News

Posted by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE             

CONTACT:
Amy Woolard
Attorney and Policy Coordinator, Legal Aid Justice Center
434-529-1846 | amy@justice4all.org

New Report: Virginia’s School Suspension Crisis Worsened in 2015-16

Charlottesville, Virginia (October 17, 2017) – Virginia schools continue to suspend students at an alarming rate—an ongoing crisis that harms students of color, students with disabilities, and elementary school students most profoundly.   

An update to the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Suspended Progress report reveals that, during the 2015-16 school year, Virginia schools issued over 131,500 out-of-school suspensions to over 70,000 students, marking an increase in the Commonwealth’s suspension rate after four years of a downward trend.

In this update to Suspended Progress, the Legal Aid Justice Center finds that:

  • Students with disabilities were suspended at rates 2.6 times higher than that of non-disabled students; African-American students were suspended at rates 3.8 times higher than Hispanic and white students.
  • The short-term suspension rate increased in 2015-2016 after years of significant steady decline.
  • Virginia schools continue to suspend very young students at an astonishing rate, issuing over 17,300 short-term suspensions and at least 93 long-term suspensions just to children in pre-K through 3rd
  • The vast majority of all suspensions were issued for minor offenses, with approximately two-thirds of all suspensions issued for behavior offenses like: possession of cell phones, minor insubordination, disrespect, and using inappropriate language.

“Exclusionary discipline is myopic and harmful—we cannot continue to use access to education as a punishment for student conduct and expect positive results from either students or schools,” said Amy Woolard, Legal Aid Justice Center attorney and author of the report. “When children are suspended from school, they are more likely to experience academic failure, drop out of school, have substance abuse issues, have mental health needs, and become involved in the justice system.”

The report points to proven alternatives to school exclusion that keep students connected to academics and provide tailored interventions when needed. Those alternatives include restorative practices, multi-tiered systems of supports, and social and emotional learning programs as positive steps local schools can implement in lieu of exclusion.

The Legal Aid Justice Center’s report provides policymakers with immediate steps to take during the 2018 General Assembly session to begin to reverse this crisis. It also offers local school boards and communities a framework for ensuring student codes of conduct promote positive school climate and keep students on track toward graduation. “The good news is we know what works better for students and for schools,” said Woolard. “Alternatives to exclusion like restorative practices emphasize accountability while strengthening students’ relationship to their education, their teachers and administrators, and their peers.”

To read the report, visit: www.justice4all.org/suspension.

###

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.

Posted by

Fighting Back against ICE Constitutional and Legal Violations:
Supression of Evidence and Motions to Terminate Removal Proceedings.

In an immigration enforcement climate where “everyone is a priority,” ICE is frequently arresting undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for many years without incident.  Many of these arrests arise from racial profiling, no-warrant home raids, or other forms of constitutional violations. Where immigrants have no traditional form of relief available, advocates must look to creative strategies to challenge the government’s evidence of alienage.

Legal Aid Justice Center is bringing national experts to Virginia to give an in-depth training on litigating motions to supress and motions to terminate removal proceedings.  We will discuss applicable Fourth Circuit and BIA caselaw, common fact patterns and constitutional, statuary and regulatory violations to look for, and practicalities of litigating these types of cases before the immigration courts in Arlington and Baltimore.

3.0 hours of Virginia CLE credits, VSB approval pending

Friday, October 13, 2017, from 1:30 – 4:30pm

Location: Mason District Government Center, 6507 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003

Private attorneys: $75.00, and agree to take one pro bono case.
Private Attorneys click here to register.

Free for nonprofit attorneys.   
Nonprofit attorneys click here to register: 

Panelists:
Michael Wishnie, William O. Douglas Clinical Professor of Law, Yale Law School
Maureen Sweeney, Law School Associate Professor, University of Maryland
Melissa Crow, Litigation Director, American Immigration Counsel
Becky Wolozin, Morrison & Foerster Equal Justice Works Fellow, Legal Aid Justice Center
Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director, Immigrant Advocacy Program, Legal Aid Justice Center

Support is provided by the Resilience Fund, housed at the Greater Washington Community Foundation.

Posted by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS:
Tim Wallace, Director of Development              Mike Burnette, Director of Communications
Legal Aid Justice Center                                 Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc.
434-529-1853 | twallace@justice4all.org          804-354-0641 x118 | Mike@HOMEofVA.org

HUD SETTLES CIVIL RIGHTS CLAIMS MADE BY RESIDENTS OF FIRST PUBLIC HOUSING SITE IN VIRGINIA TO BE PRIVITIZED VIA FEDERAL RAD PROGRAM

Hopewell, Va., October 2, 2017—

            Today, five former public housing residents settled fair housing complaints they filed in Spring of 2017 with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) related to the privatization and redevelopment of their Hopewell, Virginia public housing complex under HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program[i].  The complaints alleged that the local housing authority and the developer discriminated against families with children and against residents with disabilities; pushed some residents out of their homes in violation of their legal right to return to the redeveloped units; and relocated other residents to severely overcrowded housing in poor condition[ii].

