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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS:
Tim Wallace
Director of Development, Legal Aid Justice Center
434-529-1853 | twallace@justice4all.org

Bill Farrar
Director, Public Policy and Communications
804-873-0624 | bfarrar@acluva.org

Federal Office for Civil Rights Opens Investigation of Discrimination in Richmond Public Schools
Congressman McEachin Joins LAJC, ACLU, and Richmond NAACP in Calling for a Swift But Thorough Investigation

 Richmond, Va., April 17, 2017—The United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) has given notice it will open an investigation into allegations that the Richmond Public Schools’ disciplinary policies and practices unlawfully discriminate against African American students and students with disabilities.

In August 2016, Legal Aid Justice Center and the ACLU of Virginia filed a complaint with OCR on behalf of two individual students and the Richmond chapter of the NAACP, alleging that RPS’ discipline policies punish African American students and students with disabilities more harshly and more frequently than their peers.

On April 12, 2017, OCR notified complainants that the office would open an investigation. During the investigation, OCR will collect and analyze information from the complainants, the Richmond Public Schools, and any other relevant sources. The letter did not indicate how long an investigation would take, or when the results would be released.

“I am very pleased to learn that OCR has opened an investigation into Richmond Schools because of the complaint filed by Just Children. I remain extremely concerned about the treatment of minority and special needs students throughout my district, which is why I have requested a district-wide investigation into disparate treatment. This is a positive first step and I strongly encourage the OCR and the DOE to initiate expeditiously a broad and in-depth investigation, as I have requested. Thank you, Just Children, for your critical and outstanding work on behalf of our students,” said Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04).

The complaint alleges that during the 2014-15 school year, African-American students with disabilities were 12.91 times more likely than white students without disabilities to be short-term suspended, according to data provided by the Virginia Department of Education. New data has surfaced since the Complaint’s filing indicating that RPS continues to exclude an astonishing number of students each school year and that troubling discipline disparities remain.  According to Virginia Department of Education data, RPS suspended 4,680 students at least once during the 2015-16 school year. African-American students made up nearly 75 percent of the student population but 90.4 percent of students who were short-term suspended and 94.2 percent of students who were long-term suspended. While students with disabilities made up 17.7 percent of the student population, they accounted for 29.8 percent of students who were short-term suspended and 37.4 percent of students who were long-term suspended.

“These disparities have persisted too long,” said Rachael Deane, legal director for JustChildren, LAJC’s child advocacy program. “We applaud the opening of an investigation, and ask OCR to conduct a swift but thorough investigation of unfair discipline in RPS.”

Complainants allege that the student code fails to clearly define misconduct and prescribes overly harsh consequences for relatively minor misbehavior. The complaint calls for alternative approaches to discipline that would address instances of student misconduct while improving overall school climate. It argues that that Richmond Public Schools could eliminate discrimination and more effectively ensure safe and orderly schools through the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, social and emotional learning programs and restorative justice processes.

“We are confident that the OCR investigation will shed light on and bring corrective relief to systematic disparities based on race and disability in RPS’ application of discipline,” said Leslie Chambers Mehta, legal director for the ACLU of Virginia. “This is a first step towards eradicating the school-to-prison pipeline in Virginia’s capital city.”

Resources:
Press Release (pdf)

OCR Notification Letter (pdf)

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.

Follow the Legal Aid Justice Center on Twitter @LegalAidJustice and on Facebook.

About the ACLU of Virginia
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia is a private, non-profit organization that promotes civil liberties and civil rights for everyone in the Commonwealth through public education, litigation and advocacy with the goal of securing freedom and equality for all. In addition to the litigation for which the ACLU has been known, we also educate the public, inform the media, lobby legislators, organize grassroots activists, and disseminate information about our constitutional freedoms through our membership and volunteer chapters.

Follow the ACLU of Virginia on Twitter @ACLUVA and on Facebook.

