National Lawyer's Guild

2020 NLG Leonard I. Weinglass Memorial Fellowship

NLG Leonard I. Weinglass Memorial Fellowship
2020 Announcement and Application Instructions

Leonard I. Weinglass (1933-2011) was a criminal defense attorney and constitutional law advocate. Over the course of his career, he represented political activists, government opponents, and criminal defendants— including Angela Davis, the Cuban Five, the Chicago Seven, the Pentagon Papers, and the death row appeals of Mumia Abu-Jamal—in a half century of politically significant cases. He was a longtime Guild member and served as Chair of the NLG International Committee.

Thanks to a generous bequest from the Weinglass estate, the NLG Foundation has established a fellowship for recent law graduates. Each year, one fellow will receive a stipend to work for the NLG on a specific civil rights or civil liberties project. Previous fellows have developed projects to assist with parole and sponsorship for LGBTQ+ migrants, reunite American citizen-children with undocumented parents who have been deported to their country of origin, support community bond funds, and fight a new maximum security prison planned for construction on a former coal mining site.


Eligibility

The Weinglass Fellowship is open to all NLG members who have graduated from law school in the past five years. Applicants must be current in their NLG dues.* Applicants must develop a project with the sponsorship of an NLG entity, which includes NLG Chapters/RegionsCommittees, Projects,** and the NLG National Office. The sponsoring entity agrees to collaborate with the fellow to create a project and to offer (or assist to help locate) a working space for the Fellow over the course of their project.

Award
One Fellow will be chosen annually and receive a $4,250 award to work on a 10-week project that is in line with the mission of the NLG and the career of Leonard Weinglass. The Fellow will also receive free registration for one year to the NLG Law for the People Convention, and will be highlighted on the Guild website, social media sites, and Guild Notes.

Application
To apply for the NLG Leonard I. Weinglass Memorial Fellowship, email the following materials to Director of Research and Education Traci Yoder at traci@nlg.org by Monday May 18, 2020:

  • Cover letter describing your previous experience and reasons you are applying
  • Current resume (no more than 3 pages)
  • Essay between 1,000-1,500 words describing your proposed project
  • Contact information for two references
  • Letter from the NLG entity who will be sponsoring your project

Selection and Notification
The Fellowship winner will be chosen by a committee composed of NLG Foundation Board members, NLG National Executive Committee members, and representatives from the NLG National Office. The committee will review the applications with an eye toward projects that meet the fellowship criteria, address a relevant and timely issue, and further the NLG’s mission of people’s lawyering and placing human rights over property interests. The fellowship recipient will be notified in early June.

*To join or renew, go to nlg.org/join. If you are unsure of your membership status, please email NLG Director of Membership Lisa Drapkin at membership@nlg.org.

**NLG Projects include the National Police Accountability Project, the National Immigration Project, and the Sugar Law Center.

Statement from the NLG Housing and Homelessness Committee on COVID-19

Dear National Lawyers Guild Members,

We are living through an extraordinary moment, one of sadness, disorientation, and dread. Yet much of this emergency is man-made. Our system was already in crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has thrown into relief its immense inequality and the injustice of profiting off of basic human needs like healthcare or shelter.

Recognizing Housing as a Human Right

Human rights must be at the forefront of our response to COVID-19. Like healthcare, housing is a human right, not a privilege, which cannot be rationed and must be afforded to all. Yet millions of people were, and still are, without housing, despite the millions more vacant homes or short-term rentals owned by speculators and the urgent public health need for housing for all. Many more people live in substandard or unaffordable housing, creating an eviction crisis in the United States that threatens to become an avalanche as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic.

Mobilizing Around Housing Justice

A movement is growing to demand housing as a human right, not a commodity. Activists who are homeless or precariously housed are occupying vacant properties.[1] Tenants all over the United States and the world are organizing for the suspension of rent for the duration of the crisis (and beyond) and, in some cases, organizing mass rent strikes.[2] These movements are strengthening as all levels of government have failed systematically to protect people from the pandemic and are instead propping up an exploitative financial system. Government actions all but ensure that people who are poor, unhoused, precariously housed, incarcerated, people of color, immigrants, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ will continue to bear the brunt of this man-made emergency.

As radical lawyers, law students, and legal workers, we must support these movements of people most directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and their calls to decommodify housing and provide housing for all. The National Lawyers Guild Preamble states that “Human rights and the rights of ecosystems shall be held more sacred than property interests.” Our fidelity to human rights over property interests means that we must swiftly respond in support of movements for housing justice, particularly in the context of a global emergency that has systematically placed wealth and profitability above the individual health and well-being of people within our communities. This is a human crisis, and people, not property, must be protected. We have a historic opportunity to support the movements struggling to transform our society into one that meets all of our needs, humanely, equitably, and with dignity.

The COVID-19 Crisis Is Also a Housing Crisis

America’s housing crisis is a major obstacle to mobilizing an effective response to the pandemic. In 2006 epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant, who worked with WHO to eradicate smallpox, described the ideal pandemic response as requiring early detection and early response.[3] The United States now represents 20% of COVID-19 cases[4] while having the fastest growth rate of new cases, with a 68% growth rate in new cases over the last three days.[5] The lackluster initial response, along with disinformation, have enflamed the threat of COVID-19, placing additional strain onto systems that were already ill-suited to meet people’s needs.

Commodified Housing Exacerbates the Pandemic Spread

Because our society treats housing as a commodity and as an elective, not a human right or a basic necessity, millions of Americans were already without homes, precariously housed, or severely rent burdened. Incomes over the last three decades have stagnated across the economy, and more people lack the ability to cover the increasing costs associated with living.[6] At the same time, housing costs have increased substantially, in no small part due to speculative investment in real estate by hedge funds, private equity, and the ultra-wealthy and intensifying gentrification in many cities. Nearly 50% of renter households are now cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their gross monthly income on housing.[7] Millions of Americans are unhoused or precariously housed, yet the country is short more than seven million units of affordable or public housing to meet the needs of just extremely low-income renters (despite millions of vacant homes, short-term rentals, and second homes).[8] Over the past decade, there were nearly ten million foreclosures and millions more formal and informal evictions, causing many to cycle in and out of houselessness, a crisis that has disproportionately impacted Black and Latinx communities.

The COVID-19 emergency will only worsen this housing crisis. Unemployment is sky-rocketing, and a majority of working class people in the United States lack the savings to cover a personal financial emergency of $400, far less than the average monthly rent.[9] Rents and mortgages are coming due, and even more people are at risk of eviction, foreclosure, and losing their housing.

This widespread poverty, houselessness, and housing insecurity will exacerbate our ability to effectively respond to the pandemic, increasing the spread of the virus among those most vulnerable to serious infections who also systematically lack access to healthcare. The COVID-19 virus has most severely sickened those with underlying health conditions and the elderly (some of whom have a 1 in 7 mortality rate). Approximately half of people who are homeless are 50 or older, and they have higher rates of underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to serious COVID-19 infection, meaning they will be especially hard hit.

Housing insecurity and houselessness also increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and make treatment more difficult. Crowded shelters with communal sleeping areas make it impossible to maintain social distance, let alone self-quarantine, endangering all residents and especially those who are immuno-compromised. The response of many local governments has been to move shelter beds slightly further apart, which does not eliminate the inherent unsafety of homeless shelters in this pandemic.

Rather than providing suitable housing and healthcare, many local governments continue their long-standing policy of criminalizing homelessness and activities necessary for human survival. Governments have failed to provide even basic sanitation facilities or bathrooms, despite the importance of hand-washing to prevent COVID-19, making it more challenging for people without housing to follow public health guidelines. Despite CDC guidance recommending that encampments remain in place and that local governments provide services, such as bathrooms and handwashing facilities, cities continue to sweep encampments, dispersing often tight-knit communities that are best-equipped to look after each other in this crisis.[10] These sweeps have disrupted people’s connections with their healthcare providers and increased likely social contacts and the potential spread of the virus.

Many of the working class people who are housing insecure are also at a higher risk of exposure. These include healthcare workers, who are disproportionately women, immigrants, and people of color, as well as the low-wage workers who continue to work in retail, service, and delivery industries like grocery stores and Amazon warehouses without safety equipment or access to sick leave.

There is an immediate public health need to ensure that all people who have housing retain their housing during the pandemic, regardless of their ability to pay the rent or mortgage. But beyond the immediate crisis, because of the widespread loss of income among tenants and homeowners already struggling to pay their rent or mortgage, we will soon be faced with a barrage of evictions and foreclosures likely far greater than the crises of the past.

NLG Members’ Response to the Call for Housing

National Lawyers Guild members should support the call for housing for all, both in this time of crisis and beyond. We should be prepared to meet the legal needs of the housing rights movement and the broader community of people who are unhoused or precariously housed. These needs are likely to change as the pandemic continues and as the movement to decommodify housing grows stronger.

We must defend people occupying vacant homes and living in hotels or encampments and fight to bring people inside

People need safe, stable housing to survive COVID-19. Housing protects people’s health, enables them to practice social distancing and frequent hand-washing, and ensures they can self-quarantine if necessary. But authorities are instead using the pandemic as a pretext for breaking up encampments; unlawfully seizing possessions, including tents and personal property; excluding people who are homeless from adequate shelter that already exists within the community; and trying to force people who lack housing out of their communities altogether. Legal help is already urgently needed to defend people who live in hotels, vacant homes, or encampments who are at imminent risk of eviction or arrest during the COVID-19 emergency.

We must support those tenants and homeowners organizing to suspend rent, mortgage, and utility payments

Tenants and tenants organizing movements also need our support. Eviction and foreclosure moratoria are a patchwork; many moratoria are incomplete, and all are only temporary. In many places, tenants are still being served with notices to quit, eviction lawsuits, or even put out by the authorities, creating the risk that they will become homeless at a time when staying home is a public health imperative. We need to push for stronger moratoria and fight to keep people in their homes right now, but we also can’t stop there.

We were already in the midst of an eviction crisis, but millions more across the United States will be unable to pay their rent or mortgage for April and likely far beyond as the economic impact of the pandemic grows. For working people, we are likely facing an economic recession as bad as, if not worse than, the 2008 recession, which resulted in nearly 10 million foreclosures and millions more evictions. When eviction and foreclosure moratoria end, there will be an overwhelming number of filings and few options for the majority who cannot pay up.

Right now, housing rights movements are organizing for the suspension of rent, mortgage, and utility payments for the duration of the public health crisis and the recovery period. Some are calling for a rent strike and organizing their buildings to withhold rent in solidarity with those who can no longer afford to pay. Guild members are supporting these organizing campaigns in many communities, and there is more work to be done across the country.

Now is the Time to Act

Many National Lawyers Guild members have skills to share in solidarity with these housing justice movements and with people who are unhoused or precariously housed, even if they are not housing lawyers. We must stand with the people who are most vulnerable and most directly impacted by this global pandemic, who are struggling for access to basic needs like water, shelter, and healthcare and to preserve their connections to their communities. We must also stand with those who are fighting against the economic and racial exploitation at the core of our current housing system. These movements help us see the possibility of a better future in the midst of this wreckage, one where housing is a human right and a public good.

