The Partnership’s Push to Increase State Funding to Prevent Domestic Violence

As a heads up, this podcast was recorded early last week, before Governor Brown revealed his January budget proposal. Some of the conversation is dated in that regard, now that this post is going up after the budget proposal was revealed. That aside, the conversation I had with Erin Scott – Board Chair, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (The Partnership) – is still very much relevant.

Erin Scott – Board Chair, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence – sitting down with Jon Wainwright at The Partnership’s office in Sacramento.

Funding for domestic violence work in California has remained steady for the past few years at roughly $20.6 million annually. That funding comes out of the General Fund. and covers emergency response for domestic violence survivors and has become a part of California’ social safety net. It’s essential funding, but there’s more that could be done. Put another way, current funding only allows nonprofit organizations that serve domestic violence survivors to react to the problem of domestic violence. The Partnership is leading a push this year to double the amount of money in the General Fund being spent on domestic violence work with the new $20.6 million being spent on domestic violence prevention and addressing the longer term root causes of the issue.

As I mentioned before, our conversation was recorded before the budget proposal was revealed. Since then, the Governor’s budget proposal has been revealed, and the state’s investment in domestic violence crisis services remained steady at $20.6 million. In a statement following the announcement of the budget proposal Kathy Moore, Executive Director for The Partnership said,

We appreciate the state’s consistent investment … over the last 10 years,  but it’s simply not enough. […] On any given day, about half of the 5,410 domestic violence victims being served in California access emergency shelter, while the other half receive non-residential services – things like legal assistance, children’s counseling and other complimentary services. Yet average data also shows there are over 1,086 unmet requests for services every day. Continuing to band-aid these families crises with inadequate resources isn’t the solution. Victims are telling us they need more.

No budget fight in the California Legislature is easy. The level of difficulty is only exacerbated when an organization is fighting for General Fund dollars – of which a minimum of 40% are already constitutionally earmarked for K-12 education. We said in the podcast that the funds The Partnership is going for comes out of one pot. It’s more like the funds are coming from half a pot, and there are numerous other groups angling for those same dollars. While Erin noted that “it’s never the perfect time for this kind of request,” I see a couple trends that point towards this being a good year to make the ask to double the funding for domestic violence work.

The first of those is the windfall – or surplus as some others are calling it – in this year’s state budget. It’s easier to ask for more funding in a year when there is more money available to the state to spend. The other trend that could help The Partnership is the #WeSaidEnough movement that has taken the California legislature by storm. While the issues of domestic violence and sexual harassment and assault in the workplace are most certainly not the same, my feeling is that the return to focusing on victims, and victims’ rights, and getting those victims the help that they need puts the political winds in a more favorable position for The Partnership in their effort to get the funding that agencies across California to start being more proactive, start addressing the long term root causes of domestic violence, and, hopefully, start reducing domestic violence in California.

Liah Burnley – Policy Advocate, Californians for Safety and Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Informing Criminal Justice Reform Policies by Engaging with Crime Survivors and the Formerly Incarcerated

I recently spoke with Liah Burnley, who is a Policy Advocate for Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ), about the history of and work that CSJ does. CSJ works on criminal justice reform issues, with a particular focus on reducing wasteful spending in California’s justice system and breaking the cycle of crime by promoting policies and spending that help create safe communities and safe neighborhoods.

But what I found particularly interesting in our conversation was how CSJ informs itself before making decisions on various policies. There are two main groups that CSJ works with to get this information, crime survivors and the formerly incarcerated. It should be pointed out that – at least according to CSJ – a crime survivor is not the same as a crime victim. Crime survivors are those who are impacted by crime. Does that include victims of crime? Absolutely. But survivors also include the family and neighbors of those victims. If you think of water dropping, the crime is the drop and all the ripples that come from that drop are the impacted survivors.

The sense that I had after talking with Liah is that this second group, the formerly incarcerated, are really at the core of what CSJ works on. CSJ got started, and made a name for itself, by working on Prop 47 implementation. In doing so, they learned about multiple other inefficiencies in California’s criminal justice system and expanded their work accordingly so that, as Liah put it, when people are out there trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps that “those bootstraps are actually there.”

There was one other thing that Liah shared with me that stuck. It’s something that she lives by and seems to encapsulate the criminal justice reform movement, “each of us is worth more than the worst thing that we’ve ever done.” I think that in the majority of cases, that mantra holds true.

