Litigate Like it’s 1948

Juneteenth celebrates the day that Texas slaves learned of their freedom at the end of the Civil War, some two months after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in April. Because news traveled slowly at that time, Texas slaves learned they were free long after most other slaves in the Confederacy heard the news.

Fortunately, with today’s instant communication, such a thing could never happen in the modern world, right? Well, apparently tiny Normanna, Texas, is somewhat insulated from the march of history, at least in the realm of civil rights. The San Domingo cemetery there was sued recently after it refused to bury a Hispanic man because doing so would violate the cemetery’s alleged “whites-only” policy.

According to the federal lawsuit filed by widow Dorothy Barrera, cemetery operator Jimmy Bradford told Barrera that her request to bury her husband Pedro at the cemetery had been denied by the Normanna Cemetery Association “because he’s a Mexican.” Bradford then reportedly directed her to “go up the road and bury him with the n------ and Mexicans” in the nearby Del Bosque Cemetery.

Now, such discriminatory covenants on real estate have been unenforceable since, um, 1948, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional in Shelly v. Kraemer. They are also against Texas law.

Fortunately, attorney Marisa Bono and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund were there to right this wrong. After Bono filed suit, lawyers for the cemetery quickly agreed to a judgment that found the discriminatory rule to be void.

Kudos to Ms. Bono and MALDEF for representing Ms. Barrera in her moment of grief, and a hat tip to the cemetery’s lawyers for (presumably) persuading their client to not fight what has been the clear law of the land since Harry Truman was president.

Posted: 8/3/2016 8:29:54 AM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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