Watch This California Bar Foundation changes name to California ChangeLawyers
#ChangeLawyer Meet the lawyer who could become the first Black woman governor in history
Georgia Democrats selected the first black woman to be a major party nominee for governor in the United States on Tuesday, choosing Stacey Abrams, a liberal former State House leader, who will test just how much the state’s traditionally conservative politics are shifting.
But it was the breakthrough of Ms. Abrams that drew the most notice. A 44-year-old Yale Law School graduate who has mixed a municipal career in Atlanta and statehouse politics with running a small business and writing a series of romance novels under a nom de plume, she is now a central character in the midterm elections and the Democratic Party’s quest to define itself.
“We are writing the next chapter of Georgia’s history, where no one is unseen, no one is unheard and no one is uninspired,” she said.
With Atlanta thriving as a capital of black America and a magnet for immigrants across the world, Georgia’s demographics are changing. Yet even as Democrats eye the state as the next great blue hope, the party has struggled to win statewide office in part because it has had little success with conservative-leaning whites. African-American Democrats have held powerful state offices, like the attorney general’s post, but Republicans currently control every major position in Georgia.
“We need to hold our institutions accountable to investing in black women’s leadership,” said Glynda Carr, who helped found Higher Heights, a group that promotes African-American women in politics.
Story by NY Times >
#ChangeLawyer, Part 2 Meet the Sikh attorney general taking the federal government to court
The man aspiring to be the new face of the resistance is a practicing Sikh who likes to call attention to his turban and happens to have jurisdiction over 20 of President Donald Trump’s properties, including Bedminster.
In four months on the job, Grewal has joined or started 30 actions against the federal government, from debt collection to carbon emissions.
Last week, Grewal added another, writing to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos saying that if she wasn’t going to investigate fraud at for-profit colleges, he would.
“We organize. We vote. We push relentlessly for progress — that, after all, is the beauty of America,” he said, in a speech to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies last week in Washington.
And he loves the public role he now has as the highest ranking Sikh in the history of American government.
Based on his reputation as a lawyer but also as a conscious statement about diversity in response to Trump, Grewal was plucked by new Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy out of a county prosecutor job he’d been appointed to by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. He had spent years building his reputation as a lawyer at a firm in Washington, in New York’s Eastern District U.S. attorney’s office and then in the New Jersey U.S. attorney’s office.
Grewal talks regularly and openly about the discrimination he’s faced: The extra TSA screenings he always seems to get, the internet commenters who make jokes about where he’ll park his elephant, and the children who think he’s a genie and ask him to grant their wishes while their parents look on.
Last week at the dinner in Washington, Grewal told a story of a recent trip to give a speech about diversity and inclusion at a Fortune 500 headquarters which he didn’t specify. His staff went in. He was stopped at the gate, told he wasn’t on the list. He said he spent 15 minutes explaining to the guard that he was the chief law enforcement officer in the state, realizing as he did that this was just the latest in a lifetime of “small indignities and humiliations” that can’t help but define him.
“Given my background, my beliefs as a Sikh — that I wear my religion not just on my sleeve, but on my head and my face, it’s naturally a part of everything I do. Having had those experiences, having dealt with hate, having dealt with intolerance, having dealt with violence all throughout my life, it certainly gives me a different perspective than most,” Grewal said. “Now having a platform where I can do something about it, really motivates me to take advantage of whatever opportunities are available to me.”
Story by Politico >
More of This End Money Bail Now.
The following editorial was written by singer John Legend and Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color Of Change, America's largest online racial justice organization.
No one should have to stay in jail because they lack the money to buy their freedom. Yet every night, according to the Justice Department's statistics, nearly 450,000 people who have not been convicted of a crime sit in jail, a large number trapped there simply because they don't have enough money to post bail.
Moreover, research shows that on average, black people are assigned higher bail amounts than other defendants arrested for the same offenses. Simply put, it is wrong to be forced by poverty to face an extensive stay in jail while awaiting a court date -- separated from children, family and home, and running the risk of losing employment.
If you believe TV crime shows, you might think that commercial money bail emerged as a solution to a problem of justice: a service that reasonably aided people in paying bail — the deposit that defendants leave with the court as collateral for their promise to appear at trial. The actual history: the first commercial bail bond business started in 1898 in San Francisco and functioned as a corrupt payoff racket among crime bosses, judges, lawyers and police.
If you are wealthy, you can post the bail amount and walk free, whether or not you pose a threat to society. But if you don't have the money, regardless of how small the alleged crime, giving in to the commercial money bail industry may be your only option to avoid a months-long wait behind bars.