If you want to learn more about Californians for Safety and Justice, feel free to check out their website safeandjust.org. You can also Like Californians for Safety and Justice on Facebook follow them on Twitter @safeandjust.

Using Amicus Curiae Briefs to Influence Judicial Decisions

I sat down with Brian Landsberg – Professor of Law at McGeorge School of Law – recently to talk about the work of an organization that he is a member of. That organization is the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights, of which, Professor Landsberg is a member of the Board of Trustees and the Chair of the Amicus Section. We talked about the history of the 50+ year old organization and how their work has evolved over that time.

The Lawyers’ Committee was founded by leaders of the American Bar Association in 1963 after meeting with President Kennedy, who was concerned that there were now lawyers representing civil rights demonstrators in the Deep South. At the urging of the President, those leaders formed the Lawyers’ Committee to, basically, provide pro bono representation for African Americans in South during that time.

Members of the American Bar Association meeting with President John F. Kennedy

The work of the Lawyers’ Committee has since evolved to cover voter protection activities, equal education, fair employment, fair housing, and racial justice in the criminal justice system. The Amicus Committee, which Prof. Landsberg chairs, advances the Lawyers’ Committee’s interests through the filing of Amicus briefs with the United States Supreme Court. The cases that they file on aren’t necessarily all race discrimination cases, but include sex discrimination and religious discrimination as well.

 By: John Sims

A few days after my post about California’s decades-long leadership on efforts to curb air pollution from vehicles, The Sacramento Bee ran an opinion piece on the topic, written by Robert F. Sawyer and Jananne Sharpless, former chairpersons of the California Air Resources Board.  In “Let California lead on clean cars,” the authors describe and argue against a proposal pending before Congress to create a single national standard for vehicle emissions and fuel economy.  Their conclusion is that California “cannot afford to let Washington undermine California’s authority and our states’ rights to protect our communities’ health and our economy.”

My earlier post also provided a link to the December 11 argument in the Ninth Circuit case in which the federal government seeks mandamus to stop the district court in Oregon from going ahead with a February trial on climate change.  It turned out that the linked video portrayed the last appearance on the bench by Judge Alex Kozinski, who retired December 18 after more than 30 years on the Ninth Circuit, after having been charged with sexual harassment.  On December 21, the court assigned Judge Michelle Friedland of California to replace Judge Kozinski on the mandamus case.  There is no way to know yet whether the new composition of the panel will substantially delay the resolution of the mandamus matter.

 

 

 

Recent action at the state, federal, and private corporate levels provides a window into the many ways to attack the problem of nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment settlements.

Bar Nondisclosure Agreements in Settlements

A decade ago, the California Legislature changed the law to bar nondisclosure agreements in settlements of certain serious sexual abuse claims. The Legislature expanded it in 2016 to cover other types of claims with the passage of AB 1682. Now, Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) has announced her plan to introduce a bill to ban nondisclosure provisions in settlements of a broader list of sexual assault and harassment claims when the Legislature reconvenes in January. A similar bill is pending in the New York Legislature.

Remove Tax Deductibility of Payments if the Settlement Includes an NDA

In Congress’s new tax plan, there is a provision that takes away the business tax deduction for sexual harassment settlements that contain nondisclosure agreements. In the New York Times, University of Chicago Law School Professor Daniel Hemel called it “a nudge, not a hammer,” because most businesses will likely forego the deduction when forced to a choice.  It is also important to note that while the new provision impacts businesses, it does not affect government entities, such as the California Legislature.

Bar Mandatory Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Claims

Employers’ use of mandatory arbitration provisions has mushroomed over the last decade.  Now, over half the non-union U.S. employees are subject to such clauses.  In a series of cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld employers’ rights to impose arbitration requirements, finding that federal law forbids states to limit them.  Given these holdings, a change in the law at the federal level is required to restrict employers’ use of arbitration provisions to keep women claiming sexual harassment out of court.

Now, California Senator Kamala Harris is one of several sponsors of a bipartisan bill the federal level that aims to end sexual harassment secrecy another way – by forbidding terms of employment contracts that require confidential arbitration, rather than an open lawsuit, for sexual harassment claims. The bill is co-authored by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D – Ill.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D – N.Y.). According to Marina Fang’s reporting, the “Senate bill is also backed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R – S.C.), Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska)” and the “House version has support from Reps. Walter Jones (R – N.C.), Elise Stefanik (R – N.Y.), and Pramila Jayapal (D Wash).”

