News & Media

Victory: $125,000 Judgment Entered Against Laurel Police Officer in Public Strip Search Case

WASHINGTON, DC - On March 21, 2017, Judgment in the amount of $125,001 was entered in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on behalf of Allen Sergeant, a 52 year old resident of the District of Columbia and against Laurel, Maryland Police Officer Alfie G. Acol. The judgment is a result of Mr. Sergeant’s civil rights lawsuit filed after he was subjected to a public strip search incident to a baseless traffic stop, which the lawsuit alleged occurred because of racial profiling.

The civil rights lawsuit filed in United States District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland on July 30, 2015 was litigated by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

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The Committee and the Equal Rights Center: To Maintain Gains in Equity, Congress and HUD Secretary Carson Must Oppose Cuts to HUD Budget

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (“WLC”) and Equal Rights Center (“ERC”) strongly oppose President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to critical housing programs. The budget proposal will cripple programs that secure affordable housing for working and low-income families, seniors, persons with disabilities, and that provide necessary investments in infrastructure and repairs.  If enacted, the budget will severely curtail public housing funds and entirely eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”) program. The CDBG program is among the oldest and largest of HUD’s grant programs, and it provides critical resources for housing and economic development.  Also on the chopping block are the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Choice Neighborhoods program, the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, NeighborWorks America, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and legal aid services. Together, these programs invest in and seek to revitalize low-income neighborhoods, promote affordable housing, encourage homeownership, avert homelessness, heat homes, and fend off evictions. 

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The Committee and the 21st Century Schools Fund Testify in Opposition to the Petitions of KIPP and DC Prep to Expand

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the 21st Century Schools Fund have submitted testimony to the DC Charter School Board in opposition to the petitions of KIPP and DC Prep to expand. We have asked the Charter School Board to defer approving the applications until KIPP and DC Prep have established that: (1) they have implemented practices to ensure that African American students and students with disabilities are not subjected to excessive and disparate discipline; (2) there is a need for expansion in light of the existing supply of K–12 seats; and (3) they have met all the criteria under PCSB policy.

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Black Female Employee of Prince George’s County Police Department Sues for Racial and Sex-Based Discrimination

PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MDMina Johnson, a long-time African-American civilian employee of the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD), filed a complaint against Prince George’s County today in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland alleging discrimination on the basis of race and sex. The complaint follows Ms. Johnson’s discovery that her salary was more than 40% lower and $35,000 lower than comparable white co-workers. In documents, County officials admitted that “the discrepancy is significant and cannot be explained by qualifications” and constitutes an “inequity.” Since learning of the pay disparity, Ms. Johnson has been going through the administrative process at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ultimately found probable cause that Prince George’s County had violated Title VII. Ms. Johnson is represented by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP.

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The Committee Calls Upon DC Zoning Commission to Preserve Family-Friendly and Affordable Housing

On Thursday night, WLC Fair Housing attorney Catherine Cone stood up for equitable redevelopment and fair housing in Washington, DC. She asked DC’s Zoning Commission to require the developers of Brookland Manor to alter their redevelopment plan. A revised plan should create family-sized 4- and 5-bedroom units at the property and restore the number of 3-bedroom apartments, as well as preserve more affordable housing. As it stands, the redevelopment plan will eliminate too many larger units, harming families with children and likely perpetuating racial segregation in the District.

Read Catherine’s testimony here…

In Memory of Tom Williamson

The Board and staff of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs are deeply saddened by Tom Williamson’s death. Tom was an integral part of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee community. He was an inspiring leader, a generous mentor and an unfailing friend for decades. He was a former Chair of the Committee and handled significant Committee cases. Tom was a role model for young lawyers, demonstrating that compassion and fairness can play a significant part in a legal career. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to benefit from Tom’s visionary leadership and will miss him dearly.

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An Important Step in Combating Discriminatory Policing

In the spring of 2013, a black DC resident Ruth Richards who was born in Jamaica was walking to her friend’s house when she encountered her ex-husband and his girlfriend. The two got into an argument in which her ex-husband assaulted her. Several people called 911 and Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jennifer Gelsomino arrived at the scene, ignored the pleas of witnesses about what happened, asked Ms. Richards where she was born twice, and without further questioning took her into custody. Ms. Richard filed suit against Officer Gelsomino and is represented by the Committee and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

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"It is the first reported decision that I know of that holds that Deaf prisoners and detainees have a First Amendment right to access a videophone to communicate with the outside world."

On February 23, the Fourth Circuit issued a wonderful decision in Thomas Heyer v. U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the Committee case about a Deaf civil detainee in the US Bureau of Prisons.

The opinion reverses the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

"Importantly, it is the first reported decision that I know of that holds that Deaf prisoners and detainees have a First Amendment right to access a videophone to communicate with the outside world," says Deborah Golden, Project Director of the DC Prisoners' Project.

Read the opinion here...

Watch Committee Attorneys Appear on University of the District of Columbia Cable TV's "Sound Advice"

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The WLC Calls for Sanctuary Schools Resolution in the District.

Read more and sign on to the letter…

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