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
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!
#ChangeLawyers There’s an army of lawyers ready to fight the Administration
Veronica Walther wasn’t planning to spend July 4 in an immigration detention center. But when she learned she could volunteer to help detainees at Karnes County Residential Center—a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility outside San Antonio holding women and children—she cleared her schedule, bought a plane ticket and reserved a hotel room and rental car.
For a week, Walther assisted about 20 women mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras—Central America’s troubled Northern Triangle—who had been detained after entering the U.S. to seek asylum for themselves and their children because they said they feared for their lives in their home countries. “I didn’t meet a single woman who I thought was lying or even embellishing her story.”
Walther is one of a growing number of lawyers, interpreters and other professionals across the U.S. claimed as members of Lawyers for Good Government, a nonprofit whose founder says it’s nonpartisan, but progressive. Little known outside legal circles, the organization was launched as a Facebook group the day after Donald Trump was elected president.
After the first Trump administration ban on travel to the U.S. from Muslim-majority countries, the group directed hundreds of lawyers via the web to airports across the nation, coordinated volunteers with legal services groups and had international members hand out know-your-rights flyers in more than 20 languages at airports around the world. L4GG also runs programs in areas including prevention of voter suppression and environmental protection.
Full-time civil rights advocates such as Terri Burke, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, welcome the outpouring, with the caveat that volunteers need to be trained and managed to be effective.
There’s a “huge need” for lawyers at the border, Burke said. “I’ve asked our staff to research how we can connect these volunteer attorneys to these public defenders.” But Burke stresses that donations remain critical: “The money is still very important in order for us to do what we need to do.”
L4GG’s latest big initiative is Project Corazon, which in early July started providing legal services to reunite immigrant families split up by the Trump administration. More than 40 major law firms have joined the effort to send lawyers for weeklong stints, donate money and provide other resources.
“We are trying to take some of the burden off of the legal services nonprofits,” said Jackie Haberfeld, the head of pro bono counsel for the New York and Boston offices of Kirkland & Ellis, a member of the L4GG project.
Immigrants facing deportation have no right to an appointed lawyer if they are unable to afford one, or if no one volunteers.
“We hope that we’re building a cadre of people who will continue to do the work, even when this particular crisis has passed.”
Story by Bloomberg >
Speaking of… Here are all the lawsuits California’s AG has filed against the Trump Administration
California has become a flag bearer in the nationwide resistance to Trump administration policies on immigration, the environment, regulation, government ethics and healthcare policy. The state has filed dozens of lawsuits challenging Trump policies and initiatives, added its voice to the resistance via friend-of-the-court briefs in many other cases, enacted legislation to protect interests its leaders feel have been abandoned by Trump, and implemented administrative policies to protect what Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra calls “California values.” Here’s a list of many of the most important legal steps Becerra has taken, often in conjunction with other states.
March 31, 2017
The lawsuit, brought by California's attorney general and eight other state attorneys general, challenged the Department of Energy's delay in issuing its conservation standard for ceiling fans. Read more
April 7, 2017
Conflicts of interest
California made 32 separate requests under the Freedom of Information Act for documents related to possible conflicts of interest for then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, and sued when the EPA withheld the documents. Read more
Sep. 11, 2017
Transportation fuel-efficiency standards
California blocked an attempt by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to delay penalties for automakers who fail to meet fuel-efficiency standards. Read more
May. 18, 2017
Affordable Care Act
California led a coalition of 19 states to protect cost-sharing reduction reimbursments to insurers that the Trump administration ended. Read more
Oct. 6, 2017
Access to affordable birth control
California led a court attack against a Trump administration policy allowing employers to refuse to cover birth control. Read more
March 13, 2017
Muslim travel ban
California fought Trump's Muslim travel ban in several courts and at several judicial levels, including via a "friend-of-the-court" brief in support of a lawsuit by the state of Hawaii aimed at stopping the travel ban. Read more
Aug. 14, 2017
California sued to block administration efforts to require state and local immigration enforcement as a condition of receiving federal grants for law enforcement. Read more
Sep. 11, 2017
California sued the Trump administration over its decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and obtained an injunction blocking the move. Read more
March 27, 2018
California sued to challenge the Trump administration’s attempt to add a question about U.S. citizenship. Read more
June 26, 2018
Child separation at the U.S. border
California filed suit as part of a coalition of 18 attorneys general challenging the separation of families at the U.S. border. Read more
Jan. 16, 2018
California filed suit against the Federal Communications Commission challenging its attempt to repeal net neutrality rules. Read more
Read the full list at LA Times >
More of This Retired judges are protesting how a deportation case was handled
A Philadelphia immigration judge was removed from a high-profile case and replaced with a judge who would order the man in the case immediately deported, a move that smacks of judicial interference by the Trump administration, according to a letter signed by a group of retired judges this week.