            HUD announced in May that it had launched a formal investigation into the complaints filed by residents of the Langston Park public housing complex, which was redeveloped and privatized under the RAD program, and renamed the Summit apartments. Today the complainants signed a conciliation agreement with HUD, Hopewell Redevelopment and Housing Authority (HRHA), and the developer Community Housing Partners (CHP) that requires CHP and HRHA to make widespread changes to policy and compensate specific individuals harmed in the past. These changes and compensation include:

  • Eliminating discriminatory and unwarranted policies at HRHA and CHP;
  • Appointing a fair housing coordinator in perpetuity who will provide resources and contact information for how applicants and residents can file fair housing complaints at HUD;
  • Monitoring of both CHP and HRHA’s future compliance with fair housing laws, by HUD as well as through fair housing testing conducted by an outside expert;
  • Improved procedures by CHP and HRHA for handling requests for reasonable accommodations by people with disabilities;
  • Improved relocation procedures for future RAD projects addressing resident needs proactively from beginning to end;
  • Installation of an age-appropriate playground for older children at the Summit with resident input;
  • Creation of fully funded after-school and summer programs for children at the Summit; and
  • Monetary compensation totaling more than $225,000 for the named complainants and a $112,300 compensation fund for other residents of the property whose fair housing rights were violated based on family status.

Attorneys with the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) and Housing Opportunities Make Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME) filed the complaints on behalf of their clients to prevent further civil rights violations against their clients and other residents who were harmed in the RAD redevelopment process and/or continue to be discriminated against. Housing discrimination is a problem that is not exclusive to Hopewell or Virginia, and Helen Hardiman, vice president of law and policy at HOME says victories can be achieved one step at a time. “Since 1988, the federal Fair Housing Act has prohibited housing discrimination against people because they have a disability or kids. It’s frustrating that this discrimination still exists in our communities, but it is satisfying that we could halt these egregious practices and grant some relief for families and people with disabilities who lived or live at housing managed by HRHA or CHP.”

RAD is often touted as the new frontier of public housing, but advocates are concerned that the program lacks adequate accountability to protect residents’ rights. Lack of HUD oversight and broad program discretion under RAD can lead to situations like Hopewell. According to Kim Rolla, attorney with the Civil Rights and Racial Justice Program at Legal Aid Justice Center, “If HUD doesn’t improve oversight of the RAD program, the Summit could be just the tip of a wave of massive problems as HUD and local housing authorities privatize public housing to finance its redevelopment.” There are currently several dozen 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[iii].)  These ‘public-private partnerships’ are still publicly funded and their purpose is to serve the lowest income community members, not primarily for developers or investors to make money. “We need HUD to monitor these programs and ensure our tax dollars are being used for their intended purpose,” Rolla states.

FHEO Summit Conciliation Agreement (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.

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.

###

[i] BACKGROUND ON RAD
Public Housing across the country is falling apart from years of deferred maintenance and neglect.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) hopes to increasingly attract private dollars to redevelop public housing properties through a program called Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD).  RAD is a “public-private partnership” model for redevelopment. 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.

The Summit at Hopewell was the first RAD conversion in Virginia.  Under the RAD program, Hopewell Redevelopment and Housing Authority (HRHA) transferred management and ownership of Langston Park in 2014 to Community Housing Partners (CHP) who razed the community and then built new apartments on the site, changing the name to the Summit at Hopewell.    

[ii] DETAILS OF ALLEGED ABUSES:
According to the residents’ formal complaint to HUD, CHP illegally discriminated against the families from Langston Park who returned to the Summit after its redevelopment 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 anyone 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 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. Another complaint states that the disabled resident was forced to use a bucket and rag to bathe for almost half a year due to an inaccessible shower, which CHP refused her requests to modify. Such failures to provide accessible accommodations in response to disabled residents’ requests violate the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The frequent moves and unhealthy, crowded conditions of replacement housing offered during the redevelopment process even contributed to complainant Kitty Wade losing custody of her youngest child. “During the redevelopment process they moved my family of six from our five-bedroom apartment in Langston Park into a run-down, two-bedroom apartment with mold problems. That’s when my ex-husband filed for, and eventually got, custody of my baby boy, because of the bad housing conditions and their health effects on my kids,” states Wade. “Then when we moved back into the Summit after the redevelopment, the management had so many rules about what kids couldn’t do that I ended up mostly keeping my kids inside the house all the time. It just felt like they didn’t care about us and didn’t really want families with children there.”

