Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

“Meet the Women You Don’t Know”

“Meet the Women You Don’t Know.”  With those words, most of us were introduced to the Black women who worked on NASA’s mission to send an American into orbit in space.  Thanks to Margot Lee Shetterly‘s research and writing, this year we learned the story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

Not just the three women profiled in the movie Hidden Figures, but dozens of Black women who defied sexism, racism and segregation to work at NASA in Hampton, Virginia. “Human computers” with extraordinary mental capacities.  Who Knew?

“We are the ones we have been waiting for”

The story of Black women standing up for freedom in America is filled with “hidden figures.” As I write the story of so many courageous women, I am reminded of June Jordan‘s iconic poem “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

Susie King Taylor (1848-1912)

Susie King Taylor (1848-1912) was born a slave in Liberty County, Georgia. She learned how to read at secret schools taught by Black women. She escaped from slavery in 1862. Within days, Taylor began a lifetime of teaching other Blacks to read and write.

Between 1862 and 1866, Taylor served as a nurse with the 33rd United States Colored Infantry Regiment. She traveled the South with the regiment, teaching many Black soldiers to read and write. As a Black woman in the South during the Civil War, she was always in an incredibly dangerous position. Taylor was one of thousands of brave Black women who served in the Colored Infantry. She wrote a book about her experiences entitled “Reminiscences of My Life In Camp.”

After the Civil War, Taylor established independent schools throughout the South for former slaves and soldiers. In 1874, she relocated to Boston where she dedicated her later life to the Women’s Relief Corps, a national organization for female Civil War veterans. Taylor was a tireless advocate for all of the veterans of the Civil War.

Patricia Stephens Due (1939-2012)

Patricia Stephens Due (1939-2012) began fighting segregation at age 13 when she insisted on being served at the “white only” window of the local Dairy Queen, instead of the “colored” window in Quincy, Florida. She became a lifelong civil rights activist.

Due was a college student at Florida A&M University (FAMU) when she joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1959. She served in leadership roles in CORE and the NAACP fighting against segregation. She was also a union activist who helped organize healthcare workers.

In 1960, Due, her sister Priscilla Stephens and six other FAMU students spent 49 days in the nation’s first “jail-in.” They refused to pay a fine for sitting in a Woolworth’s “Whites Only” lunch counter in Tallahassee, Florida. The tear gas used against the protestors damaged Due’s eyes and she wore dark glasses for the rest of her life.

Due led one of the most dangerous voter registration efforts in the country in northern Florida in the 1960s. After the “jail-in,” she and other students who participated traveled the country in speaking tours to publicize the civil rights movement. In 1963, she married civil rights attorney John D. Due, Jr. They worked together for many decades to challenge injustices in Florida. Her FBI file was reportedly more than 400 pages. It was Patricia Due’s belief that “ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”

Thelma McWilliams Glass (1916-2012)

Thelma McWilliams Glass (1916-2012) was one of the early organizers of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. Glass, a graduate of Alabama State University and Columbia University, was the Secretary of the Women’s Political Council. Black women formed the Women’s Political Council at Alabama State College in Montgomery in 1946. It included teachers, social workers, nurses and the wives of Black professionals in Montgomery. Its focus was to end the humiliation inflicted on Blacks who rode public buses.

Following the victory in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the Women’s Political Council called for a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. Thelma Glass passed out fliers, spread the word in the community, drove and organized car-pools for people to get to work. That boycott became the modern “shot heard around the world.” Thousands participated and it inspired millions. Several Black women, inspired by the Women’s Political Council, refused to give up their seats to whites on buses in 1955 and got arrested. The NAACP chose to highlight the arrest of Rosa Parks, an NAACP secretary and activist for many years. The Montgomery bus boycott triggered the end of segregation in public accommodations and launched the public career of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

In 2005, Thelma Glass remarked that “we didn’t have time to sit still and be scared.”

As I celebrate Women’s History Month 2017, inspired by these courageous sisters, I want us all to know that this is our history and “we are the ones we have been waiting for!

Losing Our Fire Chief

Losing Our Fire Chief

I can feel my temper rising as I read the headline “Oakland fire chief to retire.” The SF Chronicle labels Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed as “embattled.” The Chronicle says the Ghost Ship warehouse fire “raised questions about “management and inspection procedures in the Fire Department.” Did these “questions” lead to Chief Reed’s resignation? I doubt it. I think it’s more likely that the people doing the questioning were the ones who propelled her retirement.