Advocates call the removal of a judge in the middle of a case the latest in a line of steps by the Trump administration to undercut the independence of immigration judges, further a political agenda, and accelerate deportations.
It all began when Judge Steven Morley presided over a case involving Reynaldo Castro-Tum — a man who’d failed to show up at his immigration court hearings. Morley suspended the case using a procedure known as "administrative closure," citing the fact that the notice sent to Castro-Tum may have been sent to the wrong address. “Administrative closure” has been used in hundreds of thousands of cases across the country.
In his position overseeing the immigration court, Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred the case to himself and wrote an opinion in May restricting the use of “administrative closures,” a decision that could dramatically alter the way deportation cases are handled and potentially add hundreds of thousands of cases to an already backlogged court system.
Sessions sent the case back to Morley’s court, writing that if Castro-Tum did not appear for his hearing, he should be ordered deported.
Morley then scheduled a hearing in late July to go over those issues. But before the hearing, Morley was replaced with a supervising judge by the Executive Office of Immigration Review, the Department of Justice body that oversees the immigration courts, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Ashley Tabaddor, an immigration judge who heads the judges' union, the National Association of Immigration Judges, said her organization was “deeply concerned” about the incident and that they were exploring “all available legal actions.”
Former immigration judge Jeffrey Chase, who was among those signing the letter, said that Morley is an experienced and well-respected judge who served as a private attorney before being appointed to the immigration bench in 2010. Morley, Chase said, was pushed off of the case “because he had the courage to exercise his independent judgment in the pursuit of a fair result.”
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, a University of Denver law professor, said the case would be remarkable if it turns out that a judge was pushed off the case for another judge who would rule the way the Justice Department wanted.
“Judges should never be assigned to a case because of how they are likely to rule," he said.
Story by Buzzfeed >
Even More of This A new lawsuit aims to undermine the travel ban in a new way
A group of people whose visas have been denied or held in limbo under President Donald Trump’s travel ban is suing the administration in the first lawsuit over the ban since the Supreme Court upheld it in June.
They’re not trying to reopen the question of whether the ban itself is legal or constitutional. Instead, they’re asking the administration to explain how it grants waivers under the ban — and to justify the gap between what the administration portrays as a clear and generous waiver process and overwhelming anecdotal evidence that people who should be considered for waivers are getting flatly denied or held in administrative limbo.
“As we’ve been talking to immigrants and assisting people with the waiver process,” says Sirine Shebaya of Muslim Advocates (one of the public-interest groups representing the plaintiffs in this lawsuit), “we’ve come to realize all the ways in which there is no actual process — and, to the extent there is a process, it’s designed to result in near-universal rejection.”
The existence of a waiver process was one of the factors that led Chief Justice Roberts to conclude that there was a legitimate national security rationale for the travel ban, rather than an intent to discriminate by nationality or religion. But his opinion in Trump v. Hawaii didn’t actually evaluate the question of whether the waiver process was as “robust” as the government claimed. That’s what the lawsuit right now is seeking to answer.
Ismail Alghazali is a 25-year-old US citizen who worked in a Brooklyn bodega and hoped to get his GED so he could become a resident nurse. He met his wife Hend through family friends in Yemen and went to live with her, despite a worsening civil war in the country, while he sponsored her for a visa to immigrate to the US.
The Alghazalis were originally supposed to interview for a visa in August 2017, before the current ban went into effect.
When Hend finally had her interview in Djibouti in January, she was eight months pregnant — and already suffering from a heart condition. Ismail figured that her health condition would constitute undue hardship, while her marriage to a US citizen would qualify her for a waiver based on “national interest.”
