Committee on Civil Rights Home

“The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.” -- President John F. Kennedy


Welcome to the home page of the Committee on Civil Rights for the New York State Bar Association. The term "civil rights" means many different things to many people. To some, the term evokes the epic struggle of the latter half of the 20th century for racial and gender equality, a struggle which still continues today. To others, it calls to mind the right of the individual to be free from arbitrary Government restraint on one's liberty and the exercise of freedoms held dear, such as the freedom of speech, assembly and religion. Still others see "civil rights" as covering the rights chiseled into local, state and federal laws preventing discrimination in housing, in school and at the work place. “Civil rights” fall under a broad umbrella of due process and equal protection guarantees found in our Constitution and laws. The understanding of a "civil right" has evolved and continues to evolve with the forward progress of our national conversation in the American experiment.

The Committee on Civil Rights was founded in 1952 and over the years has worked on a broad range of issues affecting the public and legal profession in New York. Most recently, the Committee has been active on issues of privacy and national security, Executive Detention and due process, the rights of immigrants, and marriage equality. The Committee’s participation on these various fronts takes many forms, from sponsoring programs to spark informed debate, to authoring encyclopedic reports on signal issues of the day, to honoring those who have done the most in our community to bend the long arc of history toward justice. If you want to learn more about the Committee's work in general, please click on the tabs on the left of this web page. If you would like to learn more about the Committee's work on habeas corpus and Guantanamo in particular, access the Committee’s blog.

Thank you for visiting the Committee’s website and we hope that you find it informative and maybe even a little inspirational. Check back often for informative updates to the website and timely blog postings.

Jeremy Benjamin
Committee Chair

View Our Online Community here!

Programs & events

Voting Rights Legislation: Restrictions, Expansion and The Impact on the 2016 Elections
Sponsored by NYCLA’s Federal Courts Committee and New York State Bar Association Committees on Civil Rights and Diversity and Inclusion and General Practice Section

Thursday, October 20, 2016; 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
14 Vesey Street
2nd Floor Auditorium
New York, NY 

2 NY Credits: 2 PP; 2 NJ Credits: 2 General

Program Chairs: Vince Chang, Wollmuth Maher & Deutsch LLP and Jeremy Benjamin, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison

Moderator: Wendy Weiser, Brennan Center for Justice

Faculty: Juan Cartagena, Latino Justice PRLDEF; Frank Deale, CUNY School of Law; Randy McLaughlin, Pace Law School; Victorien Wu, NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Join our panel of experts as they discuss The Voting Rights Act of 1965, amendments to the law, key decisions interpreting the law and the impact on the disenfranchised.

Special attention will be paid to the recent state actions imposing limits or restrictions on voting rights, as well as some state actions that have actually made it easier for people to register to vote. Finally, our panelists will discuss the how the voting rights laws are likely to affect the outcome of the presidential and other key elections occurring this November.

Please click here to view brochure.  
Please click here to register.
For additional information on this event, please email,

Past events

In April, the Committee on Civil Rights sponsored a MCLE Credit program (1.5 credits in professional practice) that examined current laws and addressed the issues regarding the need for reforming bail procedures in New York State courts.
Please click here to access the coursebook for the Bail Reform in New York State: Moving Forward CLE Program. 
Please note, only people that were able to attend the program in-person are eligible for MCLE credit.  

The Committees on Civil Rights and Diversity & Inclusion sponsored this program during The New York State Bar Association's 139th Annual Meeting.  Whether you are a criminal defense attorney, judge, law school clinician, legal services attorney or the managing partner of a major law firm, implicit bias affects you every day. This program demonstrated implicit or unconscious bias so all lawyers understand how it impacts our work. A few specific views of bias in our profession were explored: Are law schools preparing lawyers who have awareness of the impact of bias? How can implicit bias affect setting bail or jury deliberations? When do we see implicit bias in the courtroom? How can we overcome the impact of bias in law firm employment determinations including promotion and partnership? 

Justice, Race and Police Force -- Going Beyond Ferguson and Garner

The Haywood Burns Memorial Award 

Vince Warren Heashot

Vincent Warren is the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He oversees CCR's groundbreaking litigation and advocacy work, which includes using international and domestic law to hold corporations and government officials accountable for human rights abuses; challenging racial, gender and LGBT injustice; and combating the illegal expansion of U.S. presidential power and policies such as illegal detention at Guantanamo, rendition, and torture. Prior to his tenure at CCR, Vince was a national senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, where he litigated civil rights cases, focusing on affirmative action, racial profiling, and criminal justice reform. Vince was also involved in monitoring South Africa's historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, and worked as a criminal defense attorney for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn. Vince is a graduate of Haverford College and Rutgers School of Law.

Vince is a frequent guest on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry Show, The Reid Report, and Up with Chris Hayes, and has appeared on Moyers & Company with Bill Moyers. His writing has been featured in the New York Times Room for Debate, on the Huffington Post, and on, among many publications.


Report on Executive Detention, Habeas Corpus and the Military Commissions Act of 2006

Solitary Confinement in New York State: Committee on Civil Right's Report to the House of Delegates