RAD program rules also guarantee all residents the right to return to the redeveloped property. In a complaint submitted to HUD’s Office of Recapitalization, which is in charge of managing the RAD program, multiple families from Langston Park described being pushed out of the community altogether, and not allowed to return to the Summit after its redevelopment. 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 from Langston Park claim they were misinformed and pressured, in violation of RAD program rules, to accept buyout offers to move elsewhere rather than return after redevelopment, apparently because their return to the Summit would limit CHP’s eligibility for tax credit financing.

In a July 17, 2017 letter to HRHA, HUD’s Office of Recapitalization found that HRHA denied four residents their right to return and ordered HRHA to extend an offer to the families immediately to return to the subsidized housing they were forced from. According to Kim Rolla, “residents are the intended beneficiaries of this program and they have a federally guaranteed right to return to the redeveloped property. The denial of this right caused displaced residents extreme financial hardship. Many ended up in unstable housing situations and some even experienced periods of homelessness. The lack of communication and attention to residents’ needs – and outright prioritizing of financing over resident rights and wellbeing – troublingly suggest that they were not a priority in this transaction.”

[iii] List of Approved RAD Conversions in Virginia (PDF) 

Posted by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Rachael Deane
Legal Director, JustChildren Program, Legal Aid Justice Center
804-521-7304 | rachael@justice4all.org

LOCAL ADVOCATE WINS PRESTIGIOUS FELLOWSHIP IN YOUTH JUSTICE
Fellowship Supports Juvenile Justice Reform Advocates of Color

Richmond, Va., September 29, 2017 —Valerie Slater, attorney and RISE for Youth coalition coordinator at the Legal Aid Justice Center, has been has been chosen as a fellow in the Youth Justice Leadership Institute. The Institute is a prestigious national fellowship program for juvenile justice reform advocates run by the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) in Washington, DC. Applications to the year-long leadership development program are competitive, and only ten people are selected each year.

Ms. Slater coordinates the Reinvest in Supportive Environments (RISE) for Youth coalition, a statewide, nonpartisan campaign coalition with the central goal of developing community-based alternatives to youth incarceration.  She is a former staff attorney at the disAbility Law Center of Virginia and a graduate of the University of Richmond School of Law, where she participated in the school’s Children’s Defense and Education Rights clinics.

“Valerie is an exceptional leader who amplifies the voices of youth and communities of color to reform Virginia’s juvenile justice system,” said Rachael Deane, the legal director of the JustChildren program at Legal Aid Justice Center. “This fellowship will enhance the work of the RISE Coalition to demand alternatives to incarcerating youth in Virginia.”

“Youth justice can only be equitable when affected youth and families are a part of shaping what that system of justice looks like,” said Valerie Slater. “Overwhelmingly, impacted youth and families are people of color. I am honored to have this opportunity to grow as a leader as we work to tear down barriers and build opportunities for impacted communities to assert their power to help transform juvenile justice in Virginia.”

Although communities of color are heavily impacted by juvenile justice policy, advocates of color are surprisingly underrepresented in advocacy leadership. The Youth Justice Leadership Institute seeks to address this imbalance by offering fellowships to develop the leadership and advocacy skills of people of color who are in the youth justice field. During the year-long program, Institute fellows increase their knowledge about the juvenile justice system’s structures, reform needs, and effective advocacy and organizing techniques to achieve system change. They are also matched with experienced advocates, who mentor them over the course of the year. 

Photos, videos, and more information about the Institute and previous fellows can be found here: http://bit.ly/uMuJ9q

###

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.

RISE for Youth is a statewide, nonpartisan campaign coalition whose central goal is to develop a continuum of community-based alternatives to incarceration that will keep juvenile justice system involved youth closer to their homes and support networks while making our communities safer.

The National Juvenile Justice Network is composed of coalitions, organizations and alumni of the Youth Justice Leadership Institute across 34 states and the District of Columbia, all of whom advocate for a fairer justice system for children and teens.