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LAJC Announces New Leadership for JustChildren
Rachael Deane to become 3rd JustChildren Legal Director
A
ngela Ciolfi to take on new role leading impact litigation and advocacy organization-wide

Charlottesville, Va., April 14, 2017—The Legal Aid Justice Center is pleased to announce two new changes to its leadership team:

Rachael Deane will take the helm of LAJC’s acclaimed JustChildren Program, Virginia’s largest children’s law program.  Founded in 1997, JustChildren relies on a range of strategies, including direct services, impact litigation, and policy advocacy, to make sure the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable young people receive the services and support they need to lead successful lives in their community.  Ms. Deane will succeed Angela Ciolfi as the Program’s third Legal Director.

In 2016, Ms. Deane came to JustChildren to lead the program’s litigation portfolio from the National Fair Housing Alliance, where she was the Associate Director of Enforcement.  Before that, she managed civil rights advocacy and enforcement for Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), a statewide fair housing organization based in Richmond.  In 2012, she was named “Top 40 Under 40” by the Virginia Housing Coalition.  Ms. Deane is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and the University of Richmond School of Law.  Since arriving at JustChildren, Ms. Deane has taken on leadership roles in JustChilden’s campaigns to increase state financial support for public schools and combat discipline discrimination in the Richmond Public Schools.

“For two decades, JustChildren has worked to amplify youth voices in Virginia and to ensure that all children have the tools they need to learn, grow, and become successful, “ said Ms. Deane.  “Today our work is more urgent than ever, and I am eager to continue our efforts to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, reform our juvenile justice system, and make sure every child has access to a high-quality education and a robust community support network.”

Angela Ciolfi will leave her post at JustChildren to become LAJC’s Director of Litigation & Advocacy. Ms. Ciolfi joined LAJC as a Powell Fellow in 2004 after clerking for U.S. District Judge Reginald C. Lindsay.  She won the Oliver White Hill Award from the Virginia State Bar in 2003 and the Child Advocacy Award from the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division in 2010.  Ms. Ciolfi is a graduate of The College of William and Mary and University of Virginia School of Law.  During her time as Legal Director, the JustChildren team won significant education reforms, including tying graduation rates to high school accreditation, prohibiting suspension for truancy, rolling back zero tolerance policies, and improving regulation of unlawful school fees.

In her new role, Ms. Ciolfi will work with all four of LAJC’s programs—JustChildren, Immigrant Advocacy, Civil Rights and Racial Justice, and Economic Justice—in developing multi-faceted campaigns using litigation, policy advocacy, organizing, and communications to challenge policies and practices that perpetuate poverty.  “It’s always been LAJC’s philosophy that it is our duty to use our limited resources to fight for changes with the greatest possible impact,” said Ms. Ciolfi.  “I am eager to join our clients and the rest of the LAJC team in stamping out injustice and exploitation where it hides in plain sight—from the “get out of debt” ads on TV to the over-policing of our schools.”

“Angela brings a wealth of experience to her new position.  She is a visionary thinker with tenacity and expertise who will increase the impact of all our work,” said Mary Bauer, LAJC’s Executive Director.  “And the Legal Aid Justice Center and our clients are profoundly lucky that Angela’s former position as  the Legal Director of JustChildren has been filled by Rachael Deane.  Rachael brings enthusiasm, intellect, and a commitment to justice that will serve children throughout the Commonwealth exceedingly well.”

Both staffing changes take effect immediately.

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide. 

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Follow Legal Aid Justice Center on Twitter @LegalAidJustice and find us on Facebook.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Opens Investigation into Displacement, Poor Conditions, and Discrimination at Virginia’s First Privatized Public Housing Community. 

 Hopewell, Va., March 9, 2017—In response to complaints filed on behalf of eight current and former public housing residents, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has opened an investigation into discrimination and other program violations at Virginia’s first Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion. Under the RAD program, Hopewell Redevelopment and Housing Authority (HRHA) and Community Housing Partners (CHP) razed the public housing community Langston Park in 2014 and built new apartments on the site, now called the Summit at Hopewell. The complaints allege HRHA and CHP discriminated against both families with children and residents with disabilities; pushed tenants out of Langston Park, depriving them of their legal right to return to the redeveloped Summit at Hopewell; and relocated other tenants to severely overcrowded housing in poor condition.

