by California ChangeLawyers
News Brief is the newsletter for vigilant optimist. A curated collection of social justice stories, delivered to your inbox every Wednesday night. Thanks for reading!
by California ChangeLawyers
Top News California Chief Justice on what it means to hold California Values
After voting overwhelmingly Democratic in the midterm elections, California is about to get even more blue. Democrats control the executive branch, have a huge majority in the Legislature and for the first time in decades will have a numerical edge on the stateâs Supreme Court: The expected confirmation this month of Joshua Groban, an adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, will result in a court of four Democratic-appointed justices and three Republican-appointed ones.
If it were Washington, pundits would declare a political hat trick. The fact that itâs not Washington was made clear on Tuesday in the annual state-of-the-judiciary briefing held by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye.
The chief justice is a Republican who was appointed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yet she described the 600 court appointments that Governor Brown has made during his two terms as âfantastic.â She praised the state Supreme Courtâs consensus-based approach and said she doubted that the court would be much different with a majority of Democratic-appointed justices.
âI think all of us value the fact that there can be no resolution without courtesy and civility and humor,â she said.
In her remarks, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, 59, spoke about a new generation of judges who embodied what she described as California values â judges who cared about homelessness, climate change and âwhat are we going to do about guns.â
She defined the California ethos as âunderdog centricâ and criticized the federal immigration authorities for making arrests in courthouses. It almost sounded like a Gavin Newsom stump speech.
âRead the story on NY Times >
Speaking ofâ¦ In defense of the progressive interpretation of the US Constitution
The following editorial was written by Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.
Over the course of American history, there have been great gains in individual freedom and enormous advances in equality for racial minorities, women, and LGBT people. But much remains to be done. Unfortunately, we are now at a profoundly challenging moment for these values. We have a president who is not committed to them, and for the foreseeable future we face the prospect of a hostile supreme court.
But all this will change. Someday there again will be a majority on the court committed to using the constitution to advance liberty and equality. In the meantime, progressives must fight to provide the foundation for their work. In particular, they must develop and defend an alternative to the conservative vision of the US constitution.
Brett Kavanaughâs confirmation has created a conservative majority on the court that is sure to undermine individual rights and lessen equality. There now are five conservative justices who will explicitly or effectively overrule Roe v Wade, declare unconstitutional all forms of affirmative action, lessen the protection of civil rights, and further erode constitutional protections for criminal defendants.
This is the most conservative court since the mid-1930s, and the five justices that dominate it will be together for years to come. Clarence Thomas is 70 years old. Samuel Alito is 68. John Roberts is 63, while the two newest justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are 51 and 53 respectively.
In the face of all this, progressives are understandably discouraged. But they have crucial work to do in providing an intellectual framework that current critics and future justices can use to oppose the regressive policies of the Trump administration and the conservatives on the supreme court.
Read the story on the Guardian >
#ChangeLawyer Meet the lawyer on a crusade to end predatory pricing for tampons in prisonâ
In February 2018, attorney Paula Canny was meeting a new client at the San Mateo County Jail. Christine Kolba, 41, had been arrested and charged with a nonviolent crimeâher first time entering the criminal justice system.
As soon as the two women sat down together, Kolba became emotionalâbut not for the reasons Canny expected.
âIâm like, âAre you okay?ââ Canny says now, retelling the story eight months later at her office in Burlingame, California, just south of San Francisco. Kolba was not; she had her period, she said, and jail personnel would not issue her tamponsâonly sanitary napkins. But upon arriving at the jail, all of her clothing had been confiscated (per standard procedure), and she was wearing paper underwear that was far too large.
âSheâs like, âThese underpants donât keep the pad on,ââ says Canny, ââso Iâve got blood coming down my leg.ââ
Canny took action. She arranged to have tampons provided to Kolba, then made a few phone calls to her personal contacts within the jail system. After two days, sheâd convinced the sheriffâwho has authority over policies such as distribution of hygiene productsâto offer women free tampons in addition to pads.
âNothing happens immediately in these types of institutions,â says Kolba, âso the speed with which this started to roll out, it was remarkable.â
Read the story on Money Magazine >
More of This Give evicted tenants lawyers and save money
Landlord-tenant court is a notoriously nasty place. In New York, for example, housing court has become a tool of landlords trying to push out rent-controlled tenants. In Philadelphia, one out of every 14 tenants faces eviction every year, and those fights play out in housing court.
Those legal battles are costly for the city, and often confusing for tenants who don't always know the law and procedures, and struggle to keep up with the jargon. Low-income tenants especially face difficulties since they cannot afford lawyers.
But a new study put together by the consulting firm Stout, and ordered by the Philadelphia Bar Association, could make headway into changing that. The report looks into the costs and benefits of providing city-sponsored lawyers to low-income tenants facing eviction. In 2017, Philadelphia began a pilot program providing these services to low-income tenants in specific zip codes.