Posted by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NATIONAL/VIRGINIA CONTACT:
Angela Ciolfi
Director of Litigation & Advocacy, Legal Aid Justice Center
434-529-1810 | angela@justice4all.org

FOR OTHER STATE CONTACTS SEE BELOW

New Report: Most States Strip Driver’s Licenses for Unpaid Court Debt

 Few states require an examination of a person’s ability to pay,putting millions of low-income Americans at risk of being punished for their poverty

Charlottesville, Va., September 26, 2017—Nearly every state and the District of Columbia have laws permitting, and in many states requiring, the suspension of driver’s licenses for nonpayment of court costs and fines, according to a report released today from the Legal Aid Justice Center.

The report, “Driven by Dollars: A State-By-State Analysis of Driver’s License Suspension Laws for Failure to Pay Court Debt,” finds that:

  • License-for-payment systems are ubiquitous despite widespread consensus that they are counter-productive and harmful.  Forty-three states (and D.C.) suspend driver’s licenses because of unpaid court debt.
  • Most states suspend licenses without any safeguards in place to make sure people are not punished just for being poor. Only 4 states require an ability-to-pay, or “willfulness,” determination before a license can be suspended for nonpayment.
  • 14 states use license suspension, not just for traffic court debt, but also to punish non-payment of criminal justice debt even when the crime bears no relation to motor vehicles.
  • Virtually all states that suspend for unpaid court debt do so indefinitely.  It is not uncommon for people to lose their licenses for many years.

Although nationwide data are unavailable, we know that the individuals whose licenses are currently suspended or revoked for failure to pay court debt number in the millions.  Indeed, just 5 states (Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee) account for over 4.2 million people.

“Driver’s license suspension sets up a vicious cycle. Those who can pay, do. Those who can’t pay, lose their licenses and consequently suffer a never-ending cycle of debt and incarceration, so long as the law forces them to choose between driving illegally and forsaking the needs of their families.” said Angela Ciolfi, Director of Litigation & Advocacy at the Legal Aid Justice Center. “This report confirms what we have been hearing for years. That this is not just a Ferguson problem or a Virginia problem.  This is a national problem that affects millions of people in nearly every state.”

These laws have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, as questions surface about their constitutionality and effectiveness. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) has stated that driver’s license suspension should not be used for punishing social non-conformance, but should instead be limited to taking dangerous drivers off the road.  Similarly, the U.S. Department of Justice has written that such suspensions “raise significant public policy concerns” and that governmental authorities should “avoid suspending driver’s licenses as a debt collection tool, reserving suspension for cases in which it would increase public safety.”

In 2016, the Legal Aid Justice Center filed Stinnie v. Holcomb, a class action challenging Virginia’s automatic suspension statute, and similar challenges have been filed in 4 other states:  California, Tennessee, Michigan, and Montana. The lawsuits contend that automatic license suspension violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses by punishing people for their poverty.

The podcast, Independent Study, recently did an in-depth profile of the Stinnie v. Holcomb lawsuit.  You can download the podcast—complete with interviews of lead Plaintiff Damian Stinnie and Charlottesville/Albemarle jail superintendent Martin Kumer—on SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/wtju/debtors-prison) or on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/independent-study/id1203225942). 

To read more about the lawsuit, go to http://www.justice4all.org/drive.

For a PDF of the report click here.

###

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.

PLEASE CONTACT THE FOLLOWING WITH STATE-SPECIFIC QUESTIONS

 

State Organization Press contact
Alabama  Southern Poverty Law
Center
Ashley Levett
Ashley.levett@splcenter.org
Arkansas

 

Equal Justice Under Law

 

Stephanie Storey
818-694-6450
stephanie@equaljusticeunderlaw.org
California Bay Area Legal Aid

 

ACLU of Northern California

Rubicon Programs

Rebekah Evenson
(510) 250-5226
REvenson@baylegal.orgMicaela Davis
mdavis@aclunc.orgJonathan Bash
jonathanb@rubiconprograms.org
Colorado American Civil Liberties Union — Colorado Denise Maes
720-402-3121 or 720-273-7543
dmaes@aclu-co.org
  
District of Columbia Tzedek DC Sarah Hollender
(202) 274-5756
sh@tzedekdc.org 
Florida American Civil Liberties Union — Florida Benjamin Stevenson
bstevenson@aclufl.org
  
Idaho Idaho Legal Aid Services Howard Belodoff
howardbelodoff@idaholegalaid.org
  
Illinois Chicago Appleseed Aditi Singh
aditisingh@chicagoappleseed.org
  
Indiana Indiana Legal Services, Inc. Adam Mueller
317-829-3174
adam.mueller@ilsi.net
  
Iowa Iowa Legal Aid Alex Kornya
515-243-1193
akornya@iowalaw.org
  
Kansas Kansas Appleseed Benet Magnuson bmagnuson@kansasappleseed.org
  
Louisiana Southern Poverty Law Center Ashley Levett
Ashley.levett@splcenter.org
  
Maryland Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service Amy P. Hennen
ahennen@mvlslaw.org
  
