Partisan Gerrymandering at the U.S. Supreme Court
 
Montgomery County under PA's 2011 District Map
Pennsylvania legislative leaders have again sought intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court in our successful case against partisan gerrymandering in state court. After twice being rebuffed by the Court in their requests to stop a new, fair congressional district map from taking effect, President Pro Tempore Scarnati and Speaker Turzai filed a petition for writ of certiorari on June 21, asking the Court to rule on the merits of the case . But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the 2011 congressional map "clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, [they struck] it as unconstitutional." There is simply no basis for the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. We don't think the third time is the charm.

In other gerrymandering news, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to establish a federal standard for partisan gerrymandering in two federal court cases: Gill v. Whitford, out of Wisconsin, and Benisek v. Lamone, out of Maryland. In both cases the Court declined to rule on the substantive issues. As advocates for voters' rights, we are disappointed that these cases did not open up new pathways for residents of other states to take on egregious partisan gerrymandering. At this time, the Court appears to be reluctant to decide once and for all whether partisan gerrymandering violates the U.S. Constitution. We are glad for the sake of PA Voters that we chose to pursue their rights in state court under  our state constitution. 

 
Law Center Joins New PA Schools Work Coalition

At the Launch of PA Schools Work
In addition to our ongoing lawsuit against Pennsylvania's unfair system of school funding, the Law Center advocates for policy changes that help support students in public schools across the state. We are proud to announce that we are part of the new PA Schools Work campaign. PA Schools Work is a non-partisan campaign to ensure that all Pennsylvania schools are adequately and equitably funded with fair local tax burdens. Officially launched in Harrisburg on June 6, the campaign's first goal was a state budget that makes education a priority. This goal was achieved on June 20 when the Pennsylvania state budget passed with increases to basic education funding, special education funding, and career and technical education funding. 

Though the most recent budget is encouraging, we recognize that there is a long way to go. Pennsylvania's state share of education funding is ranked 47th in the nation. This leads to large disparities between wealthy and poor school districts and causes hundreds of schools across the state to fall short of what they need to provide a quality education for their students. We look forward to joining together with organizations across the state through PA Schools Work to continue to advocate for change. We know that PA Schools Work when we all come together to make them the priority they deserve to be. And when PA Schools Work, we all do better.

 
Defending Public Accommodations: Our Amicus Brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop
 
The Supreme Court of the United States
On June 4, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of baker Jack Phillips, Petitioner in  Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., et. al. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, et. al. The Court's holding in the case was narrow, based on perceived bias in the adjudication process at the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Law Center filed an amicus brief in this case in support of the Respondents.

Five years ago,  Respondents Charlie Craig and David Mullins were denied a cake for their same-sex wedding at Jack Phillips' bakery. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission found that Mr. Phillips had violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, and Mr. Phillips appealed the decision, eventually reaching the U.S. Supreme Court 

We are disappointed that the discrimination was affirmed by the Supreme Court in their finding in favor of the Petitioners. However, the narrow holding in this case, dealing solely with the Court's judgement that the Commission failed to remain neutral when carrying out Phillips' adjudication, makes us cautiously hopeful that the negative impact of this decision will be limited.  The court's decision leaves intact the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act barring discrimination in public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation. It seems as if this holding is confined to situations in which the facts are identical to this case.  However, we and other civil rights advocates remain vigilant for future challenges to these statutes. 
 
 

Welcome Our 2018 Class of Summer Interns!
 
2018 summer interns
We are thrilled to welcome our 2018 class of summer undergraduate and law student interns! Clockwise from top left: Blake McCracken, Penn Law School; Genna Feirson, Washington and Lee University; Logan Wren, Boston College; Stephanie Kwan, Harvard Law School; Natasha Menon, Penn; Joanna Kamhi, Penn Law School; and Onya Brown, UConn School of Law. All of our interns provide invaluable service to us, helping conduct research for litigation and advocacy--including extended projects over the course of the summer--and assisting with all aspects of our work from trial preparation to fundraising. Help us welcome them by liking their post on Facebook!



Changing the Public Charge: A New Rule that Could Impact Immigrant Communities
 
Take Action Philly
The White House is currently considering a rule change that could impact Philadelphia immigrant communities' access to essential services like health care. The rule in question is the public charge test, designed to identify immigrants who may depend on government benefits as their primary source of support. The proposed change to this rule would greatly expand its scope, allowing officials to take into account the use of non-cash benefit programs like Medicaid and SNAP, even by U.S. citizen children and other family members, when evaluating applications for lawful permanent residency. If adopted, this rule change would force immigrant families to think that they have to make impossible choices between meeting basic needs and keeping their families together.

On June 13, the Law Center was a co-sponsor of a convening of Take Action Philly to discuss this proposed rule. At this convening, a panel of experts in policy, social services and healthcare analyzed what this change would mean for the 30,000 Philadelphia households with at least one immigrant member. A recording of the panel is available here.
The Law Center is a founding member of Take Action Philly, an initiative that brings lawyers and advocates together to provide education and opportunities for action as new challenges arise that threaten Philadelphians. TAP's founding members also include the Philadelphia Bar Association, the City of Philadelphia, ACLU-Pennsylvania, Community Legal Services, HIAS-PA and the Mazzoni Center.

Service providers who work with immigrant communities are already seeing negative impacts from these proposed changes, as rumors are creating fear and discouraging families from accessing care that they need. The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is collecting stories and information about these issues via publiccharge@nilc.org

 
 

Voting is Our Superpower--2018 Annual Celebration
 
Illustrations by Libby Vander Ploeg
On October 18, join us for our annual celebration of our mission. As we remember that Voting is Our Superpower, help us honor Arnold & Porter, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and our 18 redistricting lawsuit clients for their role in our historic victory against partisan gerrymandering with the Thaddeus Stevens awards.  

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

Tickets are available for $160 per person. For tickets, sponsorships or more information, contact Michael Berton at  mberton@pubintlaw.org  or  267-546-1303. 


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