NBL Discount for “Strength in Numbers” event in May

The National Black Lawyers are partnering with the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute for “Strength in Numbers: Celebrating African American Representation in the Law.” The event will be held May 9 in Atlanta, Georgia. Strength in Numbers is dedicated to exploring the current and future representation of African American lawyers in the US legal community. As both a celebration of the myriad challenges African Americans lawyers have overcome throughout their careers, and an acknowledgment of the work left ahead, this program invites participants to share ideas and glean strategic clarity around solutions and opportunities currently in place across the profession.

In an America at a cultural crux between “great leaps forward” and “many steps back,” black Americans, who are no strangers to hardship, continue to fight for equality.  And while that struggle wages on, the promises fulfilled by black leaders of generations past should be considered and celebrated. Please join us for a networking luncheon and special keynote from Presiding Judge M. Yvette Miller of the Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia.

Judge Miller was appointed by Governor Roy Barnes on July 12, 1999, and became the 65th Judge on the Court. She is the first African-American woman to sit on the Court and to serve as its Chief Judge. During her tenure as Chief Judge, Judge Miller implemented the e-filing initiative, which has improved access to the appellate court for attorneys and parties throughout the state of Georgia.

National Black Lawyers members will receive a 30% discount on the $395 registration fee. Please use the discount code NBLT100 to receive the discount.  Click here to register.

NBL member reaches $3.5M settlement over DC police shooting

police lightsNational Black Lawyers member Jason Downs has reached a $3.5 million settlement with the District of Columbia over a fatal shooting by a police officer of an unarmed motorcyclist. Downs says Terrence Sterling was unlawfully shot in the back and killed by Metropolitan Police Officer Brian Trainer on September 11, 2016. At the time he was killed, Mr. Sterling posed no threat to the officer and was not armed. According to the Washington Post, Sterling was shot by Trainer during an attempted arrest for reckless driving. The Post reports that District officials say the settlement is the largest ever reached in a fatal shooting by an on-duty officer. More details are available at the Washington Post.

Podcast: Racial inequities in the criminal justice system

Paul ButlerGeorgetown law professor Paul Butler is a former federal prosecutor in Washington, DC who once put people in prison. Now, he believes that prisons ought to be abolished. In this podcast by the ABA Journal available at the Legal Talk Network, Butler talks about the racial inequities that are built into the criminal justice system, advice for young black men when they deal with police officers, and his belief that something radical, not gradual, is needed to address the civil rights issues that remain in the justice system.

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We hope you enjoy reading the news blogs on The National Black Lawyers website, and the latest news on the legal profession in our social media feeds and in our newsletter, The National. We are constantly striving to provide thoughtful, relevant and interesting stories that affect you and the practice of law. As part of that effort, we would like to invite you to contribute stories. If you’re an experienced writer, we’d love to accept your work for review and possible inclusion in our newsletter, blog and social media. Please be advised that we can’t guarantee that we’ll use every piece that’s submitted. Also please note that we do not pay for submissions. All submissions become the property of Legal Associations Management.

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The National Black Lawyers would like to invite you to contribute articles on the topic of civil plaintiff or criminal defense. Do you have civil plaintiff or criminal defense expertise that you’d like to share with your fellow members? Please write an article about your experience on a civil plaintiff or criminal defense-related subject and send it to us. E-mail it to us at editor@thentl.org.

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Have you achieved success a settlement, verdict or judgment that you’d like to promote? Please send a summary of your settlement, verdict or judgment to editor@thentl.org and it could appear in our newsletter, our blog on The National Black Lawyers website or on social media.

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Would you like to be featured in The National Black Lawyers Member Spotlight? We promote our members regularly in the The National newsletter. If you’d like us to focus our Member Spotlight on you, please contact us at editor@thentl.org!

What makes a great law firm website?

social mediaWhat does it take to create a great law firm website? Forbes has identified five things that a law firm’s website needs to elevate it above the rest. It’s more than just looking good. It has to stand out, and more importantly, it needs to motivate the person looking at it to pick up the phone and call your firm. Read more about the five elements your firm website needs in this story at Forbes.

