Remembering Barbara Grimaldi
 
Barbara Grimaldi 
Barbara Grimaldi
All of us are mourning the loss of our colleague and dear friend, Barbara Grimaldi, on June 14. She was 32. Barbara begin working with us in 2013, served for several years as our director of development and communications, and was most recently our chief strategy officer. Her contribution to our organization was extraordinary, helping us expand our base of support, our public advocacy efforts, and our ability to help communities create systemic change. 
 
Those who had the fortune of knowing and working with Barbara will always remember her kindness, generosity of spirit, courage, strategic brilliance, and deep commitment to the people we serve.
 
On our website, we have shared the obituary that Barbara wrote herself. A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, June 29 at 11:00 am at The Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word, 597 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607.  In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Public Interest Law Center or Atonement Lutheran Church, 1900 Westfall Road, Rochester, NY 14618. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer also published an obituary highlighting Barbara's dedication, passion and impact, "Barbara M. Grimaldi, 32, nonprofit executive who fought systemic injustice."
 
Learn more about Barbara Grimaldi 
Oral argument heard in our case challenging Pennsylvania's absentee ballot deadline on behalf of nine voters
 
An absentee ballot envelope 
On June 5, Commonwealth Court heard oral arguments centered on motions to dismiss our lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's absentee ballot deadline, Adams Jones et al. v. Boockvar. Thousands of Pennsylvania voters absentee ballots have been rejected every year because of the Commonwealth's unreasonably early deadline for returning absentee ballots. We joined the ACLU of PA, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and pro bono counsel from Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett LLP to challenge this system on behalf of nine voters. 

Pennsylvania requires absentee voters to return their ballots no later than the Friday before Election Day. This is the earliest such deadline in the country. With the exceptions of Louisiana and Mississippi, every other state in the country allows voters to submit absentee ballots up to Election Day. In the 2018 general election, more than 4,600 completed ballots were rejected because they arrived after this deadline in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties alone, according to the  Philadelphia Inquirer

"The problems with the absentee ballot system in Pennsylvania are obvious, but nothing has been done to fix it," said staff attorney Ben Geffen in a statement released after the oral argument. "Voters from across the state came together for this case to finally force our leaders to act." Read the statement here. You can read more about the argument in coverage from WHYY and the Philadelphia Inquirer
 
learn more link to statement on absentee ballot oral argument 
Our statement on today's U.S. Supreme Court Decision on partisan gerrymandering

U.S. Supreme Court
Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts cannot stop politicians from manipulating district maps to entrench themselves and their parties in power and to thwart the will of voters. This is a deeply disappointing decision for our republican form of government.
 
But thanks to the Pennsylvania Constitution, Pennsylvania voters elected their U.S. House members under a fair map in 2018, and will use the same map in 2020. Pennsylvania's new map was a result of a successful challenge to partisan gerrymandering that we filed last year with pro bono co-counsel from Arnold & Porter in state court on behalf of Pennsylvania voters in each congressional district. Advocates for fair maps will now look to state court challenges as a proven alternative for challenging partisan maps.
   
"This decision is not the end of the fight against partisan gerrymandering-far from it," said Legal Director Mimi McKenzie. "Voters in states around the country should look to protections in their state constitutions and to state courts to ensure that the maps drawn in 2021 are fair and allow every vote to count. Even today's shameful decision from the Supreme Court acknowledged that 'state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply.' Nevertheless, we vehemently disagree that the U.S. Constitution does not provide similar protections for the fundamental right to vote." Read our full statement here.

Learn more about our statement on the SCOTUS decision
Ian Linn, a former client and current advocate, joins us for his senior project 
 
Ian Linn with our Equal Justice Works fellow Darlene Hemerka 
Ian Linn with our Equal Justice Works fellow Darlene Hemerka
Ian Linn graduated from Masterman High School in Philadelphia on June 3rd and will be attending Oberlin College in the fall. This May, he shadowed Equal Justice Works fellow Darlene Hemerka as part of his senior project. "I chose the Public Interest Law Center because I was interested in advocacy, specifically for people like myself with disabilities," Ian said.
 
Ian has Moebius Syndrome, a disorder that causes facial paralysis. When he was in preschool and kindergarten, Ian's parents contacted former Law Center attorneys Tom Gilhool and Barbara Ransom after having difficulty getting sufficient early intervention services for him, such as speech therapy and occupational therapy. "They worked pretty hard to find exactly what I needed and get me those services," Ian said.
 
In the presentation for his senior project, Ian discussed how the School District of Philadelphia manages services for students with disabilities, and what they could be doing better. "There are so many other schools that don't receive nearly the support that Masterman does," Ian said. "The District doesn't always pay attention to [schools with less support] through the lens of disability, which is interesting because these schools often have higher concentrations of disabled students." 
 
Learn more about Ian Linn 
Philadelphia City Council honors us with a resolution marking our 50th anniversary
 
Our founder Ned Wolf in 1972
Our founder Ned Wolf in 1972
On June 13, Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution introduced by Councilmember Helen Gym honoring and recognizing us on the occasion of our 50th anniversary for our "pioneering civil rights litigation, which has advanced the civil, social and economic rights of communities in the Philadelphia region."  

