Legal Momentum News Brief - June/July 2015

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July 14, 2015

Legal Momentum Helps Pass Cuomo’s “Enough Is Enough” Bill

Carol Robles-Roman, Gov. Cuomo, Penny Venetis

President and CEO Carol Robles-Román and Executive Vice President and Legal Director Penny Venetis were present for the signing of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Enough Is Enough” bill on July 7. Legal Momentum joined more than 30 advocacy groups, community organizations, and unions to work with the Governor‘s Office to pass “Enough Is Enough,” a groundbreaking law to combat sexual violence on college and university campuses in New York State. Carol said, “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State’s new law will be a model for other states to follow; all campuses must implement uniform guidelines that will make them safer environments for our next generation of leaders to live, learn, and grow.”

 “Enough Is Enough” implements comprehensive policies to prevent sexual violence and support victims when it occurs. The new law establishes the standard of affirmative consent—also known as “yes means yes.” Other provisions of the law include: an amnesty policy to encourage students to report sexual assaults without fear of being penalized for violating other campus policies; a students’ Bill of Rights; required training on sexual violence for administrators, staff, and students; a requirement that campuses submit data on reported incidents of sexual abuse; a new sexual assault victims unit within the State Police; and a requirement that first responders notify victims of their right to contact outside law enforcement as well as campus police.

Legal Momentum Calls for an End to Gender Bias in World Soccer

Legal Momentum has a long history of advocating in support of female athletes, both as students and as women in non-traditional work. Legal Momentum asks all of our supporters to share our call to action widely to help bring attention to the serious issue of gender inequality in professional sports, using the hashtag #breakthegrassceiling.

World Cup Parade, NYC

The U.S. Women’s National Team won the World Cup in Canada on July 5, receiving prize money that is only about one thirty-eighth as much as the men’s championship award. Legal Momentum publicly called for gender equity throughout FIFA (from its leadership to pay equity for players); Executive Vice President and Legal Director Penny Venetis’ article in The Guardian brought attention to gender bias in FIFA; and her letter to the editor of The New York Times sports section disputed the conclusions of an article that portrayed FIFA’s embattled president as being supportive of women players.  Building on Legal Momentum’s call to action and the U.S. women’s victory, there has been increasing media coverage of the pay gap, lack of promotion, and other examples of gender bias in soccer and other professional sports, and the issue continues to build momentum.

FIFA’s dismal track record on women includes discouraging the recruitment of women to leadership positions, calling for “tighter shorts” on women players, and forcing the Women’s World Cup to be played on artificial turf rather than grass, causing a much greater risk of injury to the players.

Carol Robles-Román to Receive National Women’s Political Caucus “Woman of Courage” Award

Legal Momentum’s President and CEO, Carol Robles-Román, will be a featured keynote speaker and will be honored with a National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) Women of Courage Award at the NWPC Biennial Convention. The Women of Courage Awards recognize women from diverse backgrounds who have devoted their careers to furthering civil rights and equality, and who exemplify women's leadership. NWPC is a multi-partisan, grassroots organization established in 1971. NWPC helps elect progressive women to office, with the goal of achieving political parity in Congress. The convention will take place July 17-19 in Washington, D.C. 

Legal Momentum Hosts Reading by Award-Winning Feminist Katha Pollitt from Her New Book, Pro

Katha Politt, Carol Robles-Roman, Penny Venetis

On June 15, Legal Momentum supporters, board members, and staff gathered for a reading by award-winning feminist author Katha Pollitt from her new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. Ms. Pollitt has won many prestigious awards for her work, including the American Book Award for Lifetime Achievement; two National Magazine Awards; and National Endowment for the Arts, Fulbright, and Guggenheim grants. The New York Times called the book “Enraging. . .  encyclopedic . . . an eye-opener.” Pollitt urged those in attendance to discuss reproductive choice as an equality and health issue; the book is an attempt to redefine the national dialogue on choice. The event was hosted by Legal Momentum board member Amy Kopelan. Guests included former New York State Attorney General Bob Abrams.

Legal Momentum Tapped by Carter Center to Devise Ways to End Global Trafficking by 2025

On May 11 and 12, Penny Venetis contributed her expertise in human rights law at The World Summit: End Sexual Exploitation 2025, a conference in Atlanta sponsored by the Carter Center. The Carter Center was founded by former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

“The most serious human rights violation on Earth is the abuse of women and girls,” former President Carter said. The meeting’s purpose was to devise creative legislative, grassroots, and litigation strategies with the goal of ending human trafficking worldwide in the next ten years. The two-day, invitation-only event featured panel discussions and reports by activists from around the world, including police, social welfare, and business leaders as well as trafficking survivors.