NLG members may join the Housing and Homelessness Committee at nlg.org/join, and/or learn more by contacting the chairs, Sarah White (sarah.wht1@gmail.com) or Anthony Prince (princelawoffices@yahoo.com).

In struggle,

National Lawyers Guild Housing and Homelessness Committee

[1] See, e.g., “‘Housing is Health:’ Calls Grow for California to Give Vacant Homes to Unhoused People Amid Pandemic,” Democracy Now, March 30, 2020, available at https://www.democracynow.org/2020/3/30/california_homelessness; Dana Goodyear, “The Coronavirus Spurs a Movement of People Reclaiming Vacant Homes,” New Yorker, March 28, 2020, available at https://www.newyorker.com/news/california-chronicles/the-coronavirus-spurs-a-movement-of-people-reclaiming-vacant-homes (both accessed March 31, 2020)

[2] See, e.g., Aida Chavez, “Millions of People Will Struggle to Pay Rent in April, but Few in Congress Care,” The Intercept, March 27, 2020, available at https://theintercept.com/2020/03/27/coronavirus-rent-suspension-evictions-bill-payments/?comments=1 (accessed March 31, 2020).

[3] Dr. Larry Brilliant, “My Wish: Help Me Stop Pandemics,” TED, Feb. 2006, available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/larry_brilliant_my_wish_help_me_stop_pandemics?language=en

[4] Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) available at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html (last accessed March 30, 2020).

[5] Francesco T., Covidgraph.com, Johns Hopkins CSSE (accessed March 30, 2020). The preceding three day period on March 27, had a 91% growth rate in cases over the three day period.

[6] See Federal Reserve, Distributional Financial Accounts, “Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S. since 1989,” available at: https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/z1/dataviz/dfa/distribute/chart/.

[7] See U.S. Census Bureau, 1 Year 2018 American Community Survey, available at http://data.cenus.gov (accessed March 31, 2020).

[8] See National Low Income Housing Coalition, “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes”, available at https://reports.nlihc.org/sites/default/files/gap/Gap-Report_2020.pdf (last accessed March 31, 2020).

[9] See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018,” available at https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2018-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201905.pdf (accessed March 31, 2020).

[10] See Interim Guidance, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) among People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/unsheltered-homelessness.html (last accessed March 30, 2020)

 

Featured Image: Ponderosa Templeton / CC BY-SA

Know Your Rights During COVID-19

Download: bit.ly/KYRights2020

In response to COVID-19, numerous public health and national security measures are being proposed and implemented across the nation. While necessary to protect our communities and health care systems, we must be vigilant and resist authoritarian and violent tendencies by the state. As an abolitionist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist organization, the National Lawyers Guild recognizes that the constitutional civil liberties framework is deeply flawed, intended to uphold capitalism, and enforced inconsistently. Historically, states of emergency, mandatory quarantines, and curfews have often been used to expand state control over political and civil freedom. Emergency powers often criminalize movement, freedom of expression, protest, and marginalized communities.  Nevertheless, it is important that we know what rights exist to protect ourselves and resist increased policing.

We believe that we can build safer communities and respond to COVID-19 without expanding the police or medical surveillance. Please read and share this guide, Know Your Rights During COVID-19, written by Pooja Gehi, Gabriel Arkles, Che Johnson-Long, and Ejeris Dixon and supported by the NLG and Vision Change Win.

Related: NLG Statement on COVID-19: Solidarity in Times of Crisis

Information for Arizona Renters During COVID in English & Spanish

National Lawyers Guild – Southern Arizona Chapter
Alan Dicker, Southern Arizona NLG Student Organizer
southernarizona@nlg.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RE: Tenants affected by COVID-19 need to know: evictions suspended, written notice required

With the April 1 rent deadline looming for many Arizonans, the Southern Arizona Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild has released a template “Dear Landlord” letter that renters can use to give notice to their landlords that, as a result of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they will be unable to pay rent.

“With estimates that the unemployment rate in the U.S. might reach as high as 30%, and so many Arizonans already struggling, the reality is that making rent is going to be a struggle — if not impossible — for many Arizonans,” said Abby Okrent, one of the chapter’s organizers. “Governor Ducey’s Executive Order, which postpones evictions for 120 days if the tenant cannot pay due to COVID-19, is a critical support measure for Arizona renters, who might have otherwise been tempted to turn to predatory lenders and pawnshops to make rent, or have to choose between rent and food.” In addition to protecting tenants from evictions resulting from non-payment of rent due to COVID-19, the Executive Order also clarifies that having a diagnosis or symptoms of COVID-19 are not legal grounds for eviction.

The Southern Arizona NLG has released a one-page fact sheet on what tenants’ rights and responsibilities are under state law, along with the letter template. “We know that this temporary halt of evictions is neither a complete nor a long term solution,” said Okrent. “In the short term, we’re concerned that landlords might look for other excuses to evict tenants who because of this crisis cannot pay rent. And as it stands right now, tenants will become responsible for all unpaid rent when the order expires, unless there are additional measures put in place for rent relief. We urge all tenants to be familiar with their leases, get all agreements with landlords in writing, and organize with other Arizonans who are likely to be in the same position.”

The fact-sheet is available in English and Spanish. The letter is available in English, and in English with Spanish directions (see all links below). The National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest progressive bar association in the country, prioritizing human rights over property interests.

The NLG is available for interviews or comment, in English or Spanish, by email, phone, video, or safely socially-spaced in-person interviews (in Tucson). Contact Alan Dicker, information above.

Arizona Eviction Suspension Letter

Carta Suspension Desalojo Arizona

Fillable Letter to Landlord COVID

Carta llenable a propietario COVID

Member News Digest 3/26/20: Global Solidarity During a Pandemic, COVID-19 Responses, and more

3/18/20 | NLG Statement on COVID-19: Solidarity in Times of Crisis

In case you missed it, here is the NLG’s statement on the COVID-19 pandemic, featuring responses from a number of NLG committees. It also includes a list of letters in response to the pandemic that the NLG has signed onto, as well as resouces for further mutual aid and other organizing.

In the spirit of our mission of valuing human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests: “We must lift coercive economic sanctions, prioritize mutual aid, ensure access to quality health care for all, and secure protections for houseless people, disabled people, prisoners, immigrants in detention, and low wage workers,” says NLG president Elena Cohen. Read the full statement here.

NLG Endorses The People’s Bailout

The NLG is proud to endorse The People’s Bailout in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the five principles of which are:

  1. Health is the top priority, for all people, with no exceptions
  2. Economic relief must be provided directly to the people
  3. Rescue workers and communities, not corporate executives
  4. Make a downpayment on a regenerative economy while preventing future crises
  5. Protect our democratic process while protecting each other

Check out thepeoplesbailout.org for more info and ways you can take action to make this a reality.

Announcing the new NLG Director of Mass Defense! The NLG National Office is thrilled to welcome Tyler Crawford (he/him) as the new Director of Mass Defense. As an NLG law student at Fordham, Tyler demonstrated a deep commitment to the Guild’s principles. In 2018, Tyler was a Haywood Burns fellow, and helped mobilize Guild members in response to the Conn crisis faced by thousands of low-income Eastern Kentuckians. Tyler has a robust vision for what mass defense in the Guild could look like in the current political context, and the NO staff is excited to work with him as we navigate our response to the uncertain future we’re facing. He can be reached at tyler@nlg.org, and his bio is below. Welcome, Tyler!

Tyler Crawford is an organizer, activist, and a graduate of Fordham Law School. Over the last decade, he has worked extensively with community organizations and workers’ rights groups, launching worker centers, tenant associations, and legal clinics. While attending Fordham Law, Tyler was an NLG Haywood Burns Fellow while he clerked at Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky. During law school, Tyler also worked in Fordham’s Criminal Defense Clinic, representing protesters and others, as well as in the Community Economic Development Clinic, counseling not-for-profits, community organizations, and worker centers.

NLG Seattle Chapter Efforts to Release Prisoners during the Pandemic

On March 16, the NLG Seattle Chapter sent this letter along with the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Washington Defender Association to Gov. Inslee, urging him to release people from prisons through a combination of furloughs, commutations and reclassifications.

On March 24, the NLG Seattle Chapter filed an amicus brief in Nagel, et. al, v. Washington Department of Corrections urging the governor to release prisoners in light of the pandemic. As the brief states, “While the State has the power to commit thousands of people to confinement in our prisons, no person’s crime in Washington currently justifies a death sentence… Because the State has a special duty to protect those entrusted in its care, the Court should grant the Plaintiff’s requested relief.”

3/23/20 | The Cornell Sun | Crisis Calls For Desperate Measures: Activists Push for Emergency Fund, University Adds Sick Days

Cornell Law NLG formed a coalition with other local community groups calling on Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Cayuga Medical Center to (1) freeze rent payments on their Tompkins County properties; (2) lobby for a freeze on utilities and Internet payments in the State of New York; and (3) create a fund for Tompkins County to provide community members with paid leave and other emergency expenses. Read the full article here and sign the peititon here.

3/24/20 | NLG LEC Co-Sign Letter to Congress Endorsing the PAID Leave Act

The NLG Labor & Employment Committee signed on to endorse the PAID Leave Act of 2020 (Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave Act).

As the letter states: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 self-quarantine for 14 days. Individuals may also need to stay home longer if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, or if their workplace or family member’s school or place of care is closed for longer than 14 days. But for people without access to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave, this is a near impossibility. Millions of workers face the devastating decision between risking their own health (and that of their families and communities) or risking the loss of a paycheck or job. No one should face this choice, let alone during an unprecedented public health emergency.”

Read the full letter and view all endorsing organizations here. Other organizations are invited to endorse the PAID Leave Act at this online form.

3/22/20 | Chicago-Kent NLG Chapter Urge Administration to Switch to Pass/Fail System for Spring 2020 Semester

“The unfortunate reality is that some of us can afford to balance the demands of law school with personal survival and duties to our families and communities, and others — for reasons ranging from poverty to disability — cannot. To account for the disparate and unforeseeable circumstances that will undoubtedly confront us all in the coming months, we urge you to adopt a Pass / Fail system for the Spring 2020 semester.” Read the full letter here.

3/21/30 | National Immigration Project of the NLG Issues Practice Advisory on COVID-19

The National Immigration Project of the NLG issued a practice advisory intended to assist advocates seeking release of their clients from immigrant detention based on the threat COVID-19 presents to their life and health:

The rapid advancement of the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused a public health emergency and presents a fatal threat to incarcerated people. Thousands of immigrants are held in the patchwork of detention facilities in the United States, which is comprised of federal immigrant detention facilities, private detention facilities, and local jails and prisons contracted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to hold immigrant detainees.

Below is a practice advisory intended to assist advocates seeking release of their clients from immigrant detention based on the threat COVID-19 presents to their life and health. We have included sample filings addressing the emergent nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the detained immigrant population.

NIPNLG will continue to update these materials and guidance as needed. This material is up to date as of March 21, 2020.  View the practice advisory, which continues to be updated, here.

