What Barriers Do People With Criminal Records Face in Accessing Housing? Find Out in This Free Webinar

September 14: Free Webinar on Access to Affordable Housing for People with Criminal Records 

Photo of Person behind fence

Date: Monday, Sept. 14, 2015
Time: 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET / 1:00 – 2:30 PM CT
Location: Online

People with criminal records often face obstacles to obtaining affordable housing. They can be denied housing based on arrests without subsequent convictions, old and outdated convictions, or criminal records that have nothing to do with a person’s ability to be a good tenant. In this Advocacy in Action webinar, presenters will share their experiences using litigation and advocacy to eliminate such barriers to federally subsidized housing and housing in the private rental market.

Marie Claire Tran-Leung, a former Shriver Center attorney and author of When Discretion Means Denial: A National Perspective on Criminal Records Barriers to Federally Subsidized Housing, will open the webinar. Fred Fuchs of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid will discuss his success challenging unreasonably long lookback periods used by AIMCO, one of the largest owners and operators of apartments in the country. John Relman, managing attorney of Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, will discuss Fortune Society v. Sandcastle Towers Housing Development Fund Corporation, one of the first cases to challenge a private landlord’s blanket housing ban on applicants with criminal records as a civil rights violation under the Fair Housing Act. And Laura Tuggle, executive director of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services and former general counsel for the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), will talk about the strides made, setbacks experienced, and lessons learned in the ongoing advocacy campaign to improve HANO’s criminal-records policies.

Register online here.

Attention Rising 2Ls & 3Ls! King County Department of Public Defense Now Accepting Resumes for OCI!

Attention Rising 2Ls & 3Ls! King County Department of Public Defense Now Accepting Applications for OCI Until 8/19

King County Logo

King County Department of Public Defense Invites Applications for the Position of Rule-9
Licensed Legal Intern.  DPD is renowned nationally for its excellent legal representation to indigent clients in King County. Governed by a voter-approved amendment to the County Charter that made DPD a permanent, independent department within county government, the Department of Public Defense is overseen by a chief Public Defender with support and guidance from an advisory
board comprised of regional leaders in public defense.

DPD provides legal representation to indigent clients in several practice areas, including felonies, misdemeanors, juvenile offenders, dependencies, involuntary commitment, civil commitment of sexually violent predators, and contempt of court. The department also works to address racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system, the collateral consequences of justice involvement, and other structural and/or systemic issues that undermine the rights of the criminally accused. It employs not only attorneys, but also skilled investigators, mitigation specialists, paralegals, and other support staff. Expert services are regularly funded, in keeping with state court rules. King County public defense has also been a leader in the development of therapeutic courts, providing diversion and support to clients who have entered the criminal justice system due to drug involvement, mental illness, or other issues.

For more information, click here.

LGBT Month, Minimum Wage, Chemical Warfare, Joy Rides, and Tiananmen – Get the Scoop!

President Barack Obama Releases Proclamation Declaring June LGBT Pride Month

Pres. Obama

By James Nichols, Huffington Post

President Barack Obama has released a proclamation declaring June as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. Check out the excerpt below.

As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect — our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, we celebrate victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.

Last year, supporters of equality celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling which, at long last, gave loving, committed families the respect and legal protections they deserve. In keeping with this decision, my Administration is extending family and spousal benefits — from immigration benefits to military family benefits — to legally married same-sex couples.

Continue reading here.  Photo credit courtesy of the Associated Press and Susan Walsh.

Seattle raises minimum wage to $15 an hour

By John Bacon, USA Today

AP_Waiter (minimum wage)

Martina Phelps says the Seattle City Council’s historic vote Monday to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour could change her life.

Phelps, 22, earns $9.47 per hour working for a McDonald’s restaurant near downtown. She wants to move out of her mother’s South Seattle home, and she wants to go back to school. She says those things could happen now that the city will have the nation’s highest minimum wage.

