Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hillary, Hillary, Hillary

Well, I've had quite a hiatus in my role as political blogger thanks to law school.  Glad to say that's all over now.  I am awaiting CA bar results which will be announced in late November, so I find myself with a little more time on my hands now.  Needless to say, the first blog post in over a year will concern one of my favorite women, Hillary Clinton!

Glenn Beck and "the golden years"

There has been considerable talk about Hillary's prospects at winning in 2016. Last Tuesday, conservative radio and television host Glenn Beck announced that if Hillary runs, she "will be the next President of the United States." Beck reiterated, "She is going to win."

Beck stated that the reason he thinks she will win is because she will convince voters that she is the candidate that can take the United States back to the "golden years"of Bill Clinton's administration.

I don't usually agree with Glenn Beck, but this time I do. I have no doubt that Hillary will use Bill's golden years to her advantage should she choose to run.

Will Hillary's Presidency be President Obama's "third term?"

Although Hillary has not yet confirmed that she is going to run in 2016, she has admitted thinking about it. Some worry about Hillary's presidency merely being President Obama's "third term." This could easily be one of Republicans' effective critiques of Hillary.

Why some Democrats will vote for Hillary in 2016

I believe that Hillary is going to have a much more difficult time in 2016 than she did in 2008. Americans are becoming increasingly repulsed by military entanglements, Wall Street, and are becoming more firmly in favor of legalizing marijuana.

The reason that most Democrats will still vote for Hillary is because she is going to be our strongest candidate hands down. Many Democrats also believe that she will be more aggressive than President Obama in advancing items on the legislative agenda.

Democrats will vote for Hillary because of her experience. For many Democrats, if they don't already love Hillary, they will vote for her because she is the pragmatic choice. She has more knowledge and experience in Washington than many of her prospective Republican opponents. The fact is, the Democratic options are slim. I would personally love to see Senator Elizabeth Warren run, but that is another story entirely. 

Why some Democrats will not vote for Hillary in 2016

For many Democrats, Hillary is just too moderate. She straddles the fence on legalizing marijuana and she stays close to her supporters in the finance world. She is at odds with the Democratic Party's orthodoxy on the use of American military force and on the nexus of business and government. Some may criticize her as being a "Wall Street Democrat."

Whenever Hillary has drawn a contrast between her and President Obama, it has been mostly to emphasize that she is more comfortable using military force than the president. She often talks about how proud she is of the relationships she has developed with U.S. business leaders, even though many Democrats hate the idea of corporations and the government working together.

At this point, nobody knows whether Hillary will run, but if she does, it appears that she has a pretty good chance, even if it is by default.

Who do you want to see on the ballot in 2016?

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Visit in the Pelican Bay Secure Housing Unit (SHU): Solitary Confinement is Undoubtedly Torture

On Wednesday night, I returned from two days of legal visits in the Pelican Bay Secure Housing Unit (SHU). I struggle to put into words an experience that is so unlike anything I have ever experienced, but I know that I must. I feel the need to share what I've seen and what I've heard so that the torture of solitary confinement will eventually end once and for all. Without a glimpse of the horrors that happen inside the walls of this prison, too many people will fall prey to CDCR's rhetoric about these so-called "worst of the worst" prisoners and the torture will continue.

The dark and dreary "short corridor" at Pelican Bay Secure Housing Unit (SHU)

Solitary Confinement

In the short couple months that Courtney and I have been interning at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, we have become incredibly immersed in this issue. The issue is California's use of long-term solitary confinement. Many prisoners at the Pelican Bay SHU are being held in solitary confinement indefinitely because of alleged gang activity in prison. SHU prisoners spend 22 1/2 to 24 hours every day in a cramped windowless cell. They are denied telephone calls, contact visits, and vocational, recreational, or educational programming. Food is often rotten and barely edible, and medical care is frequently withheld. More than 500 Pelican Bay SHU prisoners have been isolated under these devastating conditions for over 10 years, more than 200 of them for over 15 years; and 78 of them have been isolated in the SHU for more than 20 years. Solitary confinement for as little as 15 days is now widely recognized to cause lasting psychological damage to human beings and is labeled as torture under the UN's Convention Against Torture.  

