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 San Francisco poised to become first city to eliminate criminal justice fees
The City of San Francisco is looking to eliminate criminal justice fees ranging from probation fees to electronic monitoring fees and booking fees.
"Today we're going to make history," said Board of Supervisors President London Breed, joining city leaders, Tuesday.
The fees, Breed said, create barriers for people attempting to turn their lives around, and the city only collects between 9 and 15 percent of the fees.
"They're counterproductive, problematic, sources of revenue, born on the backs of our most vulnerable populations in San Francisco," Breed said. "We're not having it anymore."
Noe Gudino, who said he made mistakes as a young person, explained that criminal justice fees related to petty theft and robbery charges have made it difficult for him to re-enter society.
"At the point where you get out, it's a critical moment, where you want to dance both sides, because this is what you knew before and this came easier," said Gudino.
The San Francisco Sheriff's Department also said it would drop electronic monitoring fees and work-program fees as part of the proposed legislation.
"It is good policy to do all that we can to aid offenders in their successful re-entry into San Francisco," said Undersheriff Matthew Freeman.
The proposal, which Breed called a "collaboration," also has the support of the San Francisco Public Defender's Office and San Francisco District Attorney.
"From a fiscal standpoint, a social justice standpoint and a public safety standpoint, this policy really makes a lot of sense," said San Francisco District Attorney's Office Spokesperson Maxwell Szabo.
Article by ABC News. Read More Here>>
Speaking of… An elderly man stole a $5 bottle of cologne. His bail was set for $350,000
The following article was written by Jeff Adachi, San Francisco Public Defender, and Chesa Boudin, San Francisco Deputy Public Defender and board member of Civil Rights Corps, an organization that challenges money bail.
The case of a San Francisco senior citizen accused of stealing $5 and a bottle of cologne from his neighbor reveals the obvious injustice of California's bail system, and may finally lead to reform.
Kenneth Humphrey has languished in San Francisco County Jail for more than 250 days on $350,000 bail.
But in late January, a panel of state appeal court judges ordered a new bail hearing for the retired shipyard laborer. The panel also stated that the laws governing bail are the "antithesis" of what the Constitution requires before a person may be deprived of liberty.
"A defendant may not be imprisoned solely due to poverty," the court said, a revolutionary decision, if it's upheld.
Humphrey's case is extreme in the sense that a $5 crime led to a several hundred thousand dollar bail, and even the district attorney concedes he poses no threat to society. But every day in every county criminal courthouse in California, prosecutors request sky-high bail amounts from judges who are happy to impose them. That makes a mockery of the presumption of innocence and equality before the law, as poor people accused of minor offenses wait in jail while wealthy people go free despite the seriousness of their charges.
Money bail as it's currently constituted punishes poverty, and too often results in coerced guilty pleas from those who can't get out of jail any other way.
How did we get here?
Humphrey's incarceration is not an aberration or an accident; "it stems instead from the unwillingness of our society, including the courts," the San Francisco panel wrote, "to correct a deformity in our criminal justice system that close observers have long considered a blight."
In Humphrey's case, as in so many, "the prosecutor presented no evidence that non-monetary conditions of release could not sufficiently protect" public interests.
As it happens, legislation is at hand: Senate Bill 10, which would effectively outlaw money bail, passed the state Senate and is now being held in committee in the Assembly. It just needs a handful more votes and the governor's agreement to become law.
Humphrey is one of many people behind bars simply because he's poor, but he could be among the last.
Article by LA Times. Read More Here>>
Watch This How the criminal justice system treats Black and White people differently
Trayvon Martin would have been 23 years old today. Nearly six years after his killing—and years after the deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and so many others—criminal justice continues to mean different things if you’re black or if you’re white.
More of This First Black woman elected editor in chief of Berkeley’s California Law Review
While the archives are not definitive, Djenab Conde ’19 is believed to be the first African-American woman elected editor-in-chief of the California Law Review (CLR). A momentous achievement, hardly a shock to those who know her.
Berkeley Law’s preeminent journal, CLR publishes six annual issues on a wide range of legal topics. Professor Amanda Tyler, for whom Conde works as a research assistant, was “not the least bit surprised” to learn of her election.