The complaints to HUD describe multiple violations of residents’ civil rights under the federal Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. They also allege violations of protections of the federal Uniform Relocation Act for relocated residents, and of RAD program requirements meant to protect affected residents. The alleged problems began early in the conversion process and have continued through the present.

According to the complaints, CHP illegally discriminated against the families from Langston Park who returned to the Summit after construction based on disability status or having children. CHP forbade anyone under the age of 18 from watching their younger siblings, taking out the trash on their own, accessing the computers and other amenities at the community center if not under the direct supervision of an adult, or playing outside unsupervised. One letter from the Summit’s property manager even threatened to call Child Protective Services if children were left in the care of someone under the age of 18. According to Helen Hardiman, Vice President of Law and Policy at Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc., “CHP’s alleged behavior left families with children little choice: stay inside or face harsh penalties. This is exactly the kind of discrimination the Fair Housing Act outlaws.”

One of the complaints states that HRHA and CHP denied a resident’s repeated requests for a first floor unit at the Summit to accommodate her medical disability, in violation of her rights. Last year, she died at her home in the Summit of cardiac arrest and arrhythmia, complications from the very disabilities that were exacerbated by HRHA and CHP’s alleged failure to grant her multiple requests for a reasonable accommodation. Within a week of her death, CHP moved to evict her surviving household members, her 8- and 9-year old grandnieces.

The Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) is a “public-private partnership” model for redeveloping aging public housing. In most RAD projects, public housing authorities transfer both management and a large portion of ownership of formerly public housing to private companies, but continue to subsidize the property with direct and indirect federal assistance. Langston Park was the first RAD conversion in Virginia. There are currently thirty-nine other public housing communities in Virginia that HUD has approved to convert under the program. (See below for a list of localities/communities approved for RAD conversion.)   

The RAD conversion process requires property management to relocate residents to suitable housing on or off site during construction. According to the HUD complaints, when construction work began at the Summit in 2014, residents were relocated off-site to apartments that were overcrowded or virtually uninhabitable. Families as large as six members were crammed into two-bedroom apartments. Many of these apartments also had moisture and mold issues, according to some parents who allege that previously healthy children experienced medical problems while living in the overcrowded and rundown units, including asthma and other breathing issues.

RAD program rules also guarantee all residents the right to return to the redeveloped property. Some families from Langston Park allege they were pushed out of the community altogether, and not allowed to return to the Summit after construction. HRHA and CHP rebuilt the Summit with fewer large apartments for families with children. One resident in Langston Park with a daughter in a wheelchair claims CHP told her that there would not be an accessible unit at the Summit. Several residents at Langston Park claim they were misinformed and pressured, in violation of program rules, to accept buyout offers to move elsewhere, apparently because their return to the Summit would limit CHP’s eligibility for tax credit financing. According to Kim Rolla, Staff Attorney and Housing Coordinator at Legal Aid Justice Center, “all of these alleged actions denied residents – the intended beneficiaries of this program – their federally guaranteed right to return to the redeveloped property. It caused displaced residents extreme financial hardship. Many ended up in unstable housing situations, and some even experienced periods of homelessness.”

Despite these widespread problems, both CHP and HRHA have been approved for another RAD conversion together. Both are currently involved in the conversion of an elderly and disabled public housing building – Kippax Place – where advocates are uncovering similar problems and additional ones unique to that building’s population.

LAJC and HOME filed the complaints on behalf of their clients to prevent further violations of the rights of their clients and other residents who were harmed in the conversion process and/or are continuing to be discriminated against. RAD is often touted as the new frontier of public housing, but HUD, housing authorities, and RAD developers must remember their obligations under the law. The redevelopment of Langston Park is a prime example of a failure to do so, and at the expense of residents who deserve better.

To Read HUD’s Letters Announcing the Investigation, click here.

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide. 

About Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc.
Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME), founded in 1971, is a statewide fair housing non‐profit. HOME’s mission is to ensure equal access to housing for all people. HOME investigates housing discrimination and provides support for victims of discrimination. You can learn more about HOME and all of its services at www.HOMEofVA.org.

