Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR)

Based in Atlanta, SCHR is a nonprofit, public interest law firm dedicated to providing and improving legal representation for the poor in the Southern US.
Organization website

Primary geographic focus: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia
Organization type(s): Provider
Acronym or short name: SCHR

The Southern Center for Human Rights is a nonprofit, public interest law firm dedicated to providing legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenging human rights violations in prisons and jails, seeking through litigation and advocacy to improve legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, and advocating for criminal justice reform on behalf of those affected by the system in the Southern United States.

Making real the Constitutional right to counsel
The Supreme Court has held that a poor person accused of a crime is entitled to the “guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him.” Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 355, 344-45 (1963). But Gideon’s constitutional mandate – which is essential to a fair trial – has been resisted and ignored in many parts of the country, particularly in the Deep South.

SCHR has brought attention to deficiencies in legal representation of the poor through articles and reports, testimony to committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and state legislatures, and in appearances before various audiences and the media. SCHR also challenges deficient representation on behalf of those who have been denied it and brought lawsuits seeking to correct systemic deficiencies.

SCHR’s five-year effort to bring about creation of a public defender system in Georgia included six lawsuits, two reports, extensive documentation of the deficiencies of the representation or lack of representation provided by each of Georgia’s 159 counties, and work with legislators, bar associations, and others.


News Story

Right to Lawyer Can Be Empty Promise for Poor

Ethan Bronner
New York Times (NYT)
March 13, 2013
SCHR has filed a class-action suit seeking a guarantee of a lawyer in civil cases in Georgia where someone faces a loss of liberty.

This page last modified: Thu, April 30, 2015 -- 5:41 pm ET