Redistricting Lawsuit Update

Two of Pennsylvania's gerrymandered districts
In a monumental win for voters, just last week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with our clients and ruled that Pennsylvania's current U.S. Congressional map violates the Pennsylvania Constitution

The Court invited the General Assembly to develop a new map and submit it to the Governor by February 9. The Governor has until February 15 to approve it.  If the General Assembly and Governor cannot agree on a map, the Court will adopt a new map itself. The Court has already appointed special master Nathan Persily, a Stanford Law professor who has drawn maps for courts in five other states, to assist the Court in creating a new map, if necessary.

Since the Court's decision, the Legislative Respondents have asked both the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied the stay. The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered us to respond to their request by 4 p.m. this Friday, February 2. Stay tuned to our website to read our response, once we file it. We will keep you posted on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision. 

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Gov. Wolf Asks Court to Expedite School Funding Lawsuit

Fair Funding rally
Fair funding rally
On January 25, Governor Wolf 
filed a response in our school funding lawsuit , urging the Commonwealth Court to ensure the case moves toward trial expeditiously. We are pleased that the Governor is standing with Pennsylvania school children and acknowledging that they need and deserve prompt justice to remedy the inequity and inadequacy of Pennsylvania's broken school funding system.

Governor Wolf's response comes amidst Senator Scarnati and Speaker Turzai again opposing and attempting to delay any judicial resolution of the merits of the case. Senator Scarnati argued that Pennsylvania's chronic underfunding of school districts causes no harm to the petitioners. He went on to say the claim of underfunding is moot because the legislature recently adopted a funding formula, without acknowledging that the formula applies to less than two percent of all school funding.  Speaker Turzai continued to  object to our equal protection claim, making the same argument that was forcefully rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court: that Pennsylvania's gross disparities from school district to school district may be excused by the desire for local control of education.

The Commonwealth Court has scheduled oral argument on the issues of mootness and the question of outstanding preliminary objections for the first week of March in Philadelphia. An exact date has yet to be determined.

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Victories in Landlord-Tenant Court

Shivers and George
Carolyn and Curtis Shiver with 
George Donnelly
George Donnelly joined the Law Center in September of 2017 as a Penn Law Postgraduate Fellow, funded by the Langer, Grogan & Diver Fellowship in Social Justice. Through this fellowship, George targets the severe power imbalance in Philadelphia between tenants and their landlords, as 91% of tenants face evictions without lawyers. As part of this project, George recently helped Carolyn and Curtis Shiver (the focus of this Philadelphia Inquirer article) settle a case against their landlord for $35,000. The Shivers were unable to live in their home for more than a month due to plumbing and sewage issues.

In another win for tenants, last week the First Judicial District announced that landlords who are filing to evict must provide evidence that they are in compliance with Philadelphia law. As George said in this Plan Philly article, "This will prevent illegal evictions and protect unrepresented tenants. It's a big, big improvement."

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Remembering Judge Thomas N. O'Neill, Jr.

Thomas O_Neill_ Photo_ The Legal Intelligencer
Thomas O'Neill, Photo:  The Legal Intelligencer
Much has been written about the recent death of Thomas N. O'Neill, Jr., the well-loved, and well-respected Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. For us, his death also closed a chapter of our history: Judge O'Neill was the last surviving member of the group of past, present and future Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellors who incorporated the Public Interest Law Center on January 31, 1974. At that time Vice-Chancellor of the Bar Association, Judge O'Neill joined other leading lawyers of that decade--Bernard M. Borish, William R. Klaus, Nathan L. Posner, and Bernard G. Segal--in transforming the informal operations of the Philadelphia Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law into the formal not-for-profit tax exempt corporation we are today. The new organization, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, was to take over the work from the previous five years: 200 cases involving housing, economic development, administration of justice, citizen participation, education, police misconduct, and employment discrimination. As a board member, Judge O'Neill attended the first organizational meeting on April 2, 1974, and concluded the meeting with his support and encouragement of the new Bar-supported initiative. As we reflect on the many contributions Judge O'Neill made to our city over his lifetime, this one, too, has had a lasting impact.
Welcoming New Board Members

Jacqueline Robinson
Jacqueline Robinson
At its January board meeting, the Law Center Board of Directors unanimously voted Jacqueline Robinson into its membershipJacqueline is Vice President, Coverage Director, Casualty Claims at Chubb. Help us welcome Jacqueline to the board by liking this Facebook post.

We are also pleased to welcome new Ex Officio board members for 2018The Honorable A. Michael Snyder from The Dispute Resolution Institute joins as the Philadelphia Bar Association Vice-Chancellor, and Vincent Barbera of White and Williams LLP joins as the Philadelphia Bar Association Young Lawyers Division representative. 

Thank you to former Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Deborah Gross and former Young Lawyers Division representative Matthew Olesh for their exemplary service in 2017!

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