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PRESS RELEASE:
Legal Aid Justice Center launches new Civil Rights and Racial Justice Program focused on reducing incarceration and dismantling systems of racial injustice.

On February 21st, 2017, the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) launched a new core program whose goal is to end the criminalization of poverty in Virginia by exposing and addressing the connections among policing, poverty, race, and injustice.

The program will expand on key initiatives such as LAJC’s “Drive Down the Debt” campaign which includes a class action lawsuit currently being litigated that aims to end Virginia’s practice of automatically suspending the driver’s licenses of individuals who are unable to pay court costs and fines.  Over 900,000 Virginians- 1 in 6 Virginia drivers- has a suspended driver’s license due in part to unpaid court costs and fines.

“With dedicated staff, this new program will enhance our cutting-edge work to dismantle systems of oppression that make and keep people poor and that rip apart communities,” said LAJC Executive Director Mary Bauer. 

Under the leadership of newly hired Civil Rights and Racial Justice Legal Director, Adeola Ogunkeyede, the program will also identify, investigate, and attack other systems of racial injustice.  Adeola was most recently the Director of Staff Development at The Bronx Defenders, one of the premier criminal and civil justice organizations in New York.

Adeola began her career as a staff attorney in the Bronx Defenders’ Criminal Defense Practice, where she defended thousands of men and women in Bronx Criminal Court. Practicing within a community-oriented, holistic defense model, Adeola collaborated with an interdisciplinary team of attorneys and advocates to help clients avoid or mitigate enmeshed penalties stemming from contact with the criminal justice system such as the loss of employment, housing, parental rights, or the ability to reside in the United States. During her tenure at The Bronx Defenders, she also served as a supervising attorney and the Litigation Supervisor of the criminal practice.

Adeola received her J.D. from Tulane Law School where she was a member of the Criminal Law Clinic, president of the Public Interest Law Foundation, and coordinator of the Street Law Program in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Upon graduation, she received the Crest Award for Service and Leadership and the General Maurice Hirsch Award, presented each year to the graduating student who contributes most distinctively and constructively to university or community needs.

After graduation, Adeola interned for the Honorable Carl Stewart of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Before law school, Adeola was a paralegal at a national civil rights law firm in Washington, D.C. A native of Queens, N.Y., Adeola received her B.A. from Duke University.

“In today’s climate, it is more important than ever that there be strong, dedicated advocates who can challenge systems of oppression and amplify community calls for change,” said Civil Rights and Racial Justice Legal Director Adeola Ogunkeyede.

The Civil Rights and Racial Justice program will be housed in LAJC’s Richmond office at 123 East Broad Street. A meet and greet with Adeola will be held at Quirk Hotel on March 14th from 5-7 pm. The event will be a fundraiser for LAJC with wine tastings for $17, a portion of which will go to support the newly formed Civil Rights and Racial Justice Program. More information can be found at  www.justice4all.org/raiseyourglass

Press Contact: 
Tim Wallace, Director of Development
Legal Aid Justice Center
Phone: 434.529.1853, Mobile: 773.426.5948
twallace@justice4all.org

Event Contact:
Jessica Wright
Chief Development Officer- Richmond
Legal Aid Justice Center
123 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: 804-340-7741 Mobile: 804-651-9449
jessica@justice4all.org

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PRESS RELEASE

Yemeni immigrants unlawfully barred by Trump’s executive order reunited with families in U.S.

After a nine-day ordeal sparked by President Trump’s January 27 executive order on immigration, Tareq and Ammar Aquel Mohammed Aziz, ages 21 and 19, have finally joined their father in the US. As was disclosed on February 3 in a federal court in Virginia, the brothers are two of the estimated 60,000–100,000 people whose valid visas were unlawfully revoked by the executive order, which took effect as the brothers were flying to the United States to live with their father, Aquel Aziz, who is a U.S. citizen residing in Michigan. After arriving on January 28, the brothers were coerced into signing an administrative form withdrawing their application for admission to the United States, and their valid visas were cancelled. Subsequently, they spent more than a week in legal limbo stranded at airports in Addis Ababa and Djibouti. The Al Murisi family of Yemen, who were traveling with their five children, endured a similar ordeal.