Credit: Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group

Chief Reed came to Oakland as our Fire Chief in 2012. Her hiring made history. Reed began her career in 1986 in San Jose as a firefighter. She rose through the ranks there, serving as a Captain, Battalion Chief, Deputy Chief and Assistant Chief. Chief Reed served in San Jose for 23 years before she came to Oakland as our Chief. I met her in 2014 when she was honored as one of the Powerful Women of the Bay.

 

Chief Reed is one of the field’s pioneers. She is applauded as a change agent in a traditionally chauvinist and racist profession. Black women just began to break through the doors of the fire service in the 1980s. Toni McIntosh is reportedly the first Black woman to become a full-time firefighter in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1976. The first known Black woman to become a Fire Chief is Rosemary R. Cloud who became a Fire Chief in East Point, Georgia in 2002.

Questions In Oakland

It is no secret that the local firefighters union is opposed to Chief Reed’s leadership and wants her out. The “questions” that arose after the tragic Ghost Ship fire merely added fuel to an already challenging situation. Some think Chief Reed’s desire to crack the “old boys network” inside the department’s leadership was too timidly executed. Others believe the union should have been more supportive of her efforts to change the culture and priorities of the department. Many question if Chief Reed is unfairly blamed for management problems she inherited from previous administrations. Rumors even say that after the Ghost Ship fire, the Mayor ordered Chief Reed not to speak to the media.

While the Fire Department was hit with the heaviest cuts in 2009 – before Chief Reed arrived -— the mayor and city council have n0t attempted to rebuild it with the same zeal with which they’ve approached the police and other city agencies. For example, the Fire Prevention Bureau needs an assistant fire marshal to oversees its inspectors. The City Council froze funding for this position in October 2008. The Council did not restore funding for the position until 2014, according to budget records. The funding for a designated Fire Marshall was not approved until 2014.

Oakland Post editor, Paul Cobb, sounded the alarm last year that Chief Reed is being hung out to dry. “There are indications that Mayor Libby Schaaf and the city administration may be trying to set up the Fire Department and the fire chief” to take the blame for the Ghost Ship disaster, the Post said in its Dec. 8 edition. Her resignation leaves a big obvious hole in the leadership of our City. Chief Reed is the only Black woman to head up a major City department.

Women in Fire Service

I have a bit of experience dealing with the challenges faced by women in the fire service. My client, Donna Rayon-Terrell is the first female firefighter in the Contra Costa County Fire Department. As a Black woman starting in the fire service in 1989, she faced the challenges of sex and race. A native of Richmond, Donna is part of a powerhouse fire family. She and her brother, Marcus Rayon, attended the same fire academy in 1989. Her daughter Mandisa Banjoko followed in her footsteps and joined Contra Costa Fire. Donna and Mandisa are probably the only mother-daughter team to serve in a major fire department at the same time.

As a “pioneer” in Contra Costa, Donna was repeatedly subjected to mistreatment and intentional acts of harassment by her male co-workers. Numerous male firefighters did not want to work with her because she was a woman. Male co-workers and supervisors often subjected her to belittling comments. Her coworkers isolated her, preventing her from forming critical bonds with members of her firefighting team. This endangered her safety and theirs.  But Donna persisted as they tried to undermine her ability to be a successful firefighter. She overcame the racist and sexist culture to advance in her career. She held the rank of Captain when she retired in 2004.

Where Do We Go From Here?

How ironic that in Women’s History Month, we face the loss of a pioneering Black woman in Oakland. Black women are supposedly the hardest group to recruit into the fire service. Today, Contra Costa Fire has only 1 Black woman. The Richmond Fire Department has only 1 Black woman. While Oakland has a few more in its ranks, Chief Reed’s departure raises “questions” about what kind of opportunities other Black women will have in the future of this department. In my mind, those “questions” are just as important as any others.

 

Honoring Women In Politics

This week, I am honored to be recognized as the Woman of the Year for Assembly District 18 (AD18)!  AD18 Assemblymember Rob Bonta selected me. As a result, I am joined into a very special “Girl’s Club” of amazing women from all over California. My new Club includes nurses and doctors and teachers and students, unionists and entrepreneurs and many other professions where women are making history. On March 6th, the California Legislative Women’s Caucus held a day-long celebration in Sacramento for all the Women of the Year.

We all stand on the shoulders of powerful sisters who went before us, most notably, the “Shero” of American politics, Shirley Chisholm.

