March 2018 Newsletter

  Welcome to the Public Rights Project Newsletter!  Each month, we’ll keep you up to date with our efforts to empower states and cities to protect the rights and freedoms that define us as Americans.  We’ll also share a few articles you may have missed that highlight the importance of state and local government, and how states and cities are picking up the torch to protect our rights.

Welcome to the Public Rights Project Newsletter!  Each month, we’ll keep you up to date with our efforts to empower states and cities to protect the rights and freedoms that define us as Americans.  We’ll also share a few articles you may have missed that highlight the importance of state and local government, and how states and cities are picking up the torch to protect our rights.


UPDATES FROM PUBLIC RIGHTS PROJECT


INAUGURAL PUBLIC RIGHTS PROJECT FELLOWSHIP LAUNCH

On March 15, the application for the inaugural class of Public Rights Project Fellows officially went live! Thank you to all of the supporters who liked and shared news of the launch with friends, family, colleagues, and on social media.

We have until May 15 to recruit phenomenal attorneys 3-5 years out of law school to apply for the fellowship. Please continue to spread the word to your personal and professional networks! For more information on the Fellowship, visit our site here, and check out our launch video with Senators Harris, Warren, and Booker, Yale Law Dean Gerken, and former NJ Attorney General Harvey, here

If you know an attorney who is passionate about public service and would make a great Fellow, you can nominate them here

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ANNOUNCING 2 UPCOMING FELLOWSHIP WEBINARS

Do you (or someone you know) have questions about the Public Rights Project Fellowship? We will be hosting two informational webinars on April 10, 2018 at 12:00pm (PT) and April 11, 2018 at 9:00am (PT)!

The webinar will include a short presentation covering basic information about the Fellowship design, the application process, and more. This is a fantastic opportunity to interact with the entire Public Rights Project staff and get answers to your Fellowship questions.

We hope you’ll join us! Please sign up here.

OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES PUBLIC RIGHTS PROJECT FOUNDER & PRESIDENT AS A 2018 LEADERSHIP IN GOVERNMENT FELLOW

In early March, Open Society Foundation unveiled its 2018 class of Leadership in Government Fellows, announcing Public Rights Project Founder Jill Habig as one of four recipients of the prestigious Fellowship.

The program is intended to help Fellows build on their time in the public sector to develop ideas and strategies that advance the values of an open society.

You can find out more about this year’s class of OSF Leadership in Government Fellows here.

OSF - VOICES - HOW U.S. STATES & CITIES CAN SHORE UP CIVIL RIGHTS

Open Society Foundations published a blog post by Founder Jill Habig about why we need to equip states and cities to bridge gaps in federal civil rights enforcement — regardless of who is in the White House. Check it out here

CIVIL RIGHTS IN SCHOOLS

From civil rights in schools, to the hidden dangers of chronic absence, to the school-to-prison pipeline, education is at the core of social justice issues facing the nation today. That’s why Jill stopped by the “We Love Schools” podcast to chat with host Joel Gagne about how inequity and disadvantages can be disrupted or exacerbated in the classroom. Listen to their conversation here.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT... 
 


MARYLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL BRIAN FROSH DISCUSSES STATES & CITIES STEPPING UP

In the latest issue of the Harvard Law & Policy Review, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh sums up states’ role in the current political climate: “Many states and localities, in order to protect their residents and vindicate their interests as sovereign powers, are acting to thwart the Trump administration’s attempts to undermine civil rights and liberties, chip away at fundamental environmental and consumer protections, deny people health care, and commit myriad other abuses. For example, my office, working in collaboration with numerous other state attorneys general, has filed suits, intervened in existing litigation, and urged Congress to act to prevent President Trump’s unrelenting attempts to unwind critical environmental, consumer protection, and civil rights policies.”
Read more via Harvard Law & Policy Review
 

HOW A NEW GENERATION OF PROSECUTORS IS DRIVING CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM OUTSIDE OF CONGRESS