"In the past year and a half we've seen major improvements in awareness and investment by the city in housing and eviction issues," says Rasheedah Phillips, a lawyer who represents low-income tenants in Philadelphia.
The findings are dramatic: By investing less than $4 million into providing universal access to counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction, the report estimates that the city could save $45.2 million annually by drastically reducing the number of disruptive evictions, so named because they painfully disrupt the lives of the tenants evicted.
Read the story on Pacific Standard Magazine >
Even More of This California AG will defend Obamacare
California will challenge the ruling of a federal judge in Texas who late Friday struck down the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional, with state Attorney General Xavier Becerra arguing that the federal health care law can remain in place even without a tax penalty for Americans who forego health coverage.
Though Obamacare remains in place â Californians have until Jan. 15 to enroll in Covered California plans â it could be in jeopardy, threatening health care for 5 million people in the state. The closely-watched case is likely headed for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and, potentially, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Leading the legal battle will likely be California, which intervened in the Texas case to defend the Affordable Care Act. Becerra plans to vigorously defend the federal health care law.
âThe courts essentially left it to the Trump administration and states to decide how to respond and with the health of millions of people at risk, we wonât stand for this backwards and dangerous determination,â Becerra said in a statement to POLITICO. âEvery American could be impacted this decision â adults, whether they have employer-sponsored care or get covered through Medicaid, seniors who benefit from prescription drug discounts, young people age 26 or under on a parentâs plan and more.â
Read the story on Politico >
Less of This Why is this dilapidated San Francisco jail still open?
Itâs been three years since the fate of San Franciscoâs aging jail at 850 Bryant St. was all but sealed by the cityâs Board of Supervisors. The building that houses the jail, known as the Hall of Justice, has been found seismically unsound and is plagued with rodents, asbestos, and seeping sewage. In a unanimous 2015 vote, the supervisors refused to allocate funds to build a new jail on an adjacent lot.
âI am not going to support another stand-alone jail to continue to lock up African Americans and Latinos in this city,â said London Breed, then president of the board and now mayor, at the time of the vote. Instead, the board and District Attorney George GascÃ³n agreed, the funding for the jail should be directed toward diversion and mental health programs to keep people out of jail.
A year later, the city administrator, Naomi Kelly, urged the city to move quickly. She said the building, which also houses courtrooms and the offices of the San Francisco district attorney should be vacated by 2019 because it was dangerous to those who work and are incarcerated there. âAt least the [prosecutors] can go home,â she said at the time. âThe inmates are there 24-7, and they are locked in.â
Some offices have since left the building. But with 2019 fast approaching, the jail remains open, with several hundred people still trapped inside.
Read the story on the Appeal >
Photo of the Week Lawyer Rashida Tlaib will wear Palestinian gown when sheâs sworn into Congress
A call for lawyers, law students, and other legal workers who are able to travel to Tijuana and provide support in response to the large numbers of asylum seekers in Tijuana. Al Otro Lado is asking that individuals make long term commitments of at least a week at this time. The need for legal workers in the Tijuana shelters has existed for many years but the need is now greater than ever before.
Sign up here >
Fellowship Opportunity Al Otro Lado hiring year-long fellow
With support from California ChangeLawyers, we seek to hire a full-time, year-long legal Fellow to support the work of our Border Rights Project, and increase the projects capacity to represent detained asylum seekers, mentally incompetent detainees, and asylum-seeking families that have been separated by ongoing policies and tactics of family separation.
Apply here >
Fellowship Opportunity Root & Rebound hiring summer fellow
The Summer Legal Fellow will be working out of our office in downtown Fresno, which focuses on serving women of color with records and in reentry from incarceration.
The ChangeLawyers fellow will drive forward legal clinics, know-your-rights trainings, and direct services for the women of Fresno and the broader Central Valley.
Apply here >
Fellowship Opportunity Community Water Center hiring year-long fellow
Over a million Californians each year lack access to safe and affordable drinking water. In addition to systemic racism, one of the root causes of water inequality is under-representation and unresponsive representation at the local level.
With support from California ChangeLawyers, CWC seeks a full-time, year-long Legal Fellow to provide legal assistance to communities without safe water and local water board members.
Apply here >
Fellowship Opportunity Legal Services of Northern California hiring summer fellow
In the last four years, our 23-county northern California service area has seen at least one disastrous wildfire every fire season. With support from California ChangeLawyers, we seek to hire a full-time, the Fellow will work on a disaster relief project, as well as conduct client intake.
Apply here >
Job Opportunity Immigration Justice Staff Attorney
Lawyersâ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area seeks an energetic, highly- organized, experienced attorney who is committed to racial and economic justice; is fluent in spoken and written Spanish; and is ready to lead a team of staff attorneys, pro bono attorneys, clerks and paralegals in pursuing justice for our immigrant clients.
Apply here >