Unbought and Unbossed

Shirley Chisholm was the original “giraffe.”  She was not afraid to stick her neck out. By her courage and commitment to progress, we all advanced. She was the first Black woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress. in 1971, Chisholm was a founding member of both the Congressional Black Caucus as well as the National Women’s Political Caucus. Chisholm is the first black major-party candidate to run for President of the United States, in the 1972 U.S. presidential election.  She is also the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

According to her World Biography, Chisholm became politically active with the Democratic Party in the 1940s.  She quickly developed a reputation as a person who challenged the traditional roles of women, African Americans, and the poor.  After a successful career as a teacher, Chisholm decided to run for the New York State Assembly.  She served in the State Assembly until 1968, when she decided to run for the U.S. Congress.  During the Vietnam War, Chisholm protested the amount of money being spent for the defense budget while social programs suffered.

Chisholm was a strong supporter of women’s rights. Early in her career as a congresswoman, she supported a woman’s right to choose. She spoke out against traditional roles for women professionals (including secretaries, teachers, and librarians).  She argued that women were capable of entering many other professions. Black women especially, she felt, had been pushed into stereotypical roles, or conventional professions, such as maids and nannies.

Shirley Chisholm reported that “When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men.” In particular, she expressed frustration about the “black matriarch thing,” saying, “They think I am trying to take power from them. The black man must step forward, but that doesn’t mean the black woman must step back.”

Black Women In Politics Today

Black women have always stepped up in the Democratic Party. Donna Brazile, a Black woman from New Orleans just completed her term as the Acting Chair of the DNC.  Moreover, Kimberly Ellis is a Black woman making a serious bid to become the Chair of the California Democratic Party in 2017.

 

 

Former Ohio Senator Nina Turner was one of the most visible and effective surrogates for Senator Bernie Sanders. She is an accomplished advocate for social justice in her own right. After the Democratic Party rejected (and disrespected) Bernie Sanders, there was an effort to draft Sen. Turner to run for Vice-President on the Green Party ticket or for Ohio Governor.

Our own Congresswoman Barbara Lee is one of the most respected and effective representatives this country has ever seen. It has always been my joy and honor to say “Barbara Lee Speaks for Me!”

We’ve Come A Long Way Baby

I am humbled and inspired to represent AD18 on the Democratic Party Central Committee. We now all know that it is an important time to serve in our local Democratic Party.  I feel blessed to have found my way into the middle of the fray!

Many years ago, there was a commercial that tickled my father, David Price. I can still hear him saying “you’ve come a long way baby” with a big grin.  Dad was the father of two daughters and the brother of 5 sisters.  He was proud of the advances made by women in his lifetime.

On Monday, March 6th, I walked with 79 other amazing women through another door into history. As I walk forward, I know that my Lord has brought me “from a mighty long way.”  As I continue to grow as a leader, I know that “to whom much is given, much is required.”

Why Her? Why Now?

As we enter Women’s History Month 2017, we are in the midst of seeing history made. Delaine Eastin is running for California Governor. She is only the fourth woman in the history of California to run for Governor. Delaine is the only woman in the 2018 Governor’s race.

Delaine is a former California State Assemblymember (1986-1994), State Superintendent of Public Instruction (1995-2003), professor, and businesswoman.

She is the first and to date, the only woman ever elected as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Education In Crisis

For almost 40 years now, California’s entire education system has been in crisis. It continues to be in crisis. In 2004, a UCLA study of conditions 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education found that California has a HUGEracial opportunity gap” in our primary school system. 50 years after Brown, our schools were deeply segregated. More than 63% of white students attended a majority-white school, while most Black and Latino students attended either a Black-majority school (78%) or a Latino-majority school (81%).

The factors that hinder education most profoundly for Black, brown and low income students are:

  • overcrowded facilities in disrepair
  • inadequate and insufficient textbooks
  • shortage of qualified teachers
  • unstable teaching staff

Education in Transition

In 2004, the Legislature enacted a series of bills to address these problems in response to the Williams v. California lawsuit. Williams was filed on behalf of public school students denied equal educational opportunity based on the 4 factors above. A post-Williams report concluded in 2013 that “Williams is working.” The study found significant progress in most areas with the exception of the physical conditions of the schools.  75% of schools still had an issue that prevented it from being deemed completely clean, safe and functional. Moreover, the State consistently failed to fund the Williams’ Emergency Repair Program for conditions considered urgent threats to health and safety.

In 2014, however, California’s per pupil spending had dropped to 39th in the nation. Asian and white students continue to have much higher graduation rates than Black and Latino students. Our 4th and 8th grade students are in the bottom 10 states both in math and reading. Even with the Local Control Funding Formulas adopted in 2013, the amount of resources dedicated to and actually spent on students falls short of the mark. The racial opportunity gap persists today.  California educates almost 1/8 of American students, so our failure is very much a national failure.

Why Her? Why Now?