SHU prisoners are also denied any meaningful review of their SHU placement, rendering their isolation effectively permanent. California imposes extremely prolonged solitary confinement based on a prisoner's alleged association with a prison gang. The problem is that gang affiliation is assessed without considering whether a prisoner has ever actually undertaken an act on behalf of a gang or whether he is - or ever was - actually involved in gang activity. The only way out of SHU isolation is to "debrief" aka "snitch" on other prisoners, which places those who do so in significant danger of retaliation and providing those who are unable to debrief effectively no way out of SHU isolation. 

For more information on solitary confinement generally, go to Stop the Torture (our campaign website that is in progress) or Solitary Watch.

Initial Trip Plans

When Courtney and I overheard Carol and Azadeh talking about doing legal visits at Pelican Bay over our spring break, we immediately decided to approach them and ask if we might be able to tag along. After hearing about the ideas, personalities, and situations of many of the men in the Pelican Bay SHU who regularly correspond with LSPC, we were both eager to speak with them in person. Luckily, Dorsey, the Executive Director of LSPC approved us to go do the legal visits, we filled out all the paperwork for a background check, and we were set! Last Friday before we left, we spent the day at the office going through the files of the men we would be meeting with on Tuesday and Wednesday. We read letters, political essays, and all other kinds of interesting materials that the men in the SHU send to the ladies at our office. I didn't know what to expect when I actually met the guys in there face-to-face, but wanted to be sure I had at least some knowledge about their background beforehand.

The Journey

Pelican Bay State Prison is 13 miles away from the Oregon border. That means it's a 7 hour drive from San Francisco. The four of us (Carol, Azadeh, Courtney, and I) left the Bay Area around 1:00 in the afternoon on Monday. As we were driving up the 101, beautiful tall redwood trees encircled us. On occasion, we would see the beautiful rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean on our left-hand side peaking out from behind the tall trees. All I could think of was that many of the prisoners we were going to visit in the SHU had not seen the light of day since some time in the 80s or 90s. My heart grew heavy when this thought came to my mind.

As we continued to drive up the coast, the weather became increasingly foggy and the landscape grew to be ominous and foreboding. The fact that Pelican Bay is so isolated from everything mirrors the isolation that the prisoners feel acutely; the isolation that the family members of the prisoners feel deeply.

We were exhausted from the drive by the time we got to the hotel. We printed out a couple of the legal documents that we needed to review with the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit (despite some roadblocks/complications) and then we went to bed. 

The Visits

The next morning, we woke up at 6:00 am and got ready to go. We once again wove through the maze of redwoods for a few miles up to the prison. As soon as we got to the entrance of the prison, shrouded in fog, there were no more trees in sight. There was nothing but rocks, gravel, and concrete to look at. To be honest, I felt like we were pulling up to something akin to a Nazi concentration camp. When I first glanced at all the barbed wire, the tall fences, and the guard towers, my stomach churned as I thought of the modern day slavery that has been perpetuated here since 1989.

The Guards

After being patted down and thoroughly inspected, a guard drove us from the general population area to the SHU. We then passed through a series of gates before we could even get to the visitor's area. When we got there, we gave the guard the legal documents that we needed to give to the prisoners (since we cannot have any physical contact with them or pass them anything ourselves). The demeanor of the guards is off-putting and very militaristic. One moment, they are smiling and joking with you, and another minute they are yelling at you for something that they never told you not to do in the first place. This is an environment where the rules are constantly subject to change at the whim of whichever guard is on duty and you are constantly on edge wondering what to expect.

