Monday, October 28, 2013
For those who do not immediately recognize the name, Steve Morrison was a long time partner of Nelson Mullins, one of the most influential law firms in the South. But most know Steve not for his work representing paying clients, but for his pro bono work. Steve is near and dear to the hearts of school children in South Carolina and school funding advocates nationally because he devoted so much of his time over the past 15 years litigating a school finance case for free. I only had the good fortune to meet Steve a few times, but I was most impressed by his willingness to take on not just school finance, but race. School finance litigation can often devolve into no more than a debate over data. The state's motivations are not necessarily relevant. And, in some cases, beyond poverty, the demographics of the children may not be of explicit concern either.
Steve, however, just as recently as last year's arguments before the Supreme Court, insisted that race mattered. He did not charge a racial segregation case per se, but he insisted that that the story of South Carolina's poor schools was heavily intertwined with the state's history of segregated schools. He said that the state had condemned its poorest minority children to educational ghettos. He sent chills through the room as he levied this and other charges at the state. These are not the sort of arguments one would normally expect a white, male, esteemed partner in one of the South's most prominent firms. He was truly a remarkable man. His presence will be sorely missed. More details on Steve's life are available here.