Post-DOMA Litigation Task Force

Chaired by SC Equality board member and attorney, Malissa Burnette, the Post-DOMA Litigation Task Force has been given a clear mission from the board of SC Equality -- determine what the next step for marriage equality in South Carolina should be.

Comprised of some of the best and brightest legal minds in our state, this volunteer Task Force is looking at every aspect of the Supreme Court ruling, our state's laws, and the federal and state court systems - everything it takes to build a case for marriage equality. Advice from this Task Force, whose members are participating on a pro bono basis, will be based on an extensive review of case history and legal expertise, with emphasis on the specifics of the South Carolina judicial system needed to win the any case that comes before us.

Click here to tell us YOUR stories about why Marriage Equality Matters to you in South Carolina!

Post-DOMA Litigation Task Force Members:

Malissa Burnette, Chair

Malissa Burnette lives in Columbia and is a Partner at the law firm of Callison Tighe. Certified by the SC Supreme Court as a Specialist in Employment & Labor Law, she has been practicing law for 33 years. Malissa is experienced in all aspects of civil rights and discrimination law as well as family law. She has been named one of the Best Lawyers in America. Malissa joined the Board of Directors for SC Equality in 2009 and serves the organization as a project manager and member of the Nominating Committee as well as chairing this Task Force.

Derek Black

Derek Black is a Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law. His areas of expertise include education law and policy, constitutional law, civil rights, evidence, and torts. The primary focus of his scholarship is educational equality for disadvantaged students, although he has also published extensively on issues relating to intentional discrimination. His scholarship has been cited in the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals and by various briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court.

His interest in education law grows out of his work at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, where he was a staff attorney in the Education Project. At the Lawyers' Committee, he litigated issues relating to school desegregation, diversity, finance equity, discipline, and special education. He left the Lawyers' Committee to begin a career in teaching at Howard University School of Law. In addition to teaching, he founded and directed the Education Rights Center at Howard University. The Center studies the causes and extent of educational inequalities in public schools, provides advocacy resources to parents, and attempts to shape national and local education policy.

Professor Black has also taught at the University of North Carolina School of Law and American University Washington College of Law. Beyond teaching, he is active in various outside endeavors, including serving as pro bono counsel in civil rights cases, a consultant to civil rights campaigns, and a member of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team.

He attended law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a member of the Law Review for two years, was awarded the Dan Pollitt ACLU fellowship in his third year, and graduated with High Honors.

Susan K. Dunn

Susan Dunn is the Legal Director, ACLU of South Carolina.  Prior to joining the ACLU of South Carolina, Susan worked in private practice in Charleston for more than 30 years. For 12 years beginning in the mid-1990’s, Dunn litigated a high-profile and groundbreaking constitutional case challenging a policy mandating the testing of pregnant and postpartum women at a public hospital for cocaine use, and the delivery of those test results to law enforcement. Dunn’s clients ultimately won a favorable ruling in the United States Supreme Court that led to a settlement of the case.

Susan was the 1998 recipient of the Jean Galloway Bissell Award, presented annually by the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association to a person who has contributed to the advancement of women in the practice of law in South Carolina.

Susan received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and her J.D. from the University of NC – Chapel Hill. She is an active member of Circular Congregational Church in Charleston, where she served as a lay minister from 1999-2009.

Harriet Hancock

Harriet Hancock, Esq., is a 1988 USC Law School graduate and practiced in Columbia until her retirement in 2012 at the age of 76.  She is the mother of three  and has six grandchildren.  Upon learning that her son was gay in 1980,  she started the first chapter of Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in South Carolina (PFLAG).  She is a co-founder of the Palmetto Aids life Support Services of SC (PALSS) the first grass roots organization in SC provide services for those with HIV/AIDS and their families.  She was instrumental in organizing the first pride march in SC in 1990.  She has been a strong advocate and activist for LGBT civil rights for over thirty years and has received wide recognition for her work.  She is commonly known as the "Mother of Pride".  The South Carolina Gaya and Lesbian Pride Movement (SCGLPM) honored her in 2005 by naming the LGBT Center in Columbia in her honor. 

Pamela Robinson

Pamela DeFanti Robinson, J.D., has been the Director of the USC School of Law Pro Bono Program for 23 years. She earned a BA from Clemson University and a JD from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Ms. Robinson trains extensively on volunteer and non-profit liability issues and has been recognized locally, regionally and nationally for her volunteer and management leadership. She has authored a number of articles in the area of volunteer management.  Ms. Robinson is the recipient of numerous local, state and national awards for her efforts in Pro Bono Law, volunteer efforts and community service and leadership to USC.  Her awards include the National Volunteer Administrator of the Year by the International Association for Volunteer Administration in 2005,  a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Richland County CASA Program in 2008 and the USC Ambassador of Service Award for exemplary leadership and involvement in promoting and performing community service in 2009. The Pro Bono Program is a nationally recognized, academic-based volunteer program integral to the professional development of law students. It is the first voluntary pro bono program in a law school in the US.  As a frequent presenter at national conferences she often addresses issues relating to pro bono programs in law schools, most recently at the ABA Equal Justice Conference in May.

Nekki Shutt

As a certified specialist in labor and employment law, Nekki Shutt has been involved in the employment / human resources field for more than 20 years, beginning with her work in the personnel department of a publicly-traded property and casualty insurance company.  After receiving her Juris Doctor degree from the USC School of Law in 1995, Nekki built on her human resources experience and developed a civil litigation practice with an emphasis on employee benefits (ERISA) and employment law.  Nekki joined Callison Tighe in 2000 and became a partner in January 2002.  From 2000 to 2005, she served as an adjunct professor at the University Of South Carolina School Of Law, teaching a course for third year law students entitled "Diversity and the Law," emphasizing social justice issues involving race, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, and the poor. In 2005, Nekki was honored for her professional excellence when the University of South Carolina awarded her the James Petigru Compleat Lawyer Award, Silver Medallion.  Most recently, Nekki authored the ERISA chapters in the Labor and Employment Law for South Carolina Lawyer 2007 and 2011 editions.  Nekki also is the author of a chapter on employment law for Paralegal Survival Guide, to be published by South Carolina Bar Association in 2010. Additionally, she was selected by her peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2010 through 2013 editions in the field of labor and employment law and in Legal Elite of the Midlands in 2012 in the category of labor and employment law. 

Nekki takes her civil commitment just as seriously as her commitment to her clients.  In 2010, she chaired Labor and Employment Law Section of the South Carolina Bar.  She is a past national board member and co-chair (2000) of the Victory Fund, a national organization dedicated to getting lgbt persons elected and appointed to political office.  She is a founder of South Carolina Equality, serving on the board from 2002 - 2012 and chairing the organization in 2002 and 2003.

Click here to download a series of useful After-DOMA fact sheets produced by national LGBT organizations.