Although we arrived at Pelican Bay at 7:30 am, it was 8:30 before we met with our first prisoner. On the first day (Tuesday), Carol and I did all of our visits together since it was my first time up there. I was excited to meet the men and update them on the status of the campaign and what we have been working on. This campaign is prisoner-initiated, so we are constantly seeking their feedback to make sure it is in line with their goals and vision. We got into this tiny legal visitation room (which was about 80 degrees in temperature) and it was stuffy as hell. Although it was tiny, at least it was private! (somewhat...) When the families come visit their loved ones in the SHU, their visits are completely recorded (both audio and video) and there is no door to separate them from other family members visiting their loved ones. There is no privacy whatsoever.

Barriers to Communication

As Carol and I were waiting in this tiny room, we see the first prisoner being escorted down the hall by two armed prison guards, handcuffed. He is wearing a white jumpsuit with "CDCR Prisoner" printed on the back in big black letters. The guards open the door to the room, let him in, then close and lock the door. Still handcuffed, he is forced to bend down with his handcuffed hands behind his back, and insert them through this little slot in the door. His handcuffs are then removed and he is finally able to sit down in front of us. We are, of course, separated by a thick pane of glass, so we talk by phone. Since there were two of us in the room, he talked by phone and we utilized the intercom speakerphone. This system was incredibly hard to work with, however, since each time we spoke, we had to press and hold down the "talk" button in order for him to hear us. Additionally, when we were holding down the talk button, he was then muted, making it impossible for us to have a completely fluid conversation. Each time I saw his mouth moving, I had to stop talking and immediately release the "talk" button in order to hear him. They play loud music on his side of the visiting room to ensure the "privacy" of legal visits, but the guards walk back and forth down the hallway at their leisure and I am sure that they overheard a lot of the prisoners' side of the conversation. On the second day of visits, during one of my more fun and lively visits, I also heard a lot of distracting clicking and static on the phone and I wonder if they were listening in on the conversation. I'll never know.

Visiting with the SHU Prisoners

At first, I thought that the prisoners would be sad and downtrodden. Although there were sad moments with nearly all of them (and justifiably so), I was amazed by their sense of hope and their perseverance in this struggle which is nothing short of an uphill battle. When I made eye contact with the first prisoner, he immediately smiled and looked happy to see Carol and I. We both introduced ourselves since neither Carol nor I had met him before. He is one of the hunger strike representatives and he writes to Carol and Azadeh a lot with wonderful ideas about the campaign and how to get the word out about the torture of solitary confinement in CA. His demeanor was sharp and bright. 

I met the brother of one of the members of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition and when he smiled, I saw her smile in him and I wanted to hug him. But I knew that I couldn't. I met the husband of one of the coalition members and he spoke so fondly of her. I wonder to myself when they will get to embrace again and I can only hope that it's soon. 

I met with a prisoner who is a self-proclaimed political prisoner and revolutionary. His father was part of the Black Liberation Army and he told me that he grew up in the struggle. We connected immediately because he was originally from San Diego. He was one of my favorite people that I met with during the course of the two-day visits and I was mesmerized by his thought process and wicked sense of humor. Since we were laughing so much, the guards came over and stood in front of the doorway. They sneered at him, "It sounds like you're having a little too much fun in there." He told them he was having a good ol' time, and I could see the hate in their eyes. They couldn't stand to see him laughing and enjoying himself. He told me that since he is in his cell 24 hours a day, he essentially has all the time in the word to "come up with strategies to help the community." He said that he doesn't really care about his own interests, but is more interested in having a positive effect on the community outside the prison walls. He has come up with multiple strategic proposals to help solve societal issues, one of which is to help end child hunger. When I asked him if he had any ideas about how to reach out to the public about the issue of solitary confinement, he told me that he doesn't believe that most people know that they have another community inside prison walls that is actively working on issues outside prison walls! He believes that if people knew that, they would be able to see how we can all work together to help change some of society's ills.

