Civil Rights Law Section

Civil Rights Law Section

Message from the Chair

Section Chair: 

Wylie Stecklow
Stecklow Cohen Thompson 
New York, NY

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“The Ultimate Measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.”  Martin Luther King.

Civil Rights lawyers from around the country joined the FBA Civil Rights Section in New Orleans on April 7, 2017 for the First annual Civil Rights Etouffee CLE.  With the incredible help of the FBA New Orleans Chapter, President Kelly Scalise and Executive Director, CC Kahr, the event was destined for greatness, and greatness was delivered.

The excitement shared by the Etouffee organizing team of Stephen Haedicke (New Orleans), Darpana Sheth (Washington, DC), Theresa Powell (Springfield, IL) and your intrepid Section Chair (me!) from New York City had spread throughout our membership, from local NOLA law students, counsel from Southern Poverty Law Center, Southeastern Louisiana Legal Services, ACLU and private practice attorneys from New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Idaho and more. In mid-March, two weeks before, the inaugural Etouffee, the CLE was sold out!

The day went off without (almost any) hitch. From the first panel on Immigration led by Jeffrey Feinbloom, exploring civil rights issues in light of the recent executive orders; to the full day of break out sessions, each panel was well-attended, thought-provoking and timely.  The Hon. Kenneth Polite, making his first public speech following the end of his term as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, delivering a powerful talk on issues ranging from successful prosecutions he had brought while US Attorney to a review and response to the recent Department of Justice commentary that consent decrees involving police departments were based on anecdotal evidence. 

“That opinion is false, misleading & misinformed …  Let me tell you an anecdote about the Danziger Bridge and a conspiracy coverup of epic proportions.” A detailed story about murderous abuse of power after Hurricane Katrina that nobody present at the Etouffee will soon forget. While Mr. Polite began his key-note by repeating, “I’m not running for Mayor, I’m not running for Mayor, I’m not running for Mayor,” I, for one, cannot wait for the day that our incredible key-note speaker does seeks public office. 

The afternoon sessions began with the plenary session of Impact Litigation and Social Justice Advocates, moderated by the Honorable Judge Ivan Lemelle, joined by Stanley Young of Covington & Burling, Elissa Johnson of the Southern Poverty Law Center, & Professor Tracie Washington of Dillard University. Among other topics, this panel connected the dots on how impact litigation brought by Covington & Burling led to inglorious fall of infamous Arizona Sheriff Joe Araipo.   The four afternoon break out panels, including one with education attorney specialist Caryl Oberman, and another organized by David Thompson on behalf of the nascent LGBT Law Section of the FBA concerning recent litigation seeking to overturn Religious Freedom laws (which seek to legalize LGBT discrimination).

The Etouffee’s success is undeniable. The reviews received from participants included commentary, “Best CLE I’ve ever attended” to “All speakers and topics were timely and well-informed” to “it is so hard to find civil rights CLEs, more of this please.”

The current concern about civil rights survival in today’s America is further evidence that is the time for all good counsel to join the FBA Civil Rights Section and help us expand our network of attorneys.   Planning soon begins for the next Etouffee, and its CLE team is in formation. If you are not an active FBA Civil Rights Section member, but want to step up, please let us know.  Our goal is to continue the Etouffee as the go to Civil Rights CLE each year.

It is legacy time for our section, and the future of the Etouffee is bright. 

Laissez L’Etouffee Rouler !




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Instructor Guide Lesson

A lesson plan for freedom of speech/expression.

Civil Rights Section Bylaws

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