3/21/20 | Truthout | Our Responses to COVID-19 Must Center Disability Justice

Katie Tastrom, NLG Disability Justice Committee Chair, wrote this important article about what disability justice should actually look like during this moment.

“Employers and organizations need to be committed not just to mitigating a pandemic, but to disability justice, collective access and a shared understanding that different ways of being in the world should be more than simply tolerated. We must recognize the unique value that disabled people bring to our lives and collective work. Of course, we as disabled people would still have a right to access if we did not contribute specifically to work-oriented projects and organizations, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are already making those kinds of contributions, and we are needed now more than ever.” Read the full article here.

3/20/20 | NLG Joins 18 Interfaith & Civil Rights Groups Urging UCLA to Protect Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech

The NLG signed onto this letter to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, organized by CAIR-LA: “We write to you in response to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) decision to open investigations into two complaints made against the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Notably, the OCR investigations are in line with a larger effort to silence any individuals or groups on US campuses who voice support for the dignity and self-determination of Palestinians, opposition to Israeli policy or politics, or opposition to Israel’s discriminatory apartheid practices against Palestinians.” Read the full letter here.

3/18/20 | DECARCERATION IS A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE: An Open Letter to Minnesota Criminal Legal Agencies Regarding COVID-19

The NLG Minnesota Chapter published an open letter to state criminal legal agencies, co-signed by a number of community rights groups, on the urgency of decarceration during the pandemic:

“The false presumption that our current criminal legal system serves public safety is even more dangerous during a State of Emergency due to a pandemic. Proposals to reduce jail visitation and release some who are serving sentences to electronic monitoring, and the postponement of “low” and “medium”-priority court proceedings are wildly inadequate responses. The only answer is to release those inside (many of whom await trial and are presumed innocent under the law) and to halt unnecessary arrests and prosecutions. No one deserves a death sentence.” Read the full letter here.

3/13/20 | NLG International Statement on Economic Sanctions/Unilateral Coercive Measures

The National Lawyers Guild International Committee condemns the U.S. government’s illegal use of unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) to force regime change by undermining the economies of countries whose governments it opposes. The recent financial and secondary sanctions imposed by the Trump administration against Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran are openly intended to destroy their economies and immiserate their people by making it impossible to engage in normal trade and tourism and even to import medicine and food. These sanctions are in clear violation of both UN and OAS charters, as outlined by UN Rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures Idriss Jazairy, and meet the status of crimes against humanity. Full statement on the NLG International Commmitee website.

3/19/20 | CU Independent | Students demand removal of surveillance cameras in CU’s Wolf Law Building

Students at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Law School are fighting for the removal of surveillance cameras in the Wolf Law Building, arguing that it contributes to excessive policing and poses a threat to vulnerable populations.

“The arguments in favor of the presence of surveillance cameras is that they make others feel safe,” said Amanda Blasingame, president of the National Lawyers Guild’s CU Boulder chapter. “However, it is important to consider who we’re making feel safe while simultaneously making others feel less safe and at risk. In a balancing of interests, the risks of the cameras’ presence far outweigh any supposed benefits.” Read the full article here.

Members-Only Job Board

Are you searching for a movement related legal or organizing job OR internship?

A reminder that all current NLG members have access to our Members-Only job board! This resource includes open positions for attorneys, paralegals, organizers, legal workers and law students.

Check it out at nlg.org/job-board (NOTE: you must be logged in with your nlg.org account to view this page). Have a job or internship listing you’d like to share with fellow Guild members? Send it to jobbboard@nlg.org.

NLG Statement on COVID-19: Solidarity in Times of Crisis

“5 Demands for Emergency COVID-19 Survival” graphic being circulated on social media. Author/origin unknown.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is committed to building collective power and solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the spirit of our mission of valuing human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests: “We must lift coercive economic sanctions, prioritize mutual aid, ensure access to quality health care for all, and secure protections for houseless people, disabled people, prisoners, immigrants in detention, and low wage workers,” says NLG president Elena Cohen.

The NLG National Office staff is taking necessary steps to keep ourselves and our communities safe, including working from home. We recognize this and the ability to “self-isolate” are tremendous privileges, and we remain dedicated to using those privileges to further our mandate of using the law for the people.

In times of global crisis, the interconnectedness of our struggles is laid bare. We urge our members to remain engaged to the extent possible with their NLG chapters’ and committees’ email lists and other forums as we build strategies and tactics to support each other during this time. However, without access to our physical office, we must temporarily suspend our postal mailing operations, impeding our ability to communicate with our incarcerated jailhouse lawyer members who mostly rely on postal mail for connection with the outside world. That’s why efforts like that of Baltimore IWOC to establish a nationwide hotline for prisoners who may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms are so important.

Knowing the myriad harms of our governments and the capitalist system, it is heartening to see so many people acting in solidarity with their neighbors near and far during the crisis. Mutual aid networks are emerging across the world, and this comprehensive list by the Anarchist Agency and activist and author Cindy Milstein details efforts in the US.

As NLG Executive Director Pooja Gehi states, “The NLG has always known that we cannot rely on state and corporate structures to support our most vulnerable communities. During this global crisis, we are carefully monitoring the expanded role of the military, police, and other forms of state power and how it is increasing surveillance, violence and repression in the name of national security and public health. This is a moment when it is critical to release incarcerated and detained people and to show solidarity with the people most marginalized in government response.”

Let’s take care of each other.

In solidarity,

NLG National Office

Below are some responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by NLG committees that illustrate the the intersectionality of our struggles and our work: 

Labor and Employment Committee“Working people across our country are in dire need of protections from COVID-19. Even before this crisis, working people were laboring on the edge of poverty, working subminimum wages with no protections in case of emergency. Now, a true emergency is upon us and we need the government to act fast to pass legislation granting paid sick leave to all employees, expanded unemployment insurance, and strong protections for frontline health care workers, among so many more interventions. We are in solidarity with those on the front lines working around the clock to keep us healthy, ensure our public transportation is running, care for our children, stock the shelves at our grocery stores and pharmacies, deliver our mail and work overtime at warehouses, fulfillment centers and factories producing essential consumer products and completing online orders. Thank you for your work.” Sarah David Heydemann, Representative to the National Executive Committee

Prison Legal Advocacy Network: “It is deplorable that many prison systems have suspended legal visits at the very moment that prisoners arguably need access to legal counsel the most, as with the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (FBOP) 30-day suspension. FBOP is notorious for depriving prisoners of auditory confidentiality during legal calls, and attorneys should not need to argue for special exceptions in order to engage in confidential in-person communications with their clients. While pre-trial detainees’ trials are being suspended, health services are reportedly inadequate, and prisoners are being forced to live and work in conditions that are inconsistent with CDC COVID-19 guidelines.” —Stanley Holdorf, PLAN Supervising Attorney

Disability Justice Committee: “The needs of disabled people should be centered in all COVID-19 planning as we are at high risk for complications. Responses should include releasing people at high risk of complications from jails, prisons, and detention centers; protecting disabled people’s access to healthcare (including COVID-19 treatment); and making sure employment remains accessible to disabled employees. Disability justice principles like interdependence, leadership of the most impacted, and commitment to cross-movement organizing can help us to identify how we should move forward. While disabled people are more vulnerable to COVID-19, we also have wisdom and skills that make us uniquely prepared for the challenges we are facing right now.” —Katie Tastrom, Chair

Housing and Homelessness Committee: “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the crisis of housing and homelessness in the US, compounding this public health emergency and threatening to cause thousands of unnecessary deaths. This is a crisis of public health, and the only way to solve it is to recognize that all people have the right to decent, affordable housing. Increasingly, the homeless are taking matters into their own hands by defending encampments, resisting police sweeps, and defying laws restricting the providing of food to the hungry.” —Sarah White and Anthony Prince, Chairs

International Committee: “The COVID-19 pandemic requires a response grounded in principles of international solidarity and cooperation that prioritize people’s access to basic human rights, particularly healthcare. The hegemony of neoliberal economic policies has siphoned money from public coffers and people’s pockets into the banks of corporate bosses in the current monopoly capitalist system. Further, the US Government’s use of sanctions or unilateral coercive measures against countries whose governments it opposes must be lifted so that gravely needed medical supplies, food, water, and other basic necessities can reach those in need of care and recovery. Migrants and refugees who are fleeing war, poverty, and climate disasters must be provided for instead of continually criminalized and neglected. In this time of crisis and uncertainty, governments must share resources, not hoard them. The international community must be vigilant against any attempts by governments to take advantage of this vulnerable situation to consolidate power. For people to confidently practice social distancing and self-quarantine to slow the spread of COVID-19, they must be assured affordable housing and transportation, food and job security, and financial stability.” — Jackelyn Mariano, Suzanne Adely, and Jeannie Mirer, Co-Chairs

 

COVID-19 Related Letters and Endorsements Signed Onto by the NLG:

#ReleaseThemAll: Calling for Release of People in Immigration Detention

Housing is a Human Right Act of 2020

Calling for Voter and Election Protection

 

COVID-19 Resources:

List of US mutual aid networks by Anarchist Agency and Cindy Milstein 

The Justice Collaborative: Resources for COVID-19 Action

NLG International Committee Statement on Economic Sanctions/ Unilateral Coercive Measures 

The Appeal: State/local government responses to prison & jail populations during COVID-19

Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans With Disabilities Act

Coronavirus: Wisdom From a Social Justice Lens

Accessible Teaching in the Time of COVID-19 by Aimi Hamraie

Disability Justice – a working draft by Patty Berne

NLG Students Organize to End Mass Incarceration

During the first week of March 2020, NLG law student members organized events and activities for the annual NLG Week Against Mass Incarceration (WAMI). This year, the NLG partnered with the Guild’s National Police Accountability Project (NPAP) to analyze the connections between the role of policing institutions and practices and the exponential increase of incarcerated people over the last four decades.

NLG law school chapters organized multiple events through the week, including tabling, letter writing, panels and workshops, trainings, art receptions, phone banking, and much more! See below for a list of events and pics of our NLG students in action!