Recently, momentum to reform the unjust bail system has gained steam. In January 2018, a California appellate court declared that no one can be jailed because they're too poor to pay their way to freedom.
Even district attorneys, who have historically been some of the biggest advocates for money bail, have been stepping up. Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, Manhattan DA Cy Vance, Chicago's State's Attorney Kim Foxx and Philadelphia's newly-elected DA Larry Krasner have all eliminated money bail for certain low-level offenses to end the system's reliance on unnecessary and harmful pretrial detention.
The commercial bail industry generates nearly $2 billion each year. Last year, in New York City alone, there were 12,000 bonds secured through commercial bail bond companies for an aggregate amount of $280 million. Premiums, fees and illegally retained collateral from these products may have exceeded $25 million -- nearly all of it coming from low-income communities of color who are hit hardest by mass incarceration, the war on drugs, and other public policies that disproportionately target them.
Dismantling the commercial bail industry is a steep hill to climb. In recent negotiations over bail reform in New York State, for example, the aggressive influence of the bail bond industry won the lobbying contest, while justice for our communities lost out.
Prosecutors, mayors, legislators and governors across the country are responding to the community-led movement for bail reform and reconsidering the role of money bail in our justice system. We must all add our voices to the call to #EndMoneyBail if we are going to finally put an end to the corrupt, destructive, and unnecessary industry that is commercial bail.
Story by CNN >
Less of This This Salvadoran woman is at the heart of Jeff Session’s attack on refugees
She is known only by her initials in immigration court papers, so her lawyers call her Ms. A.B. She fled to the U.S. four years ago, after enduring more than a decade of domestic abuse in her home country, and requested asylum here.
Now Sessions has personally intervened in her case, questioning whether she and other crime victims deserve protection and a path to American citizenship. The attorney general has been highly critical of the asylum system in recent months.
Immigration attorneys across the country are watching Ms. A.B.'s case closely. They worry that Sessions is trying to roll back years of case law that expanded who gets asylum in the U.S. — and that he's using her asylum petition to do it.
Ms. A.B. is speaking out publicly for the first time, in an interview with NPR. She asked that we not use her full name or say exactly where she is living because she is still afraid her ex-husband might find her.
"In El Salvador," she said in Spanish through an interpreter, "there's no protection for women. Anyone who's been there knows this."
We met Ms. A.B at a double-wide trailer framed by tall pine trees. She shares the house with another immigrant from El Salvador, the only person she knew in the U.S. before she moved here.
"I remember when I was pregnant with my second child, he beat me a lot," she said, fighting back tears. "He threatened to hang me from the roof. And I got down and covered my stomach, and he started kicking me in the back."
When her children were older, Ms. A.B. moved to another part of El Salvador. But her husband found her, she says, and raped her.
Finally, Ms. A.B. traveled north, crossing the border illegally into Texas. She has been allowed to stay in the U.S. while her asylum case is pending.
It's not clear why Sessions picked Ms. A.B.'s case. The Justice Department declined to comment.
"It's a blind spot about women, and women's human rights," said Karen Musalo, one of Ms. A.B.'s lawyers. She directs the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. "And kind of a fundamental misunderstanding about what human rights means," she said.
"Characterizing the types of harms that Central Americans are fleeing as 'difficult' is an incredible understatement," said Blaine Bookey, one of Ms. A.B.'s lawyers at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. "People are fleeing for their lives."
If there is an increase in asylum claims from the "Northern Triangle" countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, Musalo argues, it's because women are trying to escape a region where the United Nations has raised concerns about high levels of violence against women and children.
"It took us a long struggle to finally get it accepted" that survivors of domestic violence can get asylum, Musalo said. "And it's concerning that this attorney general wants to revisit that."
"I was very confused, very sad," Ms. A.B. said, because Judge Couch has continued to deny her asylum claim, insisting she doesn't qualify even after she won her appeal. "I felt like they are playing with me," she said. "Like I'm a child who was given candy, only to have it taken away.”
Now her case is in the hands of Sessions. And what he decides could have big implications — not just for Ms. A.B., but for thousands of other asylum-seekers, too.
Story by NPR >
In Memory Dovey Johnson Roundtree was a barrier-breaking lawyer
The jurors were looking at her when they filed into court. That, Dovey Johnson Roundtree knew, could have immense significance for her client, a feebleminded day laborer accused of one of the most sensational murders of the mid-20th century.