But that didn’t come up in the interview, because the interview “didn’t take more than five minutes,” Ismail Alghazali told Vox last week. They approved the couple’s documents, said everything was in order, then suddenly returned Hend Alghazali’s passport to her with a form that said her visa had been denied under Trump’s proclamation — and that they would not be eligible for a waiver.
Alghazani is one of several plaintiffs in the new lawsuit who have been prevented by the ban from living in the US with their spouses and children.
“When the government holds itself out as providing a process,” Muslim Advocates’ Shebaya told Vox, “it has to follow its own laws.” Those laws include the Administrative Procedure Act, which prevents the government from making “arbitrary and capricious” decisions, and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process to all people.
Story by Vox >
Less of This Juvenile curfew laws don’t make you safe. They do criminalize Black and Brown kids.
It’s a summer ritual in many American cities — declaring a juvenile curfew to keep troublemaking teenagers off the streets. This summer at least one city—Austin—has decided not to sound the alarm.
The Austin Police Department’s assistant chief, Troy Gay, told The Marshall Project, “We looked at the evidence and decided it was time to discard the curfew law; it wasn't making an impact on juvenile victimization.”
A voluminous body of research has cast strong doubts on the claims that juvenile curfew laws prevent victimization or reduce juvenile crime, but these findings have received scant attention from policy makers or police.
Why are juvenile curfew laws ineffective? For one thing, the studies found that they damage already-strained relationships between police and youth of color and in some instances have “blowback” effects, increasing juvenile victimization or overall crime.
Another factor is that on empty streets there are no witnesses. Urban activist Jane Jacobs theorized that well-populated streets are safe streets; deserted streets invite crime.
Morgan Craven is the director of the School-to-Prison Pipeline Project at Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote social and economic justice through the work of volunteer professionals. Craven says that curfew and truancy laws criminalize normal juvenile behavior, unnecessarily introducing youth into the criminal justice system. “In Austin, curfew and truancy laws were Class B misdemeanors, which were heard in adult court, where youth had no right to guaranteed counsel and were forced to pay fines and fees.”
Denver’s curfew program, enacted in 1994, requires reports twice a year to the city council, detailing ethnicities of youth cited for curfew violations. A local television investigation found that the police department reported that white teens received the vast majority of citations, when in reality most curfew citations were served on Hispanic youth.
In a May 2018 report, Dr. Rod Brunson, dean of the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, found that police stops are applied highly unevenly, “consistently exposing youth of color to a wide range of harms.” The report found that these discretionary encounters are initiated by police officers who are making “on-the-spot assessments of young people’s proclivity for delinquency, prospects for rehabilitation, and overall moral character, …with limited information, often falling back on racial and ethnic stereotypes.”
Since the rescission of Austin’s juvenile crime law, juvenile victimization has decreased by 12 percent, officials say. Though it may be too soon to draw conclusions, Gay says Austin’s “youth aren’t hiding from the police anymore, in places they weren’t supposed to be. Now they can be in a public place and not fear the police, and maybe that makes everyone safer.”
Story by The Marshall Project >
Podcast of the Week Justice for the rich, money bail for everyone else
States and cities across the nation are talking about reforming the money bail system. But what does that mean? What exactly is money bail? Who does it harm and who does it benefit? How does the bail system work? How does a bail bondsman fit into the picture? How are Black, brown, and poor people disproportionately impacted by money bail? What’s a community bail fund? And are the efforts to reform money bail working?
Listen to Episode 1 of Justice in America Podcast >
Second Chances A woman was sentenced to life in prison for killing her abusive husband. Now, she’s been granted a new trial.
“New Orleans police say a woman shot and killed her husband in New Orleans East tonight,” said a newscaster on March 30, 2005. “Police say the couple was arguing in their home when the woman, Catina Curley, pulled a gun and fatally shot her husband in the chest.”
Within hours, police decided that Catina shot Renaldo Curley because she was angry and jealous, killed the father of her children because of an argument gone wrong. Prosecutors framed her case as a singular instance of hot-headed depravity, a moment of irredeemable sin. But the truth is more forgiving to Catina. For over a decade, Renaldo physically abused Catina and their children. She wasn’t the aggressor, but the victim. She wasn’t angry; she was terrified.