#WAM2020 activities:

  • NLG Chicago area schools teamed up for an all-day event exploring the Role of Policing in Mass Incarceration! Workshops and panels included Abolishing the Police, ICE in Chicago, and Policing in Schools
  • Arizona State NLG Chapter joined with Death Penalty Alternative to hold a Prison Abolition Seminar
  • University of North Carolina NLG held a week of events focused on policing as well as voter suppression, along with a “Say Her Name” week-long photo project of personal stories of women of color affected by the criminal justice system
  • American University NLG Chapter organized events on policing and surveillance, a letter writing campaign, and a selfie stand for students and faculty
  • University of St. Thomas tabled all week, invited a speaker from Black Visions Collective, and welcomed NLG members FLint Taylor to discuss his book, The Torture Machine
  • NLG members from Northeastern Law and Chicago NLG have produced a report on private campus police forces using the Northeastern University Police Department as a case study
  • CUNY NLG organized letter writing and held events exploring disability and mass incarceration, the criminalization of parents, and activism to fight the prison system
  • Seattle University NLG have planned a screening of The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution, a panel discussion with Prison Voice Washington, and a talk by Seattle’s Nikkita “KO” Oliver, community organizer, abolitionist, educator, and attorney.
  • Duke Law NLG hosted a panel on bail reform and letter writing to incarcerated prisoners
  • Case Western NLG hosted an event called ” Crisis at the Cuyahoga County Jail”
  • Northeastern NLG held an entire week of workshops and panels, and tabled to raise over $800 for the Massachusetts Bail Fund
  • University of Montana NLG WAMI activities included events on school to prison pipeline panel, bail funds, immigration as well as trivia and letter writing
  • University of Colorado NLG WAMi highlighted police accountability, feminism and mass incarceration through workshops and panels. CU NLG also coordinated a week-long prison book drive
  • University of Connecticut NLG organized events on the rise of mass crimigration and policing and prison conditions
  • Miami Law NLG schedule of events for #WAMI2020 included a film screening, art reception, legal observer training and more!
  • University of Richmond NLG teamed up with UR BLSA to screen “Visions of Abolition” and collected money for the Richmond City Bail Fun
  • Wayne State University NLG presented a discussion on mass incarceration and the role of policing with criminal defense attorney, lifelong NLG member, and candidate for Wayne County Prosecutor Victoria Burton-Harris.
  • University of Denver NLG organized a week of events focused on prison abolition, surveillance, and the broken criminal justice system
  • Ohio State NLG Chapter and the OSU Student Bar Association for Diversity & Inclusion Week hosted a Mama’s Day Bailout Bakesale, a workshop with Amna Akbar about criminal law, and “weigh in” conversation about mass incarceration
  • Notre Dame NLG joined with numerous student groups to hold teach-ins with Black Lives Matter, table all week to support prisoners, and organize an event on the private prison industry
  • Cardozo NLG WAMI included panels on immigration, phone banking for criminal justice reform bills, documentary screenings, and a workshop on the NY “Right To Know” Act
  • Drake NLG organized a week of documentary screenings, tabling, and events on community and campus policing
  • John Marshall NLG Chapter hosted an event with long-time NLG and People’s Law Office member Flint Taylor on his new book, The Torture Machine
  • University of Oregon NLG worked on the campaign to release of Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, a former member of the Black Panther Party who has served 50 years in the California State prison system
  • Fordham NLG joined with  Advocates for the Incarcerated, and Fordham Law Defenders to organize book talks, letter writing, an event on bail reform, and a conversation with formerly incarcerated advocates and leaders
  • University of Idaho NLG tabled throughout the week and collected signatures for a letter in support of a bill that would ban criminal history from being inquired about on job applications. They will deliver the letter to the chair and members may testify.
  • Santa Clara NLG hosted a talk with esteemed advocate Jennifer Orthwein on pipelines to prison, advocating for transgender folks in jails and prisons, recent developments in California law in these issues and self care as a practicing attorney
  • Lewis and Clark NLG held a discussion with Don’t Shoot PDX (Portland’s BLM group) about the role of policing in black communities and the role of art as a form of protest as well as an event about policing and civil rights litigation. Two NLG members, Juan Chavez and Ashlee Albies, discussed radical civil rights litigation used to fight back against policing in Portland
Pics from #WAMI2020 events across the country!

Member News Digest 3/12/20: New Surveillance Disclosures, Victory in PDX, and more

 

Radical Litigation CLE in NYC | RESCHEDULED: September 25, 9 AM-5 PM, Columbia Law School

NOTE: This CLE has been rescheduled due to precautions around the coronavirus.

Register: http://bit.ly/L4BLCLENY

Law for Black Lives, the Civil Rights Corps and National Lawyers Guild NYC are co-sponsoring a day of continuing legal education focused on litigation as a tool for building community power. Litigation is a powerful strategy to enact systemic and structural change. However, many well intentioned litigators engage in strategies that undermine local organizing efforts or fail to build the power of local communities. This CLE will focus on how to embrace a movement lawyering approach to litigation. The course will give lawyers concrete tools and skills to enhance their movement lawyering practice and to develop litigation strategies that support and build local organizing power.

Rest in Power, Karen Weill

We are deeply saddened to share that beloved NLG legal worker Karen Weill of Bellingham, WA, wife and partner of NLG attorney Larry Hildes, passed away from brain cancer Tuesday morning. Karen was a dedicated fighter and advocate for justice who will be greatly missed by the NLG and all the movements she served.

If you are able, please consider donating to this GoFundMe to help cover medical and other expenses.

Stay strong, Larry. We love you.

NLG-Los Angeles Seeks Program Coordinator

The NLG-LA Chapter is seeking a full time program coordinator, based in MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles, with flexibility for at-home work. Read a full description of the position, salary information, and application instructions on Idealist here.

Members-Only Job Board

Are you searching for a movement related legal or organizing job OR internship?

A reminder that all current NLG members have access to our Members-Only job board! This resource includes open positions for attorneys, paralegals, organizers, legal workers and law students.

Check it out at nlg.org/job-board (NOTE: you must be logged in with your nlg.org account to view this page). Have a job or internship listing you’d like to share with fellow Guild members? Send it to jobbboard@nlg.org.

3/7/20 | The Mercury | Fired Montco public defenders draw support at rally and commissioners’ meeting

The Temple Law Chapter of the NLG joined community organizations on Saturday to protest the firings of Dean Beer and Keisha Hudson, two leaders in the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office—and vocal critics of the county’s money bail policies.

“In firing Dean Beer and Keisha Hudson they have made a terrible mistake and we’re here to send them a message that criminal justice reform will come to Montgomery County,” Danielle Kwock Phillips, of Temple Law National Lawyers Guild, said Thursday as she stood on the steps of the county courthouse. “We’re not going to stand for this. We’re here as the electorate to tell you that you have made a terrible mistake. You will reverse this decision and reinstate Dean Beer and Keisha Hudson.” Read the full article here.

Left: Temple NLG members gathered for the 3/6 rally. Follow @TempleNLG on Twitter for more coverage of the rally.

3/3/20 | The Portland Mercury | Jury Clears Twerking Protester From Criminal Charges

A win in Portland, OR! NLG PDX members Maya Rinta and Vika Safarian successfully represented Alonna Mitsch, an African American woman protesting the Proud Boys last August, who was arrested by police for twerking in the street. The jury found her not guilty and dismissed her misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct for obstructing vehicular traffic. While the result was not surprising, it was notable the DA’s office took this small charge all the way to trial.

“I was like, ‘There’s Nazis walking through our city, but I’m shaking my behind in the middle of the street and that’s what you’re worried about?’ That can’t be right,” Mitsch said.

2/11/20 | Boston Neighborhood Network | NLG Mass Lawsuit Reveals New Disclosures on Surveillance of Activists

[VIDEO] A lawsuit by the NLG Massachusetts Chapter against the Boston PD and Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC)—a local fusion center—has produced 1,500 pages of surveillance records of activists from 2011 and 2012, including those with Occupy Boston.

“Not only were BRIC officers surveilling those activists, but those activist groups were labeled as ‘national security threats’ or just ‘threats,’ and we found that very problematic,” says NLG Mass Executive Director Urszula Masny-Latos in this Boston Neighborhood Network interview. Watch the full interview at the link, and read the NLG Mass Chapter’s press release here.

Share your NLG news in Guild Notes! Deadline is 3/23

Submit to Guild Notes, the NLG’s national newsletter featuring updates from NLG members, committees, and chapters! Submit your articles for publication consideration to communications@nlg.org by Monday, March 23, 2020. (NOTE: These articles should be directly related to NLG work. For more info, see the Guild Notes submission guidelines.)

A reminder that the Beyond Bars: Voices of NLG Jailhouse Lawyers column also features articles, artwork, and poetry from people in prison in Guild Notes. In response to our growing jailhouse lawyer membership, we have expanded the column to include pieces specifically geared toward the needs of folks on the inside, e.g. strategies to bring litigation against prisons, or stories of solidarity and survival. (Beyond Bars articles need not be directly related to NLG work, but should serve as practical resources for incarcerated members.)

3/4/20 | NLG Joins Coalition Letter Against Legislation Targeting Palestine Advocacy in Arizona

The NLG, its International Committee, Palestine Subcommittee and Central Arizona chapter joined a collective letter calling on members of the Arizona Senate to reject proposed legislation, SB 1143 and HB 2683. These bills attempt to impose the so-called “IHRA definition of anti-Semitism” to define hate crimes. The IHRA definition and, especially, its associated “examples” repeatedly conflate criticism of and opposition to the Israeli state and anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Read the full letter here.

Support Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning is recovering in the hospital after attempting to take her own life yesterday. She is scheduled to appear for a court hearing tomorrow.

If you haven’t already, please sign the petition at freechelsea.com to demand her immediate release.

“Ms. Manning is still scheduled to appear on Friday for a previously-calendared hearing, at which Judge Anthony Trenga will rule on a motion to terminate the civil contempt sanctions stemming from her May, 2019 refusal to give testimony before a grand jury investigating the publication of her 2010 disclosures. In spite of those sanctions — which have so far included over a year of so-called ‘coercive’ incarceration and nearly half a million dollars in threatened fines — she remains unwavering in her refusal to participate in a secret grand jury process that she sees as highly susceptible to abuse. Ms. Manning has previously indicated that she will not betray her principles, even at risk of grave harm to herself.”

Read the full statement from her legal team, which includes NLG-NYC member Moira Metlzer-Cohen.

Propose an NLG Webinar!

Are you a current Guild member who wants to wants to organize a discussion on a particular movement issue you are working on with the NLG? Submit a proposal to host an NLG webinar!

Webinars should be related to timely movement/political issues that speak directly to current NLG work, such as that of a committee or chapter. NLG webinars can be directed toward the general public and open to all, or for NLG members-only, depending on the nature and goals of the presentation. (See an overview of some of our areas of focus at nlg.org/our-work.)

IMPORTANT: All NLG webinars require endorsement/sponsorship from one or more NLG entity, such a a chapter or a committee/task force/project. Learn more and/or submit your NLG webinar proposal here!

Pace International Law Review | Human Rights, Economic Justice and U.S. Exceptionalism

NLG past president Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan wrote this law review article for the Pace International Law Review, bringing an anti-capitalist (and anti-imperialist) lens to the human rights framework.

“As lawyers, we must be mindful that rights’ struggles are always about dignity and to the extent that a rights framework assists in achieving that, it should be pursued. But, when the law actually impedes progress and stifles demands for dignified living, the law must be changed, ignored or disobeyed.” Read the full piece here.

Join the NLG IC, IADL and AAJ on a Joint Observation Delegation to Bolivia for May 3, 2020 Elections

The NLG International Committee (NLG IC), International Association of Democratic Jurists (IADL), and Asociación Americana de Juristas (AAJ) are sponsoring a joint delegation to Bolivia to investigate the conditions leading up to the May 3 presidential and legislative elections and to assist in the evaluation of whether the elections are transparent and fair. Members of the delegation will serve as accredited election observers and will participate in putting out a report on its findings. (NOTE: Due to coronavirus, the delegation may be postponed or canceled.) Learn more about the delegation and how to join, here.

