TOP NEWS Lawyers begin lawsuits against family separations
As the Trump administration faces growing public and political backlash over the separation of families at the US–Mexico border, another front is opening up in the courts.
A Guatemalan woman who crossed into the United States in May seeking asylum filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court in Washington, DC, challenging her separation from her 7-year-old son. The case is believed to be the first lawsuit challenging family separations since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a "zero tolerance" policy in April, directing US Attorneys Offices to pursue all alleged illegal entry cases referred by the US Department of Homeland Security.
The American Civil Liberties Union is separately pursuing a proposed class action in federal court in California challenging the separation of families in immigration detention. That case was filed in March, before the zero tolerance policy was announced, but the ACLU is seeking a nationwide preliminary injunction to stop separations while families are in immigration detention, absent a finding that a parent is unfit or poses a danger to the child; the ACLU has asked for an order that would apply to separations that occurred after the zero tolerance policy was announced.
The latest lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, is not a class action — it only seeks relief for the plaintiff, Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia, and her son, referred to as "D.M." But a ruling against the government could fuel other similar lawsuits going forward.
According to the lawsuit, de Jesus Mejia-Mejia and her son crossed the US–Mexico border on May 19, arriving in Arizona; they did not enter the country through an official port of entry. When they were approached by border agents, de Jesus Mejia-Mejia says she told them she was seeking protection from the US government because of "severe violence and threats of death" she and her son had experienced in Guatemala, including from her husband.
De Jesus Mejia-Mejia and her son were initially detained together, according to the lawsuit, but two days later they were separated. De Jesus Mejia-Mejia claims she tried to object and was given no explanation for the separation. The child "was screaming and crying and did not want to be taken away from his mother," de Jesus Mejia-Mejia's lawyer wrote in the complaint.
De Jesus Mejia-Mejia was released from detention on bond June 15, but has not been reunited with her son; according to the lawsuit, he is believed to be held at a facility in Phoenix managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees the immigration detention of children.
Story by Buzzfeed News >
#ChangeLawyers Lawyer Moms plan national day of protest against family separations
Since the Trump’s administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy for illegal border crossing was announced in early May, about 60 children have been forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border each and every day.
You don’t have to be a parent to find that completely heartbreaking, but the members of Lawyer Moms of America, a nonpartisan group that’s now 10,000 strong and growing, are parents, and they’re not going to take this child cruelty any longer.
On June 29, Lawyer Moms of America is planning a Day of Action to protest these family separations.
“Each of us would do anything to keep our children safe. Each of us swore an oath to defend the Constitution. We will not let this unconscionable practice stand on our watch. Join us. Let’s make some noise.”
An incredibly diverse group of attorneys from across the country have rushed to join Lawyer Moms of America, from Biglaw to small firms to solo practitioners to in-house counsel, working in just about every practice area imaginable. Many of these lawyers have stepped up to accept volunteer duties that will help the group attain its goal of putting a stop to these unlawful family separations at the border.
While the group is not collecting donations, t-shirts will be available soon, their Facebook group is up and running, and their website is expected to launch sometime today. Join Lawyer Moms of America in their fight for justice as soon as you can.
Story by Above the Law >
More of This Uber CEO, a refugee himself, is considering using the company’s legal team to help families at the border
Uber is exploring how its legal team can assist migrant families affected by President Trump's hardline immigration policies, and has donated $100,000 to a non-profit supporting migrant children, according to an internal company memo.
The memo, provided to Business Insider by a company spokesperson, condemns the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families as "unfathomable to imagine and heartbreaking to see.”
Written by Uber deputy general counsel Tammy Albarrán and SVP of communications and policy Jill Hazelbaker, it says Uber is "better and stronger because we are made up of and serve people from all over the world.”
On providing legal aid to affected families, they wrote: "Our Legal team is also reaching out to law firms with a strong commitment to pro bono work to explore immediate opportunities for Uber Legal to partner with them to help parents and children affected by these policies in any way we can.”
Uber joins a growing list of tech companies and high-profile industry figures who have spoken out against Trump's immigration policies, which have sparked widespread outrage in recent days following reports of migrant children being detained in cages without their parents.
