December 2017 Bar Bulletin
By Karen Murray
The King County Bar Association and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Luncheon Committee are pleased to announce that Theodore M. Shaw, the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill, will be the guest speaker at the annual event honoring Dr. King.
Shaw will provide his personal perspective on Dr. King’s legacy in today’s political climate, along with his professional insights from his experience as president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 2004–08. Shaw also will address how the legacy of Dr. King and other civil rights leaders (past and present) endures given the perception or reality that the gains of the Civil Rights Movement are rapidly eroding and, if this is indeed true, what to do about it.
Shaw received his B.A. with honors from Wesleyan University, and earned his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow. Shaw was also an Aspen Fellow in Law and Social Justice, a Twenty-First Century Trust Fellow in London, and a Salzburg Fellow in Salzburg.
With such scholarly credentials, he was asked to join many prestigious boards and committees that would go far beyond his local roots. For three years, Shaw served as an alumni-elected trustee of Wesleyan University and from 1991–2003 he served as an appointed charter trustee. He retired from the board as senior vice-chair and went on to serve on the Legal Advisory Committee of the European Roma Rights Centre, a Budapest-based human rights organization, and the Board of American Constitution Society.
Today Shaw holds the status of trustee emeritus at Wesleyan; is a member of the Board of Equal Rights Trust, a London-based international human rights organization; the International Center for Transitional Justice; the Board of Directors of the New Press; and the Board of Deacons of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City.
During 26 years at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Shaw proved to be a force to be reckoned with. His stellar intellect and legal skills focused on civil rights and constitutional problems, litigating issues that are still at the forefront today: education, employment, voting rights, police misconduct, housing, capital punishment and many others.
From 1982–87, Shaw directed the Legal Defense Fund under the mentorship of Director Julius Chambers. Given Chambers’ faith in Shaw’s legal talents, he was sent to Los Angeles to establish LDF’s Western Regional Office. After three years in L.A., Shaw moved from the courtroom to the classroom, leaving LDF to join the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School, where he taught constitutional law, civil procedure and civil rights.
Combining his love and passion for civil rights and the Constitution, Shaw played a crucial role in urging the university to review its law school admissions practices and policies, and later served on the faculty committee that eventually created the admissions program that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger. After three years at Michigan, Shaw returned to LDF as associate director-counsel, and in 2004 he became LDF’s fifth director-counsel.
Back on the Chapel Hill campus, where many renowned civil rights activists attended and made their future legacies in the Civil Rights Movement, Shaw is confronting the recent UNC system Board of Governors’ decision in September to bar litigation by the Chapel Hill School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights. Shaw, the law clinicians and students can only be asking themselves, “What chilling effect will this have on the Center and future civil rights legislation?”
How timely and what an opportunity to have Shaw speak with us about bringing this fight from the hallways of academia to the people’s courtroom to seek justice. Please join us in welcoming Shaw and in honoring the legacy of Dr. King and all civil rights activists (past and present), and to say thank you for their individual and ongoing commitments in advancing social justice, human rights and civil rights for all.