Fundraiser: Send NLG to Universal Periodic Review in Geneva

The United Nations will review the U.S.’ human rights record at the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in May 2020. The UPR takes place for each country only every four years, so this marks a unique and important opportunity for the National Lawyers Guild to raise its voice at an international level regarding U.S. human rights violations.

Please help the NLG support Kerry McLean and Martha Schmidt to attend the UPR. The NLG has submitted two reports to the UPR process as part of a collective effort organized by the US Human Rights Network, on the right to health care and violations of voting rights.

Propose an NLG Webinar!

Are you a current Guild member who wants to wants to organize a discussion on a particular movement issue you are working on with the NLG? Submit a proposal to host an NLG webinar!

Within five week days of your submission, a National Office staff member will inform you of the status of your proposal and any relevant next steps. Thank you!

CRITERIA

Webinars should be related to timely movement/political issues that speak directly to current NLG work, such as that of a committee or chapter. NLG webinars can be directed toward the general public and open to all, or for NLG members-only, depending on the nature and goals of the presentation.

NLG webinars serve to help share legal and organizing strategies, foster political discussion and analysis, build solidarity with other movement groups, raise awareness around important political issues and deepen connections among fellow Guild members. They can also be used to launch or amplify NLG campaigns or coalition efforts of which the NLG is a part.

NLG PRESENTER REPRESENTATION POLICY

As you organize your webinar proposal, please be aware that the NLG works to prioritize people from communities underrepresented in the legal profession and targeted by law enforcement (eg. people with disabilities, people of color, LGBTQI people, Indigenous people). This policy is NOT a technical requirement. It is a mandate. We strive to be an organization committed to anti-oppression principles and practices and expect everyone to do their part in this ongoing process.

  • More than half the program presenters should be women or transgender
  • More than half the program presenters should be persons of color
  • At least one person on the program should be a legal worker or organizer who is not necessarily the client in a case, but rather a non-lawyer conducting legal/political/community work on the issue
  • Please include law students, persons with disabilities, and persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Submit your NLG webinar proposal here!

NEW! NLG Member News Digest

We’re launching an email news roundup for our members recapping the latest NLG news and press clippings! All news found below has been posted and shared with our global online following of more than 115,000 people across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (which we hope includes you)! Any articles mentioning the NLG can also be found on the In the News page on our website. We hope this helps connect fellow Guildies through all your great work happening in NLG chapters and committees, and elsewhere. NLG Week Against Mass Incarceration: March 1-7 / “Mass Incarceration and the Role of Policing”

For the 2020 Week Against Mass Incarceration, we ask NLG Law School and Local Chapters to organize events and actions on mass incarceration, highlighting the connections between the role of policing institutions and practices and the exponential increase of incarcerated people over the last four decades.

This year the NLG will be partnering with the Guild’s National Police Accountability Project (NPAP). Founded in 1999, NPAP is a nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to protecting the human and civil rights of individuals in their encounters with law enforcement and detention facility personnel. NPAP’s members are plaintiffs’ attorneys, legal workers, and law students who work on law enforcement misconduct cases, including civil actions against prison and jail personnel.

Fundraiser: Send NLG to Universal Periodic Review in Geneva

The United Nations will review the U.S.’ human rights record at the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in May 2020. The UPR takes place for each country only every four years, so this marks a unique and important opportunity for the National Lawyers Guild to raise its voice at an international level regarding U.S. human rights violations.

Please help the NLG support Kerry McLean and Martha Schmidt to attend the UPR. The NLG has submitted two reports to the UPR process as part of a collective effort organized by the US Human Rights Network, on the right to health care and violations of voting rights.

2/25/20 | The AtlanticWhat Bloomberg Did to Peaceful Protesters

The Atlantic revisits Bloomberg’s mass arrests of 1,806 people during protests at the 2004 RNC (including members of the press and legal observers) who were held in toxic conditions:

“Simone Levine, a representative of the National Lawyers Guild, said during a contemporaneous television interview:

‘The police department has known for over a year that they are going to be having the Republican National Convention here. They have said for over six months that they expect 1,000 arrests a day, [yet] they provided a detention facility which was slick with oil, which is causing people to have chemical burns. It used to be a bus depot. And they have a holding facility in which we have received calls from demonstrators that they have been held in for 20 and 30 hours.'”

Greenpeace USA & NLG Submit Comments to UN re: General Comment 37 on Art. 21 – Right of Peaceful Assembly

Greenpeace USA and the National Lawyers Guild submitted these comments to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in reference to General Comment 37 on Article 21: right of peaceful assembly.

Here’s an excerpt: “We also strongly urge you to reconsider the use of any remotely controlled weapons systems, no matter the state of an assembly, as described in Paragraph 106. We submit there is never a scenario that justifies this sort of force.”

Read the full letter here.

2/7/20 | Phoenix New Times | ‘No One Claims Responsibility’: Amid Rising Homelessness, Phoenix and Its Largest Shelter Are Out of Sync

“The question of whether threatening people with arrest if they don’t move their tents and belongings violates the Ninth Circuit’s ruling remains “unsettled,” said Kevin Heade, a lawyer and member of the Central Arizona National Lawyer’s Guild. Heade, with the Central Arizona National Lawyer’s Guild, said he thought the city should be forced to accommodate homeless people in a place that offered infrastructure and facilities — which the encampment in downtown Phoenix does not.

CSW 2020: Two NLG-Supported Panels on Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Justice in NYC

As part of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women CSW64/Beijing+25, taking place in March 2020 in New York City, the National Lawyers Guild is supporting two important side events.

On Monday, March 9 at 10:30 am at the Armenian Convention Center, Vartan Hall, 630 2nd Avenue in New York, the Center for Pan-African Affairs will host “Reproductive Injustice: Confronting the Black Maternal Mortality Crisis.” The panel is co-sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the US Human Rights Network. People interested in attending should contact Kerry McLean at kmclean@panafricanaffairs.com.

On March 18, 2020, at 6:15 pm at the Salvation Army Downstairs Room, 221 E. 52nd Street, the American Association of Jurists (AAJ), Union Nacional de Juristas – Cuba (UNJC), and International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) will present a panel on reproductive rights, legal abortion and comprehensive sexuality education in Latin America, also supported by the NLG’s International Committee. Panelists will include Nelly Minyersky of AAJ, Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan of AAJ, IADL and Past President of the NLG, Yamila Gonzalez Ferrer of the UNJC and a representative of the Asociacion Civil por el Derecho a Decidir (Civil Association for the Right to Choose).

2/22/20 | The Buffalo NewsErie County pays $27K, but plans to appeal order that sheriff turn over jail records

For two years, the NLG Buffalo Chapter has been fighting for the Erie County Sheriff’s Department to turn over jail records regarding prison suicides and suicide attempts—which internal reports categorized as mere “inmate disturbances.” That fight continues:

“In January, almost two years later, State Supreme Court Justice Mark A. Montour signed an order granting the Guild many of the records and awarding it more than $27,000 in attorney’s fees. While the Guild has collected the $27,098, the records will not be handed over any time soon. Two weeks after Montour signed the order, a county lawyer filed a document saying the Sheriff’s Office will appeal to the State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division…”

2/20/20 | Middle East Eye | Trump’s Muslim ban: Iranian-Americans are treated like the enemy within

NLG past president Azadeh Shahshahani reflects on Trump’s expansion of the unconscionable Muslim Ban as an Iranian-American activist and human rights lawyer: 

“My reaction as an Iranian-American was one of sheer rage. This is a president who issued a ban targeting Iran and other Muslim countries, imposed devastating sanctions on the people of Iran, and threatened to bomb Iran’s cultural sites. His administration has detained and deported Iranian students with valid visas, and treated Iranian-Americans, including US citizens, as suspects.  The recent expansion of Trump’s Muslim ban only serves to show that this president is fully committed to his Islamophobic agenda. Anything coming out of his mouth about support for the people of Iran should be ridiculed and dismissed.”

2/14/20 | California News Publishers AssociationSupreme Court sets hearing in case over increased CPRA fees

“The California Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in a case that could allow state and local agencies to charge requesters exorbitant amounts to obtain records under the state’s public records law.

[…] The case arises from a CPRA request submitted by the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter for written and electronic records related to protests of police shootings in 2014. The city identified certain police body-worn camera (“BWC”) footage as responsive to that request.

However, before it would turn over the videos, the city demanded that NLG pay a fee of more than $3000, purportedly to cover the cost of staff time related to identifying the responsive videos and redacting them. The trial court determined that the CPRA did not permit Hayward to charge these costs to NLG. The Court of Appeal, however, reversed and upheld the fee.

If the appellate court ruling is allowed to stand, agencies could charge high fees to a requester which could be used to obstruct access to disclosable information that the requester would otherwise have a right to obtain.

The Supreme Court will hear the NLG case on March 9.”

Meet our 2020 Haywood Burns Fellows!

Talia Curtis, Menna Elsayed, Breonna Grant, Sacha Maniar, and Jesse Vogel will spend this summer working with: The Legal Aid Society NY Consumer Law Project, the Southern Center for Human Rights, Florida Justice Institute, TakeRoot Justice Immigrant Rights Project, and ArchCity Defenders.

NLG Haywood Burns Fellowships sponsor law students and legal workers to spend a summer working for public interest orgs across the country in order to build their legal skills, strengthen their long-term commitment to social justice, and provide much-needed legal support to under-served communities. This initial exposure to progressive lawyering is often the single most significant event that influences a person’s decision to become a people’s lawyer.

Your financial support—which provided 100% of the project income in 2019—is essential to the program. Please make a donation today at nlg.org/donate/haywoodburns!

2/8/20: NLG International stands in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people defending their land from pipelines

“The International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the oldest and largest human rights bar in the United States, its Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Committee, and its Environmental Human Rights Committee, stand in solidarity with the sovereign Wet’suwet’en nation and its people, including the traditional Unist’ot’en (C’ihlts’ehkhyu), in their just opposition to the construction of pipelines from the Tar Sands Gigaproject and LNG from the Horn River Basin Fracturing Projects near and across their territory and sacred and ancestral lands.  The government of Canada has failed to respect the national sovereignty and interests of the Wet’suwet’en and its people, has failed to respect the nation-to-nation relationship with the First Nation and Canada, and has failed to respect the Wet’suwet’en right to free, prior, and informed consent for the construction of any pipeline across their territory and lands.”

2/4/20: The Chicago SunLightfoot urged to pull the plug on facial recognition technology

NLG Chicago is one of 75 local organizations joining with Lucy Parsons Labs calling for a ban on facial recognition technology in Chicago.

“Martinez [of Lucy Parsons Labs] cited a recent study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology that found ‘some algorithms’ of facial recognition technology are ‘100 times more inaccurate against black women than they are against white male faces.'”

Past President Marjorie Cohn on Democracy Now! : Trump Could Also Have Been Impeached for War Crimes, Assassinations & Corruption

Watch NLG past president Marjorie Cohn discussing the Trump impeachment on Democracy Now!:

“There are many different grounds that he could have been impeached for: violation of the emoluments clause, corruption and war crimes, as you said, most recently killing Soleimani in violation of the U.N. Charter, in violation of the War Powers Resolution.”

