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UNC Center for Civil Rights step closer to losing right to sue

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The UNC Center for Civil Rights, was founded in 2001.

Tuesday marked a turning point at the UNC Center for Civil Rights. The 16-year-old litigating powerhouse founded by Julius Chambers is now a step closer to losing some of its power.

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In a 5-1 vote, the education committee from the UNC Board of Governors approved a draft proposal to block the Center's litigation abilities.

The measure includes litigation on behalf of an individual against another person, entity or government.

The policy would also ban centers and institutes from serving as legal counsel.

During the BOG's debate on the issue - another one took shape outside their meeting - between Republican supporters of the policy and opponents.

North Carolina College Republicans threw their support behind the proposed policy to curb the center's litigation powers.

The committee vote to change the university-wide policy now moves to the full board in September.

RELATED: Supporters to board: Let UNC law center litigate cases

The policy change was board member Steve Long's idea.

In a statement, he said, in part: "I am pleased that the committee voted to keep our academic centers focused on education, not litigation."

"It's insulting," says Scott Holmes, clinical professor of law at NC Central University. "Because our work is serving poor and vulnerable communities and learning civil rights and teaching civil rights by doing civil rights in law school."

"I believe the Center for Civil Rights work is most appropriate at this public institution (UNC) which has a history of owning slaves and oppressing people because of their skin color. And the Center for Civil Rights was a great way to heal that historic wrong," said Elizabeth Haddix, senior staff attorney for the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

Haddix said she's not sure what the future of the Center will look like, but that it will likely move off campus and continue working on existing cases. The center is prohibited from working on new legal cases.

On September 8, the full board will review the public comments on the issue, and possible alternatives presented by UNC's Chancellor.

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