Delaine Eastin faces an uphill battle for California Governor. She is the only woman in the race in a State that has never elected a woman Governor. She’s the oldest person in the race and she needs money. A lot of it. Frontrunner Gavin Newsom, the playboy kid of California politics has $11 million in his war chest. Money is “the mother’s milk of politics.”  I call it “the microphone” for the message. You must have a microphone to get your message heard.

Some chide Delaine Eastin because education is her strong suit. I think the fact that education is her “signature issue” makes the case for her election now more compelling than less. Delaine led the successful 2016 campaign to pass Propositions 51, 55 and 58. These measures are critical to funding education in California.

Gavin Newsom’s signature issue appears to be ending gun violence. This is an issue near and dear to my heart. Every time someone is killed with a gun in Oakland, my heart burns, especially for a youngster who never saw it coming. The devastation to our community from gun violence cannot be overstated. But for every kid in California and America, education is a “game-changer.” I know that but for my education, I would not be here today.  Education creates a pathway for anyone who dares to walk on it. With an education, you can get out of a neighborhood where guns rule the day. An education allows you to create economic opportunities to walk away from careers that ultimately depend on violence. An education helps you to open doors for others to follow.

I’m With Her

So, I am helping to raise money for Delaine Eastin.  I agreed to co-host a fundraiser and to raise my voice to support her. If you can attend her event in Oakland on March 8th, International Women’s Day, please rsvp here. If you are not able to attend, please make a financial donation to her campaign. It’s going to be a long and expensive race to win. But there is a vintage joke that I love. It goes like this:

Whatever a woman does, she must do twice as well as a man to be considered half as good.  Luckily, this is not difficult!

It’s a joke! It will be difficult. But I’m also told that every time Delaine Eastin ran for office, most people counted her out. And then she won.

The Vote for DNC Chair

Credit: David Paul Morris, Bloomberg

This weekend in Atlanta, the Democratic National Party will elect a National Committee Chair.  The progressive favorite is Keith Ellison, a veteran Congressman from Minnesota. Keith Ellison is the first Muslim ever elected to Congress. He is also the first African-American Congressman elected from Minnesota. Keith is running to succeed Donna Brazile who served as the Interim DNC Chairperson.

Who Votes for the DNC Chair?

According to VOX News, there are 447 potential voters for the DNC Chairperson. They include state party chairs and vice-chairs, 112 slots evenly divided by sex. State party officials, allocated by population and Democratic vote fill 208 slots.  California has 20 slots in this category. Our representatives include Hon. Barbara Lee, Rep. Maxine Waters,  NAACP State Chairwoman Alice Huffman and Christine Pelosi. 48 slots go to various national Democratic groups. The outgoing DNC chair gets to appoint up to 75 slots. 8 slots go to Democratics living abroad, but they each only get to cast half a vote. The DNC roster appears to include fair representation of women who will get to participate and vote in this important decision.

Contested DNC Chair races are rare. In 1985, Nancy Pelosi ran for DNC Chair.  Pelosi reportedly urged the Party to “move to the center” and become “the party of capitalism.” Nancy Pelosi stamped down younger leadership in November 2016 when she held onto her position as the leader of the Democrats in Congress. It will be interesting to see if her daughter Christine will vote for Keith Ellison. The chair (and eight other leadership officers) are elected by a majority vote. Another impressive candidate for DNC Chair is Jehmu Greene of Texas.

Who Is Keith Ellison?

Keith Ellison was raised in Detroit Michigan by two professional parents.  Keith and three of his brothers became lawyers. Another brother became a doctor.  Keith is a former trial lawyer who started his career as a civil rights lawyer.  He also worked for a time as the Executive Director of the nonprofit Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis.  He says his grandfather’s work with the NAACP in Louisiana influenced him in his youth. In his first week as a member of Congress, Ellison voted with the new Democratic majority as part of the 100-Hour Plan to raise the minimum wage, for federal funding of stem cell research, and to allow Medicare to negotiate pharmaceutical prices. He has a plan for his first 100 days as DNC Chair that focuses on organizing the massive opposition to the Trump administration.

Keith Ellison is probably the only candidate for DNC Chair that has an African-American Agenda as part of his platform.  This is especially relevant because the relationship between the party and the African-American community has become increasingly strained. In 2016, many Black leaders urged Blacks to “abandon” the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton’s reluctant discourse with Black Lives Matter activists was not enough to give her the victory.

In 2014, PowerPac+ issued its Fannie Lou Hamer Report. The report showed that of $518 million spent in 2010 and 2012, the Democratic Party spent a measley 1.7% of its money on minority owned political consulting firms. One difference between Keith and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, also running for DNC Chair, are their views on conflicts of interest within the party. Keith opposes conflicts by DNC members who also have contracts with the Committee. Perez is apparently not inclined to take on this issue.