Newly-elected Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and former federal prosecutor and Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution Miriam Krinsky write about the new wave of reform minded prosecutors leading the fight to change the criminal justice system at the local level. “What’s happening in Brooklyn and a handful of other cities reflects a movement that rejects the regressive policies of years past that have sadly taken hold anew in Washington, D.C. This movement is centered around data-driven policies that have proven effective in state after state – regardless of which political party is in power. It is about strategies that divert those who needn’t be in our justice system, decrease prison populations and reduce recidivism rates.  And, it is being led by new thinkers in the most unlikely, and also the most powerful, of roles – prosecutors.”
Read more via The Hill
 

NEW INITIATIVE LOOKS TO HAVE NYC BRING MORE IMPACT LITIGATION

New York City’s law department plans to look for ways to bring more social justice and impact litigation going forward with a new strategic advocacy initiative announced in early March.  This new effort will be proactive, seeking to find new areas of litigation, with two designated staff members actively pursuing new opportunities.
Read more via NYC Law Department
 

SESSIONS SCOLDS CALIFORNIA IN IMMIGRATION SPEECH

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced earlier this month that the Trump administration was suing California over laws limiting state assistance with federal immigration enforcement. Mr. Sessions described the state’s so-called sanctuary laws as a radical maneuver that would threaten public safety and throw open the nation’s borders to even more illegal immigration. Governor Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra defended the legislation as constitutional, saying that the laws prevented neither ICE agents from working in local jails and prisons nor employers from cooperating with ICE.  “California is in the business of publicsafety,” Becerra said. “We are not in the business of deportation.”
Read more via The New York Times

February 2018 Newsletter

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Welcome to the Public Rights Project Newsletter!  Each month, we’ll keep you up to date with our efforts to empower states and cities to protect the rights and freedoms that define us as Americans.  We’ll also share a few articles you may have missed that highlight the importance of state and local government, and how states and cities are picking up the torch to protect our rights.


UPDATES FROM PUBLIC RIGHTS PROJECT


ANNOUNCING JOANNA PEARL AS PUBLIC RIGHTS PROJECT'S LEGAL DIRECTOR

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We are thrilled to welcome Joanna Pearl to our team as Legal Director! Joanna was a founding member of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Enforcement after serving on the team tasked with creating the agency in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. She served as Chief of Staff for the Enforcement Office at the CFPB for six years and later became Acting Principal Deputy Enforcement Director in 2016.

As our new Legal Director, Joanna is currently working on legal research and strategic engagement for Public Rights Project and our legal partners. Between developing an affirmative litigation toolkit to creating a data analysis prototype and resource guides, it’s been a busy (and productive) first month on the job!


FIRST PUBLIC RIGHTS PROJECT BOARD MEETING
At the beginning of February, Public Rights Project convened its first board meeting in New Haven, Connecticut. With the help of our esteemed Board Members - Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken, Former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey, and LA2028 General Counsel Brian Nelson - we ironed out details for our much-anticipated inaugural Spring Fellowship launch, discussed ongoing and future strategic partnerships, and brainstormed ideas for new groundbreaking legal projects. Special thanks to the Board and to Open Society Foundations for joining us in New Haven!

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT... 


CALIFORNIA OFFICIALS VOW TO BLOCK TRUMP PLAN FOR MORE COASTAL DRILLING
California officials said they will block the federal government from transporting oil using existing or new pipelines, a move that would disrupt President Trump’s plan to expand drilling off the state’s coast. Trump’s calls for more domestic drilling have received bipartisan pushback from governors of coastal states, including Gov. Jerry Brown.
Read more via SF Chronicle

STATES OPPOSE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION EFFORT TO ADD CITIZENSHIP QUESTION TO US CENSUS
The Department of Justice has proposed adding a citizenship question to the census in order to protect against racial discrimination in voting. However, opponents of adding a question say it will discourage participation in the census by immigrants, those who entered legally and illegally. The census is required by law to count every person living in each state, regardless of legal status. A total of 19  attorneys general and the Colorado governor co-authored a letter urging Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross not to include a question about citizenship on the U.S. 2020 census.
Read more here

