All four of the Barbara McDowell Foundation's 2021 grantees were contacted in April in accordance with the Foundation’s requirements and reported with respect to the progress of their case through the second quarter of their grant cycle. A summary of each grantee’s report can be found below, along with a link to each grantee’s full report.
In addition to reporting on their progress, each grantee also submitted second quarter time sheets for their case work. The average dollar value in attorney time spent by each grantee on their respective case for the second quarter was $23,430. For the first two quarters combined, the average dollar value in attorney time was $73,248.
All four grantees are on course to have spent attorney time for the grant year in excess of their grant amount of $40,000.
In 2019, grantee Asian Americans Advancing Justice - AAJC and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s plan to collect and provide incomplete citizenship data to the states for purposes of redistricting as an unconstitutional and racially discriminatory scheme intended to deprive Latinos, Asians, and non-citizens of equal representation.
As a result of this case, and those brought by other organizations, there have been some promising developments, including President Biden's Executive Order rescinding both the previous Administration’s Executive Order regarding “Collecting Information About Citizenship Status in Connection With the Decennial Census” and the Trump Presidential Memorandum “Excluding Illegal Aliens From the Apportionment Base Following the 2020 Census”. Further, the Post-2020 Census Citizen Voting Age Population by Race and Ethnicity (CVAP) Special Tabulation which would have been required if the previous administration’s census related policies had stayed in place has been cancelled.
Considering these developments and assurances that Defendants (the current Presidential administration) are taking appropriate measures during post data collection processing to ensure data quality of the census count, AAJC and its partners determined the best course was to dismiss the case without prejudice. This means that if something goes wrong, the plaintiffs can investigate re-filing and holding the Defendants accountable.
As all New Yorkers deserve to vote safely and independently, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Disability Rights New York (DRNY) led a coalition of disability right groups in filing a lawsuit against the New York State Board of Elections (“NYS BOE”) for excluding New Yorkers with disabilities in their Absentee Ballot program which was expanded in response to COVID-19. The lawsuit charges the NYS BOE with discrimination against voters who are unable to independently and privately mark a paper ballot due to print disabilities, including blindness and low vision, or physical disabilities such as paralysis, dystonia, and tremors.
Initially, in June, the federal court approved an agreement between parties that provided voters with print disabilities a more accessible absentee ballot for the June Primary Election. However, this system proved problematic, so Plaintiffs sought a more functional system in advance of the November General Election, which defendants agreed to provide. The judge accepted this relief leading to settlement discussions which should be finalized over the next few months.
In 2019, Gender Justice filed a complaint on behalf of Andrea Anderson, who was denied service by pharmacists at not one, but two pharmacies in rural Minnesota – the McGregor Thrifty White and Aitkin CVS – when she sought to fill a prescription for emergency contraception (ella) in January 2019, forcing her to drive over 100 miles in a blizzard conditions to obtain time-sensitive medication.
Andrea’s story highlights the particular struggle that rural women face with regards to health care access; a religious refusal at one pharmacy could be the difference between Anderson - and rural women like her across the state and country – getting her medication or going without.
In September and October 2020, Gender Justice attorneys deposed all non-expert witnesses for our case, including each of the pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy owners Andrea interacted with while attempting to fill her prescription. Gender Justice learned that the Thrifty White pharmacist has previously denied emergency contraception to other women. In one situation, he not only refused to dispense the medication, he also confronted the young woman in the pharmacy aisle, causing her to cry.
Following depositions, Gender Justice filed for affirmative summary judgment arguing that denial of contraception is per se sex discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. This is not a factual dispute – all parties recognize that Andrea was unable to obtain the medication she needed. Gender Justice is now awaiting a decision from the judge on the question: did what happened to their client violate the Minnesota Human Rights Act or not?
Gender Justice also completed briefings in response to CVS and Thrifty White’s summary judgment requests. In their summary judgements, both CVS and Thrifty White claimed that none of their pharmacists took issue with birth control, they were simply out of supply and that the events were misinterpreted by the client as a motivated refusal. Their request is that a jury hear the case and decide the factual disputes. The judge will issue a ruling on their motions by early June.
According to Gender Justice, support from the Foundation has been crucial to their progress on the case, making it financially feasible, especially as they do not have co-counsel from the private bar for this case. Additionally, the Foundation’s support helped provide the needed preparation and support of their client and her therapist as they were both deposed by opposing counsel.
Lucas R. v. Azar is a federal class action lawsuit filed in 2018 on behalf of unaccompanied migrant children and youth by National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) and co-counsel. Plaintiffs allege that the Office for Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a program operated by the Administration of Children and Families (ACF), violates the legally protected rights of children in ORR custody. Lucas R. seeks to enforce constitutional protections for unaccompanied children in federal custody.
During the second quarter of the grant period, the Lucas R. team spent significant time working toward a resolution of the case for all five certified classes. In December 2020, the Court gave Plaintiffs a favorable tentative ruling on their motions for summary adjudication of the claim related to children placed in restrictive settings and the claim related to children who are not released to qualified sponsors. Although the tentative ruling is applicable to two of their five claims, the parties are attempting to negotiate a settlement of all five claims for efficiency and because the Court has expressed, through her tentative ruling, a clear interest in providing additional procedural protections to the class members.
Since January 2021, Plaintiffs have met with the government over the course of dozens of hours to negotiate the terms of a settlement and have spent many hours drafting and editing proposed settlement agreements and researching various issues that have arisen over the course of negotiations. The parties will continue to work toward a resolution of the case however, if they are unable to reach agreement, NCYL will ask the Court to enter rulings on the three claims that are the subject of the motions for summary adjudication and will prepare for trial (set for October 2021) of the two remaining claims.
NCYL is unable to share further details about the case at this time, as much of their progress to this point has happened under confidential settlement negotiations.