Working to Make Civil Rights Right

“As a lawyer, I am excited to be part of moving things forward and helping with the thoughtful determination of these issues.” Read more in the CCBA’s President’s Message” published in the COMMUNIQUÉ (Feb. 2023)

As all lawyers learned in law school, the federal constitution only limited the size and scope of the federal government. But, with the passage of the 14th Amendment in July of 1968, the protections of the U.S. Constitution were extended to the states. The 14th Amendment has long served as the primary tool for constraining government abuses and for vindicating what can generally be referred to as civil rights – the focus of this month’s Communiqué.

In this nation’s long history, race and civil rights have always been deeply intertwined. The 14th Amendment was primarily a response to horrendous atrocities that were occurring after the Civil War, and Sec.1 of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, known today as 41 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, was enacted as the legal mechanism to enforce it.

Not unlike many places in this country, Clark County has a complicated history with race issues. In his publication “The Mississippi of the West?,” Michael S. Green quotes NAACP attorney Franklin Williams after a 1954 visit – Las Vegas was “a non-southern city with the pattern of the deep south . . . Human rights in the western states are in a vacuum.”

And the history is not all that old either. I recall Pahrump’s brief, and misguided “English-only” ordinance passed in 2006.

But like most of our history, despite some painful bumps along the way, we are on an upward trajectory. I am so proud of the work that the Clark County Bar Association and other organizations have done on diversity, inclusion, and equity. Our committee on the issue, DICE, has done great work educating folks about and elevating these important issues.

While these race issues are central to the topic of civil rights, the subject has taken on notable breadth in recent years. By a wide margin, Nevadans recently voted to amend the Constitution of the State of Nevada to prohibit the denial of rights based on “age, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.” In addition, issues like education choice, religious freedom, economic freedom, personal medical determination, reproductive rights, and so many more have been the subject of political campaigns, legislation, and high-profile legal battles.
As the landscape of civil rights expands, so are the tools for vindicating them. Very recently, the Supreme Court of Nevada issued an opinion in Mack v. Williams (read more inside from a better author) clarifying that Nevadans have a right to recover money damages for the violation of certain rights under the Nevada Constitution.

As a lawyer, I am excited to be part of moving things forward and helping with the thoughtful determination of these issues. There are times in my day-to-day that I lose focus of the critical role lawyers play in shaping society and its trajectory. The best of us get to do it in the Brown v Board cases, but the rest of us do it every time we help someone exercise, vindicate, or even just understand their rights a little better.

About this article: This article was originally published in the “Five Things” issue of Communiqué (Feb. 2023), the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association. See https://clarkcountybar.org/member-benefits/communique-2023/communique-february-2023/

About the author
Brandon Kemble

Brandon Kemble is an Assistant City Attorney in the Civil Division with the City of Henderson. Brandon handles litigation for the city and provides legal advice and legislative support for various city departments. Brandon serves as the CCBA President through December 2023.

Please Support DICE CLE Series + a Nevada Bar Foundation Matching Challenge!

The CCBA is producing a series of professional programs designed to address, inform, and educate Nevada bar members regarding diversity, inclusion, and equity.
To help our efforts, the Nevada Bar Foundation (NBF) is pledging a $5,000 award to provide funding for five DICE CLE programs offered between September 22, 2022, and June 2023. Additionally, the NBF will provide a matching grant of up to $5,000!
Contact Donna at the CCBA office at (702) 387-6011 or complete the sponsor form at https://clarkcountybar.org/marketplace/sponsorship-opportunities/

© 2023 Clark County Bar Association (CCBA). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher. Editorial policy available upon request.

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