Private Action Instead of Legal Change

And a change in the law is not always necessary to address a problem like secret settlements, if powerful corporations decide, or can be nudged, to change on their own.  Microsoft recently announced that it will no longer force women alleging sexual harassment into mandatory arbitration.

With California’s newly legalized  recreational marijuana industry set to begin January 1 and projected to generate $7 billion annually by 2020, devising a banking system for all that money is a priority.  The problem is that banks, which are regulated by the federal government, won’t touch it for fear of being prosecuted criminally.

Last month, James Rufus Koren of the Los Angeles Times reported on ideas from California Treasurer John Chiang’s task force formed to study the issue.  These included a state-owned bank to handle the money, creation of “a multistate group to lobby Congress to ease federal regulations on cannabis,” and state-hired “armored car services to pick up tax payments from businesses.”

Earlier this week, Patrick McGreevy – also of the Los Angeles Times – reports that another potential solution to the federal/state law dilemma, this time out of the governor’s office, is a private collaboration of banks and credit unions working with a central “correspondent bank.” The plan is to meet federal banking regulators’ concerns in a way that protects the financial institutions from punishment.  Whether they feel comfortable enough to sign on remains to be seen.

And as my colleague, Professor Mike Vitiello, pointed out in an earlier blog post, even though marijuana will be legal in California, “use or possession of the drug in any form and in any amount remains illegal under federal law, regardless of state law.”  This reality shadows all efforts to identify “safe” banking practices that meet the needs of the producers and retailers, while also assuaging the concerns of the financial institutions considering diving into this newly legalized industry in California.

By: John Sims

A dramatic confrontation over climate change took place on Monday, December 11, in the San Francisco courthouse of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  That’s the federal appellate court that includes California and the other western states.  The plaintiffs, many of whom are children, point out that the federal government is not taking adequate steps to restrict greenhouse gases, and that in fact its coal-friendly and oil-friendly policies will have disastrous consequences for the plaintiffs (and the millions of other children like them) over the course of their lives.

The Los Angeles area, because of its reliance on automobiles and dense freeway traffic, experienced some of the worst smog in the nation after World War II.  Thus, when Congress adopted the Clean Air Act in 1970 to curb pollution, California was highly motivated to support that goal.  The statute includes a provision that allows California to receive federal permission to impose limits on emissions from new motor vehicles that are more restrictive than those adopted by Environmental Protection Agency.  Other states are also allowed to opt into the stricter California standards, and a number have done so.

In recent years, California has been one of leaders in the fight against global warming on many fronts, working with other states and even foreign nations to lower the levels of greenhouse gases.  Mere mention of California’s landmark “A.B. 32” legislation from 10 years ago has been enough to induce trauma in executives in the coal, petroleum, and related industries who want to preserve the dominance of fossil fuels.  Especially as the Trump Administration has rejected the Paris Accord and other clean-energy initiatives, California has fought to keep up the momentum behind its efforts to slow global warming before it is too late.

The case heard before the Ninth Circuit earlier this week originated in the federal district court in Oregon.  That court rejected the government’s effort to have the case dismissed, and scheduled a trial for February 2018.  It is expected that the plaintiffs will present a broad array of expert scientific witnesses.  The government sought permission to take an immediate appeal, but the district court refused.  Determined to prevent the trial at all costs, the government was in San Francisco on Monday seeking a writ of mandamus (that is, an order directing the district court to dismiss the case).

Not that long ago, federal courts prohibited the possession of cameras in courthouses.  There has been huge progress on that front, and now the Ninth Circuit livestreams all of its arguments and then archives the recordings at its website.

If you would like to observe and evaluate this collision between the Trump Administration and those seeking to reduce Global Warning, you can watch the video here.  The fascinating argument took a little less than an hour.

Chief Judge Sidney Thomas of Montana (center seat) presided.  The seat on the left (from the viewer’s perspective) is Judge Alex Kozinski of California, who was Chief Judge of the Court (2007-2014).  On the right is Judge Marsha S. Berzon of California.