Who Supports and Opposes Keith Ellison?

Keith Ellison is endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. John Lewis among others party leaders. Keith is opposed, not surprisingly, by Zionist Jewish leaders, including major Democratic donors like Haim Saban.

 

Credit: Wikipedia

Mr. Saban is Hillary Clinton’s biggest donor and reportedly has a net worth of $3.6 billion. He has also contributed between $5 million to $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. Mr. Saban is a leading member of the .01% of wealthy Americans. Saban says that his greatest concern is to protect Israel and he entered politics for that purpose. Regrettably, American politics has long been defined and divided by support for Israel (or not).  In my experience, there is a very thin line between folks who are “pro-Israel” and straight racist Zionists.

“Evidence” used to label Keith Ellison as “anti-Semitic” is his support of Stokely Carmichael‘s right to speak at the University of Minnesota in 1990 and his support of the 1995 Million Man March. As someone who hosted Stokely Carmichael at Yale in 1975, and a businesswoman who closed her business on the historic day of the Million Man March to support my brothers, I find this “evidence” completely ridiculous.

Why Does It Matter?

The DNC Chair position is historically a bureaucratic one. The DNC will set the rules for and administer the election primary process. And it’s the DNC that will help determine whether Democrats can in fact make gains in the 2018 midterm elections. But, the Chair does lead on Democrats’ decisions, organization and spending priorities. The Chair can be a prominent voice in the national dialogue on issues that matter to Americans.  In addition, the Chair provides direction and hopefully, inspiration to Democrats locally and nationally.

This election really matters, however, because it will either define or expose the Democratic party.  Most of all, it will show whether we are really a grassroots party, or the party of capitalism. Whether we want progressive, younger members to lead us, or to continue to be dominated by those who have power, money, control and conflicts of interest in the party. Today, progressive activists everywhere proclaim our opposition to the “Muslim ban” issued by the Trump administration. There is a question whether we will also see a “Muslim ban” inside the Democratic party this weekend.

The Year of the Warrior

It is the Year of the Warrior.  Art Douglas Blacksher is my client.

Doug is a warrior for justice. He’s fighting to make sure that what  happened to him does not happen to someone else. This is his story.

Unfortunately, Doug’s story is not unique. In September 2013, over 150 Black contractors marched in San Francisco to protest the exclusion of Black contractors from the construction of the 49er’s Levi Stadium. They protested the fact that a pre-qualified list of approved contractors for Levi Stadium started out with no Black contractors. Through their advocacy, the builder, Turner Construction, opened up the process. As much as they did, it is still estimated that Black firms received only 1.6% of the contract dollars out of $1.5 billion spent on Levi Stadium.

Suing Clark Construction

The Golden State Warriors are moving from Oakland to San Francisco. That in itself is saddening. To make matters worse, the Warriors’ new stadium, the Chase Center, is being built by Clark Construction in partnership with Mortenson Construction. Doug is suing Clark Construction because he believes Clark intentionally destroyed his business. Clark’s history suggests that it does not support equal economic opportunity for Black contractors.

In November 2016, Doug attended a meeting for subcontractors convened by Clark. Doug describes the meeting as “a deja vu nightmare.” Why? Because Clark made the same promises to interested San Francisco minority businesses (MBEs) that it made to Oakland MBE subcontractors. Based on his experience, Doug believes that Clark has no intention of fulfilling its promises to MBE subcontractors.

Clark claims that it has a 50% participation goal for “small business enterprises.”  We want to know if Clark’s list of pre-qualified subcontractors includes any Black, women or minority-owned businesses. We also want to know what efforts Clark made to recruit MBEs for the Chase Arena project.

Chase Arena Artist’s Rendition Courtesy: Mercury News

The Warriors and Chase plan to spend $1 billion on the project.  On February 14, 2017, the San Francisco NAACP voted to support Doug’s quest to ensure that Black contractors in San Francisco “get a piece” of the Warriors’ action.

 

A Shameful History of Racism

In 2009, Nina Totenberg retold the moving story of a Black contractor working in Birmingham Alabama in 1962.  One of Birmingham’s largest contractors reluctantly allowed the Black contractor to bid to install windows on two public schools.  The Black contractor won the bid and installed the windows perfectly.  “The night before the final inspection on the first school, every window in the school was smashed. The police promised to guard the second school to prevent a repeat. But again, all the windows were smashed. Pinkerton agents brought in by the insurance company eventually concluded the police were complicit.”