“She combines the wonderful qualities of maturity, humility, and kindness with superb intellectual firepower,” Tyler says. “Djenab also brings a unique and important perspective to the table, having lived all over the world, and a track record of working hard to promote important issues under very trying circumstances.”
The daughter of a Guinean father and Chinese mother, Conde lived in China, France, and different West African nations as a child. Her family moved to Columbus, Ohio, when she was seven, and she just spent winter break in Guinea—her first time there in 18 years.
“It was great to reconnect with family members, but also depressing because not much has changed there,” Conde says. “I feel very lucky to be in America, and at Berkeley Law, where most students’ biggest worry is how to find a fulfilling career. We don’t have to worry about electricity, running water, rampant corruption … it’s helpful to remember that, and approach things with a different perspective.”
“Whether it’s a journal, other student group, or Berkeley Law in general, more diversity can only help,” Conde says. “At CLR, what we publish should be as inclusive and intersectional as possible. You only know the experience you’ve lived, and the more different experiences and voices we have in the room the better. I was very honest about that when pursuing this position, and I’m grateful people responded well to it.”
“My comments were largely based on my personal experience as a Black woman,” she says. “Voices like mine have been underrepresented throughout the legal profession, and it’s gratifying when people value them.”
Her achievements caught the eye of not one but two federal jurists. Less than a year into her law school career, she secured clerkships with Judge Victor Bolden (U.S. District Court, Connecticut) for 2019-20, and Judge Paul Watford (U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit) for 2020-21.
Conde was one of 11 African-American Berkeley Law students and alumni chosen for coveted federal clerkships during last year’s hiring cycle. It marked the highest number in school history and an impressive figure given the jarring lack of racial diversity within U.S. judicial chambers. African Americans held only 3 percent of federal clerkships in the most recent figures made available by the National Association for Law Placement.
Article by Berkeley Law. Read More Here>>
Less of This In the legal system, talking “white” is a precursor to justice
The following editorial was written by Jordana Rosenfield, an immigration paralegal and student at the University of Pittsburg.
In October 2015, Warren Demesme, accused by two underage girls of sexual assault, asked the New Orleans police who were questioning him for a lawyer, which the US Supreme Court has ruled must be provided upon request. In a now-infamous statement, Demesme told them: “This is how I feel: If y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it, so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog, ’cause this is not what’s up.” In response, the police failed to provide a lawyer; Demesme’s interview continued, and he subsequently admitted the crime. He currently awaits trial.“
In a widely mocked sentence from the decision, Judge Scott J. Crichton wrote, “In my view, the defendant’s ambiguous and equivocal reference to a ‘lawyer dog’ does not constitute an invocation of counsel that warrants termination of the interview.”
That this could plausibly be confusing raises questions about the status of African-American English (AAE) in our society and legal system. And it wasn’t an isolated incident. It’s part an often-overlooked facet of systemic racism: language discrimination, the unfair treatment of an individual based solely on the characteristics of their speech.
Standard American English (SAE)—the language taught in schools and used in most public discourse—is widely regarded as the “proper” and “correct” way to speak English in the United States, despite the fact that the country has no official language. One needs Standard English fluency to navigate much of the formal economy and government institutions; it is the language of power.
To acknowledge AAE as a legitimate way of speaking could make our nation’s most important social and political institutions more accessible. The legal system, as in Demesme’s case, doesn’t provide equitable support to those who primarily speak AAE, but the inequity also fundamentally discredits the speaker.
While other factors played into the LA Supreme Court’s decision to reject Demesme’s motion, Judge Crichton’s misunderstanding of a common element of AAE is a reminder that AAE is not valued as a dialect, although it is spoken by an estimated several millions of Americans. There is no expectation that a judge in Louisiana, where African Americans make up almost a third of the population, understand common features of AAE. If AAE is not legible in Louisiana’s courts, neither are its speakers—and that’s a serious impediment to justice.
One of the first steps, however, is the acknowledgment that negative attitudes towards AAE are manifestations of anti-black racism. Similarly, a belief that SAE is the correct or best way to speak upholds white supremacy. There can be no racial equity if it’s only acceptable to talk the way white people talk.
