Legal Momentum News Brief, October-November 2013

If you are being watched, leave now!

October 31, 2013

Women’s Rights Groups Call on U.S. to Improve Response to Domestic Violence

Legal Momentum, the Advocates for Human Rights, the Human Rights Clinic of the University of Miami School of Law, and Women Enabled, Inc. submitted a shadow report on violence against women in the United States to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and called for the Committee to recommend significant improvements to U.S. law and policy. However, U.S. officials were unable to review the report in time due to the U.S. government shutdown, and its presentation had to be postponed until the spring. Read more here.

NJEP Releases New Curriculum: Raped or “Seduced”? How Language Helps Shape Our Response to Sexual Violence

The language used to describe sexual assault shapes how we think about and respond to this important problem. Unfortunately, too often the language used alters our perceptions and obscures the true nature of sexual violence. For example, when we say that a rape “occurred,” rather than was “committed,” it implies that the crime “just happened” and takes attention off the perpetrator. NJEP’s free webinar and new training curriculum raise awareness of the issue of the language we use about sexual violence, provide strategies for speaking and writing about sexual assault accurately, and are appropriate for all audiences—both in and outside the court system.

Legal Momentum’s New Poverty Report Highlights the Need for a Stronger Social Safety Net

Tim Casey, director of Legal Momentum’s Women and Poverty program, analyzed the Census Bureau’s annual poverty data which was issued in September, and published the report: Women’s Poverty in the United States, 2012—Poverty Rate Remains High, Gender Poverty Gap Persists. The report reveals that the gender gap in poverty continues and that single mothers have one of the highest poverty rates, at 41%. In response to the report, Legal Momentum’s president, Elizabeth Grayer, called for Congress to eliminate cuts in food stamps and to enact much-needed improvements in TANF in order to strengthen the social safety net for poor families.

Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship Meets in Washington

Françoise Jacobsohn, Project Manager of Legal Momentum’s Equality Works program, organized a best practices panel of tradeswomen for the quarterly meeting of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship in Washington, D.C. The committee worked to develop an implementation plan for the recently approved Vision for Registered Apprenticeship in the 21st Century report; and began discussions on the need for concerted efforts to improve the rate of women's participation. The new Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, attended the meeting and spoke with members of the committee about the importance of women's equal opportunity in construction

New York City Adopts Pregnancy Rights Law

In September, the New York City Council unanimously passed Int. No. 974-A, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The new law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women unless it creates an undue hardship. Mayor Bloomberg signed the law on October 2, 2013. Legal Momentum’s acting litigation director and senior staff attorney Michelle Caiola (second from right) and our client, Angie Welfare (third from right), who had testified before the council about the pregnancy discrimination Welfare experienced, were on hand for the signing.

Judicial Misconduct in Montana Statutory Rape Case

Legal Momentum's Lynn Hecht Schafran worked closely with the Montana chapter of NOW and other civil and women's rights organizations to file an official judicial misconduct complaint against Judge Todd Baugh for his mishandling of a highly publicized rape case, his statements blaming the 14-year-old victim, and his failure to follow state law in sentencing the perpetrator to only 30 days, which caused a widespread public outcry that included several online recall petitions.

Legal Momentum Intern Featured on

Accomplished rower and former Legal Momentum intern Grace Cassidy was featured on Duke University’s website,, for her work with us through The Duke Women's Center’s Moxie Program, which places Duke students in internships with NYC-based feminist organizations. Grace interned with Legal Momentum’s Equality Works program. Read the article here.

On Equal Terms Art Installation Celebrates Tradeswomen

On Equal Terms, a mixed-media art installation by Susan Eisenberg, was on exhibit at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center in Manhattan’s Lower East Side from September 29 through November 1. Legal Momentum joined in the opening reception honoring tradeswomen the evening of October 3, and helped organize a special tradeswomen's session hosted by the Women's Committee of the New York City District Council of Carpenters on the following day, October 4.  The exhibit was reviewed by Colorlines.

New Book on Intimate Partner Sexual Violence

Lynn Hecht Schafran, director of Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Project and an expert on sexual violence and the intersection of domestic and sexual violence, has authored a chapter in a new book, Intimate Partner Sexual Violence: A Multidisciplinary Guide to Improving Services and Support for Survivors of Rape and Abuse, edited by Louise McOrmond-Plummer, Patricia Easteal, and Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck.

New York City Bar Panel on 35 Years of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

In conjunction with her membership on the Sex and the Law Committee of the New York City Bar and in recognition of the 35th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Michelle Caiola, Legal Momentum’s Acting Litigation Director, moderated a panel at the Bar on October 24th. Although the federal law benefitted countless women since its passage in 1978 by prohibiting pregnancy discrimination on the job, in recent years the courts have often construed it narrowly. The distinguished panel discussed the gains, losses, and next steps from each of their respective roles at the EEOC, academia, private practice, and a non-profit organization.

Women in Prison Threatened with Relocation Far from Family Ties

When Legal Momentum’s Lynn Hecht Schafran heard that the federal Bureau of Prisons was planning to relocate female inmates  from Danbury to Alabama in order to use the Danbury facility for men, she jumped into action, working with the National Association of Women Judges Committee on Women in Prison. Danbury is currently the only federal women’s prison for the entire Northeast. Relocation to a remote facility—more than 1,100 miles away, with no public transportation—would cause extreme hardship for the children and families of the inmates. Schafran contacted the staff of New York’s Senator Gillibrand, who urged the BOP to stop the transfers. Transfers were temporarily halted, and the BOP has announced plans to construct a new women’s facility near Danbury. Read more here.


News from around the Nation:

California Passes New Law Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence from Employment Discrimination

On October 14, California passed legislation protecting employees who are victims of domestic violence. The new law prohibits employers from discharging, refusing to rehire, or treating differently any employee on the grounds of that employee’s status as a victim. In addition, the new law requires employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate victims’ safety needs. Read more here.

Advocating for Domestic Violence Awareness and Against Gun Violence

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Legal Momentum has long advocated for the rights of victims of domestic violence. This, year we participated in social media awareness campaigns, and also joined members of Congress, other advocates, and survivors of gun violence in calling for comprehensive background checks for would-be gun purchasers. Pictured are Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Legal Momentum Board Member Kim Gandy, and intimate partner violence survivor Christy Salters Martin, whose story is told here. Learn more at

Government Shutdown Threatened Safety Net in Many States

The government shutdown cut off federal funding for important social assistance, including the two main programs, SNAP and TANF. Many states were able to cover the gap with state or leftover funds, but some, such as Utah and Arizona, were forced to shut down programs temporarily. Had the shutdown continued past the end of October, it could have been a disaster for millions of needy families. Read more here and here.