John C. Brittain
Professor of Law
John C. Brittain is a tenured professor of law at the
University of the District of
Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law. In the past
he served as dean of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern
University in Houston, was a veteran law professor at the University of
Connecticut School of Law for twenty-two years and was the Chief Counsel and
Senior Deputy Director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in
Washington, DC, a public interest legal organization started by President John F. Kennedy to enlist private lawyers to take pro bono cases in civil rights.
He has also been the president of the National Lawyers'
Guild, a member of the Executive Committee and the Board of the
ACLU, and legal counsel to NAACP at the local level and national
office of the General Counsel. In 1993, the
NAACP awarded Professor Brittain the coveted William Robert Ming Advocacy Award
for legal service to the NAACP without a fee. The Ming award was named in honor
of a former African American law professor at the University of Chicago and a
brilliant civil rights lawyer who closely worked with Thurgood Marshall.
Professor Brittain is an education law specialist and one of
the original counsel in Sheff v. O'Neill, a landmark school
desegregation case decided by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1996. He was frequently
mentioned in the book, The Children in Room E4: American Education on
Susan Eaton, an excellent chronicle of the Sheff case. In addition, Brittain was
a part of a legal team that filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the
NAACP in the Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School
Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education (Louisville) school cases decided by the U.S. Supreme
Court (2007) concerning voluntary race-conscious student assignment plans. Further, he filed a friend of the court brief
in the Connecticut adequacy finance lawsuit styled Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education
Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell (2010), another landmark case that recognized such
a right under the education clause of the Connecticut Constitution. In one
other related area, Brittain has concentrated on the intersection between housing and
school segregation, and the policies that contribute to the condition of
structural poverty in low-income and neighborhoods of color.
the higher educational level, his mentor, the late Professor Herbert O. Reid,
the Charles Hamilton Houston Distinguished Professor Law at Howard University,
trained Brittain to pursue comparability and competitiveness for historically black
colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Indeed, he earned a BA (1966) and JD (1969) from Howard University. He
is admitted to practice in Connecticut, Mississippi, California
and associated federal courts. He is
currently a part of a legal team representing private plaintiffs in a federal
lawsuit against the defendant State of Maryland denying the historically black
institutions of higher learning – Morgan, Coppin, Bowie and Maryland Eastern
Shore Universities -- comparable and competitive opportunities with traditional
the field of philanthropy, Brittain served on the Board of Directors of the
Hartford Community Foundation. He is the
current Chairperson of the Norflet Fund Cy Pres, a charitable organization, created
by a settlement in a lawsuit involving John Hancock for racial discrimination against
African Americans in selling life insurance, that will distribute approximately
$16 million in grants to benefit African Americans in education, health, and
his numerous publications have focused on civil and human rights, and he is a
frequent dynamic public speaker. In addition, he has participated in filing
nearly a dozen briefs in the Supreme Court.
Professor Brittain has traveled extensively throughout the
world on international human rights investigations in Africa, Central America,
the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and further to the
United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
He loves reading books and sailing, and enjoys a national
ranking for masters runners in his age group. Like the comedian and activist, Dick Gregory,
Brittain is a vegetarian – he eats no meats, fish or fowl.
Telephone: (202) 274-6443