Rhode Island Affiliate, American Civil Liberties Union


Court Cases Over the Years

The Rights of Racial and Ethnic Minorities

While the ideal of a society free from discrimination on the basis of race has a long way to go, the R.I. ACLU has worked hard to see that goal achieved in Rhode Island. In addition to its litigative activities, the Affiliate has led legislative efforts to strengthen the state’s Fair Employment Practices Act. Below are some of the cases in which the Affiliate has been involved that deal with this important issue:

1984: Puerto Rican Political Action Committee v. DiStefano

Successful federal lawsuit challenging state “verification procedure” for newly registered voters as an illegal literacy test.

1984: In re: Manuel Roderick

Successful representation of a man who had been refused permission to change his name to an Islamic name because of a past criminal record.

1990: Yang v. Sturner

Favorably settled federal lawsuit on behalf of a Hmong family whose son was autopsied against their religious beliefs.

1991: Cambodian Society of R.I. v. Town of West Warwick

Successful lawsuit challenging a town’s cancellation of a Cambodian group’s use of Civic Center based on unsubstantiated fear of possible violence.

1996: Doriney v. Votto

Favorably settled lawsuit on behalf of a nine-year-old African-American girl taken to the police station from school after being accused of throwing a snowball at another student.

1999: Fernandes v. Immigration and Naturalization Service

Successful federal “habeas corpus” petition challenging, on due process grounds, the indefinite detention of this lawful permanent resident awaiting deportation.

2000: Martinez v. Pawtucket Housing Authority

Successfully settled racial discrimination complaint on behalf of a Puerto Rican temporary custodian who was passed over for a permanent position after he “failed” a newly-devised written test.

2001: In re: Ang Souvannaphavoung

Appeal to terminate deportation removal proceedings against a Laotian immigrant who fears persecution if returned to his native land.

2001: Flowers v. Fiore

Federal lawsuit on behalf of an African-American man who was stopped in his car and detained at gunpoint by the Westerly police in an incident of racial profiling.

2003: Narragansett Indian Tribe v. State of Rhode Island

“Friend of the court” brief challenging the legality of a state police raid of a smoke shop on Narragansett Indian tribal land.

2003: Melendez v. Town of North Smithfield

Federal lawsuit, on behalf of a female Hispanic firefighter applicant, challenging a state law giving a town a one-time exemption from the Fair Employment Practices Act in order to allow its acquisition of an all white, all male private fire and rescue service.

2003: Metts v. Almond

“Friend of the court” brief in this redistricting lawsuit, arguing that the lower court used an improper legal standard in dismissing claims that black voting power on the South Side of Providence was improperly diluted by recently redrawn Senate district lines.

2005: R.I. ACLU v. State of Rhode Island [Court Interpreters]

Complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that the state has failed to provide adequate interpreter services to criminal defendants.

2006: United States v. Pho

The ACLU prepared a brief supporting the ability of judges to consider, when sentencing defendants, the discriminatory nature of federal guidelines that treat crack cocaine more severely than powder cocaine.

2011: Qu v. Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation

Federal lawsuit on behalf of the family of a 34-year-old Chinese detainee who died while in the custody of immigration officials at the Wyatt Detention Facility. 

See Other Highlighted Discrimination Cases:

Return to: Recent Discrimination Cases

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