Hi Lucy,,

With the excitement of July’s 40th Anniversary Gala still fresh, our work in August continued with renewed energy. This month we joined forces with allies to advocate for public safety legislation in California, saw two important legal cases move forward, and celebrated a significant Clean Water Act victory. We also announced a major policy position regarding the Supreme Court. Throughout the month, we were able to share our work with new and larger audiences via successful media outreach efforts, including op-eds in The Hill and Daily Kos.  

Thank you to everyone who helps us amplify and advance these critical causes. 

Thank you from all of us,
The Public Justice Team

Congress Needs To Modernize the Supreme Court and Bring It Into the 21st Century

On August 23, our Executive Director Paul Bland authored an op-ed for The Hill, announcing our position that the Supreme Court needs to be reformed. Our view is that the nation’s highest court has veered off the rails in troubling and extreme ways. 

That’s why we at Public Justice are calling on Congress to take action. The Court should be expanded to 13 justices, and 18-year term limits should be implemented. 

As an organization that regularly advocates and appears before the Court, we do not take this position lightly. But we believe it is necessary to rebuild faith in the judiciary and protect democracy in our country.

Read our op-ed in The Hill

Clean Water Act Victory in Alabama

Earlier this year we joined the Southern Environmental Law Center and Black Warrior Riverkeeper to conclude our major Clean Water Act (CWA) citizen lawsuit against mining operation Drummond Company.

An abandoned coal mine on Drummond’s land was left unattended for years, leaking heavy metals and other toxic material into the Black Warrior River. The court found that the contaminated site’s surface and groundwater discharges to the river were in violation of the CWA. The groundwater decision in this case was significant because it is the first decision to successfully apply the recent Supreme Court ruling extending the CWA’s protections to groundwater discharges.

We are thrilled to report that the Consent Decree was approved on August 10, 2022. Under this order, Drummond must:

  • Clean up the contaminated site and remove acidic discharges, which include heavy metals and sediments;
  • Support ongoing cleanup and maintenance of the site for the next 30 years;
  • Provide $1 million for a Supplemental Environmental Project to address the harms of its past pollution on the entire Locust Fork watershed.

Last week, the Riverkeeper Alliance added this case to its list of 50 key victories for the Clean Water Act!

Read the Consent Decree

Ohio State University Abuse Case

Appealed in the Sixth Circuit

We’re proud to represent 127 survivors among the potentially thousands of male students, athletes, workers, and visitors sexually abused by Ohio State University (OSU) appointed doctor Richard Strauss. This lawsuit alleges that OSU knew about, facilitated, and concealed Dr. Strauss’s serial sexual abuse for decades. In September 2021, a lower court dismissed the plaintiffs’ case after OSU argued the statute of limitations had expired, and the plaintiffs should have tried their cases when the abuse occurred (a period that spans 1978–1998).

We successfully appealed and on July 27, oral arguments were presented for Snyder-Hill v. Ohio State University et al. in the Sixth District Court of Appeals. We argued that for this case, the statute of limitations did not begin until the abuse allegations and the university's extensive cover-ups were publicly revealed in 2018. Further, OSU's own actions obfuscated the facts of the case to such a degree that prior to 2018, it would have been impossible for the plaintiffs to know the university's involvement, and many did not recognize that Dr. Strauss's actions were criminal sexual assault.

Back to School: Support Public Justice’s Students’ Civil Rights Project

As students head back to school, Public Justice is pushing forward in our fight to protect their right to education free from discrimination, harassment, and abuse. Our Students’ Civil Rights Project (SCRP) has fought–and won–some of the most impactful educational access cases in this country. We’re holding institutions accountable for wrongdoing and empowering young people, especially LGBTQ+ youth and students facing gender and/or race-based discrimination, to build movements and demand change.

Protect, inform, and empower students by making a donation to the Students’ Civil Rights Project today!

CA Chamber of Commerce Kills Pro-Consumer Legislation With Campaign of Deception

Following a months-long campaign by Public Justice and Consumer Reports, the California Legislature ultimately rejected Senator Connie Leyva’s Public Right to Know Act (SB 1149) after an all-out effort by the California Chamber of Commerce to kill the proposal, which would have prevented the concealment of vital information about harmful and defective products and environmental hazards with secret court settlements. 

The Chamber, and lobbyists representing other corporate interests—from pharmaceutical giants to real estate landlords—misled lawmakers with false accusations about the bill’s impact on businesses. The effort to confuse and scare California lawmakers had one goal: to keep in place a set of rules that allows corporations to evade accountability. Corporations like Purdue Pharma, which enjoyed years of blockbuster sales for its Oxycontin while admitting the drug was deceptively marketed, thanks to a secret court settlement. The consequences continue to devastate countless families nationwide.