As the minutes went on with each of the prisoners, I have to admit that I kind of forgot where I was. I so enjoyed their company and what they had to say that the glass between us seemed to fade away and I forgot that i was holding a phone. I was jolted back to reality when the guards appeared behind them to escort each of them back to their cells. With faces made of stone, they banged on the door and took us out of the comfortable, flowing conversation that had developed over the past hour. In that hour, we were both human beings just having a conversation about our beliefs, values, and how to reach the common goal of ending this torture that goes by the name of "solitary confinement" in a torture chamber known as the "SHU." But each time the guards came to escort a prisoner out, my heart broke more and more. My heart broke because I knew that at the end of the day, I was going to be free to leave Pelican Bay free of shackles and handcuffs and cruel prison guards. I was going to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and hug my family. But the prisoners were not. Whether or not the campaign and the lawsuit succeed, I will have my freedom. They may or may not be free ever again, and that idea sickens me to my core and makes me angrier than I can say. While the men we met were able to put on a "happy face" for the hour that we were together, I wonder what it feels like when they get back to their cell and the loneliness sets in. I wonder how many tears are shed in the dark stillness of the night.

Ever since I got back from Pelican Bay, there is an uneasiness inside me that will not go away until this torture ends. I cannot stand to see my brothers, my fellow human beings locked up inside cages that are not even fit for animals. I cannot stand to see them treated like shit and denied proper medical care. I cannot stand to sit back and let California get away with this and lie to the public anymore about what they are doing.

A dark and dingy SHU cell

Get involved!

This movement is incredibly important. If this blog post sparked your attention, please please please get involved! Educate your family and friends about this issue, write to prisoners inside to keep their spirits up.

Go on Facebook to "like" Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity. This page will keep you updated on events and ways to get involved!

Follow us on Twitter: @stoptortureCA and tweet relevant tweets using the hashtag #StopTortureCA

For more information about the lawsuit, click here
For more general information about solitary, click here.
For an update about the recent legislative hearing in Sacramento, click here.
To hear about a SHU prisoner's experience, read this article.

Upcoming Events in the Bay Area

If you are in the Bay Area, come to the Solitary Confinement panel we are organizing at UC Hastings College of the Law on this Tuesday, March 19th at 6:00 pm in the LBM lounge on the first floor of the 198 McAllister building. RSVP to the FB event here.

Also, last but not least, come to the California Correctional Crisis Conference: Realignment and Reform. Register here! You MUST register or you will not be let into the State Building! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Nightmare before CLIFFmas, and All Through the House

Twas the night before Cliffmas,
And all through the House (of Representatives)
Not a reasonable negotiation was stirring...not even, well, anything. At all.

The proverbial fiscal cliff is looming near, and it is now a waiting game to see if House Republicans are going to be able to handle a tax hike on the wealthy 2% of Americans. Obama is not budging on this one, and quite honestly, he shouldn't. If the Republicans want to kick us all off the fiscal cliff at the start of the year, I think America will really see who the GOP cares about: the wealthy 2% (if they couldn't see that already). At this point, it is unreasonable to think that a tax hike on the wealthiest of Americans is going to send the country spiraling into another recession.

But you know what will most likely send us back into a recession? Going off the fiscal cliff and raising taxes of hard-working middle class families by $2,000 a year. Now that is something that all of us regular people will feel. I think we should all be very worried about what will happen if we go over this cliff.

So right now, the GOP leaders have a choice: Agreeing to Obama's plan to hold down tax rates for most Americans while simultaneously allowing higher rates on top earners or....being blamed for everyone's taxes going up in 2013. After this election, things are not looking good for the GOP, and refusing to budge on this issue is going to sink the Republican party even deeper into the ground. It would be a huge political error, not to mention it's just plain wrong and completely against what the American people just voted for in the Presidential election! Even Ann Coulter agrees that the GOP needs to go with Obama's plan, for PR purposes if nothing else.

Recent polls show that...

