Read This Law student reunited with the Judge who sentenced him to prison
Antonio Reza is law student at Santa Clara Law and a ChangeLawyers℠ Scholar.
More of This She understands her undocumented clients because she’s undocumented too
On Friday morning, attorney Lizbeth Mateo went to immigration court in downtown Los Angeles to represent a client with whom she has something in common.
She’s undocumented, too.
Mateo wore a navy blue suit, carried a binder stuffed with court records and announced herself to the immigration judge conducting a hearing. She has no more protection from arrest and deportation than any of her clients, but that’s not something she thinks about on the job.
Mateo explained to the judge that her client — a middle-aged man who has lived in the U.S. for three decades — has a daughter who is becoming a naturalized citizen and has agreed to sponsor her father. The man also has a long-pending asylum case. The judge, whose calendar is jammed, set a court date for next January. The case backlog in California was 178,000 as of last November, with more than 1 million cases stacked up nationally.
Mateo says her own status does not come up in court, and she’s never sure whether judges or other lawyers know that the polished, savvy 34-year-old woman advocating on behalf of her clients does not have legal status herself.
“I’m a walking contradiction,” Mateo had told me a day earlier in her Wilmington law office.
I’d heard about Mateo and decided this would be a good time to pay a visit. With Donald Trump in the White House and an election year upon us, immigration is going to remain at the center of national political debate in 2020. And California will continue to be derided by critics as a carnival of soft-headed, pro-immigration liberals run amok.
A place where someone who’s undocumented can be a lawyer, thanks in part to a state Supreme Court ruling in
And even serve on a state commission.
“While Donald Trump fixates on walls, California will continue to concentrate on opportunities,” Kevin de León said in March of 2018 when, as Senate president pro tem, he appointed Mateo to an unpaid post on a state advisory committee studying ways to help underserved students go to college.
De León said at the time that Mateo “embodies California values and the American dream,” and he called her “a courageous, determined and intelligent young woman who at great personal risk has dedicated herself to fight for those seeking their rightful place in this country.”
Two people took a lot of heat for that appointment.
“I got death threats, the whole bit,” says De León, who is now running for Los Angeles City Council. He said he still stands by Mateo, though, and that she is “living the courage of her convictions” by being open about her status rather than cowering in the shadows.
Read the story on LA Times
More of This Too Sonia Sotomayor is a fan of San Francisco’s new progressive DA
Chesa Boudin was sworn in as San Francisco district attorney on Wednesday at a ceremony celebrating Boudin’s unlikely journey from public defender to the city’s top prosecutor. Boudin’s progressive campaign was considered a long shot, and the mayor and the police worked hard to defeat him and elevate his opponent. He has pledged to make immediate reforms to the office that are sure to draw fierce resistance from supporters of the status quo. Still, he already seems to have friends in high places. The ceremony included a prerecorded video in which Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor congratulated Boudin and compared his path to her own.
“Your personal strength and commitment to reforming and improving the criminal justice system is a testament to the person you are and the role model you will continue to be for so many,” she said.
It’s easy to see why Sotomayor has such respect for Boudin. She was raised by a single mother in a housing project; he was raised by family friends after his own parents—Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, members of the Weather Underground—were arrested and imprisoned when he was 14 months old. Both overcame early adversity, attended Yale Law School, and became legal superstars. But while Boudin began his career as a reformer, joining San Francisco’s public defenders, Sotomayor began as a prosecutor, learning the system from the inside. Once on the bench, Sotomayor drew upon her prosecutorial experience to combat injustices suffered by defendants and their families. Boudin plans to draw upon his personal and professional experience to reform the office he now leads.
Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg told me on Thursday that Sotomayor met Boudin at an event at Yale Law School. Boudin “invited the justice to the swearing-in ceremony but she was unable to attend, so she sent him a congratulatory message.”
Boudin ran for district attorney on a platform of holding police accountable for misconduct, eliminating cash bail, dramatically reducing incarceration and pretrial detention, and implementing restorative justice. His passion for systemic change is, like Sotomayor’s, partly personal. Sotomayor told Boudin:
The difficulties you faced as a child, including that you did not read until age 9, are common among children of prisoners. You have lived the stigma of anger, shame and guilt that so many such children in the criminal justice system experience. … Chesa, you have undertaken a remarkable challenge today. I hope you reflect as a great beacon to many, and the road to accomplishing what you have set out to do will be daunting. Nevertheless, the city of San Francisco will be so very well served by a man whose life creed is believing, as you told me: “We are all safer when we uplift victims, hold everyone accountable for their actions, and do so with empathy and compassion.”
Read Story on Slate
Speaking Off… This progressive prosecutor is suing her own city for racism
A battle between St. Louis’s first African-American top prosecutor and the city’s largely white legal establishment escalated this week, with the prosecutor suing her opponents under a little-used federal law passed in the wake of the Civil War to stem violence by the Ku Klux Klan.
