Our Grants For 2014

The Board met during September 2013 to discuss grant applications. As a result of that discussion, the Board made the following grants to six worthy organizations.

Click on each Grantee’s name below to read about their organization and the case for which they received funding, and to view their six-month report, year-end report, and case update.

Bet Tzedek Legal Services

For nearly 40 years, Bet Tzedek has championed the needs of low-income individuals and families in Los Angeles County by providing high-quality, free legal services, including impact litigation, direct representation and education. In addition to expertise in housing, elder law, debt and bankruptcy matters, our innovative programs include:

Founded by a small, passionate group of lawyers, rabbis and others as a volunteer program in 1974, Bet Tzedek now has a staff of 65 (including 30 attorneys) and hundreds of pro bono attorneys, law student interns, and other volunteers who work together to assist 15,000 low-income people in Southern California every year. Bet Tzedek's mission is based on a central tenet of Jewish law and tradition, "Tzedek, Tzedek tirdof- 'Justice, justice you shall pursue,"' and we pursue justice on behalf of clients from all walks of life - regardless of racial, religious, or ethnic background.

THE CASE: On behalf of thousands of tenants living in slum properties in central California, Bet Tzedek is preparing to file a groundbreaking class action suit seeking injunctive relief against a large regional landlord. The landlord targets low-income, vulnerable tenants by offering cheap rent, purportedly without a lot of interference from the property manager. In reality, the properties are neglected slums. Requests for repairs go unanswered for months, even years, and those making the requests face retaliation. The case is intended to force a change in the property manager's business model and to protect thousands of tenants in the region and beyond.

Contact: Kirsty Burkhart, Grants & Communications Officer, Bet Tzedek, 3250 Wilshire Blvd., 13th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90010

Florida Institutional Legal Services Project

The Florida Institutional Legal Services Project (FILS) is a branch of Florida Legal Services. FILS has been providing civil legal assistance to indigent people in state custody for over 30 years. FILS is the only statewide program in Florida dedicated to serving the institutionalized. In the face of dramatically diminishing resources for legal services on behalf of prisoners, FILS focuses its courtroom advocacy on impact litigation that maximizes the effect of our work. FILS also provides direct legal services to formerly institutionalized individuals to help end the cycle of recidivism through successful re-entry into the community. Over the past decade, FILS has increasingly used our advocacy to reduce and prevent the institutionalization of vulnerable populations, including, for example, children and the developmentally disabled.

THE CASE: Through intensive investigation and outreach, FILS has discovered that the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) is locking its most severely mentally ill inmates in their cells for 23-24 hours per day. These inmates, despite having been identified by the FDOC as the sickest patients in the state prison system, are confined in mental health units for treatment of their acute mental illnesses. Instead of receiving treatment in a therapeutic milieu, these inmates are being “managed” through the use of solitary confinement and restricted privileges with disastrous results. All credible experts agree that when inmates are at their sickest, they need the most out-of-cell time, privileges, visitation with family, and treatment activities to help stabilize them. The FDOC’s approach is counterproductive and unconstitutional. FILS will use the grant funds to complete its investigation and pursue litigation to correct these unconstitutional policies and practices.

Contact: Christopher Jones, Director, Florida Institutional Legal Services Project, 14260 W. Newberry Rd. #412, Newberry, FL 32669.

Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center

Since its founding more than 30 years ago, NIJC has demonstrated an exceptional track record in protecting human rights and access to justice for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. With a staff of 17 attorneys and an unparalleled network of more than 1,000 pro bono attorneys from prominent law firms and corporate legal departments, NIJC has built a national reputation for litigation expertise. Together, we identify structural barriers to justice and work to end egregious abuses in the immigration enforcement and detention systems through direct representation, federal impact litigation, strategic communications, alliance-building, and administrative and legislative reform. As the preeminent source for expert information and analysis on immigration, NIJC’s work is featured in media outlets including The New York TimesLos Angeles Times, and CNN.

NIJC and its pro bono network help more than 10,000 individuals annually. Projects include: Defenders Initiative; Detention, Democracy & Due Process Project; Asylum Project; Gender Justice Initiative; Immigrant Children’s Protection Project; Immigrant Legal Defense Project; and the LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative.

Among its achievements over the past year, NIJC:

THE CASE: Immigration detainers are the lynchpin of ICE’s interior enforcement strategy. The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses detainers to instruct state and local law enforcement (LEA) to keep an individual in custody for up to 48 hours to permit ICE to assume custody. Individuals held by local LEAs are commonly identified for possible removal through fingerprint sharing via the Secure Communities program. These collaborative practices between federal immigration authorities and LEAs trap and isolate thousands of individuals in the immigration detention system, many of whom were identified through routine traffic stops. Yet no policies or procedures exist to ensure the protection of fundamental due process rights. Immigrants who find themselves caught in the immigration detention and deportation pipeline, often as a result of questionable enforcement practices, have no right to court-appointed counsel. This dangerous cooperation relies on and increases racial profiling, which results in the illegal detention of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs). To combat this abuse of power, NIJC filed a class action lawsuit, Jimenez Moreno v. Napolitano, 11-cv-5452 (N.D.Ill.), to challenge the legality of ICE’s use of immigration detainers. Both of the named plaintiffs, Jose Jimenez Moreno, a U.S. citizen, and Maria Jose Lopez, an LPR, were unlawfully subjected to immigration detainers. NIJC defeated DHS’s attempt to dismiss the litigation, conducted extensive discovery, and is currently seeking class certification.