  • 65% of Americans want a tax hike for those who make over $250,000
  • 85% oppose the GOP pledge against raising taxes
  • 51% think the GOP is negotiating in bad faith
  • 53% trust President Obama more in debt talks!
The people have spoken, and I really think it's just a matter of time before the GOP gives up on this issue. Personally, I think Boehner would have given in a long time ago if he didn't have the rest of the party constantly pressuring and emasculating him. I actually feel kinda bad for the guy. Rush Limbaugh called the GOP's negotiations "weak." I like to call it "cautious" because that's what they have to be at this point to maintain their image, whatever is left of it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Over. Finally. My 2016 Election Predictions: Hillary 2016, Anyone?

Ok, I'm back. As a huge political nerd, even I was sick of hearing about the 2012 Presidential Election. It was a long road full of shitloads of money and an endless supply of attack ads. But, as I suspected, this country is still not ready for a President who will set us back 50 years.

Victory was achieved! Barack Obama will live to see another term! This just goes to show that even with all the money in the world, you still just can't buy a presidential election in this country The OFA team worked with diligence, passion, and never-ending faith and hope. I spent the weekend before the election in the OFA office in the Castro here in San Francisco, and never have I seen a group of more dedicated people who really love this country. I am confident that OFA's campaign strategy will go down in the history books as one of the most brilliant and well-thought out campaigns this country has seen.

Inside of the OFA Office in the Castro. San Francisco, CA
Now that this is all over, it's hard not to start thinking about 2016. Ok, maybe it's just hard for me. All I can think is HILLARY HILLARY HILLARY. The incredible Secretary of State seems like the perfect candidate to me. She has repeatedly stated that she will not run again, but we shall see. Clinton plans to step down from the State Department in the new year, and I do not blame her for wanting to take a bit of a breather...but four years is a long time in politics (pretty much an eternity) and I would not be surprised if she feels the political urge creep up again. Hillary has always been a huge role model of mine, and I would love nothing more than to see a woman like her in charge of this country. I think we are ready for it. I am curious to see what having a strong female head of state will be like.

This is my dream. Hope I will be wearing this pin in four years!
Others have speculated that San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is a potential candidate. He made history at the Democratic National Convention this year as the first Latino to deliver the keynote address. Plain and simple, he rocked it. Everyone instantly fell in love with him. Of course, like Hillary, he denies any plans to run in 2016. However, from the outside observer, he seems to be positioning himself to run in 2016; much like President Obama, he signed a deal to write his autobiography, and started his DNC speech thanking Londoners (the U.S.'s closest ally) for the successful Olympics. He is incredibly politically astute and amazingly mature and wise for his age and level of experience. He even set up visits with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and George Osborne during his two day visit! Besides being on the radar internationally, Castro is on the radar in DC. Everybody is talking about him.

While I am obviously loyal to Hillary, I definitely would not mind seeing Castro on the ballot in 2016. Other names that are being thrown around are of course Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rahm Emanuel (who I also love), and Newark mayor Cory Booker. 

On the Republican side, there has been talk about Paul Ryan, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. 

Who would you like to see on the ballot in 2016?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Money, Money, Money: How Unregulated Campaign Spending Is Taking Away Your Rights

As a law student, I know firsthand how murky and confusing the law can be. I also know about loopholes. However, it seems to me that Karl Rove may have once again crossed the line between what is legal and what is not.

The Citizens United decision allows unlimited corporate spending on elections.

On June 22, Karl Rove gave a speech right outside one of Romney's donor retreats. The event was hosted by Solamere Capital and he spoke to about 200 wealthy donors. By the way, this private equity firm was founded by Tagg Romney (Mitt Romney's oldest son) and Spencer Zwick, the Romney campaign's chief fundraiser. Not shady at all...

Also, it must have merely been a coincidence that the event he spoke at was not only at the same time as Romney's donor retreat, but also in the same city at an adjacent hotel. Oh yes, purely coincidental. Because, you know, it's actually illegal for Super PACs to coordinate advertising strategies for attack ads against political candidates with campaign committees. The GOP wouldn't want to do something illegal, now would they? Rove and Romney are really walking on thin ice here.