Editorial published by The Nation. Read More Here>>
DOJ Watch Justice Department quietly closes office that made legal aid more accessible
The Justice Department has effectively shuttered an Obama-era office dedicated to making legal aid accessible to all citizens, according to two people familiar with the situation.
The division, the Office for Access to Justice, began as an initiative in 2010 under former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to increase and improve legal resources for indigent litigants in civil, criminal and tribal courts.
While Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot close the office without notifying the Congress, he can sideline it by moving its resources elsewhere. Its offices now sit dark on the third floor of the Justice Department building. The staff of a dozen or so has dwindled and left the department over the past few months, the people said.
“Sessions’ shutting down the Access to Justice Initiative sadly speaks for itself,” said Vanita Gupta, the chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the former head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama.
Added Sharon McGowan, director of strategy at Lambda Legal and a former official in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in the Obama administration: “Ever since he became attorney general, Sessions has advanced positions that are irreconcilable with where we are as a country.”
“Access to Justice was a recognition that the Justice Department’s job was not just to prosecute cases, but to ensure justice in the system overall,” Ms. Gupta said.
Article by NY Times. Read More Here>>
Perspective The day ICE knocked on my door
The following first person account was written by Khalil A. Cumberbatch, Associate Vice President of Policy at the Fortune Society, a reentry organization based in New York City. He previously served as Manager of Training at JustLeadershipUSA, a nonprofit dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in half by the year 2030.
It began like any other spring day. I woke up in my apartment in Queens and went about my daily ritual of preparing a batch of coffee and watching the morning news. Then my plan was to wake up my daughters and get them ready for school.
But when the doorbell rang at 7 a.m., it was Immigration and Customs Enforcement waiting on the other side of the door.
“Good morning,” one officer said. “We’re conducting an investigation and would like to come in, to ask you a few questions.”
“Couldn’t I answer the questions here?” I asked, standing in the doorway.
“It would be easier if we asked you privately.”
They were there to arrest me, based on my criminal conviction from over a decade ago: a robbery I committed at age 20 and had already served my time for. Coupled with the fact that I was a legal permanent resident — I’m from Guyana originally but have lived in Queens with my family since I was a toddler — this made me eligible for deportation proceedings.
By that night, I was at a jail in Kearny, New Jersey, all alone in a double-bunk cell with no idea of what was going to happen next.
I also couldn’t stop thinking of my daughters. They had never been separated from me, and I couldn’t imagine what they were going through.
My wife, too. She woke up that day in a two-parent household but had gone to sleep as the single caretaker of two little girls. I had promised never to leave her and my daughters, and here I was, breaking that vow because of a bad decision I had made as a very different person, at a very different time in my life.
I remember the calls with my daughters. My youngest was no more than three years old, and every time she would get on the phone with me, she’d ask, “Daddy, when are you coming home?”
But then, after many months, and with little explanation, I was released.
The day I left immigration detention, I remember being awakened early in the morning and getting told simply to pack all of my stuff. The officer didn’t know where I was going. It was 3:30 a.m.
By 6 a.m., after a bus ride, I was in the courthouse.
By 11 a.m., I was released into the custody of my family.
I was very fortunate to have a tremendous amount of legal and community support that ultimately gave me the opportunity to be released. And in 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo granted me an executive pardon to prevent my deportation, which is exceedingly rare in these kinds of cases.
But I am devastated by the fact that there were other people out there, people just like me — and just like you — who won’t get the same outcome.
First Person Article published by The Marshall Project. Read More Here>>
Event Law admission conference at UC Berkeley
This event will provide attendees with a comprehensive overview of the law school application process. Current law students and administrators will provide advice on how best to navigate the law school application process. Hosted by For People of Color, Inc.
Saturday, February 10, 2018 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Job Opportunity California Bar Foundation hiring Program Officer
We invest in the next generation of bright, diverse scholars so that they have the opportunity to enter and succeed in the legal profession—and change the world. Join our growing team!
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.
Scholarship Opportunity $5000 cash award for 3Ls taking the bar exam
California Bar Foundation is now accepting applications from 3Ls planning on taking the bar exam in February & July of 2018. The scholarship includes a $5000 living stipend.