Watch This The only way to dismantle mass incarceration
This is a recording of a joint event between ChangeLawyers and UnCommon Law about why folks servicing life sentences should come home.
Speaking Of… Super lawyer Stacey Abrams is ready for her next act
In the months leading up to the November 2020 presidential election, the name Stacey Abrams was on everybody’s lips. Whenever a pundit or reporter attempted to predict what Georgians would ultimately have to say at the polls—and where that could leave the United States for the next four years (and beyond)—Abrams, often seen in the split-screen video framing we’re all so used to now, would address the concerns of the interviewer reasonably and thoroughly. Yes, she believed Georgia could vote for a Democratic candidate in 2020. No, she wasn’t running for anything at the moment. And finally, always: Register to vote now.
Some criticized Abrams for what they viewed as naivete about her state’s chances to flip from red to blue in the midst of political and social unrest. Who sees progress during a pandemic? Others called her a visionary or a hero based on what they’d read in headlines and Twitter threads. Abrams doesn’t refer to herself as anything other than determined. Visionary and hero are complimentary identifiers but encourage the kind of magical thinking that leads to an abdication of individual civil responsibilities, an outsourcing of collective will into the hands or minds of one or a few people. Passive civic engagement isn’t what Abrams has set out to inspire. “This isn’t magic,” she tells me during a video chat in early January. “This is math. It is maneuvering, but it is also a mental reset of who we are and what we’re capable of.”
Capable could be a dreary description of a person, but for Abrams—a self-described introvert—capability lit a path for potential futures. On the opposite side of that coin, highly competent Black women are always at risk of having their brilliance overused and undervalued. I wonder how Abrams has kept this from happening to her. “I’m aware of my limits,” she says. She admits that she may be guilty of pushing herself beyond those limits at times but doesn’t allow herself to break down: “I give myself permission to step back.”
Read the story on Marie Claire
More of This Too Inside the plan to confirm BIPOC judges
Few politicians understand the federal judiciary like President Joe Biden does. As a young Senator, he served in top roles on the Judiciary Committee for over 15 years, overseeing the confirmation of hundreds of district and circuit court judges and eight Supreme Court justices.
Which means now as President, he knows the scope of the challenge and opportunity before him to nominate federal judges. “He feels this personally,” a White House lawyer with knowledge of the nominations process says. “His commitment to these issues really goes back decades.”
Biden has over 100 federal judicial vacancies to fill, and he has already announced 14 judicial nominees, including three to circuit courts—more than any recent predecessor had released at this point in their presidency. But he faces a series of impediments to reshaping the judiciary. Former President Donald Trump had enormous success pushing through conservative judges—who tended to be white and male—confirming over 230 federal judges in just four years in power. Biden may be facing an even tighter timetable: the 50-50 Senate could flip to Republican control in the 2022 midterms, which would make it more difficult for Biden to confirm liberal judges during the remainder of his term. And a Supreme Court vacancy would only ratchet up the pressure on the President.
Read the story on Time
Less of This Supreme Court conservatives just made it easier to sentence kids to life in prison
For years, the Supreme Court sent a consistent message about kids who commit the most serious crimes: They’re still kids. Their bad decisions are often a product of abusive upbringings and still-developing brains. So they can’t be executed. And they can’t get life without parole unless they kill someone — and even then, “all but the rarest of children” deserve a chance at release.
The decisions ushered in a major change: Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have now either banned life without parole for juveniles altogether or have no one serving the sentence. Some states have gone even further, curtailing long prison terms for teens, and providing special protections in other contexts, like parole board hearings.
This month, however, the momentum seemed to change direction.
First, the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority issued a ruling that curtailed the impact of Miller v. Alabama, the court’s 2012 decision restricting life without parole for teenagers. Then, Evan Miller, the man whose name became synonymous with more than a thousand juvenile lifers having a chance to go home, was himself resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“It feels like a one-two punch,” said Ashley Nellis, a research analyst with the Sentencing Project, a think tank that advocates against life sentences. “We’re in a different era.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent, said the recent ruling “guts” Miller v. Alabama. But the reality may be more complicated, juvenile justice experts say. Life without parole sentences for youth are concentrated in a minority of states and counties, and most states will likely continue to restrict them. But in states where judges do sentence teens to life without parole, existing disparities of race and geography will widen, experts predict.
Read the story on The Marshall Project
Tribal Justice Fundraiser
In the fourth installment of our Voices for Justice event series, we’re raising awareness about Tribal Justice and centering Native American voices, which have always been front and center in our work. Native men, women and youth are overrepresented at every stage of the criminal justice process, from arrest to sentencing, incarceration to reentry.
June 10 at 6-8PM PST. Register >
How to become an administrative law judge
ALJs are a vital part of every level of government. To help attorneys learn more about the role of ALJs in the legal system and the importance of diversifying the administrative side of the bench, we have put together a wonderful panel of ALJs from a range of different agencies to discuss their careers.
Sponsored by California Asian Pacific American Judges Association (CAPAJA), Judiciary Committee, and Asian American Bar Association (AABA) of the Greater Bay Area
June 10 at 5PM PST. Register >