Petitions Endorsed by the NLG  Free Chelsea Manning Now

In 2010, former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning disclosed earth-shattering information about the nature of asymmetric warfare and U.S. handling of global affairs. And she paid dearly for itChelsea was incarcerated for years, including long stretches in solitary confinement, under conditions that the United Nations condemned as torture.

After millions of people around the world spoke out and demanded her release, Chelsea’s sentence was commuted. But the US government did not stop persecuting her.

Now, Chelsea has been back in jail for nine months, and faces nine more. Not because she has committed any crime, but because of her conscientious objection to participating in a secretive grand jury investigation into the publication of her 2010 disclosures. Sign the petition to Judge Anthony Trenga demanding Chelesa’s immediate release.

Do Not Extradite Julian Assange to the United States

Petition endorsed by the NLG and Veterans for Peace. We are citizens of the United States who urge you to deny the extradition request of our government. If Julian Assange is delivered to the United States it will be a momentous setback for press freedom.

Read and sign the full peition to Judge Vanessa Baraitser demanding Assange not be extradited to the US.

2020 Regional Conferences

Every spring, the NLG organizes regional conferences to bring together attorneys, law students, legal workers, allies and activists across the country. Featuring panels, trainings, workshops, and social events on topics of interest to the progressive and radical legal community, regional conferences also provide the opportunity to build community and strategize for the struggles ahead. NLG regional conferences are open to all, so non-NLG members are welcome (although you’ll probably be convinced to join by the end)!

2020 NLG Regional Conferences (Details and additional regional conferences are TBA and will be posted to this page.) TEXOMA REGIONAL CONFERENCE Sunday, 3/1 Sparky Pocket Park – Austin, TX Register (free!) / learn more The conference will bring together National Lawyers Guild members, legal workers, progressive activists, and law students from the Texoma region, and will be an opportunity for us to gather, make connections, and gain inspiration from each other’s work, as we work to build the Guild in the region. Registration is free, and lunch will be provided.  the agenda and panelists are TBA.There will be 3 hours of CLE with .5 hours of Ethics. Agenda:
  • 11:00 – 11:15 am: Welcome/Registration/Introductions
  • 11:15 am: Daphne Silverman – representing activists and other lessons from Standing Rock
  • 12:15 pm: lunch and business/elections
  • 12:45 pm: new LO manual highlights – how legal observers fit into your legal teams
  • 1:15 pm Moira Meltzer Cohen – Ethics of Joint Representation (.5 hour ethics)
  • 2:15 pm – skills sharing discussion on how to fund activist defense
  • 2:45 pm – announce officers/wrap up
NORTHEAST REGIONAL CONFERENCE Friday, 3/27- Sunday, 3/29 UConn Law – Hartford, CT Registration link and agenda coming soon!

 

MIDWEST REGIONAL CONFERENCE Friday, 4/3-Sunday, 4/5 (Milwaukee, WI) Registration link and agenda coming soon!

 

Announcing the 2020 NLG Haywood Burns Fellows!

The NLG National Office is pleased to introduce our 2020 Haywood Burns Fellowship recipients! The Fellowships sponsor law students and legal workers to spend the summer working for public interest organizations across the country in order to build their legal skills , strengthen their long-term commitment to social justice, and provide much-needed legal support to under-served communities. This initial exposure to progressive lawyering is often the single most significant event that influences a person’s decision to become a people’s lawyer.

This year we will send five aspiring people’s lawyers to work on projects focusing on economic justice, immigrant justice, racial justice, human rights, and prison law reform. Our fellows will be working at social justice organizations in Atlanta, Miami, St. Louis, and NYC.

Your contribution to this important fellowship will make all the difference for new legal practitioners to engage in social justice lawyering this summer and throughout their careers. Your financial support—which provided 100% of the project income in 2019—is essential to the program. Please make a donation today!

Join me in congratulating our 2020 Fellows!

Talia Curtis is a 2L at the City University of New York School of Law, where she serves as Co-Director of CUNY Law’s National Lawyers Guild chapter, and is a member of the CUNY Labor Coalition for Workers Rights and Economic Justice. During her time at CUNY School of Law, she has organized or helped organize legal observer and information security trainings, as well as a solidarity fundraiser for striking hotel workers in Boston. Since January 2019, she has been a legal assistant at the progressive labor and employment law firm, Eisner & Dictor, P.C., where she assists with union matters as well as on wage and hour litigation on behalf of workers. Before attending law school, she was a member of the Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW Local 2110, and later a staff organizer for UAW, where she helped organize an historic graduate worker strike in the spring of 2018. She has also held leadership positions in the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, where she organized trainings, actions, campaigns, and helped build coalitions with other local leftwing, progressive, community, and labor organizations. The Haywood Burns Fellowship will help support Talia at her internship with the Legal Aid Society’s Consumer Law Project this summer, where she will assist the Project in defending low-income debtors from unscrupulous debt collectors and creditors, as well as affirmative consumer law litigation, community outreach and education, and legislative and advocacy and policy research around consumer finance and economic justice.

Menna Elsayed grew up in the Bronx, NY and Cairo, Egypt. She is currently a 1L at UCLA School of Law, where she is enrolled in both the David J. Epstein Public Interest Law & Policy Program and the Critical Race Studies Program. She volunteers with the Reentry Clinic and the Let’s Go Liberation! Clinic. As an undergraduate at Columbia University, she studied Sociology and French & Francophone Studies. Prior to law school, she was a Justice Fellow at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, where she primarily worked in operations for The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which is dedicated to victims of racial terror lynchings. As a Haywood Burns Fellow, Menna will intern in Atlanta, Georgia at the Southern Center for Human Rights, which advocates for people impacted by the criminal legal system in the Deep South.

Breonna Grant is native of Miami, Florida. However, she attended high school in Atlanta, GA and considers the peach state her home away from home. Breonna holds a degree in English and Educational Studies with a concentration in Creative Writing from Denison University located in Granville, OH. After spending six months abroad in Bath, England Breonna returned to the US and attended law school. Currently, Breonna is a second year student at the University of Mississippi School of Law, where she focuses on public interest law and various types of civil litigation. Breonna has served as a community revitalization specialist in New Albany, MS where she partnered with the New Albany Mainstreet Association and New Albany Boys and Girls Club to bring about positive communal outcomes. In addition to M-Partner, Breonna has worked for The Hickman and Fondren PLLC and The Fogle Law firm as a legal associate. She is an active member at her law school serving as the PILF vice president, BLSA parliamentarian, Pro bono initiative student coordinator, Phi Alpha Delta Member, and a team member on the BLSA Moot Court as well and Space Law Moot Court. Breonna recently published an article titled “Common Cause v. Lewis: Partisan Gerrymandering Claim Held Justiciable Controversy Under North Carolina Constitution” in the ABA volume 33 alongside esteemed law professor Ben Griffith, Esq, and is currently serving underrepresented parties through her school’s Street Law Clinic. This summer, Breonna will work with The Florida Justice Institute in attempts to combat harsh prison practices and advocate for underserved inner city communities. Breonna believes that, “ everything negative: pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity to rise” (Kobe Bryant).  Upon graduation, Breonna will return to her hometown of Miami, Florida and serve as an impact litigator providing legal access to underserved persons.

Sacha Maniar is currently a 2L at CUNY School of Law. She is a South Asian American born and raised in the Bay Area and has been living in New York for the last two years. Sacha is passionate about building community and solidarity within the South Asian communities and with all impacted POC and immigrant communities. Before coming to law school, Sacha was working at AAAJ- Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco in their National Security Civil Rights Project. There, she advocated for the rights of Muslim communities impacted by unjust surveillance and immigration policies. She worked alongside local community racial justice groups through large scale actions, Know Your Rights, and pushed local policies in Oakland and San Francisco. Before that, she lived in a small community in Falewas Parbat, Nepal for two years, where she worked with local women’s groups on health, gender and caste justice issues. Sacha currently is involved with numerous student groups at CUNY Law including the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) and Asia Pacific Legal Student Association (APALSA). She organized the Race and Social Justice Orientation (RSJO) over the summer of 2019. Sacha also volunteers with Adhikaar as an ESL teacher and at CUNY CLEAR (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility). As a Hayward Burns Fellow, Sacha will be working at Take Root Justice in their Immigrant Rights Project.

Jesse Vogel is a first year law student at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where he is a Michael E. Moritz Merit Scholar. He is a member of the Public Interest Law Foundation Executive Board and the Program on Law and Leadership, as well as a founding member of OSU-Moritz’s NLG student chapter. Prior to law school, Jesse was Managing Director at the Partnership for Responsible Growth, a climate and environmental advocacy organization, where he organized listening sessions in Central Appalachia to build a stronger network of communication between organizations on the front lines of energy transition and national environmental nonprofits including National Wildlife Federation, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Resources for the Future. Jesse also has experience working on state, federal, and local elections, including as a board member of Launch Progress, a political action committee building the bench of progressive leadership by supporting first-time candidates for state and local office. As a Haywood Burns Fellow, Jesse will be working at Arch City Defenders, a holistic legal advocacy organization combating the criminalization of poverty and state violence.

NLG Students Produce Report on Massachusetts Campus Police

by Chase Childress, Christine Farolan (NUSL NLG), and Alex Stein (NLG Chicago)

Ahead of the annual NLG Week Against Mass Incarceration, NLG members from Northeastern Law and Chicago NLG have produced a report on private campus police forces using the Northeastern University Police Department as a case study. We encourage all NLG student chapters to conduct similar research on the private campus police forces at their schools and share the results! Please check out the full report as well as this guide to replicating the project.

Who is Protected and Who is Served?

In recognizing racist and systemic police violence around the country and considering the presence of private police officers all around our law school campus, we sought to investigate the legal authority governing those officers. We are law students from Northeastern University, and we wanted to ask: What is the source of authority for campus police, and how are they able to operate in essentially the same manner as state or local police officers? To answer these questions, we analyzed statutory and case law for Massachusetts and attempted to gather as much information as possible on the activities of Northeastern University’s police force in particular. We then documented all of our findings in a comprehensive report now available to the public, titled “Who is Protected and Who is Served: The Gap Between Massachusetts Campus Police Authority and Action.”

We found that campus police appear to be operating in a gap between the judicial interpretation of their authority and the authority granted to them in practice by employing institutions. Private police in Massachusetts have the statutory power to make arrests in certain circumstances, and nothing more. Even when further empowered as deputy sheriffs, campus police officers and departments are seemingly acting beyond the bounds of their statutory authority. Additionally, based on our case study of Northeastern University Police Department (NUPD), campus police are not subject to public accountability regarding the availability of their data. Campus police are mandated to maintain a record of and provide information on arrests, stops, and some demographic data on who is stopped to members of the public upon request. However, Northeastern’s independent student newspaper, The Huntington News, provided much more comprehensive information on campus police activity than the records we obtained from NUPD itself.