A survival guide for being stopped by police

police protest

Meredith Walker’s son was already 6′ 4″ and weighed 225 at the age of 16. So, she said, it was time for them to have “the talk”: what to do when he’s stopped by a cop. Ms. Walker explained to her son that “the only right you have…is to make it home alive.”

No matter what’s going on, I tell him, stay quiet. Keep your eyes down. Lower your shoulders. Let the air out of your chest. Get the bass out of your voice. Sound as much like a child as possible. And above all, do not make any sudden moves.

 

Whatever they ask you to do, I tell him, you do.

It’s tragic that young black people need to know these skills on how to survive an interaction with police. Nonetheless, it’s necessary for survival in today’s world. You can read “A Black Mother’s Survival Guide for her Teenage Son” at The Marshall Project.

ACLU Comment on Sentencing Reform Senate Committee Vote

death rowWASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a markup vote tomorrow (Thursday, February 15) on a bill to address the problem of mass incarceration at the federal level.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA S. 1917), supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, aims to reduce incarceration rates by instituting reforms such as giving judges additional discretion in sentencing and reducing sentencing disparities. 

Jesselyn McCurdy, deputy director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said:

“Tomorrow’s vote will be the most significant criminal justice reform legislation to be considered by Congress since 2010. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is our best chance in nearly a decade to make meaningful reforms to help prevent mass incarceration. Mass incarceration is an utter failure as a public policy due to its failure to increase public safety and its disproportionate impact to poor communities and people of color.

“The bill isn’t perfect but will help reduce America’s incarceration problem that has ravaged our communities and left us with the world’s largest prison population. We urge Congress to swiftly enact this bill.”

An ACLU letter to Congress in support of the bill is available here:
https://www.aclu.org/letter/aclu-letter-s-1917-sentencing-reform-and-corrections-act-2017

This statement is online here:
https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-comment-sentencing-reform-senate-committee-vote

Legal Services Corp. still hopes to get funding

President Trump’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2019 released today calls for defunding the Legal Services Corporation (LSC)but LSC leaders remain confident of continued bipartisan Congressional support.

LSC is the nation’s largest single funder of civil legal aid, distributing more than 94% of its funding to more than 800 offices nationwide. These organizations serve low-income individuals, children, families, seniors, and veterans in every congressional district.

Last year, the Trump Administration also identified LSC as one of 19 independent agencies to be eliminated. In response, members of the legal community, business leaders, state attorneys general, and state legislators from across the country sent letters to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees advocating robust support for LSC. Congress passed a series of Continuing Resolutions maintaining LSC’s funding at the Fiscal Year 2017 level, $385 million.

“I am optimistic that Congress will continue to fund LSC,” said LSC President Jim Sandman, “because LSC promotes the most fundamental of American values—equal justice under law.  Both the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to continue to fund LSC after the Administration’s proposal to eliminate LSC last year, and just last week Congress voted to give LSC an additional $15 million to fund legal services for victims of recent natural disasters. LSC has had broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for more than 40 years.  And we have it now.”

LSC asked Congress today for $564.8 million for Fiscal Year 2019 to help meet the overwhelming need for civil legal services. This budget request reflects an increase of $37 million over last year’s request of $527.8 million. The increase would be allocated entirely to basic field grants that fund the essential, day-to-day operations in 133 civil legal aid organizations across the country.

“For more than 40 years, the Legal Services Corporation has promoted a core American value—equal access to justice,” said LSC Board Chair John Levi. “Our grantees in every congressional district across the country provide services to low-income Americans that go to the heart of their security and well-being—survivors of domestic violence seeking protections from their abusers, victims of natural disasters trying to obtain appropriate relief, veterans collecting benefits they have earned, the elderly protecting their assets from scams, and so much more. With more money available for domestic spending in the budget deal reached last week, we call on Congress to significantly increase LSC’s funding.”

Civil legal aid offices provide critical constituent services. In 2016, LSC grantees helped nearly 1.8 million people in all households served.

