Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mecklenburg County Bar publishes new history

Over the past century, Mecklenburg County Bar lawyers have played key roles in Charlotte's most important public debates and controversies.

Now, a new book, "An Independent Profession: A Centennial History of the Mecklenburg County Bar,"
tells many of those stories through a legal lens.

Veteran authors Marion Ellis and Howard Covington spent two years researching and writing the book, which was commissioned by the Mecklenburg County Bar and Mecklenburg Bar Foundation.

 Longtime Charlotteans have lived some of this history. The book devotes a chapter, for instance, to the late U.S. District Court Judge James McMillan's groundbreaking 1970 Swann v.Mecklenburg ruling, which found that schools could use busing to achieve integration.

 It also details the personal toll the case took on participants. Thugs firebombed the homes of plaintiffs' attorney Julius Chambers and two other Charlotte civil rights activists. Later, an arsonist set fire to Chambers' law firm office.

McMillan was also judge in the precedent-setting Hyatt case. Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont teamed with Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson lawyers to successfully challenge a 1984 Social Security Administration ruling that took away the disability benefits of thousands of N.C. residents. The Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson team ultimately won national recognition for its pro bono work.

Ellis, a former Observer reporter, told me he learned a lot researching this book. One of his favorite discoveries was the Mecklenburg Bar's Lawyer Referral Service, a valuable public service that gives people up to a 30-minute consultation with a lawyer for $50.

 Ellis and Covington will sign copies of the new book (Lorimer Press; $24.95), at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.