Kimberly Gardner, the St. Louis circuit attorney, accused city officials, the local police union and a special prosecutor of a “racially motivated conspiracy to deny the civil rights of racial minorities” by interfering with her efforts to to crack down on police misconduct and to institute changes in the city’s criminal justice system.
The targets of her suit, filed on Monday in Federal District Court in St. Louis, sharply denied the accusations, with the police union calling the legal action “frivolous, desperate and pathetic” and characterizing the decision to file it as “the last act of a desperate woman” who is herself under investigation by the special prosecutor.
The tension between Ms. Gardner and other officials in St. Louis is one of many flashpoints around the country between the traditional law enforcement establishment and a new wave of prosecutors who were elected after promising to rein in police misconduct, send fewer nonviolent offenders to prison and repair relationships with minority communities.
On Tuesday, several other district attorneys from across the country, all of them African-American women, traveled to St. Louis to support Ms. Gardner at a rally with civil rights activists, saying she had been the target of a “fundamentally racist” system that has also thwarted some of their efforts.
“The keepers of the status quo that brought us mass incarceration, the over-criminalization of poor black and brown people, tough sentences, no redemption and no second chances won’t give up their power quietly,” said Marilyn Mosby, the chief prosecutor of Baltimore, who was joined by Aramis Ayala of Orlando and several others.
Read the story on NY Times
Less of This A Black lawyer was pulled over and harassed by police…because he was driving a silver car
Two years to the day after a traffic stop during which he says he feared for his life, an Oakland civil rights attorney filed a lawsuit against the city.
On the day after Christmas in 2017, at around 7 p.m., Adante Pointer said he was driving in a silver Mercedes-Benz down International Boulevard in San Leandro after visiting a client.
Pointer, a lawyer who works in the office of civil rights attorney John Burris, said he was trying to decide if he should pick up some food for his two kids at home when he noticed flashing lights in his rearview mirror.
At first, he assumed the quickly approaching Oakland police SUV was rushing to an emergency, so Pointer quickly pulled over to let it pass. Instead, officers pulled up right behind him and, according to Pointer's complaint, got out of the car and began shouting at him with their weapons drawn.
"He started yelling at me, intensely loud and direct commands, 'Get the f- out the car! Get the f- out the car!' and he had his gun pointed out,” Pointer said. The complaint does not identify the officers involved.
As one police officer was shouting at him to get out of the vehicle, Pointer said another was simultaneously yelling at him not to move and to lift his hands up.
With different sets of conflicting commands, Pointer wasn't sure who he should listen to and was terrified he might do the wrong thing.
“I know far too well, being a civil rights attorney and representing victims of police abuse over 15 years, that drivers have been shot for a lot less — the slightest movement,” Pointer said. “So I was petrified. I didn’t want to give them any excuse or justification to kill me.”
Read the story on KQED
Say it Louder I won’t prosecute marijuana possession. It’s only fair.
Steve Descano is the Fairfax County commonwealth’s attorney.
As Fairfax County’s commonwealth’s attorney, I’m committed to creating a safe and just Fairfax County. That means dedicating the resources of our criminal-justice system to diligently providing fair and equal treatment under the law to all of our citizenry while prioritizing the safety of our entire community. Fulfilling that mission requires proactively identifying matters that affect Fairfax’s safety and considering the downstream effects of every action this office takes.
That’s why, after careful and deliberate consideration, I’ve directed my office to no longer prosecute adults for simple possession of marijuana.
“Simple possession” of marijuana refers to possession of marijuana for personal use. It does not include possession with the intent to distribute, nor does it include conspicuous public use of marijuana.
I did not come to this decision lightly. This deliberate policy shift is a result of significant meetings, research and thoughtful consideration. It’s based on a thorough look at our criminal-justice system, downstream consequences and our community’s needs.
Prosecuting adults for simple possession of marijuana does not improve community safety. In fact, such prosecutions can spur crime. These convictions result in individuals having a criminal record that can never be expunged. An otherwise law-abiding person who’s found with a relatively insignificant amount of marijuana does not constitute a threat to our safety. Saddling that individual with a criminal record sentences him or her to a life of grossly decreased opportunities: It’s nearly impossible to rent a good apartment, receive a student loan or get a decent job. This is particularly true for Fairfax residents competing with job applicants from jurisdictions that do not criminalize simple possession of marijuana, notably the District.
Furthermore, these prosecutions disproportionately affect people of color. African Americans are 3.2 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in Fairfax County. A legal permanent resident could be considered “automatically deportable” or barred from reentering the United States for a marijuana conviction. These consequences clearly have serious and wide-ranging effects that weaken our communities.
Read the story on Washington Post
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