Michigan Equal Justice Under Law Stephanie Storey
818-694-6450
stephanie@equaljusticeunderlaw.org
  
Mississippi Southern Poverty Law Center Ashley Levett
Ashley.levett@splcenter.org
  
Montana Equal Justice Under Law Stephanie Storey
818-694-6450
stephanie@equaljusticeunderlaw.org
  
New Hampshire New Hampshire Legal Assistance Cheryl Steinberg
csteinberg@nhla.org
  
New Jersey New Jersey Institute for Social Justice Scott Novakowski
973-624-9400 x30Andrea McChristian
973-624-9400 x35
  
North Carolina North Carolina Justice Center Daniel Bowes
danielb@ncjustice.org
  
Ohio American Civil Liberties Union — Ohio Mike Brickner
mbrickner@acluohio.orgElizabeth Bonham
ebonham@acluohio.org
   
Pennsylvania Equal Justice Under Law Stephanie Storey
818-694-6450
stephanie@equaljusticeunderlaw.org
  
Rhode Island Rhode Island Center for Justice John Willumsen-Friedman
jwillumsen@centerforjustice.org
  
Tennessee Just City

  
National Center for Law & Economic Justice
  

Civil Rights Corps
  
Baker Donelson

Just City: Josh Spickler, 901-216-2024, josh@justcity.org

NCLEJ: Claudia Wilner, 212-633-6967, wilner@nclej.org

Civil Rights Corps: Premal Dharia, 202-780-7594, premal@civilrightscorps.org

Baker Donelson: Matt White, 901-577-8182, mwhite@bakerdonelson.com

Texas Texas Appleseed Mary Schmid Mergler
mmergler@texasappleseed.net
  
Virginia Legal Aid Justice Center Angela Ciolfi
434-529-1810
angela@justice4all.org
  
Washington Equal Justice Under Law Stephanie Storey
818-694-6450
stephanie@equaljusticeunderlaw.org

 

Posted by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information contact:
Brenda Castañeda, Esq.
Legal Aid Justice Center
434-529-1849
brenda@justice4all.org

 WOMEN AT FLUVANNA PRISON FILE CONTEMPT MOTION ALLEGING VDOC CONTINUES TO FAIL TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE MEDICAL CARE 

Charlottesville, Va., September 6, 2017—

             Women incarcerated at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW) filed a motion for contempt in the Federal District Court in Charlottesville on Wednesday, asking the court to enforce a class action Settlement Agreement decided upon last year.  The agreement, approved by Judge Norman K. Moon on February 5, 2016, requires supervision of the medical care systems at the prison by an independent Compliance Monitor for at least three years.  The women charge that FCCW continues to fail to provide constitutionally adequate medical care in violation of the agreement. 

            The women, represented by lawyers at Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), Wiley Rein LLP, and The Washington Lawyers’ Committee (WLC), contend that the Monitor’s reports reflect a disturbing, continuing resistance by the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) to implement needed changes to the medical care system at FCCW. Given this resistance, counsel for the women believe court intervention is necessary to protect their clients’ lives. The severe harms the women describe include continued deterioration of treatable illnesses, continued suffering attributable to severe chronic pain, and unnecessary exposure to preventable conditions, and in some instances, preventable death. It is these severe harms that warrant strong sanctions to compel VDOC to provide constitutional care.

            In their motion, the women recount the horrific results of VDOC and FCCW’s failure to provide adequate care.  A woman with Stage IV melanoma cancer was left to suffer debilitating, painful side effects from immunotherapy after a prison doctor said she simply had a sinus infection and ordered a nasal spray.  By the time FCCW rushed her to UVA Medical Center, she was septic.  Another woman, Sherry Richburg, recounts how FCCW failed to adequately treat a fungal infection in her leg resulting from an earlier surgery.  As a result, and since her release, Ms. Richburg’s leg has been amputated up to her hip.  Ms. Richburg says, “Not only was I punished for my crime, I was punished a second time when FCCW denied me critical medical care.”

            “Although we were hopeful that VDOC would create meaningful change to the health care system at Fluvanna prison after the Settlement, we are disturbed to learn of continued severe suffering the prisoners experience,” Ted Howard, an attorney from Wiley Rein for the Plaintiffs in the case, said. “VDOC continues to fall far short on its legal obligations to provide adequate health care to the women at FCCW.  As a result, we are filing this Court action to protect our clients’ rights and their health.”