But when Catina went to trial in 2007, her attorney, John Fuller, failed to explain the psychological effects of the violence she endured, which could possibly be characterized as battered woman’s syndrome. She was convicted of second-degree murder, and sentenced to life without parole. Until recently, it seemed certain that she would die in the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.
In late June, the state’s highest court recognized that battered woman’s syndrome can justify the use of self-defense and found that Fuller “failed entirely to investigate the proper way to defend [Catina],” and ruled that she was entitled to a new trial. Late last month, Catina was released on $1,000 bond, providing her with an opportunity to spend time with her family for the first time in over a decade.
Catina now joins a growing group of criminalized survivors of domestic violence fighting for their freedom. Women like Cyntoia Brown, a sex worker who in 2004 was just 16 and living with an abusive pimp. Brown shot and killed a 43-year-old man who, after picking her up for sex, allegedly became violent. She was sentenced to life in prison. When Marissa Alexander’s abusive husband threatened to kill her, she fired a warning shot inside their Jacksonville, Florida, home. Though no one was injured, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Like these women, Catina was not only a victim of domestic abuse, but a victim of the criminal justice system and prosecutors who use their discretion to rack up prison sentences instead of supporting survivors.
According to Catina’s habeas petition and the subsequent Louisiana Supreme Court decision, for over a decade, Renaldo, then 29, beat Catina, then 32, mercilessly. There was the time he threw her to the ground, kicking her so hard that she dislocated her shoulder. There was the time he punched her in the nose on both sides, breaking her nose. Her face and eyes were black, and so swollen that she couldn’t open them. There was the time he tried to push Catina out of a moving car.
The evening of the shooting, in March 2005, Renaldo threatened her, shoved her onto the bed and threw a soda can at her. “Bitch, you going to make me hurt you,” Catina recalled him saying.
Catina hoped to just leave the house, avoiding her husband on the way out. But she couldn’t—her keys were in the same room as him. So she grabbed an “old rusty revolver” he kept under the mattress for self-protection.
He began confronting her again. “I was very frightened. I was scared, I mean, really delirious,” she testified. “Stop, don’t come toward me,” Catina recalled telling him, pointing the gun at him. But he just “kept coming and coming.”
He came closer. She fired one bullet, hitting him in the chest. In two minutes he was dead.
Orleans Parish prosecutors, like prosecutors everywhere, have near total discretion in charging decisions. They could have reduced the charges against Catina, but instead chose to try to put her in prison for life. At trial, prosecutors implied she wasn’t really scared of him. Why, if she was so scared, did she not ask one of her male cousins to accompany her to the house?
It is unsurprising that Cannizzaro’s office has defended Catina’s draconian sentence. Since he was elected in 2008, Cannizzaro has consistently been among the nation’s harshest prosecutors.
Cannizzaro’s insistence on punishing victims is threaded throughout his tenure as district attorney. But instead of rethinking his approach to domestic violence, he’s doubling down. He fought the court’s decision that the jury should hear about the psychological toll of Catina’s abuse and the effect it had on her and her family. Even today, he insists she’s a dangerous criminal.
There’s still the possibility of a happy ending for Catina. She will get the chance of another trial, where she’ll finally get to present the battered woman’s defense she was entitled to over a decade ago. It’s a critical opportunity, but justice is not a guarantee. Cannizzaro still insists on treating her like a heartless murderer instead of a survivor of decade-long abuse. As long as prosecutors care more about convictions than victims, abused women aren’t safe at home or in the courtroom.
Story by The Appeal >
Fellowship Opportunity California ChangeLawyers offering year-long and summer fellowships
Legal Fellowship grants are awarded to legal aid organizations to cover the cost of hiring law students or recent graduates from diverse backgrounds. This is a double impact investment. We support organizations on the front lines of social justice while at the same time creating jobs for diverse lawyers.
Application closes on August 21. Apply >
Job Opportunity National Center for Youth Law hiring Youth Justice Initiative attorney
The California Youth Justice Initiative seeks to transform California’s juvenile justice system into a national model in which most youth in conflict with the law are diverted away from the system to community-based services, and all youth in the system receive developmentally appropriate treatment and rehabilitative services to improve life outcomes, community health and safety.
Apply here >
Event Scholarships for Justice presented by California ChangeLawyers
Featuring former Attorney General Eric Holder and Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund founding member Nina Shaw.
October 4 at 5:00 PM. RSVP here >