By: Mike Vitiello

In my previous post, I mentioned that many areas of marijuana law are complex and that I would discuss legal ethical issues that marijuana attorneys face. It is critical to remember that every use of marijuana violates federal law, even in states like California, where the state allows medical or recreational use. That can create problems for attorneys who work with their clients who are in the marijuana business.

While ethical rules governing attorneys vary from state to state, as a general matter, attorneys cannot engage in illegal activity. Ethical rules also prohibit attorneys from advising clients how to violate the law. This presents a dilemma for attorneys representing marijuana clients in states where marijuana is legal.

Previously, bar associations in some states indicated that an attorney advising a client on setting up a marijuana business would violate ethical rules because the business would violate federal law. More recently, however, the trend is away from that position. During the recently completed legislative session, the Legislature adopted AB 1159 that addresses some of the important questions in this area.

California is now like other states where attorneys can work with clients in the marijuana business as long as they advise them that the conduct violates federal law.

Another area that was addressed by AB 1159 was: what if an attorney uses medical or even recreational marijuana? Does that reflect badly on his or her moral character? Not anymore. The new law provides that use of marijuana is not evidence of a lack of good moral character. However, being under the influence of marijuana at work or in court might still be an ethical violation.

The area of the law that pertains to statements made by an attorney to the client or by the client to the attorney remains unclear, even after the passage of AB 1159, but you will have to listen to my podcast to hear how that area of the law is still unclear.

 

 

 

I spoke about this issue yesterday on ABC 10 in Sacramento with Giacomo Luca.

Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor are the most recent men terminated by their private employers because of credible allegations of sexual misconduct.  Contract terms set out the ability of the media outlets to discipline these employees.  But what of state and federal elected officials, who are put into office by a vote of the people and serve the citizens rather than a private employer?  A constitution – again either state or federal – is what sets out the ability of a legislature, or the people, to discipline elected officials.

Article IV, Section 5 (a) (1) of the California Constitution provides that the Assembly or Senate may expel a member by a 2/3 vote, without specifying particular grounds for expulsion.  Proposition 50 passed by the voters in June 2016 amended the Constitution to give both Houses the power to suspend members with or without pay, with a recitation of reasons and by a 2/3 vote.  The California Constitution also provides a procedure for the voters to recall an elected official prior to the end of the official’s term. That can be done by means of a popular vote.

Article I, Section 5, of the United States Constitution provides that “Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.”  The Constitution does not specify grounds for expulsion but in practice the grounds have involved disloyalty to the nation or corruption.  Censure is a less severe form of disciple, imposed by a majority vote of either House, which states disapproval of a member’s behavior but does not remove the official from office or limit the official’s powers.  There is no federal voter recall procedure, and impeachment, available against the President, government officials, and judges, does not apply against Congress members or Senators.

 

 

 

Working with Coalitions to Amplify Your Voice

I sat down with Beth Hassett, the CEO and Executive Director of WEAVE – Women Escaping A Violent Environment – to talk about the policy work that it does. Like many of the organizations I’ve talked to, WEAVE is a 501 (c)(3) – so they are limited in the amount of lobbying that they are allowed to do. There is, however, a firm that they work with that does pro bono lobbying on their behalf.

However, WEAVE is still active in the policy arena, educating and advocating on behalf of their clients who are women, children, and men trying to escape victimization in its many forms. Most of WEAVE’s work focuses on closing loopholes and correcting the unintended consequences of laws from the past.

WEAVE also belongs to a couple of coalitions that do a lot of policy work, and by working with these coalitions, WEAVE is able to amplify their voice and bring it to a larger audience. Those coalitions are CalCASA – the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault – and CPEDV – the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.

We talked at length about the process for how CPEDV establishes its legislative and policy priorities as well as how they go about working to accomplish those goals. You will have to listen to our conversation for those details.

I hope you enjoy this week’s conversation with Beth Hassett. Be sure to check back next week when I talk with her about a bill that WEAVE worked on a few years back to increase protections for domestic violence victims, AB 1407. That bill took an interesting path, so I think you all will enjoy that conversation as well.

For more information on WEAVE, please visit their website – www.weaveinc.org. You can also find WEAVE on Facebook, @WEAVEInc and on Twitter, @WEAVEinc.

As Beth mentioned in the interview, you can also visit CPEDV’s website to learn more about their policy priorities. CPEDV can also be found on Facebook at @CAPartnershiptoEndDV and on Twitter @cpedvcoalition.