            Brenda Castañeda of Legal Aid Justice Center added, “It’s outrageous that we continue to hear about VDOC’s neglect and mismanagement from the women at FCCW. Virginia spends over a billion dollars[1] a year on DOC expenditures, yet the health and well-being of the tens of thousands of women and men the state chooses to lock away is still under threat. It’s well past time for Virginia to consider whether it should continue to imprison so many of its residents, if in doing so, the state cannot comply with the constitutional mandate to provide them with adequate medical care.”

            The women of Fluvanna request the Court find that VDOC disobeyed the court and order VDOC and medical staff at FCCW to abide by the Settlement terms requiring improvements to medical care. In addition, the women are requesting that the Judge sanction the Defendants by ordering VDOC to pay monetary fines and that Defendants be ordered to submit a comprehensive report on how they will meet their obligations under the Settlement Agreement.

Memorandum in support of plaintiff’s motion to show cause (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.

About Wiley Rein
Founded in 1983, Wiley Rein is a dominant presence in the nation’s capital. With 240 lawyers, the firm has earned international prominence by representing clients in complex, high-stakes regulatory, litigation, and transactional matters. Many of Wiley Rein’s lawyers and public policy advisors have held high-level positions in the White House and federal agencies and on Capitol Hill. The firm represents a wide range of clients—from Fortune 500 corporations to trade associations to individuals—in virtually all industries. Wiley Rein also provides significant pro bono legal services and charitable contributions to the local community every year.

About The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
From its inception in 1968, the mission of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs has been to mobilize the resources of the private bar to address issues of civil rights violations and poverty in our community. The Washington Lawyers’ Committee provides pro bono representation in a broad range of civil rights and related poverty issues impacting every group protected by our federal, state and local civil rights laws.

###

 

Follow Legal Aid Justice Center on Twitter @LegalAidJustice and find us on Facebook.
www.justice4all.org

[1] http://www.sentencingproject.org/the-facts/#map

Posted by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg
Legal Director, Immigrant Advocacy Program
703-720-5605 / simon@justice4all.org 

LAJC calls for assistance to help eligible Virginians file DACA renewals by October 5th.

Legal Aid Justice Center is saddened and angered by the President’s decision today to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  This decision was entirely unneccessary, as DACA’s legality and constitutionality were never seriously in doubt.  To the contrary — as Attorney General Jeff Sessions made clear in his remarks by tying the cancellation of DACA to the proposed RAISE Act — today’s decision is part of the administration’s overall efforts to reduce legal immigration to the United States, which in turn reflects a racist hostility to this nation’s increasing diversity.

When Virginia immigrant families suffer, our whole Commonwealth suffers. DACA was the ultimate “hand-up instead of a hand-out,” enabling families to lift themselves out of poverty through education and employment. Out of the 12,134 DACA recipients in Virginia, an estimated 10,557 are contributing members of the labor force, and 1,280 of them were enrolled at Virginia public colleges and universities last year.  Many have now graduated from college and are fueling our tech and hospitality industries statewide. Now, the President’s cancellation of DACA will cost Virginia taxpayers more than $711.4 million annually in lost GDP, lead to more detentions and deportations of beloved members of our community, and further marginalize communities that already live in fear.

DREAMers, DACA students, immigrant youth and their families are our neighbors, peers, colleagues, community leaders and friends. They are Americans in every way but on paper, and they are part of what makes America great. Now more than ever, it is clear that this President’s deportation machine indiscriminately targets all immigrants, regardless of their strong ties to the community or lack of a criminal record. Virginia cities and counties, our sheriffs and police and prosecutors, need to get out of the business of helping ICE enforce immigration laws. Our local elected officials and law enforcement officers should not play any part in a system that unfairly targets immigrant children who were brought here at young ages, and then uproots them from their communities to deport them back to countries that they hardly remember.

Legal Aid Justice Center has long demonstrated our commitment to Virginia’s DREAMers. We have marched in the streets and lobbied the halls of Congress and the General Assembly seeking legal protection and equal access to education for immigrant students. When DACA was enacted, we held countless workshops to educate the community about their rights under this new program, and helped hundreds of individuals sign up, including handling some of the most difficult cases. And when DACA students could not obtain in-state tuition at Virginia colleges and universities, we filed a lawsuit that ultimately helped pressure the Attorney General’s office to issue an opinion opening the college doors to DACA students.

Our commitment to Virginia’s immigrant youth and their families remains unwavering. We will help those individuals still eligible to renew their DACA with workshops, clinics and videos. We will help individual DACA clients to find other avenues to legal status where possible, and defend them if the federal government seeks to put them in deportation proceedings. And we will continue to advocate for state laws and policies, such as in-state tuition and drivers’ licenses, that seek to mitigate the harm done by the President today.