The Aziz brothers and Al Murisi family were aided by a team of lawyers from the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) in Virginia and the law firm Mayer Brown, which mobilized quickly after learning that the immigrants were denied entry in the US. The lawyers – Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg from LAJC, and Andy Pincus and Paul Hughes from Mayer Brown – obtained an injunction from a federal judge in Virginia staying the executive order before negotiating the boys’ return to the U.S.

“With the critical assistance of Mayer Brown and CrowdJustice, which has helped raise needed funds, the Aziz brothers and Al Murisi family have finally been permitted to arrive in the United States,” said Sandoval-Moshenberg of the LAJC. “While it’s highly gratifying to have played a role in bringing these families together again, we know other families are facing uncertainty and fear as a result of this executive order and encourage them to seek assistance.”

“The executive branch overreached in this unnecessary and unlawful order,” added Hughes of Mayer Brown. “Thanks to the concerted efforts of dozens of determined lawyers and judges throughout the country, however, the rule of law has been vindicated, and two families from Yemen have been made whole.”

Contact:
Tim Wallace
Director of Development
Legal Aid Justice Center
Phone: 434.529.1853 (office) and 773.426.5948 (mobile)

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Today, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced that it is intervening in the litigation the Legal Aid Justice Center and Mayer Brown LLP have brought on behalf of the Aziz bothers, and others similarly situated, who are lawful permanent residents or immigrant visa holders and who were denied entry to the United States over the past weekend on the basis of the recently-issued Executive Order.

“Virginia’s decision to intervene provides further evidence of the serious constitutional and statutory flaws in the immigration Executive Order,” said Mayer Brown partner Andrew Pincus.

“Virginia’s intervention in our lawsuit confirms the enormous practical repercussions of the Executive Order,” added Mayer Brown partner Paul Hughes.

“Virginia has chosen to intervene in order to protect the rights of all Virginia residents, especially members of its universities,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center.

For details about the Dulles detainees and to support our efforts in this case, please go here: https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/dullesdetainees/

Resources:

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PRESS RELEASE: Legal Aid Justice Center and Mayer Brown File Amended Complaint Alleging Detainees Unlawfully Coerced to Sign Forms and Seeking Return Of Aziz Brothers And Similarly Situated Individuals.

In an amended complaint filed on Monday, January 30, lawyers representing two Yemeni brothers contend that their clients were unlawfully coerced to sign I-407 forms, which purported to document “Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status.” The Yemeni brothers, who were taken into custody after arriving at Dulles Airport hours after President Trump signed his executive order on immigration, were told that refusing to sign the administrative form would leave them unable to enter the US for five years. In fact, as the amended complaint explains, there is no such penalty for refusing to sign the form.

“We believe the agency unlawfully coerced our clients, two Yemeni brothers, and others into signing administrative forms to waive their immigration rights,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center, who is co-counsel to the Yemeni brothers with Mayer Brown partners Paul Hughes and Andy Pincus. “Their signatures were not voluntary.”

“This amended complaint reveals a disturbing pattern of conduct by U.S. officials,” added Hughes.

The brothers, Tareq Aqel Mohammed Aziz and Ammar Aqel Muhammad Aziz, arrived at Washington-Dulles International Airport on the morning of Saturday, January 28, 2017, en route to live with their father, a U.S. citizen residing in Flint, Michigan. They were traveling on duly issued United States immigrant visas, and were entitled to lawful permanent resident status in the United States. Upon arrival at Dulles, U.S. officials handcuffed Tareq and Ammar and took them into custody. Officials informed the brothers that, if they did not sign a I-407 form, they would be put into official removal proceedings and ultimately barred from entering the United States for five years. These representations were not correct – US officials had no basis to deny them entry to the United States or to order their removal. Moreover, officials did not provide Tareq and Ammar with access to counsel.