I know I have blogged about Super PACs before, but the sheer amount of money that the GOP is using to try to buy our country and buy this election disgusts me. It goes against everything that I love about this country. Unregulated and anonymous cash is being used to try to "win" America.

This worries me; not only because it is corrupt, but because voter turnout is already going to be much lower than it was in the 2008 election. People are cynical and their bank accounts have dwindled, the youth is no longer fired up, and the message of "hope" that tied together Obama's campaign in 2008 has faded. The message that the GOP and Super PACs are sending us is that our votes do not matter. They are telling us that money is everything and if you have enough of it, you can run this country.

Is that the spirit upon which this country was founded? I don't think so.

The less power the people think they have, the less they are going to want to vote. The fewer the people who are excited and go out to vote, the less our government is a true representation of the people. The less our government is a true representation of the people, the less it is a true democracy. This is a slippery slope and I think you see where I am going here.

If we let money run our elections and basically give up all the precious rights that our people have fought for, the next thing we know, we will wake up, and we will not recognize where we are living. Our basic rights will have been thrown out the window.

You know how conservatives are always saying they need to "take back their country?" Well you know what? It's high time liberals grew some balls and stood up to TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY too. We will not stand for this. We did it grassroots style in 2008 and we will do it again this year. America will not be bought.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Violence Against Women Act: Who Does It Actually Protect?

This past Wednesday, the House passed their version of the Violence Against Women Act on a 222 to 205 vote. Although this seems like pretty great news, I personally think the bill is much too narrow.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) shares her stories of being sexually assaulted as a young woman. "As a woman of color, I am particularly aggrieved that this bill ignores the special circumstances of women who are minorities. Women who are in the shadows."
Women in the lowest income category experience more than six times the rate of domestic violence as compared to women in the highest income category. African-American women face higher rates of domestic violence than white women, and Native-American women are victimized at a rate more than double that of women of other races.

President Bill Clinton signed The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law for the first time in 1994. The Act provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. This law greatly improved the nation's response to domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. In United States v. Morrison, SCOTUS struck down the VAWA provision allowing women the right to sue their attackers in federal court. The Court's conservatives saw this as an attack on state's rights.

Needless to say, the law has borne the brunt of conservative opposition for years now. VAWA was reauthorized in 2000 and then again in 2005. This time, in 2012, Republicans had a huge problem with the fact that Democrats wanted to extend the Act's protections to same-sex couples and allow battered illegal immigrants to obtain temporary visas.

VAWA provides invaluable services to victims of domestic violence, including community violence protection programs, protections for victims who are evicted from their homes because of domestic violence, rape crisis centers and hotlines, as well as programs for immigrant women and women with disabilities.

What Are Republicans Complaining About?

Well, the new version of the VAWA included LGBT couples. The bill also included a provision from the SAVE Native American Women Act, which allows tribes to prosecute Native American and non-Native American offenders in domestic violence cases. Republicans also did not like the provision that would have protected female illegal aliens. This provision would have provided visas for undocumented victims to encourage them to come forward when they are abused without the fear of deportation.

Not to sound like a broken record, but this is undeniably yet another event that lends credence to the fact that the GOP is waging a War on Women! For those who think that The War on Women is a silly fantasy or a made-up scam by liberal America, I ask you to take a step back and look at the actions of the GOP lately. How can one NOT come to the conclusion that there is a war on not only women, but Americans who are LGBT! Domestic violence is severely under-reported in the gay community for many different reasons, and this is all the more reason to protect them under the VAWA.

Apparently Republicans think that it is "unnecessary" to include minority groups in the VAWA. Apparently these are "divisive distractions."  I have a huge problem with this.

Once again, politics, bigotry, and racism are blocking the doorway to justice.

Alas, the House did not adopt the Senate version of the bill, which protects all women, regardless of nationality or citizenship status, and LGBT individuals. Once again, the GOP says NO to justice.