ACTION ITEM: As the administration announced today, some one-quarter of DACA recipients—about 2,700 people statewide in Virginia, and nearly 200,000 people nationwide—have only one month in which to file their final renewal application. We need your support to meet this pressing demand. If you are able to volunteer at one of our offices in Falls Church, Richmond or Charlottesville, please e-mail novaintern@justice4all.org. Or, if you are able to donate, please click here.  

About Legal Aid Justice Center:
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out the inequities that keep people in poverty through litigation, policy advocacy, and community organizing. LAJC’s Immigration Advocacy Program supports low-income immigrants in their efforts to find justice and fair treatment. 

What DACA recipients need to know about today's announcement:

What DACA recipients need to know about today's announcement:

Posted by Legal Aid Justice Center on Tuesday, September 5, 2017

 

Posted by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg
Legal Director, Immigrant Advocacy Program
703-720-5605 / simon@justice4all.org 

On Wednesday, the Legal Aid Justice Center, together with the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP, filed a lawsuit on behalf of two men of Latino race and ethnicity against federal immigration agents over a practice known as collateral arrests that makes up an important part of the Trump Administration’s immigration enforcement practices.  To our knowledge, the case is the first in the nation challenging these practices since Trump was elected. 

According to the lawsuit, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents violated the constitutional rights of two men who are accused of being in the country illegally, but have been otherwise law-abiding, by detaining them without reasonable suspicion.

“ICE agents go out into the field looking for a person,” notes Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director of LAJC’s Immigration Advocacy Program. “They don’t find them so they basically arrest some other person that they do find instead. They call it collateral arrests.  We call it racial profiling.”  

ICE Arrests in Annandale, Virginia

At 6:30 am on February 17th, 2017, four laborers climbed into a car to head to work when a black SUV suddenly pulled behind them, blocking them in.  Armed ICE agents hopped out of the SUV and surrounded the car, barking orders in English and frightening the workers. The ICE agents claimed to be looking for two brothers who were in their 20’s, all of the occupants of the car were in their 40’s or 50’s, and shared nothing in common with the brothers other than their Latino race. When the ICE agents quickly realized that the brothers were not in the car, instead of continuing to look for the brothers, they turned their efforts towards arresting the occupants of the car.

This arrest took place in Fairmont Gardens, one of the largest low-income apartment complexes in Annandale, Virginia, with an almost entirely Latino tenant population. In February and March of this year, ICE raided apartments in Fairmont Gardens on at least five occasions, far more than any other apartment complex of comparable size in the Washington, D.C. metro area. LAJC has a long history of working with tenants and day laborers in this apartment complex, representing them in matters such as wage theft, eviction defense, and consumer protection; for nearly a decade, we have held a twice-monthly community meeting and food-bank distribution at the complex. For this reason, residents of Fairmont Gardens knew that they could trust LAJC to defend them when ICE came knocking on their doors.

Since President Trump took office, the number of ICE arrests of individuals without any criminal record has more than doubled. Many of these take the form of what ICE calls collateral arrests, or arrests of people who were never on any target list or the subject of any investigation but rather had the bad luck to find themselves standing at the wrong place at the wrong time. (LAJC already represents 13 people who were the victims of such collateral arrests since January 20.) These collateral arrests often violate the constitution, especially Fourth Amendment prohibitions against illegal search and seizure and Fifth Amendment prohibitions against racial profiling arrests–exactly what LAJC contends happened in this case.

Contrary to the heated anti-immigration rhetoric of President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, these indiscriminate arrests do not make communities safer. Rather, they inflict collateral damage that make communities less safe by ripping families apart and engendering fear. Current ICE policy creates distrust between our immigrant communities and all government officials. It decreases the chance that someone in need of assistance will reach out for help, thereby putting the most vulnerable among us in even more danger and leaving them with fewer resources: for example, one county in Northern Virginia reports that their domestic violence hotline has seen a 30% decrease calls by speakers languages other than English. We hope that this lawsuit, and others like it, will help empower our immigrant communities and ensure that their constitutional rights are protected.

Read the Legal Complaint (pdf)

Media:

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Lawsuit-Claims-Racial-Profiling-in-ICE-Arrests_Washington-DC-441573393.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/immigrant-group-in-va-sues-ice-over-collateral-arrests-it-calls-unconstitutional/2017/08/23/a99d5f40-8834-11e7-a94f-3139abce39f5_story.html?utm_term=.3a9bd4c10b33

About Legal Aid Justice Center:
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out the inequities that keep people in poverty through litigation, policy advocacy, and community organizing. LAJC’s Immigration Advocacy Program supports low-income immigrants in their efforts to find justice and fair treatment. 