Story by Business Insider >
Less of This Bay Area Muslim lawyer has her award rescinded because she stood up for Palestine
The following article is about Zahra Billoo, ED of the Bay Area chapter of Council on American Islamic Relations. California ChangeLawyers awarded her organization a grant for their civil rights and anti-hate crime work.
The executive director of the San Francisco chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, has had an award rescinded by an interfaith group after pro-Israel activists vehemently objected to the award due to her criticisms of the Israeli government and various pro-Israel groups.
Zahra Billoo is a lawyer and longtime Muslim civil rights activist. She has led CAIR’s Bay Area affiliate — the group’s oldest and third-largest chapter — for almost nine years.
In March, she was notified that she would be one of two honorees at the annual event held by the group People Acting in Community Together, or PACT, which describes itself as “a multi-faith, grassroots organization that provides leadership training and experience to community members of many different ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds.”
But in late May, PACT’s executive director told Billoo that numerous pro-Israel groups and synagogues were vehemently objecting to the choice of Billoo.
PACT suggested that Billoo withdraw from the event, but she refused, telling PACT that they would have to take responsibility for their acquiescence to these demands by publicly rescinding her award. So that’s what they did.
While PACT is obviously free to honor whoever it wants, it is striking that an organization devoted to interfaith unity would do something as divisive as publicly extending and then rescinding an award to a longtime, respected Muslim civil rights leader because pro-Israel groups demanded it. But for Muslim activists in the U.S., such events are as common as they are ugly.
Story by the Intercept >
Less of This Too What happens when prosecutors break the law? Answer: Nothing.
The following editorial was written by Nina Morrison, a senior staff lawyer at the Innocence Project.
A major scandal unfolding on Long Island over the last 13 months shows how the justice system all too often falls silent when the culprit is a prosecutor, and the victim is an ordinary citizen accused of a crime.
In May 2017, Glenn Kurtzrock, a homicide prosecutor in Suffolk County, N.Y., was caught red-handed concealing dozens of pages of material from Messiah Booker, a young man charged with first-degree murder who maintained he was innocent.
Mr. Booker was arrested and spent more than 18 months in jail awaiting trial before his defense lawyer discovered that Mr. Kurtzrock had altered hundreds of pages of police records to remove a wealth of exculpatory information.
Yet there was more.
Over the last year, as the district attorney’s office reviewed all of Mr. Kurtzrock’s case files, prosecutors informed the court that four more murder convictions had been tainted by Mr. Kurtzrock’s illegal suppression of evidence. All four have now been overturned by the courts.
So what’s happened to Mr. Kurtzrock?
Thirteen months after his public firing, and five murder cases overturned because of his illegal actions, Mr. Kurtzrock hasn’t been charged with a single crime. Not fraud, not tampering with government records, not contempt of court.
And he hasn’t even been suspended from practicing law, much less disbarred. He’s now working as a defense lawyer in private practice. That’s right: he’s making a living representing people accused of crimes, in the same courthouse from which he was (supposedly) banished a year ago. His law firm website even touts his experience as a “former homicide prosecutor.”
The law also makes it virtually impossible for Mr. Kurtzrock’s victims to sue him, with the Supreme Court having declared that individual prosecutors and their offices are “immune” from civil rights lawsuits in all but the rarest of cases.
To date, only one prosecutor in the country (Ken Anderson, who withheld exculpatory evidence from my former Texas client Michael Morton) has ever been jailed for misconduct causing a wrongful conviction. And Mr. Anderson served just eight days in the county jail — starkly different from the 25 years that Mr. Morton languished in state prison.
Last June, a Massachusetts judge issued a blistering 127-page decision finding that two former assistant attorneys general had committed “egregious misconduct” and “fraud on the court” in failing to disclose evidence that a former state lab analyst was addicted to drugs while on the job for years.
Neither have faced criminal charges, and both are still licensed attorneys. Indeed, even though my office filed formal complaints against them in July 2017 the Massachusetts Bar has yet to even hold a public hearing on their law licenses. And both have found other jobs as senior government lawyers, their salaries funded by taxpayers.
