Legal Momentum News Brief - Second Quarter 2014

Legal Momentum News Brief - Second Quarter 2014

July 30, 2014 - 11:33 -- Jean Gazis
July 30, 2014

Legal Momentum Files Title IX Complaint In Brown University Sexual Assault Case

Legal Momentum has filed federal civil rights complaints with the U.S. Department of Education under Title IX and the Clery Act on behalf of Lena Sclove, a Brown University student who reported she was sexually assaulted by another student. The complaints were filed in connection with Brown’s failure to expel a student whom its disciplinary board had found responsible for nonconsensual sexual misconduct. The disciplinary panel recommended the perpetrator be suspended for two years. However, the university’s senior associate dean for student life overruled the panel, and reduced the suspension to one year, which could have allowed him to be on campus at the same time as Ms. Sclove. The complaint also says that Brown administrators directed Ms. Sclove to a health facility that was unequipped to preserve evidence, and failed to make clear that she could file both a student misconduct complaint and a criminal complaint.

Ms. Sclove filed her Title IX and Clery complaints to ask that the Department of Education investigate and work with Brown to ensure that students are protected by effective, fair disciplinary systems. The Education Department will conduct an investigation in response to the complaints. “We hope that the Department of Education will use its expertise and investigative process to help Brown become a place where all survivors are made aware of their legal options and are fully supported following an assault,” Ms. Sclove said.

Title IX requires schools with awareness of a sexual assault of a student to take immediate action to eliminate the hostile environment created by the assault, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. When a school makes a finding of violent sexual misconduct, the respondent is potentially a danger to everyone on campus. The Clery Act requires schools to inform students of the importance of preserving evidence of criminal sexual assault and to inform students of their option to notify appropriate law enforcement authorities.

“Title IX and Clery Act protocols have to translate into victim-centered assistance that serves students in real time,” said Christina Brandt-Young, Senior Staff Attorney at Legal Momentum.

Legal Momentum Welcomes New President & CEO, Carol Robles-Román

Carol Robles-Roman speaking at Aiming High 2014

Carol Robles-Román, former Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs and Counsel to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, became President and CEO of Legal Momentum on April 21. Ms. Robles-Román was the first woman to serve as Counsel to a New York City Mayor and was a member of the city’s executive leadership team for 12 years. She led several city agencies and public private partnerships, including the NYC Latin Media & Entertainment Commission, NYC's effort to redefine how the city responds to domestic violence with the establishment of the state-of-the-art Family Justice Centers, and led the multimedia public awareness campaign Let’s Call an End to Human Trafficking. A lifelong New Yorker, she holds a J.D. from NYU School of Law, and a B.A. from Fordham University at Lincoln Center.

Ms. Robles-Román said, "I've long admired Legal Momentum's dynamic board and its work advancing economic justice, freedom from gender-based violence and equality under law—three major areas I have dedicated my legal career to. I look forward to applying the social justice reforms we led at City Hall to bring Legal Momentum to even greater heights on behalf of women and girls."

G. Elaine Wood Elected Chair of Legal Momentum Board
Laura A. Wilkinson Elected First Vice Chair

At its  meeting in New York City on June 19, 2014, Legal Momentum’s Board of Directors elected board members G. Elaine Wood as its new Chair and Laura A. Wilkinson as its First Vice Chair, beginning July 1. Ms. Wood is Managing Director at the global consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, where she focuses on business intelligence and advises on corporate compliance programs, workplace violence issues, and sexual harassment in the workplace. She was a member of Legal Momentum’s Board of Legal Advisers for ten years and joined the Board of Directors in 2012.

Ms. Wilkinson is an antitrust partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Washington, D.C., with a practice focusing on mergers and acquisitions. She also serves as a Trustee of Cornell University and on the board of Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation. Ms. Wilkinson joined Legal Momentum’s Board in 2012 and is co-chair of its Strategic Planning Committee.

Legal Momentum is deeply grateful to Linda A. Willett, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, for her outstanding service as Chair of Legal Momentum’s Board from late 2006 through June 30, 2014. During her tenure, Legal Momentum launched new initiatives, helped pass the 2011 and 2013 reauthorizations of the Violence Against Women Act, and successfully advocated for women who were subjected to workplace discrimination.

Nearly 600 Support Legal Momentum’s Work at 14th Annual Aiming High Awards Luncheon
Legal Momentum’s 14th annual Aiming High Awards luncheon took place at the New York Hilton on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014. This year’s Aiming High awards honored five accomplished women who have excelled in their professions, and introduced Legal Momentum’s new President and CEO, Carol Robles-Román, who spoke about the vital work we are doing to ensure women’s personal and economic security and ability to thrive, and her vision for the future.

The honorees are Doris Meister, President, U.S. Markets–Tri-State, BNY Mellon Wealth Management; Amy Olli, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, CA Technologies; Bea Perez, Chief Sustainability Officer, The Coca-Cola Company; Ilene Wachs, President, Horizon Casualty Services, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey; and Linda Zukauckas, Executive Vice President and Corporate Controller, American Express. More than 500 guests attended despite the rainy weather, notably former New York State Governor George Pataki and the Honorable Loretta Prescott, Chief Judge of the Southern District of New York.

The luncheon was chaired by Karen Kaplowitz, founder of the New Ellis Group, and Linda Willet, Chair of the Board of Legal Momentum. Numerous Legal Momentum supporters attended the event, including The Coca-Cola Company; Bloomberg Philanthropies; Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey; CA Technologies; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Morrison & Foerster LLP; Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP; DuPont, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; and Cleary Gottlieb, Kirkland & Ellis.

Legal Momentum’s new President and CEO, Carol Robles-Román, spoke at the event about Legal Momentum’s mission and her vision for our work.

Aiming High 2014 Honorees and others
Photo: (L to R) Carol Robles-Román, Bea Perez, Amy Olli, Amy Kopelan, Linda Zukauckas, Ilene Wachs, Karen Kaplowitz, Linda Willett (not pictured: Doris Meister)

Karen Kaplowitz with Aiming High Guests

Photo: Karen Kaplowitz (far left) with event guests

To view more photos from the event, visit our website gallery.

Legal Momentum Works with Sen. Blumenthal on Bill to Protect DV Survivors
On June 17, 2014, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act, a bill that would protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence by preventing an individual who is subject to a temporary restraining order from purchasing or possessing a firearm for the duration of the order. The bill was named after a woman who was shot and killed by her husband after obtaining a temporary restraining order against him. According to Senator Blumenthal, “Closing this gaping loophole will save lives when temporary restraining orders leave domestic abuse victims most vulnerable to violent partners with guns...The link between domestic violence and guns is a deadly one, and I urge my colleagues to pass this bill without delay because lives are literally on the line.”

Legal Momentum’s Vice President for Government Relations, Lisalyn Jacobs, who has worked with Senator Blumenthal’s staff on women’s rights and domestic violence issues, was present at the press conference announcing the new bill. Legal Momentum’s President and CEO Carol Robles-Román was quoted in the press release, “Senator Blumenthal’s bill will afford survivors greater protection at their most vulnerable moment: when they separate from the abuser.” Legal Momentum board member Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence was also quoted, saying “Abusers are often deadliest when victims are trying to leave their control. This bill will help close a dangerous loophole.”

Lynn Hecht Schafran Honored at EVAWI International Conference
Lynn Hecht Schafran, Director of Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Program (NJEP), received EVAW’s (Ending Violence Against Women) Visionary Award at the EVAW International Conference on Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Stalking in Seattle. The Visionary Award recognizes individuals for their vision and leadership in ending violence against women. EVAW cited Ms. Schafran for her years of dedicated service as “a leader in the legal field, a profound and prolific writer, and an incisive legal scholar,” stating that “Her work to bring educational programming to judges… has been both groundbreaking and transformational.”