Racism in the construction industry is legendary. First of all, the construction industry relies more heavily on social networks than many other industries. It is a “buddy-buddy” network, that was built to exclude Black contractors. Consequently, the construction industry was one of the first targets of anti-discrimination advocates after the civil rights laws were passed in 1964. But it was not until the 1970s that economic opportunity for Black contractors began to be legally enforced. The earliest cases attacked unions firmly committed to excluding Black workers from construction jobs.

Racism In Construction Persists

Yet, race discrimination in the industry nationwide still persists. Hence, in 1998, a Colorado Department of Transportation study found that more than 99% of contracts in the state’s highway construction industry went to firms owned by white men. (Congressional Record, May 22, 1998; S5413.)

The persistent problem of racism in trade unions nationally is described in a 2011 labor union report. Indeed, in January 2008, then Inquirer columnist Tom Ferrick reviewed trade unionists working on $500-million worth of public projects in Philadelphia in the preceding five years and concluded “these well paid union jobs … remain all-male, nearly all-white and the majority live in the suburbs.”

In 2012, it was reported that only one black-owned construction firm (Platt Construction) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin served as a prime contractor when the city awarded 125 prime contracts. One black-owned firm (Adkins Family Enterprises) served as a prime contractor in 2011, when Milwaukee awarded 100 prime contracts that year.

The Year of the Warrior

The National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC) founded in Oakland in 1969 remains relevant today. NAMC continues to advocate for fair and equal opportunity in the construction industry.  Furthermore, we expect that NAMC will soon join the NAACP and the San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce in supporting Doug Blacksher’s war against racism. Ultimately, we also hope that the Warriors themselves, including Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and others, will not allow racism to put a stain on their house.

 

 

Hypocrisy in Alameda County

Credit: Alameda County Sheriff’s Dept.

Former Livermore Police Officer Daniel Black is on trial.  He is one of dozens of Bay Area police officers who allegedly abused their power to sexually exploit my former client, Jasmine.  Black admits that he had multiple sexual encounters with 19-year-old Jasmine.  He claims the sex was part of “a private relationship” with Jasmine.  Black’s alleged conduct took place in April 2016 while the Oakland Police Department was trying to cover up Jasmine’s sexual exploitation by OPD officers.

In September 2015 OPD Officer Brendan O’Brien committed suicide and left a note “naming names.”  O’Brien’s suicide exposed the commercial sex trafficking of young women by law enforcement throughout the Bay Area.  Daniel Black was not one of the men named in the note.  Apparently he was not aware of the ongoing OPD cover-up and investigation. He is accused of going to Richmond to get Jasmine in April 2016, and using food and alcohol to compensate her for having sex with him.

Felonies and Misdemeanors

Penal Code Section 266i (a)(2) provides that any person who “[b]y promises, threats, violence, or by any device or scheme, causes, induces, persuades, or encourages another person to become a prostitute” is guilty of pandering. Dan Black’s sexual exploitation of 19-year-old Jasmine was “pandering” her under the law.  The fact that someone has previously engaged in prostitution is not a defense to the charge.  Penal Code Section 266 is a felony.

Dan Black is on trial for five (5) misdemeanors.  He is charged with engaging in prostitution, engaging in lewd conduct in public and giving alcohol to a minor (under age 21).  Misdemeanor charges carry far less severe punishment than felony charges.  Misdemeanor convictions can include unsupervised probation or no jail time.  Felonies usually include some type of prison or jail time and significant restrictions of your constitutional rights, including the right to vote.  Dan Black is not charged with any felonies.  He is not charged under California’s human trafficking law.  This is very strange.

Proposition 35 – Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act

In 2012, California voters passed Proposition 35.  The law passed by a huge margin. 81.3% of voters said yes.  Prop. 35 is intended to fight commercial sex trafficking, particularly as it affects minors.  It changed the law to include more crimes in the definition of human trafficking, increase penalties for trafficking, provide more services for victims, change evidence rules in trafficking cases, require law enforcement training in human trafficking, and expand requirements for sex offenders.  As a result of the voters, Prop. 35 includes a violation of Penal Code Section 266.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley was a major supporter of Prop. 35.  Yet, none of the Bay Area police officers who sexually exploited Jasmine face charges under Prop. 35.  Not a single one.  This is the worst sex scandal to ever rock Bay area police departments.  This scandal cost Oakland 3 police chiefs in nine days.  These crimes will cost the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda millions of dollars.  Yet, none of the police officers charged in Alameda County are facing sex trafficking charges.  Not a single one.  It is as if Prop. 35 does not even exist.