“It’s hard right now,” she told USA TODAY hours before the midafternoon vote. “I have been trying to save up for school, but I just can’t do it. This would mean a lot.”

The council unanimously approved the measure before a packed house.

Continue reading here.  Photo of waiter Spencer Meline at Ivar’s courtesy of the Associated Press.

Woman Not Guilty of Chemical Warfare; Constitution Saved

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By Garrett Epps, The Atlantic

The Supreme Court Monday stepped back from the abyss.

By a vote of 6-3, it refused to invent limits on the federal government’s power to make and enforce treaties.

The case was Bond v. United StatesThis is the second installment of the soap opera of Carol Anne Bond. Bond’s husband and her best friend conceived a child. When she found out, Bond, a trained laboratory technician, turned to the hostile use of 10-chloro-10H-phenoxarsine and potassium dichromate, both deadly poisons. She smeared them on various doorknobs and car doors at Hayes’s house, on one occasion giving Hayes’s thumb a nasty burn. She also unwisely smeared them on Hayes’s mailbox, which is by law part of the U.S. Postal System. Postal inspectors posted security cameras and caught her on video.

Federal prosecutors proclaimed this “a very serious, scary case,” because Bond had stolen four pounds of potassium dichromate from her workplace. They charged her with theft of the mail—and violation of 18 U.S.C. § 229, the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998.

On Monday a six-justice majority, in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, told the government it had misread the statute to “sweep in everything from the detergent under the kitchen sink to the stain remover in the laundry room,” and “make[] it a federal offense to poison goldfish.” Roberts was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. All nine justices agreed that the government had gone too far in prosecuting Bond. The majority said the indictment violated the statute; Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito would have held the prosecution unconstitutional.

Continue reading here.  Photo credit courtesy of Eric Thayer & Reuters.

Locked Up and Locked Out: How a three-minute joy ride cost one foster youth his AB 12 benefits

Bakkhit brothers

By Brian Rinker, The Chronicle of Social Change

When Terrick Bakhit turned 18 while incarcerated in a juvenile correction facility, the foster care system that had watched over him for the previous five years abruptly cut him off.

On June 13, 2012, Bakhit emerged from San Diego County’s Camp Barrett homeless and broke.

“After being locked up for 11 months I felt free, but in the wrong way,” said Bakhit, who was left to fend for himself on the streets of downtown San Diego. “I slept in the rain. I slept on the street. No roof. No house. No nothing. I was stealing food.”

California state law ensures that youths who turn 18 in foster care are eligible for support up to the age of 21 if they choose, to help the transition into adulthood and self-sufficiency. But a small percentage of foster youth can become ineligible for extended benefits if they happen to turn 18 inside a correctional facility without a foster care placement order waiting for them on release.

“If you are incarcerated and don’t have a placement still intact on your 18th birthday, you can’t get benefits,” said Amy Lemley, policy director at the John Burton Foundation, referring to to the benefit foster youth can get after extended foster care benefits.

The problem seems to be rooted in the varying interpretations of state law among counties and the lack of inter-agency communication. Because of the confusion, kids like Bakhit struggle to make ends meet while eligible foster youth continue to receive benefits.

Continue reading here.  Photo of Terrick brothers, Terrick, left, Matthew, middle, Joseph, right; Photo credit courtesy of Terrick Bakhit.

Voices from Tiananmen

soldiers from Tiananmen

By South China Morning Post

[Today] marks the 25th anniversary of a brutal military crackdown on pro-democracy protests led by students and residents in Beijing. Hundreds of people were killed and many more were wounded when People’s Liberation Army units rolled into Tiananmen Square, ending more than a month of peaceful protests seeking political reforms.

In the following pages, former government officials, student leaders and other eyewitnesses revisit the momentous events of spring, 1989. These personal accounts, gathered from recent video interviews, as well as memoirs, shed new light on the hope and despair left by those days, which continue to haunt China a quarter century later.

Click here to continue reading.  Photo credit courtesy of South China Morning Post.