Legal Momentum In Brief, January 2014

Legal Momentum In Brief, January 2014

March 12, 2014 - 13:34 -- Jean Gazis
January 31, 2014

Legal Action

Legal Momentum to Represent Women Sheet Metal Workers

On December 22, 2013, Legal Momentum filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit brought by the EEOC against Vamco, a New York State contractor. The suit alleges that a class of women sheet metal workers were treated unfairly and unjustifiably terminated because of their sex. Legal Momentum represents four women in the class who had years of experience with welding and sheet metal work.

Legal Momentum Files Amicus in Housing Discrimination Case

Legal Momentum filed an Amicus Brief in the United States Supreme Court in the case of Township of Mt. Holly et al. vs. Mt. Holly Gardens et al. on behalf of Legal Momentum and several other civil rights advocacy organizations. Tim Casey, director of Legal Momentum's Women and Poverty program, and staff attorney Jelena Kolic wrote the brief. Casey was counsel of record.

The amicus brief was about housing discrimination against victims of domestic violence, the majority of whom are women. The Court could have decided the issue of whether the Fair Housing Act authorizes “disparate impact” challenges to policies that do not explicitly discriminate on the ground of race or sex, but which have an unjustified disproportionate racial or gender impact. However, the case was settled before the Court could hear it.

Amicus Curiae Brief Filed in Lozano vs. Montoya Custody Case

The case centers on whether, under international law, a child who was abducted and relocated to the United States by her mother must be returned to her father in the U.K. after residing in the U.S. for more than one year. Legal Momentum and the other organizations filing the Amicus brief argue that concealment for purposes of safely escaping domestic violence is sometimes essential because the risks of violence against women and children are greatest after separation from the abuser, and abusers often attempt to recapture their victims—in which case the risks to victims’ health and safety increase significantly—and therefore the Court should not extend the one-year limit and the child should not be returned to the U.K.

Legal Momentum to File Amicus Brief in Montana Rape Case

In the last issue of this newsletter, we reported on Lynn Hecht Schafran’s work with NOW’s Montana and Pennsylvania chapters to file a complaint with the Montana judicial disciplinary board against a judge who had not only given a mere 30-day sentence to a teacher who raped a young teenager, but also made awful comments about the victim.

The Montana Attorney General has since filed an appeal on the ground that the sentence was illegal. Legal Momentum, along with the NOW chapters and west coast women’s advocacy organization Legal Voice, and a local cooperating attorney, is filing an amicus brief on other aspects of this case—including violations of the code of judicial conduct—and will sign on. In December the Montana Supreme Court approved the motion to file the brief.

Castleman Case Highlights Issue of Guns in Domestic Violence

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard arguments in U.S. vs. Castleman, for which Legal Momentum co-authored an amicus brief. This case centers on whether a gun trafficker who abused the mother of his child should be able to legally buy guns. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) urged the Supreme Court to uphold federal laws—and those state laws like Tennessee’s—that were enacted to ensure that domestic violence abusers are prohibited from possessing guns. (Read more here.)

“The only appropriate action in U.S. v. Castleman is to follow the clear and common sense language that prohibits domestic violence abusers from possessing firearms,” said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of NNEDV and Legal Momentum board member.

Judicial Education

New Medical Forensics Model Curriculum Launched

In November 2013, Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Program released its newest model curriculum, Medical Forensic Sexual Assault Examinations: What Are They and What Can They Tell the Courts?, created with generous support from the Walter and Phyllis Borten Family Foundation and the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.

Adult victim sexual assault trials bring with them expectations about the kind of injuries a “real” victim will have, the kind of medical evidence that will be offered, who will present it, and what medical evidence can “prove” in these cases. These expectations are at odds with reality and undermine fairness in all aspects of the trial process. The findings of a medical forensic sexual assault examination (sometimes referred to as a “rape kit”) and the testimony of a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) can provide very useful information for the judge and the jury. However, there are important legal limitations on the scope of SANE testimony, as well as limitations as to what the examination findings can actually prove. Legal Momentum’s new curriculum provides accurate information about the medical forensic sexual assault examination, and explores some of the legal issues these cases raise.  

