#ChangeLawyers Lawyers are helping 21 young people sue the government over climate change
Attorneys for 21 young Americans who accuse the U.S. government of violating their constitutional right to a safe and livable climate said they are hopeful that they’ll get to take their case to trial after a pivotal appeals court hearing Tuesday.
During the intense one-hour session before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, three judges asked numerous questions about the type of remedy the court might provide to address the injuries the young plaintiffs say they have suffered due to government actions that exacerbated global warming.
”Remedy comes at the end of the case,” said Philip Gregory, an attorney for the plaintiffs. And he found their focus on it encouraging. He said he felt “very positive” about the day’s proceedings.
The judges will decide whether the case known as Juliana vs. U.S. gets thrown out or gets a full airing in district court.
The plaintiffs say climate change has damaged their homes by making storms more extreme; worsened their respiratory health by generating more wildfire smoke and longer pollen seasons; and caused psychological distress as they face the prospect of growing up in a fundamentally altered world. In their lawsuit, they claim the government bears responsibility for infringing upon their rights to life, liberty and property through its ongoing support of fossil fuels, the primary driver of climate change.
Specifically, the suit points to the greenhouse gas emissions that result from policies such as leasing federal lands for coal mining and oil and gas extraction, setting lax vehicle emission standards, and subsidizing the fossil fuel industry.
Read the story on LA Times
Miniseries of the Week How the “Central Park Five” changed the history of American law
Ava DuVernay’s miniseries shows why the hysteria surrounding the 1989 case caused more children to stand trial as adults than at any other time in U.S. history.
Coverage of violent crime is a staple of American news, yet only a handful of stories capture the attention of the nation. Even fewer go on to inform the trajectory of American legal proceedings. The acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay tackles one of the most significant criminal cases of the 1990s with her miniseries When They See Us, which premiered on Netflix on May 31. In four episodes, DuVernay provides the most complete account of the impact of the “Central Park Jogger” case on the lives of the defendants and their families.
On April 19, 1989, police found the body of a 28-year-old white woman in New York’s Central Park. She was covered in blood and nearly dead after a brutal sexual assault. Trisha Meili, the injured party, was not the only victim of the night’s horrific events. So, too, were Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, and Antron McCray—the kids, ages 14, 15, and 16, who were wrongfully convicted of her attack. Despite no DNA evidence, fingerprints, blood, or semen linking any of the black and brown boys to the crime, all five defendants grew up in prison, each one spending between six and 13 years behind bars.
When They See Us is primarily focused on the racist logic of the policing, court, and prison systems that cost the five defendants their childhood. The series also profoundly illuminates some inherent problems in American criminal justice from a range of perspectives. Viewers get an intimate glimpse of mothers, fathers, and siblings fighting for the freedom of their loved ones; law-enforcement authorities classifying these same boys as “animals”; and protesters on both sides holding signs, declaring it’s not open season on women or the real rapist in court today is the new york police and the d.a.
Ultimately, the hysteria surrounding the Central Park Jogger case gave rise to new language about black-youth crime, and to new laws that caused more children to stand trial as adults than at any other time in American history. When They See Us gets the audience closer to understanding why juvenile and adult prison populations exploded through the 1990s, and how the United States became home to the largest incarceration system in the world.
Read the story on The Atlantic
Speaking of… Central Park Five prosecutor resigns amid backlash
Author and former prosecutor Linda Fairstein -- facing a swarm of controversy over a Netflix series that examines a wrongful conviction in a high-profile rape case -- has resigned as a trustee of her alma mater.
Fairstein resigned as a member of the board of trustees of Vassar College, from which she graduated in 1969, the college in Poughkeepsie, New York, said Tuesday.
The Netflix limited series "When They See Us" dramatizes the story of five teenage boys of color who were wrongfully convicted in a jogger's 1989 rape.
Fairstein was a prosecutor in the case. There were complaints that the confessions of the Central Park Five, as they came to be known, were coerced, and their convictions were overturned in 2002 after Matias Reyes, a convicted serial rapist, confessed to the rape.
Emotions stirred by the Netflix series led to a petition calling for Fairstein's removal from Vassar's board as well other ones seeking a boycott of her books and a #CancelLindaFairstein movement on social media.
Read the story on CNN
More of This Meet the Jewish lawyer who defends undocumented people in the nation’s harshest immigration court
Most of the year, Marty Rosenbluth lives alone in a small house in Lumpkin, a Georgia town with 2,000 residents and one restaurant. It’s 500 miles away from his wife and community in North Carolina.
Then he drives two miles down the road to a place even more isolated: the Stewart Detention Center, a private immigration detention facility surrounded by spools of barbed wire and housing nearly 2,000 undocumented immigrant men.
