University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse collects documents and information from civil rights cases across the United States. It is available to scholars, teachers, students, policymakers, advocates, and the public, to allow greater understanding of historical and contemporary American civil rights litigation.
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This page of the site highlights cases that seem to us particularly interesting—because they are being litigated right now, or because they involve large numbers of people and very consequential issues, or because of their historical importance. But there are hundreds of cases in the Clearinghouse that could equally well qualify for "featured" status. We hope you enjoy exploring the collection.



COLLECTION STATISTICS
Our collection contains 7826 published cases and grows daily. The graphs below give you a glimpse into what has already been done as well as the cases still in the works. Note that an individual case can have more than one category.

coding completed
coding in process
Equal Employment (EE)
3110
112
Disability Rights-Pub. Accom. (DR)
864
17
Prison Conditions (PC)
846
62
Jail Conditions (JC)
744
25
Immigration and/or the Border (IM)
606
31
Public Benefits / Government Services (PB)
428
42
Education (ED)
250
57
Criminal Justice (Other) (CJ)
241
32
Policing (PN)
239
17
National Security (NS)
231
1
Fair Housing/Lending/Insurance (FH)
214
36
Speech and Religious Freedom (FA)
208
4
Juvenile Institution (JI)
191
3
School Desegregation (SD)
128
132
Intellectual Disability (Facility) (ID)
107
8
Election/Voting Rights (VR)
84
23
Mental Health (Facility) (MH)
75
12
Child Welfare (CW)
73
0
Presidential Authority (PR)
65
6
Indigent Defense (PD)
55
20
Public Accomm./Contracting (PA)
39
15
Nursing Home Conditions (NH)
33
3
Public Housing (PH)
23
15
Environmental Justice (EJ)
10
8
learn more about case types
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In April 2014, the city of Flint, MI began to draw water from the Flint River without adequately treating the water to prevent pipe corrosion. As a result, lead pipes degraded and lead leached into Flint’s water supply. Despite complaints from some of the approximately 100,000 afflicted residents and tests that indicated elevated lead levels, Flint did not switch to a safer water source until October 2015. The governor appointed an investigative commission that identified "government failure[s], intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, [and] inaction" leading to the crisis.

Individuals, businesses, and other organizations have filed numerous lawsuits against local and state officials and contractors involved in the Flint water crisis. The Clearinghouse will follow these cases closely as the litigation proceeds.

Relevant case(s) include:
In Daves v. Dallas, eight arrestees challenged Dallas County’s policy of demanding standardized bail amounts without considering whether or not they could afford to pay. The district court certified a class of arrestees who were in jail because they could not afford bail and issued a preliminary injunction against the County. The defendants have appealed to the Fifth Circuit, and the case is ongoing.

The Clearinghouse is following Daves as part of a special collection on Fines, Fees, and Bail Reform. Individuals and advocacy organizations across the country have challenged government policies that keep pretrial detainees who cannot afford bail in jail or impose fines and fees for low-level offenses that defendants cannot afford to pay and then jail them if they fail to pay. For more information, see the list of fines, fees, and bail reform cases.


Relevant case(s) include:
On February 26, 2019, a federal district court issued a ruling in Goodman v. Davis that enjoined employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from enforcing a policy that prevented prisoners from wearing long hair as required by the Native American plaintiffs’ religious beliefs. The judge found that the Department failed to support its claims that long-haired prisoners posed a security risk, especially because female prisoners were already allowed to wear long hair, and concluded that its policy violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

This case developed from a pro se plaintiff’s challenge to a number of prison rules, including ones that prevented him from smoking a prayer pipe and wearing medicine bags. While the district court (later affirmed by the Fifth Circuit) dismissed the majority of the original claims, the pro se plaintiff’s RLUIPA claim survived long enough for his case to be consolidated with similar lawsuits and for the plaintiffs to obtain pro bono counsel in 2018, six years after the litigation began.