Prosecutorial Discretion and Overcharging Crimes

What makes this situation even more bizarre is that prosecutors routinely overcharge defendants.  The practice of overcharging has become one of the hallmarks of our criminal justice system – a way to ensure that the system can actually function.  The only way the Courts can handle the number of cases charged by prosecutors is by getting plea bargains.  If every criminal defendant insisted on going to trial and refused to “take a deal”, the system would totally collapse.

In his book Why Innocent People Plead Guilty, Jed S. Rakoff writes that “our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone.”

There are no written regulations controlling the prosecutor’s exercise of his charging power in California or anywhere else in the United States.  There is no established or meaningful process for appealing the prosecutor’s exercise of his charging power. The result is that an estimated 95% of all criminal cases end with a plea bargain.

Credit: New York Review of Books

Jed Rakoff cites the case of Brian Banks from Long Beach, California.  Banks, who had been a high school football star with a scholarship to USC at the time of his arrest, served five years in prison for rape and kidnapping charges.  Brian did not actually commit the crime.

 

Brian Banks accepted a plea bargain under the advisement of his original lawyer.  He was freed in 2012 through the efforts of the Innocence Project.

Comparing Brian Banks’ case to Daniel Black’s case may seem like comparing apples to oranges.  But the real difference is that Brian Banks was charged and convicted of a crime he did not commit, while Dan Black is not charged at all with crimes he admits he committed.  Is this a case of “white privilege” or “badge privilege?”  Something is definitely wrong with this picture.  The artist in Alameda County is our District Attorney.

Calling Social Engineers

Calling Social Engineers

Charles H. Houston (1895-1950) said a lawyer is either a social engineer or a parasite on society.  On Monday, January 30, 2017, Mr. Trump fired a social engineer.

Credit: Wikipedia

Her name is Sally Yates.  She was the Acting Attorney General of the United States.  The statement that triggered Mr. Trump’s rage describes her constitutional role:

“My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts.

 

In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.  At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.

Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

America’s Private Prisons for Immigrants

This is not the first time that Sally Yates took a principled position on behalf of the American people.  In August 2016, Ms. Yates instructed Justice Department officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope. The goal is to reduce and end the federal government’s use of privately operated prisons.  These prisons are used exclusively for non-citizen inmates.

Yates’ action follows the Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on federal private prisons.  The OIG found federal private prisons have higher rates of assaults and deaths under questionable circumstances, problems with contraband, low quality food and medical care.  These problems are reported in multiple exposes in Mother Jones and the Nation. These are the same prisons Mr. Trump will use to house immigrants targeted for deportation.

As a result of the Trump Executive Order on immigration issued on January 27, 2017, students, visitors and green-card-holding legal permanent United States residents from seven countries — and refugees from around the world — were stopped at airports in the United States and abroad.  Some refugees were blocked from entering the United States and sent back overseas.  Some refugees stopped at airports with no place to go would be detained.  That’s why Americans and lawyers descended upon major airports.  People who had committed no crime but had no place to go would be taken to federal private prisons.

Being A Social Engineer

It is a good time to be a civil rights lawyer.  Around the country, lawyers are organizing and galvanized to be social engineers.  It means that we, like Sally Yates, will uphold and defend the Constitution as a part of our regular day job.  Not just on holidays. The fight is clearly on.  Michael Moore warns that Mr. Trump has started a bloodless coup.

By changing the laws, firing lawyers and senior staff and giving legal authority to his advisors with the stroke of his pen, Mr. Trump is clearly taking control of the Executive branch.  With three Supreme Court nominations within his reach, he will soon control the United States Supreme Court.  Under a far right Supreme Court, our role as civil rights lawyers will likely be rendered obsolete in federal Courts.  Our role as social engineers may be the only way left to practice civil rights law in America. Thankfully, Charles Hamilton Houston, in his life’s work, has already given us the precedent to follow.

Why Are They Marching?

Why are They Marching?

I’m standing at the corner of Ninth and Fallon in downtown Oakland.  My phone rings and its Amy, my elderly foster mother in Cincinnati.  “Why are they marching?” she asks.  Another friend reports that her mother asks her in a not-so-nice tone “Did you wear a vagina on your head?”  So, not everybody “got the memo!”

So why did we march, by the millions here and around the world.  The “official” goal of the day was “to stand together in solidarity for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”  That’s the memo I got for the Women’s March in Oakland.  And so, more than 100,000 people had a peaceful march through Oakland.  Yes, we stood and we walked in solidarity.

A Beautiful Sight to See!

It was a beautiful sight – to see my beloved awesome beautiful Oakland community once again on the right side of history.  And the signs said it all.

“Keep those Bad Apples Out of the Cabinet.”

“The Children Are Watching.”  “Resist Fear, Assist Love!”