Rosenbluth aims to reduce that number as much as possible. He’s the only private immigration attorney in Lumpkin, on the often quixotic mission of representing undocumented immigrants at the strictest immigration court in the country. According to U.S. Justice Department statistics, as of 2016 only 7 percent of asylum seekers at Stewart had their requests granted. The national average was 43 percent.
So every morning the long-bearded Rosenbluth, 61, goes to court in a jacket and tie to represent clients who will probably lose. The Southern Poverty Law Center also has a small staff in town, but other undocumented immigrants at the court have lawyers represent them on the phone. Rosenbluth thinks that’s unconscionable.
“I acknowledge I’m on the extreme edge on this, but I believe it’s borderline malpractice,” he said of representation by phone. “I hate it. I just think there’s so much injustice already in the system here that not to be sitting next to your client in court — I just won’t do that.”
Rosenbluth has 30 or so clients at once, most of them aged 20 to 40, with wives and children. Many come from Latin America, South Asia or Africa. Depending on their case, he aims to get them asylum or, if they have lived in the United States for years, to prevent them from being deported. Much of the time he’s fighting to get clients out of the facility on bond so they can reunite with their families.
He’s not shy about trumpeting his cause. He has a tattoo on his left ankle of a starfish, a reminder of the parable about a man on a beach throwing starfish into the ocean one by one. The idea is that even if he can’t save everyone, he’s making a difference for those he does reach.
“I spend my days saving people’s lives and putting families back together,” he said. “A lot of my clients cross with their families, and wives and kids get released on parole, but they don’t. So the families are separated.”
Read the story on JTA.org
Less of This Lawyers by day, Uber drivers by night
Her story is a familiar one in the gig economy era: She works several odd jobs like delivering food for Grubhub and UberEats, or helping people with their tax returns.
But Danielle happens to have a full-time job: She is a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society in New York.
The same goes for Julia Boms, a colleague who began working at Legal Aid last year. On any given day, Ms. Boms might be found in an arraignment court, handling a misdemeanor case. On weekends, she might be tending bar — a past-life job she thought she had left behind.
She is committed to sticking with Legal Aid. “A lot of people are like, ‘In a few years, you’ll go private,’” said Ms. Boms, 28. “But I went to school to do this.”
Ms. Boms and many of her Legal Aid colleagues are lawyers by day, representing those who most need, but can least afford, legal services. Then, out of financial necessity, they become bartenders, dog walkers or Uber drivers by night.
The Legal Aid Society, the nation’s oldest nonprofit legal services organization, offers law school graduates starting salaries of $53,582, which increase to $62,730 upon admittance to the bar, according to an internal document.
The average median salary for first-year associates at private law firms in 2017 was $135,000, according to the National Association for Law Placement.
Legal Aid executives said the relatively low salaries were a barrier to recruiting and retaining strong lawyers.
Read the story on NY Times
Less of This Too Chief Justice Roberts sided with police, struck a blow to free speech
The following editorial was written by GARRETT EPPS, constitutional law and creative writing for law students professor at the University of Baltimore. His latest book is American Justice 2014: Nine Clashing Visions on the Supreme Court.
“Police officers conduct approximately 29,000 arrests every day,” Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his opinion in Nieves v. Bartlett, an important First Amendment case decided last Monday. That’s roughly the population of Georgia cuffed and stuffed on an annual basis.
One might think that many arrests is too many. One might wonder about the degree to which factors such as race, immigration status, and wealth contribute to individual arrests. One might even wonder about the percentage of cases in which the power to arrest is abused.
America’s chief justice, however, worries more about the overworked police than about the people they arrest. Arresting that many folks is “a dangerous task that requires making quick decisions,” he wrote—so many people, so little time. It is thus the job of the Court “to ensure that officers may go about their work without undue apprehension of being sued.”
If that’s the appropriate aim for an Article III court, Nieves will help achieve it; the decision will make it harder to hold officers to account when they—as we all know they sometimes do—arrest citizens in retaliation for speech they don’t like. It can occur in a political-protest situation or simply during everyday dealings between police and people. Police—not all, but some—can be quick to cuff a nettlesome protester, an officious onlooker with a cellphone camera, or a mouthy suspect. The law of the First Amendment is clear: An individual should not face official retaliation for engaging in “protected speech” alone, even when that speech is unpleasant or hostile. “Retaliatory arrest” is a recognized federal cause of action.
Read the story on The Atlantic
Watch This What prosecutors and incarcerated people can learn from each other
A few weeks before his release from prison, Jarrell Daniels took a class where incarcerated men learned alongside prosecutors. By simply sitting together and talking, they uncovered surprising truths about the criminal justice system and ideas for how real change happens. Now a scholar and activist, Daniels reflects on how collaborative education could transform the justice system and unlock solutions to social problems.
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