Haywood Burns Memorial Award

By Hanna Madbak posted 01-27-2016 07:54 PM


Each year, the Committee on Civil Rights honors an individual with the Haywood Burns Memorial Award for his or her work in protecting, promoting, and expanding civil rights.  This year, the Committee is proud to honor Vincent Warren.


Mr. Warren is the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.  In that role, he has been a leader in promoting critical civil rights issues that range from challenging New York City’s “stop and frisk” policies, to fighting against the illegal detention of individuals at Guantanamo Bay, to holding corporations and government officials accountable for human rights abuses.  Prior to joining CCR, Mr. Warren was a senior staff attorney at the ACLU, where he successfully litigated Gratz v. Bollinger, a case in which the Supreme Court found the University of Michigan’s undergraduate affirmative action admissions policy to be constitutional, and White v. Martz, which helped establish the first statewide public defender system in Montana.  Mr. Warren also served as a criminal defense attorney at the Legal Aid Society and monitored the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.


Mr. Warren’s contributions and dedication to promoting civil rights make him an obvious choice to receive the Haywood Burns Memorial Award, and the Committee congratulates him on this well-deserved honor.  But even as we celebrate Mr. Warren and the significant civil rights victories that he has been able to achieve, it is clear that so much more remains undone. 


We’ve asked past recipients of the Haywood Burns Memorial Award to tell us their thoughts on the most important civil rights victories of the past year and the most pressing civil rights challenges we face.



Glenn D. Magpantay, Executive Director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), recipient of the NYSBA’s 2015 Haywood Burns Memorial Award. 


The most momentous civil rights victory from the past year was the right of same-sex couples to legally marry.  But while we can get marriage, we can also be fired from a job in many states, deported, or beaten up.  So much more is still needed to ensure LGBT acceptance.


Protecting the right to vote, especially for people of color, new Americans and those with limited English proficiency, is the most pressing civil rights issue that we currently face.  While I was acting as the Democracy Program Director at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) we filed a number of recent voting rights cases on behalf of Asian Americans in Philadelphia, PA and Houston, TX.  AALDEF’s Asian American Election Protection efforts will ensure that local elections officials on these and several other states, comply with the law this November.


Robert Gangi, Director of Police Reform Organizing Project, recipient of the NYSBA’s 2014 Haywood Burns Memorial Award.

In recent years the public, politicians, and press have given more attention to the problem of abusive and discriminatory policing than ever before in New York City and our nation’s history. The videos showing the excessive and sometimes deadly use of force, the cover-ups, the lame excuses, the damning statistics have come together in a forceful way to present a disturbing picture, to reveal ugly truths about policing and criminal justice practices in America’s urban centers. The problem is that still no meaningful change has taken place. Despite the promises, the extra training, the move toward diversity, the modest uptick in the use of body cameras, and the incremental drop in punitive interactions in some jurisdictions like New York City, policing by every applicable criteria continues to target, harass, and sanction low-income people of color for engaging in low-level infractions and/or innocuous activities that have been virtually decriminalized in well-off white communities. 


The fundamental changes that the city’s leading policy makers should adopt to achieve a fair and effective system and to eliminate the blatantly racist practices that taint our body politic are: 


·         Abandon ‘broken windows’ policing that results in the everyday punishment of black and brown New Yorkers engaging in petty infractions or innocuous activities.


·         Abolish the NYPD’s quota system that puts pressure on officers to make frivolous arrests and to issue bogus summonses that serve to criminalize innocent people and activities.


·         Reduce the NYPD’s personnel, responsibilities, and budget by assigning some of its current duties to better-equipped and trained professionals and agencies like the Departments of Health and Consumer Affairs and mental health and social work counselors who can provide services and enhance public safety more effectively and humanely. 


Enacting these fundamental reforms would represent a major step toward achieving the progressive vision of a safe, just, and inclusive city for all New Yorkers. 




Dean Howard Glickstein, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at Touro Law, recipient of the NYSBA’s 2013 Haywood Burns Memorial Award.

Aside from the Supreme Court decision validating same sex marriage, there were no momentous civil rights victories in 2015. In fact, civil rights victories in recent years have consisted mainly of successful efforts to prevent or minimize the undoing of past victories.


The assault on past victories probably has been nowhere more intense than in the area of voting rights. President Lyndon Johnson stated it well: “The right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless.”  We have seen efforts to diminish this right through voter identification laws and the undoing of one of the critical provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Our campaign finance laws also dilute the electoral influence of all those without significant financial resources at their disposal. And we now await a Supreme Court decision which could redefine the one man-one vote principle.


The one man-one vote principle has been almost universally applied to require approximately equal populations from district to district. In Evenwel v. Abbott, recently argued before the Supreme Court, the equal population formulation has been challenged. Instead, districts would be compared based on the number of people registered or eligible to vote. Under such a formulation, noncitizens, children, felons and others ineligible to vote would not be considered in determining parity among districts. This will benefit rural districts over urban districts and especially impact districts with large numbers of noncitizen Latinos.  Our Latino population is growing rapidly, and this would be a preemptive strike against their influence.


Perhaps our most successful civil rights victories have involved voting rights. We must be vigilant to secure those rights.

The Committee is solely responsible for the contents of this blog.  It does not represent the position of the New York State Bar Association unless or until approved by its Executive Committee or House of Delegates.

The author[s] is solely responsible for this blog submission.  It does not represent the position of the New York State Bar Association or its Committee.