MONEYLION SETTLES VIRGINIA PROBE INTO OVERCHARGES, LICENSING
An affiliate of MoneyLion Inc, a New York-based online lending platform and savings app, will pay more than $2.7 million to settle charges by Virginia’s attorney general that it offered improperly costly loans to that state’s residents, while falsely claiming it was licensed to do so.
The settlement announced on Wednesday calls for MoneyLion of Virginia LLC to give up $2.35 million of interest charged to 2,639 consumers, refund $359,812 to 1,161 consumers whose payments bore interest rates topping 12 percent, and pay a $10,000 civil fine plus $20,000 to cover costs.
Read more via Reuters

CALIFORNIA STEPS IN TO OVERSEE POLICE REFORM AFTER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PULLS OUT
California’s top lawyer announced Monday he will monitor reforms at the San Francisco Police Department, replacing recently ended federal oversight and crafting a new path for state officials to become law enforcement watchdogs after the Trump administration last year drastically cut federal investigations of troubled agencies. The move comes after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last spring changed Department of Justice policy to largely end the kind of civil rights investigations of law enforcement that have been a driving force behind police reforms across the country, whether through consent decrees or voluntary action. California is one of only two states that has intervened in police cases since 2016.
Read more via SacBee

January 2018 Newsletter

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Welcome to the Public Rights Project Newsletter!  Each month, we’ll keep you up to date with our efforts to empower states and cities to protect the rights and freedoms that define us as Americans.  We’ll also share a few articles you may have missed that highlight the importance of state and local government, and how states and cities are picking up the torch to protect our rights.


UPDATES FROM PUBLIC RIGHTS PROJECT


PUBLIC RIGHTS PROJECT’S 1ST FELLOWSHIP APPLICATION LAUNCHING

We are excited to announce that the Public Rights Fellowship application will be launching Spring 2018!

We will conduct a nationwide search for talented attorneys seeking a pathway into public service. Successful applicants will be placed in a City Attorney, District Attorney, or Attorney General’s office. The program is ideally suited for attorneys 3-5 years out of law school.

If you or someone you know might be interested, please be on the lookout for our application launch and announcement about our first partner agencies in the coming weeks!  

CORO FELLOWS JOIN PUBLIC RIGHTS PROJECT!

In early January we welcomed our first cohort of CORO Fellows! CORO trains future leaders to develop skills and master tools needed to engage and empower communities. CORO Fellows gain experience in government, business, labor and not-for-profit community organizations, and participate in special community and political problem solving processes. You can learn more about our four new team members here!

 Tim Ryan  Fresno State, 2017

Tim Ryan
Fresno State, 2017

 Keara O'Doherty  UC Berkeley, 2015

Keara O'Doherty
UC Berkeley, 2015

 Oriya Cohen  UC Berkeley, 2017

Oriya Cohen
UC Berkeley, 2017

 Lindsey Hogg  Yale, 2017

Lindsey Hogg
Yale, 2017


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT 


THE AGENCY THE WHITE HOUSE JUST TOOK OVER IS ABOUT TO FEED US TO LOAN SHARKS
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is expected to re-write a regulation that made it harder for payday lenders — lenders who charge high interest fees on short term loans — to keep mostly poor Americans in cycles of debt. The CFPB, created by Dodd-Frank legislation during the financial crisis, is tasked with keeping Americans safe from predatory behavior in the financial services industry. It's supposed to keep Wall Street from eating our lunch — as it has since, and will likely do again. However, at the end of last year it was taken over by the Trump administration in something of a bloodless coup.
Read more via Business Insider

TRUMP'S ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIONS SPARK RESISTANCE IN MANY STATES
Democratic governors, attorneys general and state legislators spent 2017 fighting President Donald Trump’s environmental agenda, and the conflict shows no sign of letting up this year. While the president has pushed to reduce regulations on businesses and open up new areas to oil, gas and coal extraction, others want to crack down on polluters and reduce fossil fuel emissions that contribute to climate change.
Read more via Pew

HOW PROSECUTORS ARE FIGHTING TRUMP'S DEPORTATION PLANS
Since 2016, prosecutors across the country have been looking for ways to shield some low-level offenders from deportation. “As the current administration in Washington continues to increase its efforts to enforce immigration laws, we as prosecutors are the torch-bearers of justice in this city,” the Baltimore city  prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, said in a news release. “We must utilize our prosecutorial discretion as we do in every case by considering the unintended collateral consequences that our decisions have on our immigrant population.”
Read more via The Marshall Project

December 2017 Newsletter

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Welcome to the Public Rights Project Newsletter!  Each month, we’ll keep you up to date with our efforts to empower states and cities to protect the rights and freedoms that define us as Americans.  We’ll also share a few articles you may have missed that highlight the importance of state and local government, and how states and cities are picking up the torch to protect our rights.