The conference formed working groups of experts and advocates to share knowledge and develop concrete plans for dismantling the sexual exploitation industry. Penny was one of four members of the Legislative Committee who wrote the committee’s final legislative agenda for fighting trafficking. The agenda calls for enacting the "Nordic Model" at federal, state and local levels. The Nordic Model—so called because it has been successfully implemented in Norway and Sweden—stifles the demand for sexually exploited individuals by arresting traffickers and purchasers of exploitative sex. “The world must be awakened to the sex trafficking industry. I would like to see every city and state in the U.S. adopt the Nordic Model,” said former President Carter. 

Legal Momentum Attorneys Train on Human Rights Advocacy

On June 12, Legal Momentum attorneys and legal interns attended a symposium on “Engaging with the Inter-American Human Rights System for U.S. Advocacy.” Legal Momentum’s Executive Vice President and Legal Director Penny Venetis specializes in the interplay between U.S. law and international law and believes that the inter-American human rights system is critical for Legal Momentum’s advocacy work. In 2011, Legal Momentum filed an amicus brief in the case of Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States, the first case brought by a domestic violence survivor before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In this landmark ruling, the Commission found that the United States violated international human rights treaties by failing to enforce court orders protecting women and children from abusive spouses.

Carol Robles-Román Hails Leadership of New U.S. A.G. Loretta Lynch

On June 17, Legal Momentum’s President and CEO, Carol Robles-Román, was an invited guest at the installation of Loretta Lynch as the eighty-third Attorney General of the United States at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C. That night, nine worshipers were shot to death at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in an attack motivated by racial bias.

Outraged by the Charleston crime, and inspired by A.G. Lynch’s moving speech at her installation, Carol penned an article for the Huffington Post on the need for “disruptive” new leadership to reform our criminal justice system, which is too often plagued by inequalities. As Carol wrote, “Let's call for the ‘Justice Disruptors’ to work on the most intractable human rights violations of our time: we shall pledge to eradicate injustice, slavery, and gender inequity.” Ms. Lynch exemplifies this leadership, bringing “a vision and clarion call for all to hear that create a clear path to follow.”

Legal Momentum took an active role in advocating for Ms. Lynch’s confirmation when it was delayed for an unusually long time by partisan political differences over an important human trafficking bill.

Dede Thompson Bartlett and Emily Ward Join Legal Momentum’s Board of Directors

Dede Thompson Bartlett is a Trustee of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, a Director of the American University of Central Asia Foundation, and a Director of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence. Formerly, she was Vice President of Corporate Affairs Programs for Altria Group, where she developed award-winning domestic violence programs, and was an executive at Philip Morris and Mobil. A past president of the Women’s Forum of New York, Ms. Bartlett received the Women Who Make a Difference Award from the International Women’s Forum and has been honored for her work in helping victims of domestic violence by numerous organizations.

Emily Ward is the Vice President and Chief Technology Counsel for eBay Inc. She leads the global technology and patent law group for eBay, PayPal, and all eBay subsidiaries. Previously, she was an intellectual property (IP) litigator at several well-known national law firms. SJ Business Journal recognized Ms. Ward as one of the top 100 most influential women in Silicon Valley, and Inside Counsel Magazine named her as one of 100 women likely to be ready in three years to be a general counsel. She is a co-founder and board member of ChIPs, an organization dedicated to the advancement of women in technology and IP.

Legal Momentum Welcomes New Staff and Summer Interns

Glenna Goldis joined Legal Momentum as a staff attorney working on a range of issues, including campus sexual assault, human trafficking, and domestic violence. Glenna has a longstanding passion for protecting the rights of vulnerable people, particularly victims of violence. Before joining Legal Momentum, she represented domestic violence victims and consumers as a staff attorney at Northeast Justice Center in Massachusetts. She litigated the impact case Guardianship of V.V., which created a right to counsel in Massachusetts for parents sued by private parties for guardianship of their children. Many of these parents are victims of domestic violence. Her 2014 article about how family courts violate parties’ constitutional rights, “When Family Courts Shun Adversarialism," was published in the U.C. Davis Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy. Glenna received her J.D. from New York University School of Law and her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Lena Barsky is the new Program Associate for Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Program (NJEP), supporting NJEP’s judicial and multidisciplinary education programs. Prior to joining Legal Momentum, Lena was a data analyst at the National Committee for an Effective Congress, a research assistant to Professor Steven G. Calabresi of Northwestern Law School, and a summer intern at the National Immigrant Women's Advocacy Project. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Brown University in 2014. While at Brown, Lena co-founded the Sexual Assault Policy Task Force to prevent sexual violence on campus.