You can access Legal Momentum’s full curriculum free here.

Guide for College Discipline Panels on Sexual Violence

The University of Pennsylvania has developed a guide titled Sexual Misconduct Complaints: 17 Tips for Student Discipline Adjudicators, intended for adaptation by individual academic institutions. The guide draws heavily from the National Judicial Education Program (NJEP)’s publication Judges Tell: What I Wish I Had Known Before I Presided in an Adult Victim Sexual Assault Case, and is available for download from Legal Momentum’s website.

NJEP Continues to Educate about Language and Sexual Violence

In early December, NJEP Project Attorney Claudia J. Bayliff was invited to present “How Language Helps Shape Our Response to Violence Against Women” at the 2013 Judicial Symposium on Domestic Violence in Brooklyn, New York. 60 participants attended, including 31 judges, Court Resource Coordinators, and Court Attorneys.  Evaluations from the participants were excellent. Their comments included: “Best and most useful presentation in conference,” “Excellent – very useful – would be great topic for [Judicial Institute] program,” “Eye-opening. I will be much more attentive to language,” and “Excellent, thought provoking; well reasoned, researched and presented.”

Policy Advocacy

Legal Momentum Testifies in Hearing on Women in Fire Department, City of New York

Litigation Director, Michelle Caiola, testified at a hearing convened on December 16th by the New York City Council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee.  The hearing was held to ascertain why so few women are in the Fire Department of the City of New York (“FDNY”).  Currently, women make up less than 1% out of a force of almost 11,000 firefighters.  “The impossibly few number of women is institutionalized by policies, practices, and deeply entrenched attitudes …in the department,” said Caiola. She spoke about unnecessary, redundant rounds of physical testing that adversely impacted women applicants and called on the new Mayor to appoint a Fire Commissioner willing to address these issues head on.

Supporting the Labor Department’s Work to Enforce Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on December 4th on "Examining Recent Actions by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs." The tone of the press release announcing the hearing called into question OFCCP’s entire job access regulatory agenda. OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu testified at the hearing about new rules finalized by the Department of Labor affecting the nondiscrimination and affirmative action requirements of federal contractors. Several women's rights and civil rights organizations, including Legal Momentum, submitted letters of support to be included in the Subcommittee's record of the hearing. Legal Momentum’s letter applauded the work the OFCCP has done to ensure that federal contractors comply with Executive Order 11246 and supports the new hiring goals for federal contractors. Read the letter here.

Department of Justice Rolls Out New Workplace Violence Policy

Legal Momentum’s Vice Present for Intergovernmental Affairs, Lisalyn Jacobs, attended a somewhat belated—thanks to the federal shutdown—observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month by the US Justice Dept. The Workplace Resource Center, which Legal Momentum was instrumental in having included in the Volence Against Women Act bill in 2005, was the centerpiece of the observance as DOJ rolled out its own workplace policy for its own employees. At Legal Momentum’s instigation, President Obama issued a directive in 2011 requiring all federal agencies to create their own policies. The others are due to be finalized early in 2014. At the observance the DOJ Office on Violence against Women singled out both Legal Momentum and Ms. Jacobs with thanks for our work as a Workplace Resource Center partner as well as for our work on the federal policy.

Read the full remarks of the Deputy Attorney General here.

People

Elizabeth Grayer Steps Down as President

After almost three years at Legal Momentum’s helm, Elizabeth Grayer has decided to step down as President as of December 31, 2013. The board has asked Lynn Hecht Schafran, Senior Vice President and Director of Legal Momentum's National Judicial Education Program, to serve as Acting President. Ms. Grayer also continues to be available in a consulting capacity.
  
During her tenure as Legal Momentum’s President, Elizabeth raised the organization’s public profile through her own appearances, speeches and writing, through her leadership and guidance of Legal Momentum's programs and staff and by rebuilding its public outreach, including through a complete redevelopment of its web site. Her speeches at Legal Momentum’s Women of Achievement and Aiming High events and elsewhere highlighted the growing number of women living in poverty and in fear and challenged audiences to get involved in addressing those issues. The Staff and Board all join in wishing Elizabeth much happiness and success in her next endeavor. 
  
