Philadelphia Can't Afford the Price of Hiring Bias
 
Job applicants at a hiring fair shaking hands
Daily News file photo
Staff attorney Claudia De Palma published an op-ed in the March 25 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer on the bias faced by job-seekers with criminal records. In the piece, she argues that any effort to take on poverty in Philadelphia must include the city's estimated 400,000 adult residents with criminal records. She then reviews the laws on the books that protect job-seekers with records, which are not always known by job applicants or followed by employers.

"In Philadelphia, the barriers faced by job-seekers with a criminal history are also barriers for communities, especially black and Latino ones, as they strive to move from poverty to shared prosperity," she wrote. "We owe it to our city's future to give all Philadelphians a fair chance."

Law Center Files Amicus Brief Defending Nationwide Injunctions, Joined by Four Lawyers' Committee Affiliates
 
Scales of justice
Nationwide injunctions have a long history in American courts and have served as an invaluable tool for protecting the civil rights of vulnerable communities.

On March 24, we joined with four other affiliates of the nationwide network of Lawyers' Committees for Civil Rights to file an amicus brief defending the use of this judicial tool, in a case concerning a nationwide injunction that blocked federal rules allowing employers to deny insurance coverage for contraception on religious grounds. The Law Center and other amici were represented by attorneys from Ballard Spahr LLP. 

"When government acts wrongfully, the impact can be felt throughout the community, the state, or the country," the brief states. "Providing effective remedies to cure serious, wide-reaching wrongs is not only a well settled use of the judicial power, it also may be the only remedy available to courts to redress adequately the threat of immediate, irreparable harm."

Welcome New Staff, Ariel Morales and Mary Beth Schluckebier!
Mary Beth Schluckebier
Ariel Morales
We are very excited to welcome two new staff members to our team: tenant organizer Ariel Morales and community-based housing lawyer Mary Beth Schluckebier!

Ariel will work with our housing legal team to help build the capacity of tenants to assert their rights and address their key housing priorities. He has more than five years of organizing experience, including four years as a community organizer for the Women's Community Revitalization Project in Philadelphia. There, he helped lead their Development without Displacement campaign. Help us welcome Ariel by liking his post on LinkedIn

Mary Beth joins us as a community-based housing lawyer. Previously, she was a litigation associate with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP in Philadelphia focused on higher education. While there, she maintained a robust pro bono practice, including immigration cases and representing community groups. She was our pro bono counsel in our representation of La Finquita community farm. Help us welcome Mary Beth by  liking her post on LinkedIn
Qualified Applicant Sues After Being Barred from Employment with Montgomery County because of her Criminal Record
 
Montgomery County Courthouse
Job seekers with criminal records are often punished twice: first by the criminal justice system, and then by employer discrimination that shuts them out of jobs they're well qualified for, years after they've turned their lives around. Our client, a 56-year-old woman with an impeccable work history and years of experience in social services, was turned away from two caseworker positions with Montgomery County after the hiring process was well underway when the County learned she had two old misdemeanors in her past, despite the fact that misdemeanors took place 8 and 10 years ago and were completely unrelated to the position. 

The Public Interest Law Center and Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock & Dodig, LLP filed a complaint in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas on March 25, alleging that the County has a policy and practice of violating Pennsylvania's Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA). This Act prohibits employers from considering convictions in hiring decisions unless they relate to the applicants' ability to perform in the job. 

Learn more
Low-income Philadelphia Tenant Wins a $22,400 Judgement Against ABC Capital, One of the City's Largest Landlords
 
Kenisha Mathis
Kenisha Mathis
Kenisha Mathis lived in a home with a collapsing ceiling, faulty wiring, and no assurance of lead safety for her two young children. She asked her landlord to fix these problems for more than six months, and received nothing but threats of eviction in response.

We represented Ms. Mathis when she sued her landlord ABC Capital in the Court of Common Pleas, along with
 pro bono counsel from Pepper Hamilton LLP. On July 30, 2018, the Court entered a default judgement in her favor. Despite this, her landlord  went on to argue in a contested damages hearing that it caused Ms. Mathis no harm, and that she should therefore be awarded no damages. The Court disagreed, granting Ms. Mathis $22,400 in damages on February 28, 2019. This amount exceeds her total payments in purported rent, fees, and water bills to ABC Capital during her tenancy.

"We are thrilled that this judgment ensures that this unscrupulous landlord won't see a dime of the money they unlawfully collected from her," said Law Center attorney George Donnelly. 

Coming up April 3: Know Your Rights--Services for Students with Disabilities Preparing for Life After School
 
People in wheelchairs working
Do you know a child between the ages of 14 and 21 with an Individualized Education Program (IEP)? Join us for a free Know Your Rights presentation to learn more about their rights to receive transition services to prepare for life after school.

When: Wednesday, April 3, 12:15 - 2 p.m.

Where: South Philadelphia Library, 1700 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA.

