Theodore M. Shaw, the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law at UNC School of Law and director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, is the recipient of the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Constitution Society (ACS).
“It’s a great privilege to award the ACS Lifetime Achievement Award to Theodore M. Shaw,” said ACS President Russ Feingold. “His whole career Theodore has been a staunch advocate for civil rights and one of our country’s brightest legal minds, fighting for fair and equitable treatment in housing, labor, and education law. We are incredibly grateful to have him as a loyal member of the ACS family.”
Shaw teaches Civil Procedure, Advanced Constitutional Law, voting rights and election law. His research areas include the Fourteenth Amendment, affirmative action, election law, and housing law. He joined the Carolina Law faculty in 2014 and has guided the Center for Civil Rights to national prominence as a bastion for strategic civil rights advocacy.
“Many years ago, the need for an organization dedicated to a progressive vision of the U.S. Constitution became apparent,” Shaw said. “That need called the American Constitution Society into being. Today, the American Constitution Society is one of our nation’s most important organizations. Dedicated to ‘the promotion of individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, access to justice, democracy, and the rule of law,’ the need for ACS is greater now than ever before. I am deeply honored to receive the ACS Lifetime Achievement Award. I accept it with great humility, with the hope that when my life’s achievements are complete, I will have proved myself worthy, and as a reminder of how much I am still called to do in pursuit of the principles of the American Constitution Society.”
Shaw worked as a NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) lawyer for 23 years, bringing suit in a variety of elementary, secondary and higher education, capital punishment, housing, and voting rights cases. He served as a trial attorney in the honors program of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1979 to 1982. He worked in and directed LDF’s education docket from 1982-1987 and helped establish and co-direct LDF’s West Coast Regional Office from 1987-1990, where he represented victims of civil rights abuses in education, labor, and housing-related cases. Shaw then taught at the University of Michigan School from 1990-1993, where he helped initiate a review of the school’s admission processes, which was later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger. Shaw served as LDF’s associate director-counsel from 1993-2003 and director-counsel and president from 2004-2008. From 2008-2014 he was professor of professional practice at Columbia Law School and of counsel to Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP.
In 1997-1998 Shaw held the Haywood Burns Chair at CUNY School of Law at Queens College and in 2003-2004 he held the Phyllis Beck Chair at Temple Law School in Philadelphia. He is a member of the ACS Board of Advisors.