Legal Momentum interns and staff members at the World Cup victory parade

As in summers past, Legal Momentum is hosting student interns in June and July. Legal Momentum welcomes this opportunity to educate the next generation of gender justice warriors. The 2015 summer interns are: Nikita Mehta (University of Michigan Law School); Francesca Cocuzza and Andrea Kozak (Columbia Law School); Rosa Cartagena (Mt. Holyoke College); Sarah Roberts (Vassar College); Gretchen Parmley (Wellesley College); Lauren Katz (Duke University); Rose Rushing (Hunter College); Ariel Azria (Lycée Française de New York); Fiona Dubrosa (Horace Greeley High School), Sylvia Murray (Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice), and Chrystian Collazo (Susan E. Wagner High School). Look for some of their bylines on our blog in the coming weeks!

Save the Dates!

11th Annual Women of Achievement Awards Dinner

Wednesday, March 16, 2016—San Francisco

16th Annual Aiming High Awards Luncheon

Tuesday, June 7, 2016— New York City


Lynn Hecht Schafran Quoted in The New York Times on Affirmative Consent

“Regulating Sex,” a June 27 New York Times Sunday Review Op-Ed by Judith Shulevitz, cited Legal Momentum’s Senior Vice President and Director of the National Judicial Education Program, Lynn Hecht Schafran. The piece discusses the idea of affirmative consent, or “yes means yes,” concluding that it is only a matter of time before that becomes the law in most states. “You shouldn’t be allowed to make the assumption that if you find someone lying on a bed, they’re free for sexual pleasure,” Lynn said.

Miami Herald Op-Ed Calls for an End to Detention of Immigrant Families

On May 12, the Miami Herald featured an Op-Ed piece Obama’s Immigration Detention Policies Hurt Mothers, Children, co-written by Carol Robles-Román and Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First. The piece pointed out that the detention of hundreds of Latinas from Central America—many of them survivors of violence—is a glaring departure from the administration’s otherwise solid record on women’s rights, and called on the President and Vice President to end this unjust policy.

Board Member Deborah Rhode Calls for Greater Diversity in Legal Profession

In a May 27 Washington Post Op-Ed piece, Legal Momentum Board Member Deborah Rhode pointed out that law is one of the least diverse professions in the United States and called for a stronger commitment to equal opportunity in the policies of legal organizations. Ms. Rhode is the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law, the director of the Center on the Legal Profession, and the director of the Program in Law and Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford University. Her new book, The Trouble with Lawyers, was published by Oxford University Press in June. Professor Rhode analyzed some of the challenges to increasing diversity and specified concrete steps to address them. “The legal profession supplies presidents, governors, lawmakers, judges, prosecutors, general counsels, and heads of corporate, government, nonprofit and legal organizations. Its membership needs to be as inclusive as the populations it serves,” Professor Rhode said.

Penny Venetis Comments on EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch

An article in Bloomberg Business on the Supreme Court’s June 1 decision in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) v. Abercrombie and Fitch quoted Legal Momentum’s Penny M. Venetis. She related the decision to landmark cases from Legal Momentum’s past such as lawsuits filed by female flight attendants in the 1970s and 1980s who challenged dress codes imposed on them by airlines—employment practices that discriminated against women. “Even though this ruling was about religious freedom, it was also against gender discrimination and stereotypical thinking about beauty in hiring decisions,” Penny said.

Message from the President and CEO Carol Robles-Román

“True equality for women begins with the power of the law”—Legal Momentum’s now famous rally cry was coined a few years back to boldly support women’s equality agendas. Now all eyes are on the debate on reforming our country’s broken criminal justice system. It is more important than ever that women’s voices are heard in this critical conversation. In order to achieve true equality under the law, women must receive fair treatment and respect when they seek justice. Yet women—particularly women of color—are often invisible when it comes to the criminal justice system. 

Legal Momentum has been leading the charge to bring much-needed attention and reform to improving women’s access to justice. I ask that you help us ensure that NO victim of gender-based violence feels “invisible” when seeking justice. Please consider making a tax-deductible gift in support of Legal Momentum. You’ll be glad you did. We get things done!

It’s easy to make a donation online at, by calling 212-925-6635, extension 166, or by mailing a check to Legal Momentum, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004. Legal Momentum is a lean, mean Gender Justice Machine—and we need your help to keep going!          21