“You can’t comb over misogyny.”

“I Love Nasty Women!”

“ACA saved my life!”

“We won’t go back to the Dark ages.”

“A woman’s place is in the resistance.”

“Make America Read Again!”

 

“From Class to Crass!”     “Our rights are not up for grabs, neither are we!”

“Black Lives Matter!”  Someone simply said “Ugh!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was music and drums and tamborines.  We danced, we chanted, we marched.  There was exceedingly warm comaraderie, respect and appreciation for everyone around you.  It felt like love overflowing. And yes, those little pink hats were everywhere, symbols of a woman’s vagina.  When I asked the man standing next to me what they meant and he told me, all I could say was “I knew that.”

Why Does It Matter?

So, the question is why does it matter that millions marched around the world.  We are now in the midst of the Trump “deconstruction” of America.  Executive orders are literally flying out of the White House.  Threats of ridiculous policy initiatives have now become law.  Trump is doing everything he can to divide America.  The “haves” are going to have it their way.  The rest of us will have to figure it out on our own.

What the Women’s March says to each of us is that we are not on our own.  It does not matter if you are Mexican or Muslim, you are not going to be left on your own.  It does not matter if you are homeless or homebound, you are not going to be left on your own.  It does matter if you are a military veteran, you are not going to be left on your own.

It matters whenever you say “NO” to fascism, racism, sexism and tyranny.  Mr. Trump’s pen cannot change our vision for the future of our children and our nation.  His tweets cannot change our commitment to keep Dr. King’s dream for America alive.  While Trump honors the murderous legacy of President Andrew Jackson, let us remember the magnanimous leadership of President Barack Hussein Obama.

The Children Are Watching!

In the week of celebrating Dr. King’s birthday, I kept reading  his “Letter from A Birmingham Jail.”  Dr. King reminds the white clergymen that”injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  He reminds them that “everything Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.”  He reminds them that “the goal of America is freedom” and “if the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail.”

As we move forward this year, the marches will sustain and strengthen the work of those who commit themselves to the ongoing struggle for social justice.  As an activist whose entire life was transformed by “the struggle,” I know the power of seeing millions of people marching for what they believe in.  Let us continue to beat the drums for justice.  Let’s keep marching for our lives and the lives of our children!  The children are watching!

Hypocrisy in High Places

Hypocrisy in High Places contributes to the death of a just society.  The Coalition to Restore Public Trust and the Contra Costa Coalition for Racial Justice call for the immediate resignation of District Attorney Mark Peterson.  Elected in 2010, DA Peterson has violated the public trust.

The FPPC Charges – Campaign Finance Violations

According to  charges pending before the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), over a 5-year period, DA Peterson used more than $66,000 of campaign contribution money for his personal expenses.  As the FPPC points out, when an official makes personal use of campaign funds, it erodes public trust in the political process.

According to the FPPC, Peterson admits that he started misusing his campaign contributions in 2011 shortly after he was elected. His misappropriation of funds continued until 2015 when he learned that his campaign account had been selected for audit.

The misuse of money donated to his campaign included hotels, meals, movie tickets, gasoline, clothing and more. He also withdrew cash  for his personal expenses from the campaign account.  Other times, DA Peterson transferred money from the campaign account to his personal account.  The FPPC charges include more than 600 separate fraudulent transactions.

The FPPC Charges – Perjury and Fraud

For 5 years, DA Peterson acted as his own Treasurer.  During that time he filed at least 4 falsified FPPC reports which did not disclose his personal use of the funds.  After he was caught, he claimed that the withdrawals from the campaign account were actually “loans.”

DA Peterson has been a lawyer for more than 30 years, since 1983. As a lawyer, officer of the Court and elected official, he knows the meaning of receiving and holding money “in trust.” Every time that he used the campaign account for his own personal benefit, he knew that he was violating the fundamental values of the law and his ethical duties as an attorney. He knew that he was violating the trust of everyone who donated money for him to become our DA.

DA Peterson obviously cannot and will not hold himself accountable under the law. He has lost our community’s trust.  Our community deserves to have a District Attorney who acts ethically and upholds the law.  Mark Peterson has shown that he cannot be trusted to do either.  For these reasons, we call for his immediate resignation.

The Call to Action – The People v. Mark Peterson

To support the call for DA Peterson’s resignation, the Coalition to Restore Public Trust will convene a public trial of Mark Peterson on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at 900 Ward Street, in front of his office in Martinez.  We urge the public to attend the trial and hear the evidence of DA Peterson’s unethical conduct and support our call for his resignation.  We also urge you to sign the online Petition calling for his investigation and prosecution by the California Attorney General.

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