The enormous gap between the number of people who need these critical legal services and the resources available to meet them was documented last year in LSC’s The Justice Gap—Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans. The report, prepared in conjunction with NORC at the University of Chicago, found a wide justice gap for the approximately 20 percent of Americans eligible for LSC-funded assistance. Eighty-six percent of the civil legal problems faced by this population in a given year receive inadequate or no legal help. And the need is widespread, with 71 percent of low-income households experiencing at least one civil legal problem a year, and a quarter of this population experiencing six or more civil legal problems.

Civil legal aid is a good investment for communities as well as for individuals. Studies in several states illustrate that legal aid reduces homeless shelter costs, foreclosure and eviction rates, and domestic abuse costs, while increasing employment. The federal contribution to civil legal aid allows millions of Americans to safeguard their basic legal rights.

Click here to read LSC’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request.

Podcast: How Jeff Sessions has affected the Justice Dept. in his 1st year

Attorney General Jeff SessionsAttorney General Jeff Sessions pledged that “a new era in justice has begun” after being sworn in as the nation’s top prosecutor. One year later, it’s clear that Sessions has had a profound effect on the Justice Department, reports NPR. Carrie Johnson takes a look at how Sessions has affected such major issues as civil rights, immigration and drug enforcement in this podcast.

Alliance for Justice criticizes Trump court nominee with ‘history of racist statements’

Alliance for Justice today released a preliminary “Snapshot” report on the record of Ryan Bounds, whom Donald Trump has nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. AFJ President Nan Aron released the following statement:

“Once again the Trump Administration has given us a nominee for the federal bench, Ryan Bounds, who has made intolerant and outrageous remarks about people with backgrounds and beliefs different from his. The pattern of racist, sexist and homophobic remarks by these nominees is unacceptable, and we urge the Senate to treat this behavior as disqualifying for a federal judgeship.”

Under President Obama, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee made clear that a nominee’s writings, including those dating back to the nominee’s time in college, were grounds to oppose confirmation.

For example, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Senators Mike Lee and Jon Kyle, pressed Jesse Furman, a former Assistant United States Attorney in New York, about an article he wrote as an undergraduate critical of the National Rifle Association.  As Senator Chuck Grassley said in opposing Furman, “When we considered his nomination last year, a few items of concern were raised.  These issues included writings he made while in college on gun control[.]”

AFJ’s review finds that while at Stanford University:

  • Bounds wrote critically about “strident racial factions in the student body” and their work to “build tolerance” and “promote diversity.” He went on to claim that the efforts of these students “seem always to contribute more to restricting consciousness, aggravating intolerance, and pigeonholing cultural identities than many a Nazi bookburning.”
  • Bounds complained about multicultural organizations at the university who “divide up by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns.”
  • Bounds wrote that “race-focused groups” should not continue on campus, claiming that the “existence of ethnic organizations is no inevitable prerequisite to maintaining a diverse community—white students, after all, seem to be doing all right without an Aryan Student Union.”
  • Using racist and offensive language, Bounds claimed that there were communities on campus who believed that the “opponent is the white male and his coterie of meanspirited lackeys: ‘oreos,’ ‘twinkies,’ ‘coconuts,’ and the like.”
  • Similarly, Bounds accused campus “race-thinkers” of denigrating African-Americans as “oreos,” “Uncle Toms” or “sell-outs” if they rejected “victimhood status.”
  • Bounds wrote condescendingly and dismissively about sexual assault on campus and argued that to identify and punish alleged perpetrators, the university should maintain the ironclad “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof used by law enforcement. He wrote: “Expelling students is probably not going to contribute a great deal toward a rape victim’s recovery; there is no moral imperative to risk egregious error in doing so.”
  • Bounds decried “sensitivity” towards racial minorities and the LGBTQ community, and activism by those communities as a “pestilence” that “stalks us” and “threatens to corrupt our scholastic experience.”
  • Bounds served as opinion editor of The Stanford Review, and during his tenure a feature of the opinion page, “Smoke Signals,” began using a crude caricature of a Native American figure even though the university had discontinued using the “Indians” mascot more than twenty years earlier in response to complaints from Native American groups.  Stanford University President Gerhard Casper and Provost Condoleezza Rice both criticized the Review for using the image.

AFJ continues to research Bounds’s full record. The Snapshot can be found online here: https://afj.org/our-work/nominees/afj-snapshot-ryan-bounds