Our Client Brenda Harrison Reaches an Amicable Resolution in Her Fair Housing Act Litigation
 
Brenda Harrison and Law Center attorney George Donnelly
Brenda Harrison and George Donnelly
We represented Brenda Harrison, a 62-year old Philadelphia woman with multiple disabilities, in a Fair Housing Act suit against her landlord and property manager. Read more about the case on our website here. We are happy to announce that Ms. Harrison, Pelham Court LP, and Rushmore Management have reached an amicable resolution in this litigation. As part of the settlement, Ms. Harrison received undisclosed financial considerations and both companies have adopted written policies on compliance with fair housing laws. 

"We are pleased that Pelham Court and Rushmore Management have demonstrated a serious commitment to abiding by the spirit and letter of the Fair Housing Act," said Law Center attorney George Donnelly. "These policies make it easier for both the landlord and tenants to understand their rights and responsibilities under federal law."

Volunteer Spotlight: Rachel Kane
 
Rachel Kane
Rachel Kane
The work we do would not be possible without our dedicated volunteers. Since September, Rachel has staffed our front desk three days a week, directing people who reach out to us to the appropriate staff member or referring them to other assistance. She has also helped us coordinate volunteers and helps attorneys conduct research for various projects, including a guide for parents seeking special education services. She became interested in public interest law while working as a community mental health therapist. "Volunteering here is a great way to learn about the law while giving back," she said. Rachel will be attending Temple University Beasley School of Law in August. We're always looking for new volunteers--find out how you can get involved on our website!


Attention Attorneys: Join us on April 4 at Hogan Lovells for a Free CLE on Representing Threatened Gardens 
 
Woman gardening in a green garden
Philadelphia's community gardens are at risk due to gentrification, rising property taxes, and development pressure. You can be part of the solution: join our attorneys and attorneys from Hogan Lovells for a panel CLE on issues commonly encountered when providing legal representation to a garden client. We'll cover adverse possession litigation, real estate transactions, and negotiations with City agencies.  2.0 hours of CLE credit available to Pennsylvania lawyers. RSVP here.

When: Thursday, April 4; Registration and lunch 12-12:30 p.m., Program 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Where: Hogan Lovells, 1735 Market Street, Floor 23, Philadelphia, PA 19103

RSVP Here
Fed Up with PA Failing to Fund Public Schools? Sign the Petition from PA Schools Work
 
PA Schools Work logo
In the state with the largest gap between the poorest and wealthiest districts, only larger increases of state funding targeted to the districts that need it most will enable an excellent education for every child regardless of zip code. Property taxes are high because the state isn't paying its share. This is the moment of truth and we need your help to motivate the legislature to fully fund PA schools.

Please sign on, if you want Gov. Wolf and the legislature to FUND PA PUBLIC SCHOOLS NOW.

Celebrate Spring with us!
 




Introducing Philadelphia's Resource Ecosystem: 
Grounded in Philly

This Spring, help us celebrate the launch of the new and improved Grounded in Philly, a one-stop online resource ecosystem for the urban agriculture and open space community in Philadelphia. 

Our launch event on April 11 in One Art Community Center's beautiful outdoor garden space is currently fully booked! We'd like to thank our generous local food and beverage donors:

Winc
Winc

Winc  delivers delightful, unique wines from all over the world directly to your door. 
Philly Foodworks
Philly Foodworks

Philly Foodworks is an online farmer's market that makes buying, eating, and sharing fresh food as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible. They work with a diverse group of producers and distributors to navigate the challenges faced by producing outside of the mainstream commodity food system.

Contact Jonathan McJunkin at jmcjunkin@pubintlaw.org if you are interested in providing food for this event.

Are you interested in sponsoring this great celebration for the urban agriculture community--and helping us expand it? Contact Michael Berton at    mberton@pubintlaw.org for more details.  

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Vacant Land 215: Learn How to Transform Vacant Land in Philadelphia

Community garden with rows of plants

Want to learn more about community gardening and farming on vacant land in Philadelphia? Join our Garden Justice Legal Initiative and Soil Generation for a free training on legal land access and preservation. Representatives from the Neighborhood Gardens Trust, the Land Bank, and others will be on hand to answer questions.

This Vacant Land 215 session will be held directly proceeding our celebration of Grounded in Philly, and all attendees are invited to stay for the party. Check out our website for more information. Contact Jonathan McJunkin at jmcjunkin@pubintlaw.org with questions.  
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.

Apartment building exterior

Eviction: The Hidden Crisis

Thursday, May 16, 2019, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Tactix Real Estate Advisors, 100 North 18th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Free

Meet and mingle with our staff and clients while enjoying catered food after a presentation about our current work helping tenants stand up for themselves when landlords fail to provide safe housing, as well as our historical work in this project area. Hear directly from several of our recent clients about their personal stories.

Register here

Photo of Yards Brewery

Young Professionals Networking Event

Thursday, June 13, 2019, 6-9 p.m.
Yards Brewing Company, 500 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
$25

Join us at Yards Brewing Company to network with other young professionals and learn about our work combating employment discrimination, both for those with criminal histories and those with disabilities. Enjoy Yards beer and tasty hors d'oeuvres while networking in a relaxed and unstructured environment.

Click here to purchase tickets

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.