Our case study of Northeastern in particular showed that NUPD most frequently interacts with members of the public, with only one fourth of their logged incidents being reported by someone definitively affiliated with the university involving another university-affiliated person. Between August 2017 and October 2018, NUPD almost exclusively responded to “quality of life” violations such as public intoxication and noise complaints, and minor thefts of backpacks and bicycles. Despite this—and consistent with the broader trend of police militarization—they also carry assault rifles and have the capacity for inflicting massive violence, as campus police around the country have done. We conclude that campus police in Massachusetts enjoy imbalanced privacy from public scrutiny compared to their statutorily-granted level of authority. In short, while NUPD effectively operates in a way indistinguishable from public police forces like Boston Police Department, NUPD is shielded from the same level of public scrutiny and accountability as public police forces.

We encourage NLG student chapters at other schools around the country to conduct a similar exercise. We found the process to be enlightening and, above all, concerning. We hope that students find our one-page Guide to Interrogating Campus Police as Law Students helpful, and we are open to being contacted at nuslcriminallawproject@gmail.com if we can be supportive in some way!

Resource Links:

Main Image: Northeastern University Campus Police Department patrol car by Mbta108 (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license).

Download the PDF file .

NLG is Hiring in New Orleans, San Francisco & Los Angeles!

Work with the NLG!

NLG projects and chapters are hiring! Below are 3 open positions based in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Please see the full job descriptions and application instructions linked below — and share far and wide!

These positions, along with other legal/movement related jobs are posted on the NLG Members-Only Job Board.

Office Coordinator, National Police Accountability Project (NPAP) of the NLG  – Part-time (30 hrs/week) with potential to be full-time

Executive Director, NLG San Francisco Bay Area Chapter – Full-time

Program Coordinator, NLG Los Angeles Chapter – Full-time

NLG Calls Upon US to Immediately Comply with International Humanitarian Law in its Illegal Occupation of the Hawaiian Islands

Contact: hawaiiankingdom@nlginternational.org

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the oldest and largest progressive bar association in the United States, calls upon the United States to immediately begin to comply with international humanitarian law in its prolonged and illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom since 1893. As the longest running belligerent occupation of a foreign country in the history of international relations, the United States has been in violation of international law for over a century.

THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM AS A SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATE

On November 28, 1843, Great Britain and France jointly recognized the Hawaiian Kingdom as a sovereign and independent State, which was followed by formal recognition by the United States on July 6, 1844. By 1893, the Hawaiian Kingdom maintained over 90 legations (embassies) and consulates throughout the world, to include a legation in Washington, D.C., and consulates in the cities of New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, San Diego, Boston, Portland, Port Townsend and Seattle. The United States also maintained a legation and consulate in Honolulu.

The Hawaiian Kingdom also held treaties with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Belgium, Bremen, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hamburg, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Samoa, Spain, Switzerland, the unified Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, and the United States. It was also a member of the Universal Postal Union.

As a constitutional monarchy, the kingdom provided universal healthcare for the aboriginal Hawaiian population since 1859 with the establishment of Queen’s Hospital, and it became the fifth country in the world to provide compulsory education for all youth in 1841. This predated compulsory education in the United States by seventy-seven years and its literacy rate was universal and second to Scotland. Also, between 1880 and 1887, a study abroad program was launched where 18 young Hawaiian subjects attended schools in the United States, Great Britain, which included Scotland, Italy, Japan and China where they studied engineering, law, foreign language, medicine, military science, engraving, sculpture, and music.

PRESIDENT GROVER CLEVELAND’S MESSAGE TO THE CONGRESS IN DECEMBER 18, 1893

After completing an investigation into the United States role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom government on January 17, 1893, President Cleveland apprised the Congress of his findings and conclusions. In his message to the Congress, he stated, “And so it happened that on the 16th day of January, 1893, between four and five o’clock in the afternoon, a detachment of marines from the United States steamer Boston, with two pieces of artillery, landed at Honolulu. The men, upwards of 160 in all, were supplied with haversacks and canteens, and were accompanied by a hospital corps with stretchers and medical supplies. This military demonstration upon the soil of Honolulu was of itself an act of war.” He concluded, that “the military occupation of Honolulu by the United States on the day mentioned was wholly without justification, either as an occupation by consent or as an occupation necessitated by dangers threatening American life and property.”

This invasion coerced Queen Lili‘uokalani, executive monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom, to conditionally surrender to the superior power of the United States military, where she stated, “Now, to avoid any collision of armed forces and perhaps the loss of life, I do, under this protest, and impelled by said force, yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.” The President acknowledged, that by “an act of war…the Government of…friendly and confiding people has been overthrown.”

Through executive mediation between the Queen and the new U.S. Minister to the Hawaiian Islands, Albert Willis, that lasted from November 13, 1893 through December 18, 1893, an agreement of peace was reached. According to the executive agreement, by exchange of notes, the President committed to restoring the Queen as the constitutional sovereign, and the Queen agreed, after being restored, to grant a full pardon to the insurgents. Political wrangling in the Congress, however, blocked President Cleveland from carrying out his obligation of restoration of the Queen.

LIMITATION OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND LAWS

Five years later, at the height of the Spanish-American War, President Cleveland’s successor, William McKinley, signed a congressional joint resolution of annexation on July 7, 1898, unilaterally seizing the Hawaiian Islands for military purposes. In the Lotus case, the Permanent Court of International Justice stated that “the first and foremost restriction imposed by international law upon a State is that…it may not exercise its power in any form in the territory of another State.”

This rule of international law was acknowledged by the Supreme Court in United States v. Curtiss-Wright, Corp. (1936), when the court stated, “Neither the Constitution nor the laws passed in pursuance of it have any force in foreign territory unless in respect of our own citizens, and operations of the nation in such territory must be governed by treaties, international understandings and compacts, and the principles of international law.” In 1988, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel concluded, it is “unclear which constitutional power Congress exercised when it acquired Hawaii by joint resolution.”

Under international law, “a disguised annexation aimed at destroying the independence of the occupied State, represents a clear violation of the rule preserving the continuity of the occupied State (Marek, Identity and Continuity of States in Public International Law, 2nd ed. 110 (1968)).”

Despite the limitations of United States legislation, the Congress went ahead and enacted the Territorial Act (1900) changing the name of the governmental infrastructure to the Territory of Hawai‘i. Fifty-nine years later, the Congress changed the name of the Territory of Hawai‘i to the State of Hawai‘i in 1959 under the Statehood Act. The governmental infrastructure of the Hawaiian Kingdom continued as the governmental infrastructure of the State of Hawai‘i.

According to Professor Matthew Craven in his 2002 legal opinion for the Hawaiian Council of Regency concluded, “That authority exercised by [the United States] over Hawai‘i is not one of sovereignty i.e. that the [United States] has no legally protected ‘right’ to exercise that control and that it has no original claim to the territory of Hawai‘i or right to obedience on the part of the Hawaiian population. Furthermore, the extension of [United States] laws to Hawai‘i, apart from those that may be justified by reference to the law of (belligerent) occupation would be contrary to the terms of international law.”

INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW OBLIGATES THE UNITED STATES TO ADMINISTER THE LAWS OF THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM

Despite over a century of occupation, international humanitarian law, otherwise known as the laws of war, obligates the United States to administer the laws of the occupied State. In 2018, United Nations Independent Expert, Dr. Alfred deZayas, sent a communication from Geneva to the State of Hawai‘i that read:

“As a professor of international law, the former Secretary of the UN Human Rights Committee, co-author of [the] book, The United Nations Human Rights Committee Case Law 1977-2008, and currently serving as the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, I have come to understand that the lawful political status of the Hawaiian Islands is that of a sovereign nation-state in continuity; but a nation-state that is under a strange form of occupation by the United States resulting from an illegal military occupation and a fraudulent annexation. As such, international laws (the Hague and Geneva Conventions) require that governance and legal matters within the occupied territory of the Hawaiian Islands must be administered by the application of the laws of the occupied state (in this case, the Hawaiian Kingdom), not the domestic laws of the occupier (the United States).”

Violations of the provisions of the 1907 Hague Regulations and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention are war crimes. Professor William Schabas, recognized expert in international criminal law, determined in a 2019 legal opinion for the Hawaiian Royal Commission of Inquiry, that war crimes have and continue to be committed in the Hawaiian Islands since January 17, 1893. He states, “In addition to crimes listed in applicable treaties, war crimes are also recognized under customary international law. Customary international law applies to States regardless of whether they have ratified relevant treaties. The customary law of war crimes is thus applicable to the situation in Hawai‘i. Many of the war crimes set out in the first Additional Protocol and in the Rome Statute codify customary international law and are therefore applicable to the United States despite its failure to ratify the treaties.” And according to Professor Lenzerini in his 2019 legal opinion for the Royal Commission of Inquiry, that violations of human rights in the Hawaiian Kingdom “would first of all need to be treated as war crimes, which are primarily to be considered under the lens of international criminal law.”

CONCEALING THE ILLEGAL OCCUPATION THROUGH AMERICANIZATION—DENATIONALIZATION

How could such a travesty have gone unnoticed until now? The answer is obliteration of Hawaiian national consciousness through a process of denationalization. Predating the policy of Germanization in the German occupied State of Serbia from 1915-1918, a formal policy of Americanization was initiated in 1906 that sought to obliterate the national consciousness of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the minds of school children throughout the islands. Classroom instruction was in English and if the children spoke Hawaiian they were severely punished. The Hawaiian Gazette reported, “It will be remembered that at the time of the celebration of the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, an agitation was begun looking to a better observance of these notable national days in the schools, as tending to inculcate patriotism in a school population that needed that kind of teaching, perhaps, more than the mainland children do.”

In 1907, a reporter from New York’s Harper’s Weekly visited Ka‘iulani public school in Honolulu and showcased the seeds of indoctrination. The reporter wrote:

“At the suggestion of Mr. Babbitt, the principal, Mrs. Fraser, gave an order, and within ten seconds all of the 614 pupils of the school began to march out upon the great green lawn which surrounds the building.… Out upon the lawn marched the children, two by two, just as precise and orderly as you find them at home. With the ease that comes of long practice the classes marched and counter-marched until all were drawn up in a compact array facing a large American flag that was dancing in the northeast trade-wind forty feet above their heads.… ‘Attention!’ Mrs. Fraser commanded. The little regiment stood fast, arms at side, shoulders back, chests out, heads up, and every eye fixed upon the red, white and blue emblem that waived protectingly over them. ‘Salute!’ was the principal’s next command. Every right hand was raised, forefinger extended, and the six hundred and fourteen fresh, childish voices chanted as one voice: ‘We give our heads and our hearts to God and our Country! One Country! One Language! One Flag!’”

The word “inculcate” imports force such as to convince, implant, or to indoctrinate. Brainwashing is its colloquial term. Within three generations, the national consciousness of the Hawaiian Kingdom was effectively obliterated from the minds of the Hawaiian people.

