV” (wheelchair accessible vehicle) option. The lawsuit also alleges that none of the 30,000 or more vehicles operated by Uber drivers in the District is capable of transporting individuals who use wheelchairs that cannot be folded and stowed in a trunk. As a result, wheelchair users are deprived of the opportunity to ride in Uber-affiliated vehicles, and subjected to substantially longer wait times and higher fares as compared to other Uber customers.


Staff Spotlight: Catherine Cone

This month, Committee Fair Housing Staff Attorney Catherine Cone shares some details about her work, our clients, and life in DC.


John Lewis, Eric Holder Call Lawyers to Action at 2017 Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon

At the 2017 Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon, on Wednesday, June 7, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs celebrated achievements of the past year and focused attention on the civil rights, anti-poverty, and equal justice advocacy work that must be addressed in the year ahead.


Federal Prisoners Sue Over Unconstitutional Isolation Practices

HARRISBURG, PA - The DC Prisoners’ Project of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs filed a class action lawsuit today alleging that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has systematically mistreated seriously mentally ill prisoners at the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, by denying them access to the most basic mental health care in violation of the United States Constitution. Three prisoners filed the case on behalf of all mentally ill prisoners at the facility.

The lawsuit, styled McCreary v. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, seeks to compel the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) to comply with its own existing policies and rules regarding the placement and treatment of men suffering from mental illness. It also seeks to define a minimum level of care and mental health treatment for those in custody that is sufficient to satisfy the prohibitions of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution against cruel and unusual punishment.


Equal Rights Center Alleges Unlawful Housing Discrimination Over Company’s Refusal to Accept Temporary Housing Subsidies

Failure to Accept Subsidies Thwarts District’s Efforts to Address Homelessness

WASHINGTON, DC – The Equal Rights Center (“ERC”), a civil rights organization that seeks to promote equal opportunity in housing, filed a lawsuit today against Belmont Crossing Apartments, Oakmont Management Group, and Sanford Capital for violating the D.C. Human Rights Act’s (“DCHRA”) source of income provisions through its discriminatory rental practices.


Jacqueline Cote & Walmart Announce Final Class Settlement Over Health Insurance Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses of Walmart Associates

BOSTON, MA - A federal judge today approved the $ 7.5 million class action settlement between Walmart and former Walmart associate Jacqueline Cote, that challenged Walmart’s lack of health insurance benefits for same-sex spouses of Walmart associates prior to 2014.


Demos, CASA, ACLU of Maryland, Washington Lawyer’s Committee Applaud Attorney General Brian Frosh’s Immigration Guidance

BALTIMORE, MD – Today, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh issued guidance to Maryland state and local governments regarding the rights and obligations of law enforcement officials in immigration enforcement. The Attorney General’s guidance makes clear that the U.S. and Maryland Constitution govern and limit state and local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, and that the Trump administration’s recent policy initiatives are constitutionally questionable. We agree with the Attorney General that law enforcement agencies face potential liability exposure if they seek to enforce federal immigration law. ICE detainer requests do not provide the requisite probable cause of criminality needed for local police to honor them without risking due process violations. We also agree with the Attorney General that the risk of unconstitutional racial profiling is increased when local police attempt to enforce immigration law, and that the federal government may not coercively threaten to take away funding if state and local jurisdictions refuse to enforce federal law. Moreover, honoring the constitutional rights of every person by refusing to enforce federal civil immigration law will increase community trust and public safety.


Court Rejects Virginia Effort to Dismiss Suit Concerning Cruel And Inhumane Treatment of Autistic Individual

In an important development, a federal court in the Western District of Virginia largely rejected a motion by Virginia officials to dismiss a case against them brought by Reginald “Neli” Latson, a young African-American man with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, seeking redress for cruel and inhumane treatment that he suffered while in Virginia prisons in 2014-15. The case was filed last year by the law firm of Buckley Sandler LLP and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.


Court Certifies Three Classes in Action Challenging WMATA’s Criminal Background Check Policy

Erick Little applied for a position as a bus operator with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in 2013. He received a contingent job offer, subject to a background check. During his interview, he told WMATA about his 1987 drug conviction.

In 1987, Erick was 19 years old - not much older than some of the neighborhood little league football players he has now coached for many years.

Even though Erick’s interviewer assured him that his 26-year-old drug conviction would not be held against him, the job offer was rescinded. When WMATA took back its offer of employment, Erick felt ashamed and disappointed. As he recounted, “WMATA sent me, and many others, the message that the first mistake you make is the only thing that matters.”


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