Federal prosecutors had amassed a welter of circumstantial evidence — including 27 witnesses and more than 50 exhibits — to argue that on Oct. 12, 1964, Mr. Crump had carried out the execution-style shooting of Mary Pinchot Meyer, a Washington socialite said to have been a former lover of President John F. Kennedy.
By contrast, Ms. Roundtree, who died on Monday at 104, had chosen to present just three witnesses and a single exhibit to the jury, which comprised men and women, blacks and whites. Her closing argument was only 20 minutes long.
Now, on July 30, 1965, the jury, having deliberated, was back. The court clerk handed the verdict slip to the judge, Howard F. Corcoran.
“Members of the jury,” Judge Corcoran said. “We have your verdict, which states that you find the defendant, Ray Crump Jr., not guilty.”
Ms. Roundtree’s defense, which hinged partly on two forensic masterstrokes, made her reputation as a litigator of acuity, concision and steel who could win even the most hopeless trials. And this in a case for which she had received a fee of one dollar.
“As a woman, and as a woman of color in an age when black lawyers had to leave the courthouse to use the bathrooms, she dared to practice before the bar of justice and was unflinching,” Katie McCabe, the co-author of Ms. Roundtree’s memoir, “Justice Older Than the Law”
As a Washington lawyer, she helped secure a landmark ban on racial segregation in interstate bus travel in a case that originated in 1952 — three years before Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat in Montgomery, Ala.
Encouraged by a friend of her grandmother’s, the distinguished black educator Mary McLeod Bethune, young Dovey Johnson set her sights on becoming a doctor. She enrolled at Spelman College, the Atlanta women’s college then known as the black Vassar.
With no money for medical school, she spent the next three years teaching seventh and eighth grade in Chester, S.C. In 1941, she made her way to Washington and Dr. Bethune’s office at the National Council of Negro Women.
Dr. Bethune and her close friend, Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady, were just then pressing for the creation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which would admit a cohort of women for training as Army officers.
The corps was established in May 1942 and Dovey Johnson joined up, reporting for training at Fort Des Moines in Iowa.
On the base, Ms. Roundtree risked court-martial by confronting white commanding officers about segregationist practices, including “colored only” tables in the mess hall. In that effort she was successful, and the signs came down.
Life outside the base was harder still. In 1943, on a recruiting trip through the South, Ms. Roundtree, in uniform, was ordered to relinquish her seat on a Miami bus to a white Marine.
Such episodes, she later said, marked the start of her interest in the law as a tool of social justice.
In 1947, she entered Howard University’s law school on the G.I. Bill, one of only five women in her class.
Then, in 1952, she took on a case that would quietly become a landmark: Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company.
Sarah Louise Keys was a young black private in the Women’s Army Corps. Earlier that year, in uniform, she had traveled by bus from Fort Dix, in New Jersey, to her home in North Carolina.
In Roanoke Rapids, N.C., a new driver ordered her to give up her seat to a white Marine, just as Ms. Roundtree had been told to do years before. Ms. Keys demurred and was arrested and jailed for disorderly conduct.
Ms. Keys’s lawsuit sought to challenge the country’s longstanding “separate but equal” doctrine.
“The Negro traveler will now have the freedom to ride (on train or bus) and the freedom to wait (in waiting rooms and at stations) as a human being,” the columnist Max Lerner wrote in The New York Post after the ruling. “I light a candle in my heart with the knowledge that white and black alike, we can now ride together across the state lines of 48 states.”
In her 90s, Ms. Roundtree lost her sight to diabetes, from which she had suffered for many years.
That did not keep her, in November 2008, from going to the polls in Charlotte, the city where the Klan had rampaged past her home. There, with the help of a sighted friend, she cast her ballot for Barack Obama.
Story by NY Times >
Event OneJustice’s Opening Doors to Justice
This year, we are honored to be joined by Mayor Michael D. Tubbs of Stockton. Recently named one of Forbes' 30 Under 30, Mayor Tubbs is the first African American mayor of Stockton and the youngest mayor of a major city in U.S. history.
Job Opportunity East Bay Community Law Center hiring Youth Defender Clinic Attorney
EBCLC is a non-profit legal services organization and the community-based clinical program for Berkeley Law School, committed to increasing justice through education and advocacy and building a culturally diverse workplace, centered on equity.
Job Opportunity Centro Legal de la Raza hiring Executive Director
Founded in 1969, Centro Legal de la Raza is a comprehensive legal services agency protecting and advancing the rights of immigrant, low-income, and Latino communities through bilingual legal representation, education, and advocacy.