Court Agrees: Our School Funding Case is Anything but Moot
At oral argument in 2016
On August 21, Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court ruled that our lawsuit challenging the state's school funding system can move forward. The Court denied a claim by state legislative leaders that the lawsuit was rendered moot by the state's adoption of a funding formula in 2016.  The ruling is a significant victory for our school district, family, and organizational clients as it eliminates a major obstacle to a trial.

In our response brief to Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati's application to dismiss the case for mootness, we  demonstrated that the spending gap between wealthy and poor school districts has widened since the lawsuit was filed. Meanwhile, state funds available for classroom spending have declined. Pennsylvania's school funding formula, which applies to only a tiny fraction of the state's K-12 education funding, has not fixed these problems. Our position was supported by  Governor Tom Wolf, who filed a brief asking the court to reject Senator Scarnati's application  and move the case "towards a resolution that may further advancements in education funding." 

Now, we and our co-counsel at the Education Law Center-PA and O'Melveny & Myers LLP are preparing for trial. We look forward to making the case that our current school funding system fails to provide the thorough and efficient education that students in Pennsylvania have the right to receive.

Law Center Argues Against Mandatory Sentences of Life Without Parole for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities

On July 30, the Law Center, partnering with pro bono counsel from Blank Rome LLP, filed an amicus brief in Sherman McCoy v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The case concerns an appeal by Sherman McCoy, a person with an intellectual disability who is facing a mandatory sentence of life without parole. We assert that Pennsylvania's mandatory imposition of these sentences on persons with intellectual disabilities violates the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.  
"As part of a society that values the 'dignity of man,'" the brief argues, "courts have a moral and legal imperative to ensure that punishment is proportionate to the culpability of the individual being sentenced and is not based on stereotypes of some disfavored group."  The brief reviews several Supreme Court cases, along with scientific research, and concludes by arguing that mandatory sentences of life without parole for persons with intellectual disabilities should be replaced by an individualized approach. Read the full brief here.

Joining the Movement Against a Citizenship Question on the 2020 US Census
On August 6, the Law Center filed a public comment urging the Department of Commerce to remove the proposed citizenship question from the 2020 Census form. Our comments were among the more than 100 comments filed by organizations around the country. We contended that asking an untested question about citizenship status, particularly in the current climate of anxiety and uncertainty in immigrant communities, will increase fear and decrease participation in the Census. This will lead to those communities being under-counted, which in turn negatively affects the funding for vital social services, such as Medicaid and CHIP.

"The harm from this decision (if it is not reversed) would be universal," the comment states, "with communities that are already at greater risk of being under-counted--including people of color, immigrants, young children and low-income rural and urban residents--suffering the most." Read the full comment here. 

2017 Annual Report & 2018 Strategy
A Year in the Life of Social Justice Champions

Our 2017 Annual Report & 2018 Strategy is now available to view online! Explore our busy year full of victories and growth, thanks to everyone who makes our work possible: supporters, clients, pro-bono counsel, staff, and more.

In 2018, as we mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr's assassination, all of us, board and staff, are working harder than ever to meet his charge: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Thank You Summer Interns!

Clockwise from top left: Blake McCracken, Penn Law School; Stephanie Kwan, Harvard Law School; Genna Feirson, Washington and Lee University; Logan Wren, Boston College; Joanna Kamhi, Penn Law School; Onya Brown, UConn School of Law and Natasha Menon, Penn.
Voting is Our Superpower: 2018 Annual Celebration!
Illustration courtesy of Libby VanderPloeg 

Join us and emcee Tamela Edwards of 6ABC to celebrate "Voting is our Superpower" and honor Arnold & Porter, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and our 18 gerrymandering lawsuit clients with our Thaddeus Stevens Awards.

Thursday, October 18
6:00-9:00 p.m.
Fringe Arts + La Peg
140 N. Columbus Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Tickets: $160

For sponsorship  and more information, see below or contact Michael Berton at  or 267-546-1303

Thaddeus Stevens Award Winner Spotlight: Arnold & Porter
Arnold & Porter

At our annual event, we get the chance to honor our esteemed partners, without whom our work would not be possible. Arnold & Porter is one of this year's Thaddeus Stevens award recipients.  

The firm contributed thousands of hours of unmatched legal talent to our successful, constitutional challenge to the 2011 U.S. congressional map. That alone would merit our deep appreciation, but coupled with their previous work with us to protect the right to vote in Pennsylvania, Arnold & Porter deserves further accolades. In 2012, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law that required all voters to present specific forms of photo ID every time they cast their ballots. The law placed substantial burdens on urban, low-income, minority, elderly, and disabled voters, and threatened to disenfranchise 500,000 Pennsylvanians.  Arnold & Porter stepped in to help us, the ACLU, and the Advancement Project fight back. Together we secured an injunction of the law, and it was found unconstitutional in 2014. Our state is a better, stronger democracy because of Arnold & Porter's service. Help us thank them for their work by liking their post on Facebook and attending our event in October!