"For five decades, the Public Interest Law Center has been an innovative force for justice in the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and beyond," the resolution reads. "The Law Center's policy, advocacy, and legal work has consistently pushed the boundaries of what justice can look like, and its work always follows the lead of the communities that are the lifeblood of the Philadelphia region." Read the full resolution and our statement here

learn more about the city council resolution
Join us August 15 for a Gun Safety CLE
 
A handgun with bullets 
Join us on August 15, 2019, for a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) class on gun safety. In Philadelphia, gun violence is an epidemic. Last year, in addition to the 249 Philadelphians killed in shootings, over 1,100 people were shot and survived, leaving many with lifelong disabilities and ongoing medical costs. This violence does not affect everyone in the city equally: gun violence is the leading cause of death for black men and youth in Philadelphia between the ages of 15 and 34. Learn about the issues, the law, and the challenges in trying to address gun violence in Pennsylvania. Panelists include:
  • Raynard Washington, Chief Epidemiologist, Philadelphia Dept. of Public Health
  • Mimi McKenzie, Legal Director, Public Interest Law Center
  • Ben Geffen, Staff Attorney, Public Interest Law Center
1 Substantive CLE credit will be available to all Pennsylvania attorneys
 
When: Thursday, August 15, 4:00-5:30 p.m.; reception from 5:30-6:30 p.m. 
 
Where: Magna Legal Services, 1635 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
 
Cost: $75 for attorneys; $25 for non-attorneys, public interest attorneys, and law clerks
 
 
 
Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Magna Legal Services.
 
Magna Legal Services 
 
Law Center in the News: Urban Agriculture in Philadelphia
 
Left to right_ Ebony Griffin_ Ash Richards_ and Lan Dinh on the set of Radio Times 
Left to right: Ebony Griffin, Ash Richards, and Lan Dinh on the set of Radio Times

In Philadelphia, hundreds of community gardens have transformed abandoned vacant land into vital community hubs. These green spaces take on both food insecurity and disinvestment. Philadelphia has 40,000+ vacant lots and more than 400,000 people live in poverty. However, many of these gardeners are at risk of losing access to land because they do not have the means to gain legal ownership of the plots they steward, and face increasing pressure from gentrification. How can Philadelphia support urban agriculture and promote its many benefits? 

Our staff attorney Ebony Griffin, who leads our Garden Justice Legal Initiative, was featured on the June 5 episode of WHYY's "Radio Times" with Marty Moss-Coane discussing this issue. She was joined by Ash Richards, Philadelphia's new director of urban agriculture, and Lan Dinh of VietLEAD, an organization that works with immigrants through urban farms and other programs. Listen in to a recording of the wide-ranging discussion here.

Link to Radio Times episode on urban gardens 
 
Attention Philadelphia parents: do you have a child ages 14-21 with an IEP? We want to hear from you!

People with wheelchairs working on a computer 
Transition services are crucial for preparing students with disabilities to take the next steps in their life, whether that be college, employment, or daily living. If you or a family you know in the School District of Philadelphia wants to learn more about their student's right to receive transition services, contact our Equal Justice Works fellow Darlene Hemerka at 267-546-1314, or fill out an online request form

We are particularly interested in connecting with families of 11th and 12th graders who want to work after high school and have concerns that their student is not work ready. 

Learn more 
In Pursuit of Justice--Our 50th Anniversary Celebration
 
Invitation to our annual celebration

On October 10, join us at the new artist space and venue Cherry Street Pier to celebrate five decades In Pursuit of Justice at our 50th anniversary celebration. In 1969, we were founded as a Philadelphia affiliate of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. In the 50 years since, we have fought for, and won, lasting changes that help communities stand up for their rights in the face of discrimination and poverty.


 

Thursday, October 10

6 - 9 p.m.

Cherry Street Pier

121 N Christopher Columbus Boulevard

Philadelphia, PA 19106


 

Tickets are available for $175 per person. For more information about this event, including sponsorship and accessibility, please contact Michael Berton at mberton@pubintlaw.org or 267-546-1303.  


 

Tickets _ Information
Save the Date: Our 50th Anniversary Event Series 
 
We are hosting a series of events throughout the year highlighting our history, our work today, and our plans for the future. Mark your calendars, and stay tuned for more information and events as the year goes on! If you have any questions about these events, please contact Michael Berton at mberton@pubintlaw.org or 267-546-1303.

Philadelphia  rowhouse cityscape

Gun Safety CLE

Thursday, August 15, 2019, 4-6:30 p.m.
Panel discussion begins at 4:15 p.m.;Reception from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Magna Legal Services, 1635 Market Street, Philadelphia, 19103
$75 for attorneys; $25 for non-attorneys, public interest, and law clerks

Join us on for a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) class on gun safety. In Philadelphia, gun violence is an epidemic. Last year, in addition to the 249 Philadelphians killed in shootings, over 1,100 people were shot and survived, leaving many with lifelong disabilities and ongoing medical costs. 

Learn what lawyers can do to promote gun safety and take on gun violence from our expert panel. Afterwards, join us for a reception with drinks and food in Magna Legal Services' modern event space.


A voting booth

A Celebration of the Right to Vote 

Thursday, November 7, 2019
7303 Emlen Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119

Law Center board member Howard Langer will host advocates for democracy at a cocktail party celebrating our long and storied history of defending and strengthening the right to vote. Learn more about what's coming next in this important work and how you can get involved.