Tareq and Ammar were subsequently placed on a plane to Ethiopia (where their flight to Dulles had originated). At present, they are waiting in Addis Ababa International Airport, hoping to return to the United States. They do not wish to return to their original country of Yemen, which is in the midst of a civil war.

On the evening of Saturday, January 27, 2017, Judge Brinkema of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued a temporary restraining order requiring officials at Dulles to provide access to legal counsel for lawful permanent residents detained at Dulles and to forbid further activities to send individuals outside of the United States. The Court issued this order on behalf of both Tareq and Ammar, as well as John Does 1-50, who were similarly situated.

Senator Cory Booker personally delivered a copy of the TRO to airport officials. He has sworn out an affidavit, which is attached to the amended complaint. The amended complaint details concerns about whether Dulles officials properly complied with the requirements of the TRO.

“Legal Aid Justice Center and Mayer Brown are committed to ensuring that Tareq and Ammar are able to exercise their legal right to return to the United States and join their father,” said Andrew Pincus of Mayer Brown.

For details about Dulles detainees and to support this case, please go here: https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/dullesdetainees/

Contact information:

Tim Wallace (Legal Aid Justice Center) 773-426-5948

John Tuerck (Mayer Brown) 312-701-8280

 

Click here for a copy of Amended Complaint 

 

About the Legal Aid Justice Center

The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia and Richmond/Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.

 

About Mayer Brown

Mayer Brown is a global legal services organization advising clients across the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Our presence in the world’s leading markets enables us to offer clients access to local market knowledge combined with global reach. We are noted for our commitment to client service and our ability to assist clients with their most complex and demanding legal and business challenges worldwide. We serve many of the world’s largest companies, including a significant proportion of the Fortune 100, FTSE 100, CAC 40, DAX, Hang Seng and Nikkei index companies and more than half of the world’s largest banks. We provide legal services in areas such as: banking and finance; corporate and securities; litigation, arbitration, and other dispute resolution; antitrust and competition; US Supreme Court and appellate; employment and benefits; environmental; financial services regulatory and enforcement; government and global trade; intellectual property; real estate; tax; restructuring, bankruptcy and insolvency; and wealth management.

Mayer Brown comprises legal practices that are separate entities (the “Mayer Brown Practices”). The Mayer Brown Practices are: Mayer Brown LLP and Mayer Brown Europe-Brussels LLP, both limited liability partnerships established in Illinois USA; Mayer Brown International LLP, a limited liability partnership incorporated in England and Wales (authorized and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and registered in England and Wales number OC 303359); Mayer Brown, a  SELAS established in France; Mayer Brown Mexico, S.C., a sociedad civil formed under the laws of the State of Durango, Mexico; Mayer Brown JSM, a Hong Kong partnership and its associated legal practices in Asia; and Tauil & Chequer Advogados, a Brazilian law partnership with which Mayer Brown is associated. Mayer Brown Consulting (Singapore) Pte. Ltd and its subsidiary, which are affiliated with Mayer Brown, provide customs and trade advisory and consultancy services, not legal services. “Mayer Brown” and the Mayer Brown logo are the trademarks of the Mayer Brown Practices in their respective jurisdictions.

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For Immediate Release

Legal Aid Justice has been informed that U.S. Customs and Border Protection have modified their practices in response to the federal court temporary restraining order.

The Legal Aid Justice Center and Mayer Brown filed suit Saturday on behalf of immigrants detained at Dulles airport as a result of President Trump’s Executive Order banning people from seven countries from entering the U.S.  Our named plaintiffs were two young lawful permanent residents from Yemen who sought to enter the U.S. to be with their U.S. citizen father.  Upon arriving at Dulles, they were detained, denied access to legal counsel, and ultimately placed on a flight to Ethiopia.

We filed suit Saturday, and Judge Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia entered a temporary restraining order prohibiting the further removal of such individuals and requiring that LPR persons subject to enhanced screening be allowed access to counsel.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has recently confirmed that it has modified its practices with respect to LPR persons in response to the federal court’s temporary restraining order. We are monitoring CBP’s new practices to ensure rigid adherence and to determine if they comply with the judicial directive.

