The Legal Redress Committee, chaired by Branch Executive Committee member and Lebanon native Lori Burrus, meets as circumstances require. If you think your civil rights have been violated — whether at the workplace, in school, in your housing situation, in receiving health care, or in any other sphere of life protected by civil rights laws — we invite you to fill out the form housed on the "Contact Us" page, linked from the main navigation menu of this website. Or, we invite you to email us, at email@example.com.
Filing a complaint can be a challenging process. You should know from the start that we are not lawyers, that our Branch will not be settling cases, that complainants will have to do much of the work, and that we assume no liability for any complaints addressed to us. That said, we also want to make clear that we are working for social justice for all people regardless of skin color, gender, sexual orientation, faith community, language, nationality, or any other attribute.
STEP ONE. A WRITTEN REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE.
Complaints to our Branch must be in writing. The first step is to send us an email, or fill out the form on here on our website (under "Contact Us"), or write us a letter saying you want to file a complaint. The email or letter should include as much information as possible about the nature of the complaint.
STEP TWO. INVESTIGATE AND GET THE FACTS.
The Legal Redress Committee will then investigate the complaint. The investigation will try to answer these questions:
1. What really happened? Establish whether the facts alleged by the complainant did occur as they were presented.
2. What is the other side's story? Obtain the other side's story, preferably also in writing.
3. Did a violation of the law occur? Determine what federal, state or local laws have been potentially violated. If no laws have been broken,
4. Did a civil rights violation occur? Ascertain whether race, color, sex, age, disability, religion or national origin was a motivating factor for the violation. The NAACP's primary focus should be on race-based discrimination.
5. Does the violation beg a remedy and would litigation be beneficial? We want to be sure there are no major mitigating factors or defenses which would make it futile, unnecessary or unwise to bring litigation. For example, suppose a low-level company supervisor racially discriminated against an employee. The company president, upon learning what happened, immediately fired the supervisor and instituted remedial procedures to guarantee that the discrimination would not happen again. Based on these facts, it may not be beneficial to sue the company.
6. Has the complainant tried to resolve the dispute through negotiation? While the NAACP is renowned for its litigation victories, we have followed the time-honored practice of first confronting a potential defendant and making an attempt to conciliate a honored practice of first confronting the potential defendant and making an attempt to conciliate a dispute prior to filing a lawsuit. Parties should attempt to work out a dispute before a lawsuit is filed, if it is all possible.
Once an NAACP unit has conducted a thorough investigation and has all of the pertinent facts, the unit should make a decision whether to confront the opposing party. In some instances, this may be futile. However, in the majority of situations, opposing sides are willing to sit down and discuss differences in a coherent, rational fashion. This meeting should be conducted in a non-threatening manner and in an environment suitable for an open discussion of the issues. The purpose of this meeting is not only to ascertain the position of the opposing party, but to attempt to identify areas of mutual agreement. The information gained from such a meeting may be useful in the future. In any case, there is a possibility that such discussions will lead to a resolution of the matter and corrective future behavior. If the meeting does not result in a positive outcome, the unit can proceed to the next step, filing a lawsuit.
7. Have the criteria for case acceptance been met?
A. Will the case help establish new legal precedent or protect existing precedent, to the benefit of African-Americans generally?
B. Can a broad remedy be achieved (affecting a significant number in the black community)? Can the case be brought as a class action?
C. Has a violation of a fundamental or constitutional right occurred?
D. Will the violation go unredressed or will the complainant be unlikely to be able to obtain effective legal assistance absent NAACP intervention?
E. What financial and moral support will the NAACP unit lend to the case throughout the litigation and what immediate and future human and economic resources can the Legal Department contribute?
8. Was a recommendation made to the unit and adopted by resolution? The investigatory committee should recommend action to the Executive Committee and membership associated with the suit, the membership must demonstrate its solidarity with such decision by passing a resolution to that effect.
The foregoing steps were taken from the "NAACP Civil Rights Reference Manual & Guide for Branch Legal Redress Committees," housed on the "About Us" page of this website.
The image gracing the icon for our Legal Redress Committee is of course former US Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice (1967-1991), who for more than two decades (1940-1967) spearheaded and served as Chief Counsel and Executive Director of the NAACP's Legal Defense & Educational Fund. For more information on Thurgood Marshall's inspiring life and legacy, see https://www.naacpldf.org/about-us/history/thurgood-marshall/