Janice Ellig of Chadick Ellig has been engaged to conduct a search for Legal Momentum’s new President. Interested applicants can forward resumes to her at Ellig@chadickellig.com.

Former Legal Momentum Volunteer Jennifer Liu Joins Outten & Golden in San Francisco

Jennifer Liu, former Legal Momentum volunteer, is an associate in Outten & Golden LLP’s San Francisco office, where she represents employees in litigation and negotiation in all areas of employment law.

Women: A Celebration of Strength

Women: A Celebration of Strength Still Available

A limited number of copies of Legal Momentum’s unique, interactive book on women’s history, Women: A Celebration of Strength, are available at only $35 including shipping and handling—below list price! Reading this beautifully illustrated and constructed volume is like a virtual museum tour. Click here to order your copy today.

Save the Dates!

Women of Achievement Awards Dinner to Take Place in San Francisco in March

Legal Momentum will host its ninth annual Women of Achievement Awards celebrating women of distinction in business, law, and public service at the InterContinental San Francisco on Thursday, March 20th, 2014. The 2014 honorees are Adriane Brown, President and Chief Operating Officer, Intellectual Ventures; Van Dang, Vice President, Law and Deputy General Counsel, Cisco Systems Inc.; Carrie Dwyer, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Charles Schwab Corporation; Kerry Francis, Partner, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP; Lucy Lee Helm, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Starbucks; Mary Murphy, Partner-in-Charge of the San Francisco Office, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; and Laureen Seeger, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, McKesson Corporation. For more information and early reservations, click here.

Aiming High Awards Luncheon to Take Place in New York in April

Legal Momentum will host its fourteenth annual Aiming High Awards luncheon at the New York Hilton on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014. The Aiming High awards honor women who have excelled in their professions. The 2014 honorees include Amy Olli, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, CA Technologies; Doris Meister, President, U.S. Markets – Tri-State, BNY Mellon Wealth Management; Bea Perez, Chief Sustainability Officer, The Coca-Cola Company; and Linda Zukauckas, Executive Vice President and Corporate Controller, American Express.

News from Around the Nation and the World:

Senate Begins Military Sexual Assault Debate

The Senate began hearing proposals to alter the way in which the Military justice system addresses sexual assault. Under the current system, a high-ranking officer who is the defendant's superior decides whether to bring charges, who sits on the jury, and whether a conviction or punishment can stand.

Ninth Circuit Upholds Gun-Ownership Ban for Domestic Violence Offenders  

In the case of U.S. vs. Daniel Edward Chovan, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to a 1996 law establishing a gun-ownership ban for anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, finding the law does not violate the Second Amendment.

International Violence Against Women Act Re-Introduced in Congress

In late 2013, the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) was reintroduced in the House, marking the fourth attempt to pass the legislation. I-VAWA would make important changes to the way that U.S. foreign policy deals with gender-based violence.

Pregnancy Now Top Discrimination Complaint in Australian Workplaces

Australia’s workplace watchdog, the Fair Work Ombudsman, revealed in December that more women complained to them of poor treatment because of pregnancy in 2012-13, topping the former top complaint of discrimination because of disability. Complaints included being fired, passed over for promotion, being denied training and receiving inappropriate comments. It is the first time pregnancy has formed the majority of complaints. Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney said it was concerning, but "sadly, it's not a surprise". The ACTU pregnancy discrimination hotline had about 500 calls during one 24-hour block. Read more here and here.

White House Establishes Task Force to End Sexual Assault in Higher Education

In the President’s weekly address last week, he announced the formation of the White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault. An estimated 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted at college, and this is an issue that Legal Momentum is working on. A Guide for College Discipline Panels on Sexual Volence that was developed by the University of Pennsylvania based in part on NJEP’s publication Judges Tell: What I Wish I Had Known Before I Presided in an Adult Victim Sexual Assault Caseis now available on our website.

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