The Legal Aid Justice Center and Mayer Brown are continuing to advocate on behalf of LPRs entering the United States, as well as those who were denied entry to the United States over the past few days.

The lawyers representing the individuals are Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center, and Andrew Pincus and Paul Hughes of Mayer Brown LLP.

Contact information:

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg 434 218-9673

Andrew Pincus 202-320-9125

Paul Hughes 240-441-2240

For details about Dulles detainees and to support this case, please go here: https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/dullesdetainees/

About the Legal Aid Justice Center

The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia and Richmond/Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.

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Press Release for Immediate Distribution

A federal judge tonight issued a temporary restraining order barring the Department of Homeland Security from removing from the United States 50-60 individuals currently detained at Dulles Airport who are legal permanent residents, but were refused admission into the country because they are citizens of the seven countries identified in President Trump’s executive order, issued yesterday.  DHS had refused to allow the individuals to speak to family members or lawyers and had stated that it planned to send all of them out of the United States.

The judge’s order also requires DHS to permit these individuals to speak to lawyers.

The lawyers representing the individuals are Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center, and Andrew Pincus and Paul Hughes of Mayer Brown LLP.

Contact information:

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg 434 218-9673

Andrew Pincus 202-320-9125

Paul Hughes 240-441-2240

For details about Dulles detainees and to support this case, please go here: https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/dullesdetainees/

About the Legal Aid Justice Center

The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia and Richmond/Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.

Temporary Restraining Order

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The Virginia State Conference of the NAACP has asked the court for leave to file as amicus curiae in opposing DMV Commissioner Holcomb’s motion to dismiss the complaint in Stinnie v. Holcomb. Stinnie v. Holcomb is our lawsuit challenging Virginia’s system of automatically suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid court debt without inquiring into the debtor’s financial circumstances.

Today, the Legal Aid Justice Center filed a Memorandum of Opposition on behalf of the Plaintiffs in response to the Commissioner’s Oct. 3 Motion to Dismiss in Stinnie v. Holcomb. In the Opposition, we argue that (1) legal technicalities do not prevent the court from hearing this lawsuit, and (2) the Commissioner is wrong in his position that the Plaintiffs have not sufficiently alleged that Virginia’s license-for-repayment scheme violates the United States Constitution in the following ways:

  • It violates due process and fundamental fairness by setting up a justice system that punishes those who owe money to the state for sheer inability to pay.
  • It strips Plaintiffs of a constitutionally protected property interest – their driver’s licenses – without the guaranteed safeguards of notice and a hearing.
  • It violates equal protection by treating those who are willing but unable to pay more harshly than those who are willing and able to pay, when the only difference between them is the amount of money they have.
  • Suspending licenses for court debt fails even the most minimum constitutional standards because it is not rationally related to legitimate state interests – indeed, by siphoning away law enforcement resources and preventing debtors from earning a living, it undermines the state’s asserted interests in advancing highway safety and prompting repayment.
  • It subjects Plaintiffs to harsher collection practices than those for civil debtors, in violation of equal protection.

Full Memorandum in Opposition (PDF)

In support of our Opposition, the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP has asked the court for leave to file an amicus brief arguing that Virginia’s driver’s license suspension system for unpaid court debt disproportionately harms black Virginians, violates constitutional rights, and fails even the most basic sense of fairness. In its brief, the NAACP points to data showing “[b]lack people make up only 20% of Virginia’s population, but receive nearly half of the orders of suspension for unpaid court debt,” and “nearly 60% of convictions for driving while suspended wherein court debt was imposed but is ‘past due’ are associated with blacks.” Full Amicus Brief (PDF)

The Legal Aid Justice Center believes that Virginia’s automatic license-for-payment system exposes hundreds of thousands of people to indefinite driver’s license suspension, spiraling debt, and incarceration for driving while suspended, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee that no one shall be punished for their poverty.

News Release: The Virginia State Conference of the NAACP files amicus curiae brief supporting the Plaintiffs in Stinnie v. Holcomb (November 3, 2016)

Additional Resources:
Drive Down the Debt Home Page
U.S. Dept. of Justice Statement of Interest