Though the Chamber ultimately used its significant war chest and disinformation campaign to defeat the measure, SB 1149 nonetheless breathed new life into the issue of battling secrecy in our courts, garnering front page coverage in California media—and support from editorial boards and op-ed pages—thanks in large part to the massive public education campaign executed by Public Justice. 

In addition to our friends and allies, we’re especially grateful for Professor Richard Zitrin and the Arthur and Charlotte Zitrin Foundation, whose generous support helped make these efforts possible. This critical opportunity to shepherd legislation through the state Senate and Assembly marked a significant leap forward in Public Justice’s growing advocacy efforts to protect consumers and workers, and educate the public about critical issues. We look forward to taking on similar fights in the road ahead. 

Recent Press for the Public Right to Know Act

Safety Should Not Be a Secret

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Harmful Products Don’t Deserve Shielding by the Courts

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How California Can Prevent Companies From Selling Products They Know Are Dangerous

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     Lawsuit Against Smithfield Moves Forward

At the end of July, we received the exciting news that our lawsuit against Smithfield will move forward! 

When major COVID-19 outbreaks struck Smithfield meat processing plants in 2020, the company told consumers that closing plants to protect workers’ lives would result in national meat shortages. It also reassured the public that its pandemic safety protocols were keeping workers as safe as possible—a claim it continues to make to this day.

Our lawsuit, filed with Food & Water Watch, alleges both claims are false. The country was never in danger of a meat shortage: at the height of the pandemic, Smithfield increased its exports and held billions of pounds of meat in warehouses. Meanwhile, Smithfield has consistently failed to implement essential safety measures and its employees still face dangerous working conditions.

While Smithfield was attempting to have this case dismissed, a congressional report exposed the role that Smithfield and other meatpacking giants played in inciting panic about the national meat supply, and documented these companies aggressively lobbying the federal government to keep plants running with “glaringly deficient” safety protocols. 

The decision rejecting their request for dismissal was released on July 22.

Workshop: Towards Resilient & Equitable Food Systems

Tuesdays, September 20–October 11, join Food Project Staff Attorney Surbhi Sarang as she leads a four-part online workshop about resilience and equity in the food system. Explore the intersection of agriculture, climate, the environment, and justice. Register today!

Credit Reporting Agencies Are Perpetuating Anti-Trans Discrimination. Congress Should Make Them Stop

Our Executive Director Paul Bland recently published this piece for Daily Kos regarding our support for H.R. 8478 (the Credit Reporting Accuracy After a Legal Name Change Act), which will prohibit deadnaming in consumer reports and improve accuracy in credit reporting so after a name change, transgender and nonbinary people can maintain the credit histories they've already built. 

Read on Daily Kos
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How Indigenous Practices Pave the Way for a Brighter Farming Future

An interview with farmer and organizer Kara Boyd, conducted by Public Justice Food Project’s Summer 2022 Communications Intern Aarushi Ganguly.

Read interview on Medium
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You Can’t Take Daily Harvest to Court if Its Food Made You Sick

“[The arbitration system] is particularly troubling in a food-safety setting. If companies are making mistakes, they can literally kill people.”

Paul Bland, Executive Director

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Congress Could Beef Up Meatpacking Oversight This Fall, but Obstacles to Enforcement Remain

“Until USDA comes out with rules that give teeth to the text of the [Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act], any enforcement mechanism is going to be a little bit to the side of the problem.”

David Muraskin, Food Project Litigation Director

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This Time, USDA Will Have Broad Latitude to Aid Farm Debtors

"Without USDA having a lot of transparency and accountability as to how the payments are going out and who the payments are going out to, it remains to be seen if this is going to help remedy the harms of decades of discrimination."

Jessica Culpepper, Food Project Director

Congratulations to our Executive Committee Member Larry Taylor and newly-elected Board Member Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann who held their inaugural Shades of Mass Conference this past weekend in Atlanta! Public Justice is very grateful and proud to have had the opportunity to join our allies at the first annual Shades of Mass Conference.

Shades of Mass board members and founders Gregory Cade, Fu Zimmerman, Larry Taylor, Ben Crump, Navan Ward Jr., and LaRuby May with Rep. Lucy McBath.

Founded earlier this year, Shades of Mass is dedicated to advocating for and facilitating the involvement in mass tort litigations, along with the appointment of Black and Brown attorneys to leadership roles in civil actions.

Learn more about the organization and how they're building a more equitable mass torts system through mentorship, advocacy, networking, and education here: https://www.shadesofmass.org/.

Interested in being featured in a future Member Spotlight?

Reach out to Lucy Sears at lsears@publicjustice.net.

Interested in working at Public Justice? Know someone else who might be? We are hiring! Please share these opportunities with your network.

Public Justice welcomes this month's new members—your unwavering commitment to our mission of combatting injustice helps us reach our goals.

Questions? Contact us here.

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