THE RISE OF NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM

The year 1993, which marked the 100th anniversary of the American invasion and occupation, began the resurgence of Hawaiian national consciousness. It was also the year that the Congress enacted a joint resolution apologizing for the United States role in illegally overthrowing the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Six years later on November 8, 1999, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague accepted a dispute between Lance Larsen, a Hawaiian subject, and the restored Hawaiian government—the Council of Regency (Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom). Larsen alleged the Council of Regency was legally liable for “allowing the unlawful imposition of American municipal laws over the claimant’s person within the territorial jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Kingdom.” The Regency’s position was that it was not liable and that the United States was responsible under international humanitarian law. Due to the United States decision not to participate in the arbitral proceedings after being invited by the Regency and Larsen’s counsel, Larsen was unable to maintain his suit against the Hawaiian government.

These proceedings, however, drew international attention to the American occupation which prompted the NLG’s International Committee to form the Hawaiian Kingdom Subcommittee in March of 2019. The Subcommittee “provides legal support to the movement demanding that the U.S., as the occupier, comply with international humanitarian and human rights law within Hawaiian Kingdom territory, the occupied. This support includes organizing delegations and working with the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and NGOs addressing U.S. violations of international law and the rights of Hawaiian nationals and other Protected Persons.”

In December of 2019, the NLG’s membership voted and passed a resolution where “the National Lawyers Guild calls upon the United States of America immediately to begin to comply with international humanitarian law in its prolonged and illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Islands.”

  • NLG strongly condemns the prolonged and illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Islands.
  • NLG also condemns the unlawful presence and maintenance of the United States Indo-Pacific Command with its 118 military sites throughout the Hawaiian Islands, which has caused the islands to be targeted for nuclear strike by North Korea, China and Russia.
  • NLG calls for the United States to immediately comply with international humanitarian law and begin to administer the laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom as the occupied State.
  • NLG calls on the legal and human rights community to view the United States presence in the Hawaiian Islands through the prism of international law and to roundly condemn it as an illegal occupation under international law.
  • NLG supports the Hawaiian Council of Regency, who represented the Hawaiian Kingdom at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, in its efforts to seek resolution in accordance with international law as well as its strategy to have the State of Hawai‘i and its Counties comply with international humanitarian law as the administration of the Occupying State.
  • NLG calls on all United Nations member States and non-member States to not recognize as lawful a situation created by a serious violation of international law, and to not render aid or assistance in maintaining the unlawful situation. As an internationally wrongful act, all States shall cooperate to ensure the United States complies with international humanitarian law and consequently bring to an end the unlawful occupation of the Hawaiian Islands.

The National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.

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Related:

 

NEW: Persian/Farsi Know Your Rights Handbook!

Just in time for #NoWarWithIran actions, we’re thrilled to release the Persian/Farsi translation of our “Know Your Rights” (KYR) handbook. A HUGE thank you to the Iranian American Bar Association – New York Chapter for this translation!

In addition to Persian, our KYR handbooks are available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, and Bengali. All of them are available for free download at nlg.org/kyr.

As articulated the January 6 statement, NLG Strongly Condemns Illegal Targeted Assassinations by U.S. & Increased Repression of Iranian Nationals at U.S. Borders: “We know too well that periods of escalation of endless U.S. wars are connected to an escalation of the racialization and repression of Middle Eastern, Muslim, and all Black and Brown communities, not just under the hands of federal border agents but also local and federal police across all levels of law enforcement.”

NLG Strongly Condemns Illegal Targeted Assassinations by U.S. & Increased Repression of Iranian Nationals at U.S. Borders

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the oldest and largest progressive bar association in the United States, strongly condemns recent illegal U.S. actions in Iraq, including the killing of Iranian and Iraqi nationals and threats of military attacks on Iran as clear violations of both U.S. and international law. We call on our members and all people of conscience to mobilize in opposition to war with Iran, and we call on Congress to block access to funding for any military action against Iran, to lift sanctions against Iran, and to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The U.S. Legal Community Must Act to Defend Iranians and other Middle Eastern Communities from Targeted Harassment and Repression by the U.S.

The NLG is alarmed by the reports of the detention and questioning of dozens of Iranian nationals and U.S. nationals of Iranian descent at U.S. borders by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials. Assisted by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), those detained reported that their passports were confiscated and they were questioned about their political views and allegiances.

A U.S. citizen of Iranian descent detained with her family at the U.S.-Canada border last night reported that “The vast majority of people being [detained] were American citizens and We kept asking why we were being detained and asked questions that had nothing to do with our reason for traveling and was told ‘I’m sorry this is just the wrong time for you guys.’” 

The NLG’s concern goes further than the actions of CBP. We know too well that periods of escalation of endless U.S. wars leads are connected to an escalation of the racialization and repression of Middle Eastern, Muslim, and all Black and Brown communities, not just under the hands of federal border agents but also local and federal police across all levels of law enforcement.

THE U.S. IS IN CLEAR VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 

ACT OF AGGRESSION

On December 29th, the U.S. killed 25 people and wounded 50 fighters in Iraq claiming that it was a “response” to a Dec. 24 rocket attack on its occupation military base in Kirkuk that allegedly killed one private military contractor, despite the fact that the organization targeted denied this allegation and had no fighters stationed in the area. On this false pretext – much like many other imperialist wars, including the U.S.invasion of Iraq nearly 17 years ago –  the U.S. launched the deadly Dec. 29 attack.

On December 31, a popular mobilization responded to this attack with an unarmed protest at the U.S. embassy in the Iraqi Green Zone, where most of the occupation forces reside. Protesters breached the embassy walls, demanding an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. On January 2nd, the Trump Administration ordered a drone strike on a convoy leaving Baghdad International Airport, killing Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mehdi Al Muhandis of the Popular Mobilization Forces of Iraq.

ILLEGAL EXTRAJUDICIAL, TARGETED KILLINGS

The killing of Soleimani and others, Muhandis, and others by drone is not justified under any notion of international humanitarian law or human rights law. Targeted killing is the intentional premeditated and deliberate use of lethal force by states or their agents acting under color of law, who is not in the physical custody of the perpetrator.  If the person against whom lethal force is directed has not been convicted of a crime for which a death sentence is permissible in the state where the killing occurs, the targeted killing is also an extrajudicial killing outside of any legal process. Targeted extrajudicial killing is, by its very nature illegal. It is an arbitrary deprivation of the right to life guaranteed by Articles 6 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

VIOLATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER

The U.S. killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and others by drone strike in Baghdad is an illegal act of aggression violating U.S. and international law, including the United Nations (U.N.) Charter which all members of the U.N. including the United States are legally bound to adhere to. The Charter was ratified by the United States and by virtue of Article VI, section 2, of the U.S. Constitution it has the force of domestic law.

Current discourse on the matter by political leaders, especially those in the US, shows a distressing lack of understanding or disregard for the principles of the Charter which was agreed upon by the global community to prevent future generations from experiencing the “scourge of war.” Furthermore, current references to the “legality” of the strike have been limited to issues of “proportionality” and “imminence” of a “threat”.  Neither of these matters addresses the fundamental issues of legality.

VIOLATION OF IRAQI SOVEREIGNTY, NOT SELF-DEFENSE

Attacks onU.S.military bases in Iraq, allegedly by Iraqi based militias which are Iraqi non-state actors, do not qualify as an armed attack on theU.S.by Iran.  Neither does the protest action at theU.S.Embassy in Baghdad as a result ofU.S.strikes against the militias amount to an armed attack by Iran against the U.S.

Article 2.4 requires that all U.N. Charter member refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. The only two exceptions to the use of force are contained in Article 51 and 42.  Article 51, which recognizes the inherent right to self-defense, is operative only in response to an armed attack by another state. By definition, if an act is not in self-defense it is aggression, which is prohibited under the UN Charter. Article 42 permits the use of force when authorized by the Security Council. The U.S. did not bring the matter to the Security Council to seek a resolution regarding its claims about the activities of Iraqi militias.

FOCUS ON PROPORTIONALITY IS MISPLACED

The reference to proportionality by many commentators is misplaced.

Proportionality under international humanitarian law, otherwise known as the laws of war, relates to whether a particular military action is expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, or civilian objects which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage.  By its very nature, the principle of proportionality applies to cases of armed conflict, whether legal or illegal. The U.S. is not in an armed conflict with Iraq where the killing occurred, nor is it in an armed conflict with Iran.

Proportionality does not apply to considerations such as whether the killing of a high ranking army general of Iran is in some equation with the killing of a U.S. army contractor. Similarly, the issue of the imminence of a threat is not recognized under international law to convert an act of aggression into an act of self-defense. Although the Bush Administration used the concept to invade Iraq without UN approval, the international community roundly rejects the concept.

Solidarity with the People of Iran & the Region Means Building a Movement to Dismantle U.S. Imperialism

For too long, the people of both Iran and Iraq have suffered the crippling consequences of war, economic sanctions, instability, and constant threats of more war. The hands of extremist and hardline forces in both Iran and Iraq will be strengthened by Trump’s illegal acts of aggression. We must stand in solidarity with the people of Iran and Iraq who are struggling to achieve democracy by opposing U.S. imperialism and supporting people’s movements.

 The United States plays no positive role in Iraq or in the region and is the biggest threat to world peace. Therefore, we demand a full withdrawal of all U.S. troops and military bases from Iraq, halting all hostilities with Iran, and an international inquiry into and prosecution of the criminal behavior of the United States and its leadership. There is an urgent need to build an anti-war movement this year. Weapons manufacturers and those who profit from war must be shut down. There must be no support given for any electoral candidates and politicians that support this criminal war. And we must end the callous slaughter of millions around the planet. We encourage popular mobilizations in the streets as well as the growth of strategic campaigns around divestment, demilitarization, and international solidarity. No War with Iran! U.S. out of Iraq!”  -Excerpt from the Red Nation. Read more here 

  • NLG strongly condemns the assassination of General Soleimani as well as all threats by the United States against the Islamic Republic of Iran, its people, its leadership and its cultural heritage.
  • NLG also condemns the outrageous threats by U.S. President Trump to attack 52 targets in Iran, including cultural sites of deep importance to Iranian culture. Such an action would without a doubt constitute a war crime. Iran is home to 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites. The 1954 Hague Convention, of which the U.S. is a party, bars any military from “direct hostilities against cultural property.”
  • NLG condemns the racist and arbitrary detention and harassment of people of Iranian heritage by U.S. Customs and Border officials and calls on the U.S. legal community to act in defense of Iranians and other Middle Eastern Communities from targeted state repression.
  • NLG calls for an immediate inquiry into the harassment of Iranian nationals and U.S. citizens of Iranian heritage being stopped by CBP and by other government officials.
  • NLG calls on the legal and human rights community to view the attack on General Soleimani through the prism of international law and to roundly condemn it as an illegal act of aggression, a crime against peace, and a crime of aggression under UN General Assembly Resolution 3314.
  • NLG further calls on the legal and human rights communities to oppose the deployment of approximately 100 Marines and 750 members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and the pending deployment of 3,500 additional airborne troops to the region, actions which can only inflame the situation.
  • NLG joins the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) to call on the United Nations Security Council to immediately address the issue and take all necessary measures to put an end to all U.S. aggressions and interferences in the Middle East and to maintain peace and security in the region.
  • NLG joins IADL to call on all UN member states not to provide any political or logistical support for U.S. acts of aggression or war crimes against Iran or any other country.

he National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.

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