California Bar Foundation's curated briefing on what's driving the social justice conversation
in California and across the country.
California Bar Foundation's curated briefing on what's driving the social justice conversation
in California and across the country.
TOP NEWS Federal prosecutors are quitting their jobs at DOJ to run for Congress
Chris Hunter was preparing to take a health-care fraud case to trial when he says he became concerned about the dynamics at the Justice Department, the agency where he had worked for more than a decade.
After watching President Donald Trump fire former FBI Director James Comey, belittle Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, amount other events, Mr. Hunter said he decided to leave his job as a prosecutor in Tampa in December and run for Congress.
Mr. Hunter is now one of at least six former federal prosecutors who are running for House seats as Democrats this year, compared with zero in 2016.
The phenomenon reflects a broad frustration within the department, several candidates say. Current and former officials describe an agency with poor morale whose employees are trying to keep their heads down, continue working on cases and ignore the daily news cycle.
Among the top Democratic recruits is Conor Lamb, who is running in a March 13 special election in a southwest Pennsylvania district that Mr. Trump won by 20 percentage points. Mr. Lamb is a 33-year-old Marine veteran who was a federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh before resigning in October to run.
Another former federal prosecutor—former Navy helicopter pilot and mother of four Mikie Sherrill—is running to replace New Jersey Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee and announced last month that he wouldn’t seek re-election.
It is more common for U.S. attorneys—the top federal prosecutor in each district—to seek political office. Democrat Doug Jones, Alabama’s newest senator, for example, served as a U.S. attorney in Alabama in the Clinton administration. But it is rarer for line-level prosecutors, who are career staffers rather than political appointees.
Several of the candidates defended the Justice Department and the FBI in recent weeks as they have come under fire, including from the GOP memo on the surveillance of Mr. Page.
Rep. Will Hurd (R., Texas), who is running for re-election in a House district that stretches along the Texas-Mexico border, wrote a column saying he had voted to make the memo public because he was “not confident that proper vetting occurred” in seeking approval for the surveillance.
Jay Hulings, a former prosecutor and the front-runner in the Democratic primary in the race for that seat, described the memo as a “political stunt,” adding in a tweet, “The idea that releasing the memo has anything to do with civil liberties is laughable.”
Article by Wall Street Journal. Read More Here>>
Speaking of… DOJ wants to cut all funding for civil rights “Peacemaker” office
The Justice Department's latest budget proposal would eliminate all funding for the Community Relations Service, an office established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to serve as a self-described "peacemaker" in communities facing racial tensions and hate crimes.
Grande Lum, who led the Community Relations Service from 2012 to 2016, told BuzzFeed News that eliminating the office in its current form would "be an absolute tragedy."
"We are at a time when there’s increased division in communities throughout this country, so this is a time to increase [funding], not to eliminate it," said Lum, who leads the Divided Community Project at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. "They worked closely with Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders to help create positive, constructive outcomes and it would be really frustrating if that were shuttered forever."
The office was created in 1964 to provide assistance to communities facing conflict related to "race, color, or national origin." Its mandate later expanded to also cover issues relating to gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and disability. Starting in 2009, following passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the office also took on issues relating to hate crimes.
The office's functions include providing mediation — particularly between law enforcement, local government officials, community members, and activists — and training on conflict resolution. It has 10 regional offices and four smaller field offices across the country.
The Civil Rights Division is an enforcement office, and the fact that it investigates and prosecutes cases would undermine the Community Relations Service's role as a mediator, Vanita Gupta, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
"Budget proposals show priorities, and yet again, the Trump administration is seeking to dismantle a key tool that helps address discrimination, conflicts and tensions in communities around the country," said Gupta, who led the Civil Rights Division from 2014 to 2017. "The Community Relations Service is effective specifically because it is neither an investigative or prosecutorial component of the Justice Department, opening doors that might otherwise be closed to the federal government."
Article by Buzzfeed. Read More Here>>
Essay of the Week As a Nigerian immigrant, I felt unsafe. As a new lawyer, I feel empowered.
The following essay was written by Rosan Agbajoh, a USF Law graduate. In 2017, she received a scholarship from California Bar Foundation. She passed the California Bar Exam in December 2017.
Despite what some may say, Africa is full of highly educated, motivated, accomplished professionals. I was raised by one of them -- a Nigerian lawyer and government official -- my mother.
And it’s not just my mom. African immigrants attend college at higher rates than native born Americans and and are more likely to hold higher degrees in math, science, and law.
And yet despite having a lawyer as a mom, I never really saw myself becoming a lawyer.
Until I immigrated to America.
I came to America at the age of 12 and I came by myself. Like most immigrants, I wasn’t versed in the intricacies of American immigration law. I didn’t have special legal training.
American immigration law is so confusing and complex, you really do need a law degree to even know where to begin. The system is not black and white -- there is no “right way” and “wrong way” and you can’t just “get in the line”. It’s no wonder so many immigrants feel intimidated.
I felt more than intimidated. I felt unsafe. As a young, undocumented woman of color, I felt unprotected in a country that held so much promise. My undocumented status was my heaviest burden.