Relevant case(s) include:
The petitioners in this class action habeas petition are Iraqi nationals. They had been subject to final orders of removal for many years, but the U.S. government had permitted them to reside in the community under orders of supervision. However, in early 2017, political negotiations by the Trump Administration led to Iraq’s agreement to allow some repatriations. On June 11, 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents began arresting and detaining Iraqi nationals in the metro Detroit area.

In response, on June 15, 2017, the petitioners brought this class action habeas petition. Represented by the ACLU of Michigan, the ACLU National Immigrant Rights Project, and others, they alleged that their removal into dangerous circumstances would violate the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and that removing them without giving them a chance to assert their defenses under the INA and CAT would violate the Due Process Clause.

The petitioners sought and received multiple preliminary injunctions to stay removals, ordering individualized bond hearings, and ordering the release of detainees who had been held longer than six months. The government appealed the stay of removal and required bond hearings. The Sixth Circuit vacated the preliminary injunctions halting removal and ordering bond hearings; the government's appeal of the release order is pending. This case is a part of a broader Clearinghouse special collection, Civil Rights Challenges to Trump Immigration Enforcement Orders, that collects challenges to immigration enforcement orders issued by President Trump relating to: (1) Sanctuary cities/states, (2) DACA, (3) Deportations under the Trump administration, and (4) Border wall construction.

The Clearinghouse will continue following this case closely as the litigation proceeds.


Relevant case(s) include:
This lawsuit by Tyson Manker and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress (litigated by a Yale Law School clinic) challenges the Naval Discharge Review Board’s denial of almost 90% of applications by Navy and Marine Corps veterans to upgrade their less-than-honorable discharges received as a result of behaviors connected to their service-acquired mental health issues. These less-than-honorable discharges, received due to mental health issues such as PTSD or traumatic brain injury (TBI), prevent veterans from accessing essential benefits, such as the GI bill and much needed mental health care. Manker alleges that these unfair discharges and denied appeals violate the applicants’ due process rights.

On November 15, 2008, Senior District Judge Charles Haight Jr. granted the plaintiffs' request for class certification. The class includes thousands of Navy and Marine Corps veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who received less-than-honorable discharges, have not received upgrades of their discharges from the Naval Discharge Review Board, and have diagnoses of PTSD, TBI, or other related mental health conditions attributable to their military service. This class action is proceeding in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut.

Relevant case(s) include:
There have been unprecedented volumes of disclosures about FISA matters over the past year—between the Edward Snowden documents, FOIA-litigation-driven declassifications by the government, the FISA Court’s new on-line docket, and papers filed in district court cases around the country, for the first time, there’s now lots of information out there about FISA implementation. The Clearinghouse has assembled a comprehensive presentation of FISA litigation information, including all the declassified FISA Court cases, and lots of cases dealing with FISA in U.S. District Courts – not only the recent disclosures but the few FISA Court opinions declassified years ago, as well. (This one, from 1981, is particularly interesting – it's when the FISA Court held that FISA did not authorize a physical search.) All of this is retrievable and searchable from our regular search page, but for ease of reference, we've put together some ready-made groupings:
FISA – All Matters
FISA Court
FISA – Telephony Metadata (Section 215)
FISA – Internet Metadata (PR/TT)
FISA – Foreign Targeting (Section 702, 703, 704)
Criminal Cases Challenging FISA Surveillance


The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse has assembled a number of special case collections. These are accessible from the case search page, or (for many) right from this list:
Employment discrimination cases:
In addition, we have grouped together cases brought by the same law offices , including (for example) the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division; the national ACLU; the Prison Law Office; and others. These too are accessible from the case search page.


Even though this is the most famous civil rights case ever, the relevant litigation documents are not easy to come by. The Supreme Court decisions, in 1954 (announcing the rule that "separate is inherently unequal") and 1955 (announcing that remediation of Jim Crow school segregation could proceed "with all deliberate speed"), were obviously extraordinarily important, and are easily available. But the litigation in Topeka lasted from the filing of the first complaint in 1951 until final dismissal of the case in 1999. The Clearinghouse has copies of many of the crucial documents in the case.

Relevant case(s) include: