Legal Momentum News Brief - August-September 2014

Legal Momentum News Brief - August-September 2014

September 18, 2014 - 13:17 -- Jean Gazis
September 18, 2014

Legal Momentum Calls for Stronger Action on Domestic Violence

Legal Momentum's President and CEO, Carol Robles Román, is speaking out in the media in the wake of the high-profile Ray Rice domestic violence case, calling for more accountability for judges and prosecutors in prosecuting perpetrators, stronger laws to protect victims, and innovative services like Family Justice Centers.

On Friday, September 12, Ms. Robles Román spoke on the issue of domestic violence with Pat Kiernan, WABC radio personality and NY1 news anchor, on his show The Ride Home with Pat Kiernan, where she pointed out significant errors in how the Rice case was handled by the New Jersey criminal justice system.

A forceful op-ed co-authored by Ms. Robles Román with Rutgers law professor Penny M. Venetis appeared in The Record, North Jersey's premier newspaper, on Monday, September 15th. The piece, titled Governor Should Lead War on Domestic Violence, calls on Governor Christie to speak out strongly “Jersey style” on the issue, and to take bold steps to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted and victims are protected. These steps include investigating whether New Jersey's diversionary program (meant for non-violent offenders) is being misapplied, instituting training programs for law enforcement and court professionals, and establishing state-of-the-art Family Justice Centers where victims can seek help from police officers, prosecutors, mental health experts, social workers and faith-based groups, all under one roof.

Department of Education Opens Investigation into Brown University in Response to Legal Momentum’s Complaint

In July, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation of Brown University’s handling of sexual assault cases, adding Brown to a list of 68 colleges and universities currently under federal investigation for Title IX violations regarding sexual assault. The investigation was prompted by a complaint that Legal Momentum filed in May on behalf of former Brown student Lena Sclove. The complaint alleged the University had failed to impose an appropriate sanction and effectively respond when it found another student responsible for sexual misconduct involving physical penetration, violent force, or injury against Ms. Sclove. The OCR investigation will examine whether the University has responded promptly and effectively to complaints and reports of sexual harassment, especially complaints of sexual assault.

The Sclove case has garnered significant media attention, including articles in the Huffington Post, USA Today College Edition, the Providence Journal, and the Brown Daily Herald, and Legal Momentum Senior Staff Attorney Christina Brandt-Young, who has worked with Title IX activists at Columbia University and elsewhere, as well as representing Ms. Sclove, has been widely quoted on the issue of campus sexual assault and Title IX.

Under Title IX, which was created to ban gender-based discrimination in education, colleges and universities must take immediate action to eliminate, prevent recurrence of, and address the effects of harassment. Brown has announced that it will fully cooperate with the Department of Education during the review, and said that it will also create a sexual assault task force and hire a full-time Title IX coordinator.

Celebrating the 20th Birthday of the Violence Against Women Act

Legal Momentum VAWA birthday graphic The landmark Violence Against Women Act, which Legal Momentum was instrumental in drafting and passing, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994, after several years of work by Legal Momentum (then known as the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund), a coalition of other advocacy groups, and then-Senator Joe Biden, the bill’s author. The law has subsequently been reauthorized and improved several times, thanks in large part to Legal Momentum’s continuing championship.

On September 9th, to celebrate VAWA's 20th anniversary, the Office of the Vice President issued a report, titled 1 Is 2 Many: Twenty Years Fighting Violence Against Women and Girls, which reviews the history of VAWA and specifically cites Legal Momentum’s work. The report states “Passing VAWA was not easy. There were only two women in the Senate when it was introduced; after the bruising battles of an earlier day, some civil rights groups and women’s groups were distrustful. Following the great principle of VAWA, which is to build trust among those who distrust, then-Senator Biden brought women leaders together … Soon, led by the NOW Legal Defense Fund (now Legal Momentum), a coalition was brought together of grassroots providers, shelters, religious organizations, survivors, mental health providers, prosecutors, and victims’ rights advocates.” (For more on the dramatic story of Legal Momentum’s work with then-Senator Biden to pass the original VAWA in 1994, readEQUAL: Women Reshape American Law,by Fred Strebeigh.)

Joe Biden with Lynn Hecht SchafranThat evening the Vice President held a small reception at his residence at which Lynn Hecht Schafran, Legal Momentum's senior vice president and director of our National Judicial Education Program, was an invited guest.

The Vice President also announced the start of a major effort to revive the Civil Rights Remedy that was a key part of the original 1994 VAWA, but was struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000. Legal Momentum worked closely with then-Senator Biden and his staff to draft the Civil Rights Remedy. Legal Momentum successfully litigated or provided technical assistance in 60 cases before it was struck down. We have already begun working with the Vice President's staff on this new effort.

 #HappyBirthdayVAWA Campaign Results in More Than 400 Social Media Posts

Legal Momentum Staff VAWA birthdayTo celebrate VAWA’s 20th birthday, Legal Momentum conducted a #HappyBirthdayVAWA social media campaign on September 9th and 10th that was joined by more than 250 organizations and individuals, garnering more than 1,000,000 social media impressions between September 8th and September 11th. Organizations and individuals are encouraged to tweet about VAWA’s impact and post photos of themselves with birthday cake on their favorite social networks throughout the month of September. Legal Momentum also hosted an event celebrating VAWA at the home of board member Amy Dorn Kopelan on September 16th.

Celebrating 30 Years of Life-Changing Legislation in Washington, D.C.

Lisalyn Jacobs, Honoree, Anne CrewsLegal Momentum founded the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) against Women in 1991, as part of the effort to pass VAWA, and continues to co-lead NTF. Lisalyn Jacobs, vice president for government relations, was master of ceremonies at “Pillars of Empowerment,” a September 10 event in Washington, D.C., that honored five “unsung heroes of the fight against gender-based violence. The event was hosted by NTF and sponsored by Mary Kay Inc. and The Mary Kay Foundation. Anne Crews, Vice President for Public Affairs for Mary Kay, said of the honorees, “Thanks to their work, made possible by the Violence Against Women Act, thousands of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and dating abuse are able to receive helpful resources and stop violence before it starts.” The event commemorated the 30-year anniversaries of life-changing legislation, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), as well as the 20-year anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The event was attended by over 200 invited guests, including a number of members of Congress.

Dartmouth Summit on Sexual Assault

The Summit on Sexual Assault on College Campuses took place at Dartmouth College in July, attended by several hundred college and university representatives, experts, students, and non-profit organizations from around the country. The Summit’s first two days educated campus and community stakeholders on sexual assault prevention, education and response, and enabled participants to learn about best practices to apply on their own campuses. National Judicial Education Program Project Attorney Claudia Bayliff was one of the Summit’s organizers and moderated the plenary session of survivors, which was open to the media and public. The next two days were devoted to meetings of small Working Groups of selected participants who committed to working together for the next year on issues such as confidentiality, legal concerns, and research.  After the conference, Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon committed to asking other Ivy League school presidents for resources to enable the Working Groups to meet in early 2015.

Legal Momentum Files Amicus in Young v. UPS

On July 1, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Young v. UPS, as Legal Momentum—alone among women’s rights organizations—urged in a 2013 amicus curiae brief. The case may potentially lead to an important ruling on the rights of pregnant workers. Peggy Young was employed by UPS as an airmail delivery driver when she became pregnant. On the advice of her doctor, she requested temporary light duty assignment. UPS denied her request, even though its policy already makes such assignments available under a variety of other circumstances such as on-the-job injuries or when workers are without their driving certification. Young had to take an unpaid leave, losing her health insurance along with her wages months before the arrival of her baby. Both the district and the appellate court asserted that UPS’s policy was “pregnancy-blind” and therefore lawful.

Legal Momentum’s newly filed brief urges the Supreme Court to rule in Young’s favor, arguing that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was created to eradicate stereotyping that forces pregnant women out of the workforce, and that a decision in favor of UPS would have an especially devastating impact on the women who need the PDA’s protections the most—those in low-wage jobs or traditionally male-dominated occupations.  Jelena Kolic, staff attorney, said “The law clearly mandates employers to accommodate pregnant women on the same terms as everyone else. We hope the Court will do the right thing and send a clear message that the PDA means exactly what it says.”

Legal Momentum in the News on MSNBC.com

A September 9th article on MSNBC.com, How to Make It Easier for Survivors to Leave, discusses the many reasons why victims of domestic violence may or may not leave abusive relationships. Reasons include losing jobs or housing due to their status as victims, and even fear of being killed when they try to leave. The article outlines remedies that advocates are currently seeking, including getting guns out of the hands of abusers, ensuring women’s economic survival, and strengthening housing protections. Legal Momentum’s Vice President for Government Relations, Lisalyn Jacobs, was a quoted source for the article.

Carol Robles Román, Lisalyn Jacobs, and Kim Gandy Appointed to #ProtectAllWomen Leadership Network

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords announced the #ProtectAllWomen Leadership Network following the Senate’s first-ever hearing on the intersection of gun violence and domestic violence on July 30. The Network is a coalition of the gun violence prevention, domestic violence prevention, and women’s advocacy movements that will educate state and federal leaders on the need for solutions that protect women from gun violence. Legal Momentum’s President and CEO, Carol Robles Román, Vice President for Government Relations, Lisalyn Jacobs, and board member Kim Gandy have all been named to the new leadership network. “Today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was an important first step on the road to strengthening our laws. Now it is time for leaders in Washington and across the country to come together–Republicans and Democrats–and pass legislation that helps protect women from gun violence. It is time for action. Women’s lives are at stake,“ said Giffords.

Carol Robles Román Profiled in LEADERS Magazine

Legal Momentum’s new president and CEO, Carol Robles Román, is profiled in the summer issue of LEADERS magazine. The article, titled Advancing Women’s Rights, highlights Carol’s lifelong commitment to the cause of equal opportunity and justice for women and girls, and outlines Legal Momentum’s mission and recent achievements, as well as the importance of public/private partnerships in achieving gender equity. As Carol says in the article, “We see direct results from strong advocacy…Last year, for example, the EEOC brought charges in a case involving four female Legal Momentum clients, sheet metal workers whose construction company employer violated federal law by firing female workers and treating them differently because of their sex. We intend to work with other employers, especially those that operate in nontraditional work settings, to help them implement and follow new workplace policies that comply with the law and safeguard women’s rights to a fair workplace.”

National Association of Women Lawyers Honors Legal Momentum at “Night of Giving”

LM staff at NAWL Night of GivingOn July 23, The National Association of Women Lawyers hosted a special Night of Giving benefiting Legal Momentum as part of its 2014 Annual Conference at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York. Carol Robles Román and Lynn Hecht Schafran gave inspiring overviews of the important work that Legal Momentum is engaged in, and how we are using the law to define and defend the rights of women and girls by educating policy makers, the courts, and legal profession; advocating for innovative public policy; eliminating violence against women; encouraging reform of federal bureaucracy meant to help poor women and kids; and litigating to advance economic and personal security in areas such as economic justice, freedom from gender based violence and equality under the law. Ms. Robles Román also outlined several ways you can support Legal Momentum, such as joining our Access to Justice Initiative, which is a national pro bono network that will connect lawyers to social justice issues for women and girls, becoming a member of the Board of Legal Advisors, which is a group of the best and brightest  lawyers in the U.S. Members serve as a key sounding board for Legal  Momentum’s programs and activities, and also are important ambassadors for the organization, and making a financial contribution.

Judges’ Journal Article on the Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

Judges Journal coverThe Summer 2014 issue of The Judges Journal, a publication of the American Bar Association, features an article by Legal Momentum’s Lynn Hecht Schafran on Domestic Violence, Developing Brains, and the Lifespan New Knowledge from Neuroscience. The article covers in depth the latest research on how witnessing domestic violence can have a long-term negative effect on children’s development, and how children can recover when exposure to the violence is eliminated and they are secure in the care of their non-abusing, primary caregiver parent.

Lynn Hecht Schafran Honored with ABA’s Sharon L. Corbitt Award

On august 8th, in Boston, the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence honored Legal Momentum’s Senior Vice President and Director of its National Judicial Education Program, Lynn Hecht Schafran, with the 2014 Sharon L. Corbitt Award. The award recognizes lawyers who demonstrate exemplary service to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and/or stalking. Lynn was honored for her work leading NJEP, a project of Legal Momentum in cooperation with the National Association of Women Judges. As NJEP’s director since 1981, Ms. Schafran has developed or co-authored several model judicial education curricula and  an interactive web course on topics related to sexual assault, domestic violence, and intimate partner sexual abuse. She has presented programs for numerous national, state, and federal judicial colleges as well as workshops and presentations for multidisciplinary audiences nationwide. She has written widely on these topics for a variety of audiences. These resources are available on the NJEP website at www.njep.org.

Legal Momentum Helps Immigrant Domestic Violence Survivors

Legal Momentum’s Staff Attorney Jelena Kolic, together with the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project (NIWAP) and American University, Washington College of Law, has written a report that helps service providers comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in their work with domestic violence victims who have limited English proficiency. The report, titled Translation Requirements for Vital Documents, Intake and Notice of LEP Assistance for DOJ and HHS Grantees Serving Immigrant Crime Victims, was funded by an Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) grant. OVW was established in 1995 under the Violence Against Women Act. The report helps these programs identify the languages spoken in their local communities and enables them to better meet the needs of their limited English proficient constituents.

Why Not My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper?

While applauding the effort to improve the lives and opportunities of young people of color, Legal Momentum has been deeply concerned that President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative excludes the needs of young women and girls of color. Legal Momentum has issued a new report demonstrating the disparate prospects of these women and girls in contrast with both white girls and women and men and boys of color. Lisalyn Jacobs, vice president for governmental relations, has authored an opinion piece for TalkPoverty.org on this issue. As Ms. Jacobs says in the piece, “Until both MBK and its well-financed external counterpart, the Boys and Men of Color Initiative, widen their focus to include girls and young women of color, at-risk communities will have neither the tools nor the resources necessary to ensure that they can move forward and flourish.  Make no mistake: there is no going forward, unless we all go forward together.”

 

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