Lynn Schafran at EVAWI Annual Confernece

Pictured, left to right: EVAWI Executive Director and Founder Joanne Archimbault, Lynn Hecht Schafran, EVAW President Herman Milholland

Ms. Schafran gave the opening plenary presentation on Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse: From Teen Dating Violence to Trafficking at the EVAWI  International Conference, which was attended by 1,200 multidisciplinary professionals. Her presentation highlighted the fact that victims of domestic violence are also at great risk of having been sexually assaulted, and advocates, medical professionals, and the courts need to know to ask. If they don’t, the victim won’t get the services he or she needs, and the offender will not be held accountable. Sexual abuse in a violent relationship is a red flag for potential lethality, escalating violence, abuse against children in the home, and even sex trafficking. Abusers who rape or sexually assault their spouses are a greater risk not just to their family members, but to their entire communities. NJEP offers a free web course on Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse: The Hidden Dimension of Domestic Violence Cases at www.njep-ipsacourse.org. For a flyer describing the web course, click here.

Educating Congress about Domestic Violence and Economic Issues
Legal Momentum Vice President for Government Relations Lisalyn Jacobs’ March 13th Women’s E-News op-ed, Women: When We Succeed, We Can Also Escape Abuse was sent to every member of Congress along with a letter from the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF), which Legal Momentum co-founded and leads. NTF focuses on developing and implementing effective public policy to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The letter brings the attention of lawmakers to the intersection of domestic violence and women’s economic issues. 25% to 50% of domestic violence survivors report losing a job at least in part due to the domestic violence, and individuals with lower incomes suffer disproportionately from intimate partner violence. Equal pay and raising the minimum wage mean survivors can more easily break away from an abuser.

Later this summer, there will be a Capitol Hill briefing on the economic needs of survivors of domestic violence. For more on the link between economic stress and marital strife, read The Great Recession Increased the Risk of Abusive Marriages.

White House Equal Pay Day Actions
Legal Momentum’s Lisalyn Jacobs and Francoise Jacobsohn were invited guests at the White House National Equal Pay Day event on April 8, when President Obama signed a new Executive Order to prevent workplace discrimination and empower workers to take control over negotiations regarding their pay. The President also asked Secretary of Labor Perez to require federal contractors to submit data on employee compensation by race and gender, in order to help employers be more proactive in ensuring fair pay for all employees.

Legal Momentum Participates in White House Summit on Working Families
On June 23rd, the White House, the Department of Labor, and the Center for American Progress hosted the first-ever Summit on Working Families, to focus on creating a 21st-century workplace that works for all Americans. The meeting capped a series of regional forums around the country. Legal Momentum worked closely with the White House to ensure that key issues, such as the interaction of economic insecurity and domestic violence, and increasing women’s participation in non-traditional occupations, were addressed at the summit. Legal Momentum also participated in the New York and Boston regional forums. To learn more, go to http://www.dol.gov/wb/workingfamilies/. At the New York summit, Labor Secretary Perez, Mayor DiBlasio, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, and many others discussed how to support working families. After the summit, three tradeswomen working with Legal Momentum were interviewed by the US Department of Labor’s Public Affairs Office.

Courts Affirm Legal Momentum's Briefs

Equal Justice Under Law image
U.S. Supreme Court Victory on Domestic Violence and Guns
At the end of March, in a victory for advocates of victims of domestic abuse, the U.S. Supreme court unanimously upheld the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that ban gun possession by those who have been convicted of crimes of domestic violence in state court. Justice Sotomayor cited information from Legal Momentum’s amicus brief in her majority opinion on the Castleman case. Since the presence of guns quintuples the risk that a survivor of domestic violence will be killed, this ruling will save women’s lives.

Legal Momentum Federal Court Victory for Female Sheet Metal Workers

The District Court for the Southern District of New York upheld the Magistrate Judge’s finding that federal law bars employers from discriminating against employees who breastfeed on the job. The precedent-setting ruling came in the case of EEOC vs. Vamco Sheet Metals, Inc., a New York-based construction company. Legal Momentum intervened in the case on behalf of four female sheet metal workers who filed charges with the EEOC to report that they had been terminated due to their sex. ”This is the first ruling that expressly protects breastfeeding mothers’ workplace rights in this Circuit,” said Jelena Kolic, Legal Momentum’s staff attorney. “We hope that other courts will follow suit to safeguard breastfeeding mothers against workplace discrimination.”