The Republican-authored bill raises requirements to prove domestic violence and assault, erases protections for undocumented women, and eliminates protection for LGBT victims of domestic violence. This is going to hurt many Americans, and in my opinion, violates Constitutional principles of equal protection.

The fact that these protections were denied in the same week that President Obama formally announced his support for marriage equality/same-sex marriage is ironic and sad.

It's one thing to deny women the health care that they deserve, but it is another thing to tell certain groups of people that they do not deserve equal protection under the law because of their sexual orientation or citizenship status.

What Is Going to Happen Now?

The bill will now go to a House/Senate Conference Committee along with the VAWA passed by the Senate. I can only hope that the expanded protections under the Senate version are included in the final law.

If you are unhappy with the House version of the VAWA, click here to protest it!

VIOLENCE IS VIOLENCE, no matter who the victim is.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Stand Up for Justice" Rally at SF City Hall: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Today I attended the "Stand Up for Justice" Rally at San Francisco City Hall! This event was organized by the Bar Association of San Francisco, and our Attorney General Kamala Harris showed up as well as many other amazing lawyers and politicians. The focus was on how the lack of court funding is affecting our most vulnerable citizens.

CA Attorney General Kamala Harris addresses the importance of the court system to access to justice and equality for ALL

SF Mayor Ed Lee

Kelly Dermody, the President of the Bar Association of San Francisco, hosted the event and introduced all the speakers. The first was of course, none other than Miss Attorney General, Kamala Harris.  Harris stressed the importance of proper funding for our court system. The people who will suffer the most from the drastic cuts to the court system in California are the underprivileged and underrepresented. She emphasized that having access to justice is a fundamental tenet upon which this country was founded, and to close the doors to the courts means to close the doors to justice.

Supervisor David Chiu

SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi (also a Hastings alum!)

The severe defunding of the court system has given rise to some really crucial constitutional issues such as due process of law. People will be waiting longer and longer to receive justice. Hearings are postponed time after time and the line for the court clerk (which is open one hour less each day) is out of control. At 4:00 pm when the clerk's office closes, whoever is still in line is out of luck. They cannot even use a drop box; they must simply COME BACK another time.

Many of these people are victims of domestic violence. Imagine this, ladies: Your abusive husband just beat you and you have bruises all over your body. As you pick up the phone to call the police, he yells at you and tells you that if you call the police, both you and your child won't be long for this earth. You have no choice but to leave and go immediately to the court to file a restraining order. You get to the court, wait in line for hours with your restless and frightened child, and alas, it is 4:00. The court doors close in your face and you have not even had the chance to file your papers.

Now what? Do you go back home and risk your lives? Do you stay in a shelter? Nobody in this country should be faced with this kind of dilemma. The courts need to be open, accessible, well funded and staffed so that every citizen has equal access to justice. The de-funding of the court system is real, and it is a scary thing for many people, especially victims of domestic violence.

Take a look at what has happened just in the Bay Area alone:

  • San Francisco has closed six courtrooms
  • 67 court personnel were laid off, including 29 court reporters and ALL 8 court funded commissioners
  • In San Mateo, 114 positions were eliminated

There is a crisis going on in the justice system, and it affects all of us. Here were some of my favorite speakers from today.
Senator Joe Dunn (Ret.) (State Bar of California)

Justice Carlos Moreno (Ret.)

Judge La Doris Dordell (Ret.)

Ramon Arias (Bay Area Legal)

Julie Rumsey (SEIU)
If you are unhappy and outraged with the state of the justice system in California, PLEASE call your representatives and tell them that you care about court funding! Remind them how important court funding is to our communities and businesses.

Click here to find your elected representatives! If you are not familiar with them, this is the time to find out who they are and what they are all about! They were elected to serve you and if you are unhappy, you need to let them know.

Call Governor Jerry Brown at: (916) 445-2841.

Me (second to the right) and 3 of my awesome BLSA buddies at the rally!
Talk to your family and friends about this, and let everyone know that you care about justice for all!