UPDATES FROM PUBLIC RIGHTS PROJECT


ACS PRESENTATION AT BERKELEY LAW

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Founder & President Jill Habig tells Berkeley Law Students how Public Rights Project is responding to the need for state and local governments to defend their residents’ rights, and why they should consider careers in state in local government regardless of who’s in the White House. Nearly 50 students showed up during finals study week!

END OF YEAR FUNDRAISER AT KEKER VAN NEST & PETERS

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We were thrilled to celebrate 2017 with an End of Year Reception and fundraiser at the spectacular law office of Keker Van Nest & Peters. Our deepest gratitude to everyone who attended and donated! We are $15,000 closer to our goal thanks to your generosity!

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WE'RE HIRING!

Public Rights Project is looking for our first Legal Director AND our first undergraduate interns.  Please share both job descriptions widely and get in touch ASAP if you or someone you know is interested. Thank you!


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...


WEAKENING ENFORCEMENT: TRUMP JOB CUTS AT EDUCATION DEPARTMENT WORRY CIVIL- RIGHTS ADVOCATES
Critics say the move to cut staff at the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights will blunt its response to issues like sexual assault on college campuses and racial discrimination in public schools. Department officials say the offers of voluntary buyouts as part of a broad staff reduction are aimed at employees reaching retirement age. Some civil rights advocates are skeptical of this explanation, noting that the civil rights office is being targeted. Earlier this year, Public Rights Project joined the Education Civil Rights Alliance to help protect students’ rights across the country.
Read more via The Wall Street Journal

SELLING OFF OUR FREEDOM: HOW INSURANCE CORPORATIONS HAVE TAKEN OVER OUR BAIL SYSTEM
Color of Change and the ACLU's Campaign for Smart Justice have published a joint report that documents how the for-profit bail industry fuels mass incarceration and perpetuates racial inequalities. The report finds that people who cannot afford bail must pay a non-refundable fee that harms individuals, harms families, and disproportionately affects Black and low-income communities. 
Read the report via ACLU


STATES & CITIES STEPPING UP


CHICAGO SAYS IT’S FORMING A LEGAL UNIT TO SUE MISBEHAVING CORPORATIONS IF TRUMP WON’T
Chicago will assemble a legal team dedicated to suing corporations and other organizations that it believes violate the law, a move that officials say will protect residents and fill the breach created by a Trump administration that does not share the city’s priorities. Chicago’s “affirmative litigation” strategy is the kind of model Public Rights Project seeks to seed across the country to empower cities and states to be more proactive in protecting their residents’ rights.
Read more via Chicago Tribune

AFTER FCC ABANDONS NET NEUTRALITY, STATES TAKE UP THE FIGHT
Minutes after the FCC voted to jettison its Obama-era rules that prohibit internet providers from blocking or discriminating against lawful content, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he would lead a multistate lawsuit against the agency to preserve regulations. So far attorneys general in Illinois, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Washington have also announced suits. Others are likely to join as well.
Read more via Wired

KEEPING RESIDENTS SAFE: CALIFORNIA JUDGE SAYS COMPANIES MUST REMOVE PRE-1951 LEAD PAINT IN HOMES
The Sixth District Court of Appeal in San Jose has upheld a judge's ruling that three paint companies — Conagra, NL Industries and Sherwin-Williams — had marketed lead paint for decades while knowing of its health dangers to children.  According to Joseph Cotchett, an attorney for the cities and counties, most of the affected children are from poor and minority families. The suit was filed by Santa Clara county and joined by six other counties and the cities of Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has called the ruling a major victory.
Read more via SF Gate

PROTECTING CLEAN WATER: 11 ATTORNEYS GENERAL CHALLENGE THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ON ROLLBACK          A coalition of 11 Attorneys General including New York, California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia have challenged the legality of a Trump Administration proposal to suspend the "Clean Water Rule" for 2 years. The Rule is designed to ensure the nation's lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands receive proper protection under the federal Clean Water Act. 
Read more via Office of Attorney General of New York


November 2017 Newsletter

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Welcome to the Public Rights Project Newsletter!  Each month, we’ll keep you up to date with our efforts to empower states and cities to protect the rights and freedoms that define us as Americans.  We’ll also share a few articles you may have missed that highlight the importance of state and local government, and how states and cities are picking up the torch to protect our rights.


