Showcasing a landmark case
Attorneys and others were transported back to 1961 as they watched a reenactment of Meredith v. Fair, a landmark civil rights case in which James Meredith, an African-American student, applied for admission to the University of Mississippi, which had never admitted an African-American before. Meredith was rejected, despite being qualified, and he sued the university in federal court in Mississippi, claiming he was denied admission due to his race. Meredith ultimately prevailed.
Twenty-five members of the Nassau Bar had parts in the reenactment, which took place at the association’s Mineola headquarters May 2, before an audience of about 100 people.
Attorney Christopher DelliCarpini played Meredith and Nassau Academy of Law Past Dean Chandra Ortiz portrayed Constance Baker Motley, his attorney. Hon. Randall Eng played Chief Judge Sidney Mize of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, while Diana Lorzada Ruiz did the part of Dugas Shands, known for his underhanded tactics to manipulate African-Americans on the witness stand. Nassau Bar Treasurer Dorian Glover was Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
The event was spearheaded by the Nassau Bar’s diversity and inclusion committee.
“Presenting a performance is inclusive as well as fun for the performers and audience,” said Hon. Maxine Broderick, vice chair of the committee. “At the same time, it serves as an excellent opportunity to network with peers. In addition, we offered diversity CLEs for this production to satisfy the state-required ‘diversity, inclusion and elimination of bias’ CLE requirement.”
The script was meticulously based on actual court records, depositions, news reports and memoirs. As the actors spoke their lines, slides flashed on a nearby screen showing the real people they were portraying.
“It was a great program,” said Nassau Bar President Steven Leventhal, who portrayed Dixiecrat Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. “I was the bad guy. I played the governor who refused to integrate. If you’re like me, when you read through this script it makes you angry. As the civil rights era recedes farther and farther into the past, there are fewer of us that have actual personal memories of it. We thought it would be a valuable reminder to some and a revelation to others about the courage of the participants, the significance of the events and the vigor of the resistance to change, which we must always remember, as those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.”