One of the women reported being discharged by Vamco after she notified her supervisor that she was a nursing mother in need of time and space to express milk for her child. The defendants had argued that the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not protect employees who are terminated after requesting breastfeeding-related accommodations. The Magistrate Judge disagreed, ruling that employers who take adverse employment action against nursing employees may be found to violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, as Legal Momentum had argued.

Legal Momentum Helps File Charge Against Publicly Censured Montana Judge
Legal Momentum applauds the Montana Supreme Court’s decision to publicly censure and suspend for 31 days Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh, who gave a convicted rapist a shockingly light sentence and made comments blaming the 14-year-old victim. The judge described the victim as looking older than her chronological age and "as much in control of the situation" as the 42-year-old teacher who raped her. The victim committed suicide before the teacher's trial. Legal Momentum’s Lynn Hecht Schafran, Director of the National Judicial Education Program, worked with the Montana and Pennsylvania chapters of NOW to file a formal complaint with the state judicial disciplinary board against the judge, who subsequently announced that he would not run for re-election. On June 4, 2014 the Montana Supreme Court ordered both a public censure and a suspension for Judge Baugh. "Through his unlawful sentence, inappropriate rationale, and subsequent public comments, Judge Baugh has eroded public confidence in the judiciary and created an appearance of impropriety, therefore violating the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct,” the court said in its opinion. “He has caused Montana citizens, as well as others, to question the fairness of our justice system and whether prejudice or bias affected the outcome of the Rambold case. There is no place in the Montana judiciary for perpetrating the stereotype that women and girls are responsible for sexual crimes committed against them." Judge Baugh has admitted that his comments and actions in the case appeared improper and failed to promote public confidence in the courts. In a separate action the Montana Attorney General appealed Judge Baugh's sentence on the grounds that it was illegal according to mandatory minimum sentencing rules, which require that the defendant serve at least two years.

Legal Momentum Urges Supreme Court to Rule That PDA Requires Accommodations for Pregnant Workers
On Tuesday, July 1, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Young v. UPS, a case involving UPS’s air mail delivery driver who was refused pregnancy accommodations despite the fact that UPS does accommodate several other classes of workers with similar limitations. Legal Momentum led the effort to persuade the Court to hear this case by co-authoring an amicus brief with Joanna Grossman and Deborah Brake, law professors and noted experts in the area of pregnancy discrimination. The brief called on the Court to clarify that the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires employers to accommodate pregnant workers if their policies already provide for such accommodations in a variety of other circumstances. A positive ruling from this case will safeguard access to pregnancy-related accommodations for women throughout the nation. At this time, Legal Momentum anticipates submitting its next brief on August 22, 2014.

Former Legal Momentum Board Chair Michele Coleman Mayes Named Chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession
Michele Coleman Mayes, who served on Legal Momentum's board for 17 years, five of them as board chair, has been appointed chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession. Ms. Mayes is also Vice President, General Counsel of the New York Public Library and an honorary member of Legal Momentum’s board.

Legal Momentum has long and close ties to the ABA Commission, whose mission is to serve as the national voice for women lawyers. Lynn Hecht Schafran, Legal Momentum's Senior Vice President and Director of its National Judicial Education Program, was an original member of the Commission, established in 1987. Ms. Mayes served on the Commission from 1992 to 1994 and so impressed Ms. Schafran that she asked Michele if she could propose her for Legal Momentum's board. Ms. Mayes joined the board in 1996 and served as chair from 2001 to 2006. Ms. Schafran continues to serve as Legal Momentum's Liaison to the Commission and is an editorial board member of its magazine, Perspectives. Both Ms. Schafran and Ms. Mayes are frequent speakers at Commission events and have been awarded the Commission's Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, Ms. Schafran in 1996 and Ms. Mayes in 2003, when Ms. Schafran nominated her.

Two other Legal Momentum board members have also received the Commission's Margaret Brent Award. Elizabeth Cabraser, a partner in Lief Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein in San Francisco, was honored in 2010. Marissa Wesely, Of Counsel, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York, will be honored at the ABA annual meeting this August.

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