64 years after Brown v. Board of Education New Jersey civil rights leaders file historic lawsuit to integrate New Jersey schools

On May 17, 2018, leading education advocates and civil rights leaders filed a historic lawsuit in state court designed to integrate New Jersey’s schools. A copy of the complaint can be found here

“Sixty-four years after the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, New Jersey’s public schools are as segregated by race and poverty today as they were in 1954,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Sixty-four years after Brown, we have important promises to keep and still others to make to New Jersey’s students. This case is about finally making good on our promises.”

New Jersey’s racial diversity and racial segregation, in combination with its extreme wealth and punishing poverty, has created in New Jersey’s public school classrooms some of the fiercest segregation by race, ethnicity, and poverty in this country:

  • The median net worth for New Jersey’s white families is $271,402—the highest in America.

  • The median net worth for New Jersey’s Hispanic and Black families is just $7,020 and $5,900, respectively, together totaling less than 5 percent of the net worth of white families in the state.

  • Of the approximately 585,000 Black and Latino public school students in New Jersey, 63% of them attend schools that are more than 75% non-white.  

  • Nearly half of all Black and Latino public school students attend schools that are more than 90% non-white.  

  • More than 40 percent of white students attend schools that are at least 75% white.

“New Jersey cannot fulfill the promise of Brown, or the promise owed to our kids, without this lawsuit,” said Haygood. “No amount of good will, well wishes, or optimism will accomplish the systemic relief and fundamental transformation that is required. Integration is possible, it is necessary, and it is long overdue.”

Full disclosure: Institute Communications Director Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg's son is a plaintiff in the case and Weill-Greenberg is listed as his Guardian Ad Litem.

Scott Novakowski Speaks with the Wall Street Journal on Voting Rights Restoration

The Wall Street Journal reports:

In New Jersey, advocates are pursuing a legislative route to entirely end the system of felon disenfranchisement. The measure has drawn support from scores of civil-rights and faith groups, as well as other organizations, but its prospects remain uncertain, said Scott Novakowski, associate counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, which is promoting the measure.

Republican state Sen. Gerald Cardinale opposes the measure, saying at the time it was filed that for people who commit felonies, losing voting rights is “part of the risk they assume when they break the law.”

“I’m excited” about the bill, said Mr. Stackhouse, who also is trying to win an early end to his parole. “Let’s fight to stop this nonsense.”


Full Human Beings: An argument for incarcerated voter enfranchisement

People's Policy Project published a powerful report on the need to restore voting rights to people with convictions, featuring Institute intern Ronald Pierce:

Ronald Pierce, an intern with the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice who spent over 30 years in New Jersey state prisons, maintained in a phone interview that “the right to vote is a fundamental right, and a right to be connected to society. Not only a right to participate, but an obligation to the society.” When people in prison are prevented from fulfilling that obligation, he said, they become disconnected from the rest of society—and without that connection, there is no feeling of responsibility. “If you can’t fulfill your obligation to that community, why should that community look at you as an asset? You aren’t an asset to that community; you are a debt to that community.”

The Institute Welcomes Two New Board Members

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice welcomes Paulette Brown and Paul Fishman to its Board of Trustees.
Paulette and Paul join a prestigious team of highly respected leaders who are united around the belief that our cities hold incredible promise to advance progressive solutions to some of the greatest social and racial justice challenges of our time.
Paulette and Paul's professional expertise, coupled with their hearts for social justice, will help the Board powerfully advance the Institute's work.Paulette_Brown_1.jpg

Paulette made history as the first Black woman to ever serve as the President of the American Bar Association. She also served as the President of the National Bar Association. She is a partner at Locke Lord LLP and a member of the firm’s labor & employment practice group. For more than 35 years, Paulette has engaged in the private practice of law, focusing on all facets of labor and employment and commercial litigation. She regularly provides diversity and inclusion/implicit bias training to companies, law firms, and industry organizations.  Paul_Fishman_1.jpg

Paul has devoted his career to advancing social justice. Under his leadership as the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, the City of Newark entered into a consent decree with the United States Department of Justice to bring about widespread transformation to the Newark Police Division, following findings that the Division had engaged in a number of unconstitutional practices. Paul is now a partner at Arnold & Porter and heads the firm’s Crisis Management and Strategic Response team. 

News Beat Podcast: Juvenile Detention's Racial Disparity, Rampant Violence & Lasting Damage


On this News Beat podcast, the Institute's James Williams talks about why we must end youth incarceration. Listen here

Scott Novakowski Speaks with Governing: Why We Must Restore the Right to Vote to People with Convictions

Governing reports:

"It's just not a credible argument to say that voting presents a threat to public safety," says Scott Novakowski, associate counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, which is pushing for restoration of voting rights for felons, including those currently serving time. "There's no justification for this practice. It's having a massive impact on communities of color."

The stakes are large. Nationwide, 6 million people with felony convictions are disenfranchised, including 4.7 million who have completed their prison sentences. The Florida ban alone affects 1.6 million, or 10 percent of the state's voting-age population. Florida is one of 33 states that doesn't automatically restore voting rights to ex-felons. (Two, Maine and Vermont, don't strip felons of their voting rights at all -- even while they're incarcerated...)

"New Jersey unfortunately has the greatest disparity in convictions," says Novakowski of the state's Institute for Social Justice. "A black adult is 12 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white adult. This idea of tying the criminal justice system to the right to vote is furthering this inequality and reproducing it within the electorate."

Comcast Newsmakers: New Report and Racial Disparities In New Jersey's Youth Prison System


Institute Associate Counsel Andrea McChristian spoke with Comcast Newsmakers about her new report on building a prison-to-school pipeline. Watch the interview here

Teen Vogue: New Jersey Has Adopted Automatic Voter Registration

Teen Vogue reports:

This will be the first voting rights bill I sign, but I hope it won’t be the last,” Murphy said. Currently, New Jersey is looking at more voting legislation to potentially adopt, including early voting and Election Day registration. As Mic reports, members of the state legislature are also working to give voting rights back to convicted felons who are still in prison or on parole or probation.

Newburgh Gazette: New Jersey Adopts Automatic Voter Registration

Newburgh Gazette reports:

Among the local groups that advocated for the law are the state chapters of the ACLU and League of Women Voters, as well as the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. "It will get a ton more people registered", said Murphy.

"We stand in stark contrast to President Trump and others whose only interest lays in restricting voting rights and suppressing voters' voices", Mr. Murphy said before signing the bill in Trenton.

Murphy says registering to vote should be simple and seamless.

The law (A-2014), automatically registers and updates voter registration for those applying for a driver's license, examination permit, probationary driver's license or non-driver identification card. Assembly and Senate committees had approved the significant changes after little to no debate or public testimony.

Common Dreams: In Effort to 'Strengthen' Democracy, New Jersey Enacts Automatic Voter Registration

Common Dreams reports:

Among the local groups that advocated for the law are the state chapters of the ACLU and League of Women Voters, as well as the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Representatives from the groups attended Tuesday's signing ceremony....

"We are building an inclusive democracy from the ground up right here in New Jersey, despite the racist, xenophobic, and dangerous policies being promoted by national leaders, including President Donald Trump," says Ryan Haygood.