UPDATES FROM PUBLIC RIGHTS PROJECT

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Thanks for Supporting our CrowdJustice Campaign!

Thanks to generous contributions from 165 donors, we met our $30,000 target in just 30 days during our CrowdJustice fundraiser! Our deepest thanks to everybody who donated and shared our campaign via Twitter, Facebook and email. Your support brings us one step closer to launching our first fellowship!


HELP WANTED: PROSECUTORS TO CHANGE THE WORLD

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Founder & President Jill Habig moderated a panel on how progressive prosecutors can advance criminal justice reform at UC Hastings Law School in San Francisco. The panel featured Lenore Anderson, Founder of the Alliance for Safety & Justice, David Sklansky, Stanford Law School Professor, and George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney.

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"Right now, if you're in a City Attorney's office, Attorney General's office, or if you represent them, you all have a GREAT opportunity to make sure you become a partner with the Public Rights Project so that when we do have fellows, you'll be able to house them in your offices and train them. If you're in a private law firm right now, you have a GREAT opportunity to give money to this amazing project. I want to challenge all of you to go back to your firms and talk about what you can do to partner and provide funding so this project can get off the ground."

-Ann O'Leary, Boies Schiller & Flexner Reception


WE'RE HIRING!

Public Rights Project is looking for our first Legal Director.  Please share the job description widely and get in touch ASAP if you or someone you know is interested. Thank you!


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

FINANCIAL SETBACKS: SENATE KILLS RULE THAT MADE IT EASIER TO SUE BANKS

On October 24, 2017, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to repeal a rule that made it easier for Americans to sue their banks and credit card companies. This decision handed Wall Street a major win against American consumers, and continues a trend of restricting access to justice through forced arbitration. The vote highlights the importance of Public Right’s Project’s work with state and local government; these offices can hold banks and credit card companies accountable in court when arbitration clauses shut individual consumers and nonprofits out of court. Read more via CNN

EDUCATION RIGHTS: GROUPS BAND TOGETHER TO COUNTER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION

Public Rights Project joined more than two dozen major education organizations and civil rights groups to punch back at the Trump administration’s threats to the civil rights of students. The coalition includes two national teachers unions, the ACLU, the Children’s Defense Fund, GLSEN, and others. Collectively called the Education Civil Rights Alliance, the group plans to focus on safeguarding the rights of students with disabilities, immigrant students and countering bullying, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and white nationalist sentiment.  Read more via US News & World Report  

VOTING RIGHTS: SENATE PANEL ADVANCES TRUMP COURT PICK OPPOSED BY CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the nomination of Thomas Farr to a seat on the federal District Court. In a report, the Alliance for Justice noted Farr recently defended North Carolina against cases challenging the state's voter ID law. The law was ultimately struck down by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which said Republican legislators enacted the law with the intent to discriminate against black voters. Read more via The Hill.


STATES & CITIES STEPPING UP
 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: SAN FRANCISCO, OAKLAND SUE OIL COMPANIES OVER CLIMATE CHANGE

San Francisco and Oakland filed suit against Chevron Corp.ConocoPhillips Co., ExxonMobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell and BP. The lawsuits by two of California’s largest cities add to an emerging legal strategy to try to hold individual fossil fuel companies responsible for rising sea levels, extreme weather and other effects of human-induced climate change. Read more via The Hill

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: STATE ATTORNEYS GENERAL SUE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO PROTECT ACCESS TO CONTRACEPTION

In an effort to protect the rights of millions of women, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has sued the Trump administration for rolling back a requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that employers include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. California, Pennsylvania, and Washington have also filed separate lawsuits. Read more via The Office of Attorney General of Massachusetts.