 

Posted by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Tim Wallace
Director of Development
434-529-1853 | twallace@justice4all.org

LAJC Sends Letter on Behalf of PHAR Urging Open Investigation, Better Emergency Planning,  and Investment in Communities of Color

Charlottesville, Va., August 23, 2017—

In a letter dated August 22, 2017, written on behalf of the Public Housing Association of Residents (“PHAR”), the Legal Aid Justice Center (“LAJC”) called upon the Charlottesville City Council, City Manager Maurice Jones and Police Chief Al Thomas to embrace an open and transparent investigation of police practices related to both July 8 and the weekend of August 12.  

They ask that the investigation be deeply informed by the affected residents and undertaken in a spirit of openness, not defensiveness, to ask the many pressing questions about what went wrong including:

  • Did the City order law enforcement, including the Virginia State Police and National Guard, to stand down in the face of violence?  Did someone else issue such an order? If no order was given, why did law enforcement officers stand down?
  • What contingency plans did the city prepare prior to this weekend’s events in relation to protecting the families in subsidized housing properties in the City? 
  • What safety plans were created related to the weekend of August 12 to protect the most vulnerable members of our community?

LAJC’s letter calls upon the City to: commit to this investigation; improve its emergency planning as it relates to the low-income community; and take concrete steps to eradicate institutional racism in this community. 

To read the letter, 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 the inequities that keep people in poverty through litigation, policy advocacy, and community organizing.   LAJC’s Civil Rights and Racial Justice Program works to end the criminalization of poverty in Virginia by exposing and addressing the connections among policing, poverty, race, and injustice.

                                                                        ###

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

Posted by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Tim Wallace, 434-529-1853, twallace@justice4all.org
               
Adeola Ogunkeyede, 804-340-7728, adeola@justice4all.org

 A Statement from the Legal Aid Justice Center

Charlottesville, Va., August 17, 2017—

Our community, Charlottesville, has been devastated by the attacks carried out in our town this past weekend by people attending the “Unite the Right” rally.  We grieve the tragic loss of Heather Heyer, Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates, and our hearts go out to those injured while speaking out against racism and hate.

While last Friday and Saturday were terrible for all of us, we know it was particularly terrifying for our black, brown, Muslim, Jewish, and LGBT residents who were specifically targeted for violence and intimidation by white supremacists, whose ideology has historically called for their oppression. If there is any silver lining to the events of this weekend, it is that people of all backgrounds, faiths, and identities– from Charlottesville and beyond–came out by the thousands to stand in emotional and physical solidarity with their neighbors and friends to denounce white supremacy and all forms of bigotry. 

However, disappointingly, the law enforcement response to the events of this past weekend appeared in stark contrast to the community’s show of support.  At both Friday night’s terror-inducing torch march through the University of Virginia and Saturday’s events throughout the City, the police demonstrated a shocking indifference to the safety of those they are sworn to protect.  We know this from our own staff, client, and community reports and from extensive news coverage.  We understand that the weekend presented enormous challenges for law enforcement.  But we also know that white supremacists repeatedly brutalized anti-racist community members and other counter demonstrators while law enforcement looked on and failed to intervene.  

We have a duty now to ask the question: why? Why did the police refuse to intervene in incident after incident?  Were there orders to stand down? 

Sadly, the failure of law enforcement to appropriately calibrate its response to the particular detriment of communities of color and other marginalized populations is not new to Charlottesville or to the nation. So, while we join with every person of conscience in condemning the overt embrace of white supremacy exemplified by those attending the Unite the Right rally, we also need to question the covert ways our systems and institutions, and their leaders, allow white supremacy to flourish and go unchecked.  And where found in our own community, we must condemn it.

When our town became a national target for white supremacist violence on August 11th and 12th, it laid bare for all to see what our clients and communities of color here already knew: the structures and systems meant to protect the people of Charlottesville cannot be relied on to protect them.  The first step towards healing our community is acknowledging this old and hard truth. Only then can we begin the difficult work of accountability and reconciliation.

Over the next weeks and months, LAJC will ask the difficult questions to ensure that all facets of our government including law enforcement are held accountable for their actions, and will insist that this community take steps to ensure that all members are protected in a fair and equitable manner.

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out the inequities that keep people in poverty through litigation, policy advocacy, and community organizing.   LAJC’s Civil Rights and Racial Justice Program works to end the criminalization of poverty in Virginia by exposing and addressing the connections among policing, poverty, race, and injustice.

###

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