Most prosecutors are hard-working public servants and committed to fair play. But those who break the law and face no consequence are a stain on their colleagues — and the legal profession.
Story by NY Times >
Explained How bail reform works
The following explainer was written by Jessica Brand and Jessica Pishko, two lawyers for the Fair Punishment Project.
In San Francisco, 64-year-old Kenneth Humphrey spent a year in jail, held on a $350,000 bond he could not pay, after being accused of entering a man’s home and stealing $7 and a bottle of cologne.
As many as 500,000 people are held around the country in local jails because of their inability to pay bail, mostly for low-level offenses. People held on bail have been accused, but not yet convicted, of crimes.
Being jailed pretrial has collateral consequences: It leads to people losing their jobs, not being able to care for their children, and losing contact with loved ones.
Meanwhile, there are costs to taxpayers as well. Incarcerating individuals awaiting trial costs taxpayers $13.6 billion each year.
2. The Role of the Bail Industry
Money bail has been taken over by private companies that make profits from those who cannot afford it. Bail bond costs are often covered by family members, which puts an additional financial strain on the already-struggling children of the jailed.
There’s some evidence that the bail bonds industry is intentionally intimidating decision-makers to urge them to oppose bail reform.
Bail bond companies regularly give campaign contributions to prosecutors. Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn DA often thought of as a progressive, accepted such contributions. After the media found out about it, he gave the money back.
3. A Growing Consensus That America’s Bail System is Broken
A wide range of elected officials, cultural luminaries, criminal justice advocates, fiscal conservatives, and law enforcement organizations agree that the current bail system is broken.
Judges are also calling for reform to the bail system, including California’s Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and former New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.
4. The role of prosecutors
Prosecutors have the ability to reduce the use of cash bail.
In June 2017, Kim Foxx, the lead prosecutor for Chicago, announced that her office will no longer seek money bail for defendants accused of low level offenses. According to Foxx, “Routinely detaining people accused of low-level offenses who have not yet been convicted of anything, simply because they are poor is not only unjust — it undermines the public’s confidence in the fairness of the system.”
The California attorney general also wrote a brief supporting the elimination of the cash bail system in California. [Brief]
In February 2018, newly elected Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced that his office would stop seeking bail on 25 criminal charges, which include retail burglary, prostitution, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, resisting arrest, providing false identification to law enforcement, and many drug offenses.
Read the rest of the explainer on the Appeal >
Podcast of the Week How prison reform was co-opted to sell more prisons
It’s a tension as old as activism itself: if all politics involves compromise, how do you tell the difference between healthy reform and reform that’s too watered down? Or worse: what do you do when reform efforts are co-opted for other ends entirely? Our guests on this episode, journalists Raven Rakia and Ashoka Jegroo, examine these debates among those working to close Rikers prison in New York and discuss the co-optation grassroots reform efforts often face.
Listen to Episode 4 of the Appeal Podcast here >
Event Summer BBQ Mixer
Join MBC organizations for our annual summer mixer on July 12, 2018 at Everett & Jones for delicious BBQ, lots of appetizers, and drinks
Free admission for members of co-sponsoring organizations.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Sign up here>
Free Clinic FEMA Clinic hosted by Legal Aid of Sonoma County
The FEMA process is incredibly important and many survivors rely on FEMA assistance for recovery. Please help us help the community by sharing, posting, tweeting, or whatever else you can think of to spread the word.
144 South E Street in Santa Rosa
June 23, 2018.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Job Opportunity UCSD hiring Title IX Complaint Resolution Officer
The Complaint Resolution Officer assumes major responsibility for responding to complaints of harassment and discrimination, exercising independent judgment in the intake, informal resolution, and formal investigation of complaints and in establishing strategies for the resolution of identified problems.
Job Opportunity Latinx policy & research one year fellowship
California ChangeLawyers is partnering with the Network for Justice and Southwestern Law School to provide a one-year fellowship to a recent Southwestern law graduate committed to engaging in policy work and research focused on supporting Latinx civil rights. This position is based out of Los Angeles.
To apply, please send your resume, names of three references, 1-2 page writing sample, and a one-page cover letter to Bianca Sierra Wolff at email@example.com with the subject line “Network for Justice Fellow”.