Following up on last week's post, UNC Votes To Block Law School Civil Rights Clinic From Taking On New Clients: Inside Higher Ed, Banning the Right to Sue:
UNC Board of Governors may bar civil rights center from litigation, raising questions about the role of law schools and academic freedom.
The University of North Carolina School of Law's Center for Civil Rights has long been a thorn in the side of the state government from its perch in Chapel Hill, as it sometimes files and joins in on lawsuits against the state.
The center focuses on cases related to race, housing and education and voting rights. Recent efforts, for example, include involvement in a suit related to accusations of state-sanctioned environmental racism occurring under an allegedly neglectful Department of Environmental Quality.
Now, the system Board of Governors is looking to defang the center, and all centers and institutes at various UNC system institutions, by banning them from filing or joining in lawsuits. Those in favor on the board — appointed by the state legislature and noted for its political leanings and connections to the Republican-controlled body — say it is improper for one part of the state to sue another, and that it’s outside the scope of UNC’s mission for the law school to operate the center. The center, the staff of which is privately funded, has pushed back, saying the legal education and training it provides as it pursues social-justice issues is perfectly in line with UNC’s educational mission.
While that fight plays out, however, a question of academic freedom arises, as some fear the Board of Governors is overreaching its hand in deciding the legal actions that centers and institutes at various colleges and schools at the UNC system can make.
The litigation ban would apply to any UNC system or center, but, according to local media, the Center for Civil Rights is apparently the only one that currently does any litigation. (Legal clinics would not be affected by the board’s decision.)
The American Association of University Professors, as well as Judith Welch Wegner, one of the law school’s former deans, have come out against the moves by the board, saying they represent a threat to academic freedom.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- State May Ban UNC Center For Civil Rights From Engaging In Litigation (May 5, 2017)
- More On The Proposal To Ban The UNC Center For Civil Rights From Engaging In Litigation (Mar. 13, 2017)
- Gene Nichol Criticizes 'Nakedly Ideological' Attack On UNC Center For Civil Rights, Calls Out 'Cowardly' Dean, Provost, And Chancellor (Apr. 16, 2017)
- GOP Senate Cuts UNC Law School's Budget 30% As Payback To Liberal Faculty (Especially Gene Nichol), Rankings Slide From 20 (1979) To 39 (2017) (May 22, 2017)
- UNC Law School Alums Rally Against Proposed 'Catastrophic' 30% Budget Cut As Payback To Liberal Faculty (Especially Gene Nichol) (June 10, 2017)
- Newspaper Editorializes Against GOP Senate's 30% Cut To UNC Law School Budget As 'Petty Revenge Politics' Against Gene Nichol (June 15, 2017)
- North Carolina Senate Cuts $3 Million From UNC Law School Budget: 'The Gene Nichol Transfer Amendment'(June 18, 2017)
- House And Senate Agree To Cut North Carolina Law School's Budget 'Only' 4% ($500k), Not 30% ($4m) Sought By Senate (June 21, 2017)
- UNC Votes To Block Law School Civil Rights Clinic From Taking On New Clients (Aug. 2, 2017)