I was tired of feeling unsafe. That’s when I remembered my mom and everything she accomplished back in Nigeria. I remembered where I came from.
Becoming a lawyer has allowed me to reclaim my safety in America. With my law degree, I’ve armed myself with the knowledge and training to fight back, for myself and for others in my community.
This is why it’s so important for young immigrants across America to remember where they came from. Remember your country and your family -- use your background as inspiration to fuel your success. African immigrants -- and all immigrants -- are successful every single day. Focus on the many people who look just like you who are making a difference.
To all the young immigrants of color: you too can become a doctor, and engineer -- or a lawyer.
Essay published by California Bar Foundation on Medium. Read More Here>>
Facebook Post of the Week
The following message was posted by Caleb Arring on his personal Facebook page. Caleb is an immigration lawyer in San Francisco.
Perspective I sentenced a teen to die in prison. I regret it.
The following editorial was written by Evelyn Baker, a retired circuit court judge.
“You will die in the Department of Corrections.” Those are the words I spoke as a trial judge in 1997 when I sentenced Bobby Bostic to a total of 241 years in prison for his role in two armed robberies he committed when he was just 16 years old.
Bostic and an 18-year-old friend robbed a group of six people who were delivering Christmas presents to a needy family in St. Louis. Two shots were fired. A bullet grazed one person, but no one was seriously injured. Despite overwhelming evidence against him, Bostic chose to go to trial. He was found guilty.
Bostic had written me a letter trying to explain his actions, but despite this, he had not, in my view, demonstrated sufficient remorse.
I told him: “You are the biggest fool who has ever stood in front of this court. . . . You made your choice. You’re gonna have to live with your choice, and you’re gonna die with your choice. . . . Your mandatory date to go in front of the parole board will be the year 2201. Nobody in this room is going to be alive in the year 2201.”
I am now retired, and I deeply regret what I did. Scientists have discovered so much about brain development in the more than 20 years since I sentenced Bostic. What I learned too late is that young people’s brains are not static; they are in the process of maturing. Kids his age are unable to assess risks and consequences like an adult would.
Juveniles in such situations must be afforded an opportunity to show that they have grown up and rehabilitated themselves. They cannot be permanently written off for something they did before their brains were even fully formed.
While I did not technically give him “life without parole,” I placed on his shoulders a prison term of so many years combined that there is no way he will ever be considered for release. He won’t become eligible for parole until he is 112 years old — which means he will die in prison, regardless of whether he rehabilitates himself or changes as he grows older.
This week, the Supreme Court will consider whether to take Bostic’s case and, if the justices do, they will decide whether his sentence is an outcome the Constitution can countenance. The court should take the case and give Bostic the chance I did not: to show that he has changed and does not deserve to die in prison for something he did when he was just 16.
Imposing a life sentence without parole on a child who has not committed murder — whether imposed in a single sentence or multiple sentences, for one crime or many — is wrong.
Editorial published by Washington Post. Read More Here>>
Less of This 92% of Trump’s judicial nominees are white
President Trump's search for deeply conservative federal judges appears to have eliminated most African Americans and Hispanics from the running.
Among Trump's first 87 judicial nominees, only one is African American and one is Hispanic. Five are Asian Americans. Eighty are white.
The demographics signal a return to the 1980s, when 94% of President Ronald Reagan's confirmed judges were white. Since then, minority enrollment in law schools has nearly tripled.
More than one-third of President Barack Obama's confirmed judges were minorities.
“It is most unfortunate,” says Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It turns the clock back on years of work and effort that went into promoting judicial diversity.”
The numbers became more striking Monday when Trump nominated seven men and two women to federal appellate and district courts.
"Surprise!" tweeted Obama's former White House deputy counsel, Christopher Kang. "All 9 of Trump's judicial nominees today appear to be white.”
The trend toward more white judges already is having a noticeable effect in the nation's courts:
• Trump has selected white nominees for 10 seats that Obama unsuccessfully sought to fill with minorities.
• The 5th Circuit appeals court soon will have no Hispanic judges, down from three during Obama's first term. Nearly four in 10 Texas residents are Hispanic.
• The 7th Circuit appeals court now has no minority judges at all. Illinois is about 40% minority, while Indiana and Wisconsin are about 20%.
"Why can’t they find any diversity, or why aren’t they trying to find any diversity?" says Kang, who managed Obama's judicial nominations for four years. "There are some really conservative judges out there who are also people of color.
“If the conservative judicial philosophy is so alienating to people of color, who will soon be a majority in this country, I think that’s an indictment of that judicial philosophy itself.”
Article by USAToday. Read More Here>>
Job Opportunity Legal Aid of Sonoma hiring Immigration Attorney
Legal Aid of Sonoma County (LASC) helps vulnerable people of diverse backgrounds with a variety of legal issues.
Job Opportunity Asian Americans Advancing Justice hiring Senior & Family Law Attorneys
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice - LA) is the nation’s largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (NHPI).
Fellowship Opportunity Justice Policy Network offers criminal justice fellowships
The Justice Policy Network (JPN) is a community for emerging and established leaders in criminal
justice to advance the creation and implementation of transformative justice policies.