Contact: Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, National Immigrant Justice Center, 208 S. LaSalle Street, Suite 1818, Chicago, IL 60604

Legal Aid Justice Center

Founded in 1967, the Legal Aid Justice Center (www.justice4all.org) provides civil legal assistance to low-income families and individuals in Virginia with a special focus on vulnerable populations, including children, immigrants, the elderly, and the institutionalized. Our mission is to seek equal justice for all by solving clients’ legal problems, strengthening the voices of low-income communities, and rooting out the inequities that keep people in poverty. Our Virginia Institutionalized Persons (VIP) Project aims to improve conditions and protect the basic human rights of everyone living in the commonwealth’s institutional facilities, including prisons, jails and mental health hospitals.

THE CASE: Every day the 1,200 women prisoners at Virginia’s largest and most secure women’s prison receive no health care for serious conditions or receive abysmally sub-standard care. On July 24, 2012, we, along with Wiley Rein LLP of Washington, D.C. and the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of five women prisoners incarcerated in the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women. The lawsuit, titled Scott v. Clarke, and filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, challenges the Virginia Department of Corrections, and the company they contract with to provide health services, for failing to provide constitutionally adequate medical care. Our complaint demonstrates that the medical care provided is so deficient that it violates the Eighth Amendment.

Contact: Mary Bauer, Director of Advocacy, Legal Aid Justice Center, 1000 Preston Avenue, Suite A, Charlottesville, VA 22903

National Advocates for Pregnant Women

In 2001, National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) became an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit advocacy and education organization. NAPW works to secure the human and civil rights, health, and welfare of all women, focusing particularly on pregnant and parenting women, and those who are most vulnerable to state control and punishment—low income women, women of color, and drug-using women. Each year, more than 6 million U.S. women become pregnant. Of those, approximately 1 million have an abortion, approximately 1 million experience pregnancy loss, and 4 million carry to term. Using a proven strategy that combines legal advocacy, public education, and local and national organizing, NAPW is dedicated to advancing Reproductive Justice and ensuring that no woman loses her civil and human rights upon becoming pregnant.

THE CASE: In January 2013, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a radical ruling in Ex Parte Hope Elisabeth Ankrom, No. 1110176, 2013 WL 135748 (Ala. Jan. 11, 2013), transforming Alabama’s 2006 Chemical Endangerment of a Child statute into a mechanism for punishing women who become pregnant and use any amount of a controlled substance—whether prescribed or unprescribed. The ruling also makes doctors who prescribe controlled substances to pregnant women subject to criminal penalties under the law. See Your Epidural is Against the Law: What Alabama Women and Doctors Need to Know. In this case, the Alabama Supreme Court considered a statute that was originally passed to punish adults who bring children to dangerous environments where drugs are manufactured or distributed. As written, this statute does not address pregnant women or pregnancy. In fact, on four separate occasions, the legislature refused to amend the law to make it applicable to pregnant women who use drugs. Nevertheless, since 2006, prosecutors have used the law almost exclusively to arrest women who become pregnant, use a controlled substance, and carry their pregnancies to term. Overwhelmingly, these women give birth to healthy babies. NAPW became involved in efforts to help challenge these prosecutions, providing local defense lawyers with model briefs and arguments for dismissing the charges against pregnant women and helping to file appeals when these motions were denied. With the Drug Policy Alliance and Southern Poverty Law Center, NAPW represented more than 50 medical and health advocacy groups and experts as amicus in the state Court of Appeals and State Supreme Court.

Ignoring the plain language of the statute and its clear legislative history, the State Supreme Court held that the plain meaning of the word “child” in the statute, and more generally in Alabama law, includes fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses. As a result of this purported plain meaning interpretation of the word child, the statute now makes it the crime of chemical endangerment for a woman to become pregnant and use any controlled substance.

NAPW, with the pro-bono assistance of O’Melveny & Meyers, LLP (OMM), and the support of the NYU Law Reproductive Justice Clinic (NYU RJC), is developing an affirmative civil rights suit to challenge the constitutionality of Alabama’s Chemical Endangerment of a Child statute as judicially rewritten by the Alabama Supreme Court. More than 95 low-income women in Alabama who have had their medical privacy, right to physical liberty, and reproductive rights (among others) violated have already been arrested as a result of this law. Pregnant women in Alabama who receive medically recommended methadone treatment, opiates for pain relief, a controlled substance in preparation for an abortion, or an epidural during labor and delivery all could be subject to arrest under this law—as could their doctors. This law makes every fertile woman responsible for knowing at all times if she is pregnant because, at that moment, her use of any controlled substance would become punishable as “chemical endangerment of a child.” And finally, if it is correct that the word “child” in Alabama law includes fertilized eggs, then every law using that word could be used as a mechanism for subjecting women from the moment they become pregnant to state surveillance, control, and punishment.

Contact: Lynn M. Paltrow, Founder and Executive Director, 15 West 36th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10018

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest is a nonprofit civil rights law firm whose mission is to advance equality and civil rights, with a focus on health justice, disability rights and environmental justice, through the power of community lawyering and partnerships with the private bar. Created in 1976 to address previously unmet legal needs, NYLPI combines a pro bono clearinghouse with an in-house practice that blends innovative lawyering, community organizing, and advocacy. NYLPI’s close working relationship with our almost 80 member firms enables us to leverage the tremendous resources of the private bar in order to have the most impact on the lives of our clients and New York’s nonprofit community.

THE CASE: Funding from The Barbara McDowell and Gerald S. Hartman Foundation will support litigation to protect the health of New York City school children, particularly in low-income communities of color, by ensuring that all public schools are free from unsafe toxic contamination.

Contact: McGregor Smyth – Executive Director

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