Hi Lucy,

In observance of Native American Heritage month, we’re pleased to highlight a recent interview with Indigenous farmer and organizer Kara Boyd, a member of the Lumbee Tribe and President of the Association of American Indian Farmers (who have also been clients of Public Justice!). This interview was conducted by Public Justice Food Project Intern Aarushi Ganguly.

How Indigenous practices pave the way for a brighter farming future: An interview with farmer and organizer Kara Boyd

Click here to read interview

This month, we’re also highlighting Public Justice battles against unconstitutional detainment in California, egregious arbitration practices in the Church of Scientology – and significant wins for student survivors of sexual assault. We’re also proud to spotlight how advocates from Public Justice Member firm DiCello Levitt secured a massive $102 million settlement for General Motors customers who were saddled with defective vehicles.

As we head into the year's end, we will be thinking of the many families whose holidays are derailed by gun violence. The tragic and deadly shooting that took place at Club Q, an LGBTQ+ venue in Colorado Springs, marked November's 28th mass shooting in America. 

Thoughts are not enough. Prayers are not enough. In response to the devastating events, we released a statement calling for actionable changes that would protect our LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and Jewish friends and family from further violence:

"What happened in Colorado Springs was completely preventable. We at Public Justice fully support a ban on assault weapons, and we strongly denounce hateful rhetoric and anti-LGBTQ+ attacks. If these two factors are not stopped, military weapons and hate speech will manifest into horrifying and deadly violence that costs innocent people their lives."

Four days later, another mass shooting happened inside a Virginia Walmart. We call on our lawmakers to pass the Assault Weapons Ban now.

We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and we wish you and your loved ones a safe and joyous holiday season.

Thank you from all of us,

The Public Justice Team

DiCello Levitt’s Adam J. Levitt and Christopher Stombaugh Discuss GM Verdict and a New Frontier in Class Action Trials

As early as 2008, General Motors learned that one of its most popular engines had a flaw that could lead to premature breakdown. For the next six years, it placed that engine in thousands of light trucks and SUVs – without fixing the defect. As consumers began to experience significant mechanical problems with their new and nearly-new cars, GM offered them ineffective and inadequate remedies while continuing to use the defective engine.

In October 2022, a federal jury awarded $2,700 to each of the 38,000 class members represented by several Public Justice member firms – $102.6 million in all.

Public Justice recently sat down with DiCello Levitt’s Adam J. Levitt and Christopher Stombaugh to discuss the significance of this verdict, the importance of educating the next generation of plaintiffs’ attorneys, and more in its latest Member Spotlight.

Click here to read the full interview

Interested in being featured for the next Member Spotlight? Email Communications Director Lucy Sears at lsears@publicjustice.net

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Fairfax County School Board’s Cert Petition in Title IX Case

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a Virginia school board’s request for the justices to take up our client’s Title IX case and gut student survivors’ rights. Public Justice is part of the team representing a student, Jane Doe, in a Title IX lawsuit against Fairfax County School Board (FCSB), and led Jane’s effort to oppose the board’s petition for certiorari. Congratulations to our Students’ Civil Rights Project (SCRP) Director Adele Kimmel and Staff Attorney Alexandra Brodsky for their outstanding work!

In 2017, after receiving reports that a classmate had sexually assaulted Jane, school officials conducted a sham investigation and failed to provide her with the support she needed to feel safe in school. As a result, Jane struggled academically, emotionally, and physically. 

After the Fourth Circuit ruled against the school, FCSB filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. While considering whether to grant cert, the Court called for the views of the U.S. Solicitor General, who filed a brief opposing the school’s petition.

On November 21, the Supreme Court denied cert. “What a shame the School Board wasted taxpayer dollars asking the Supreme Court to adopt positions the Fourth Circuit and the Department of Justice have called ‘absurd,’” Staff Attorney Alexandra Brodsky said.

Jane will now have the chance to be heard by a jury. Stay tuned for a future trial date.

Read about our victory in the news:

Supreme Court turns away Fairfax schools’ appeal of sex assault suit

Supreme Court turns away school’s appeal of sex-assault case

Click here to learn more about this case

Food Project Exposes Corporate Greenwashing

In 2016, Public Justice, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Richman Law Group filed a joint lawsuit against Hormel Foods, alleging the company misled consumers with advertising of its Natural Choice® brand of lunch meats and bacon. Through discovery, the suit confirmed that there was no difference between Natural Choice and Hormel’s other product lines.

Now, our Food Project is revealing these truths and more by cataloging and sharing many of the documents and testimony from the case. This deep dive introduces revelations—many in Hormel’s own words—about Hormel’s factory farm practices and the lengths Hormel went to deceive consumers about its Natural Choice products. And what we learned doesn’t only apply to Hormel.

“There’s no reason to think that Hormel’s practices are unique or different than any other company,” says Food Project Litigation Director David Muraskin. “This is an endemic problem, not a Hormel problem.”

Not only is this an eye-opening look into big agriculture’s business practices, it’s a reminder that open and transparent courts are a vital part of our right to know about what we consume.

Click here to view Hormel deep dive documents

Hormel meat labeling case shows U.S. rules need reform—advocates

Students Fight Back Against Weaponized Arbitration

This month, we joined a new fight against forced arbitration in Virginia.

Alongside Murphy Anderson and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, we filed a motion to dismiss an employer’s lawsuit against three former employees after they reported the business to their state’s department of labor.

The employer, a used college bookstore chain known as Bookholders, instigated legal action against the students for “breach of contract” because their employment contracts stated that all disputes must be resolved through arbitration. Bookholders had successfully used this tactic in the past, threatening and silencing others who sought potential legal action. But using arbitration to prevent individuals from engaging with their government is an unconstitutional attack on their First Amendment rights. We are asking the court to dismiss Bookholders’ bad faith lawsuits under Maryland’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute.

We joined this litigation to make sure these students are not unjustly punished for speaking out. But we also believe this case offers a vital peek behind the curtain on who arbitration is really for. Workers and consumers are told arbitration is efficient and easy, which has been repeatedly proven false. Bookholders’ conduct revealed that arbitration’s unspoken benefit is for the corporations that require it: an easy way to avoid accountability altogether. 

Click here to learn more about this case
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Virginia Tech students file motion to dismiss lawsuit by BookHolders LLC

Civil Rights Groups File Major Lawsuit Against

Los Angeles’ Unconstitutional Cash Bail Schedule

On November 14, we joined several civil rights groups to file a lawsuit on behalf of all individuals in Los Angeles who are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford bail.

In Los Angeles County, individuals who are arrested are automatically held in custody until their first contact with a judge at an arraignment, which often takes several days. While they are held, they are exposed to dangerous, unsanitary conditions and do not receive even basic medical care, such as access to daily medications. Making bail is their only chance at returning home until the arraignment. The amount is predetermined by the arresting officer’s charge and where that fits on an arbitrary schedule.

Many people who are arrested in Los Angeles will never be charged with a crime. Arrest does not mean guilt. But their pre-arraignment incarceration creates personal and financial crises just the same. Making bail has nothing to do with an individual’s risk of committing a crime, and places where cash bail alternatives are used have repeatedly shown there is no significant risk to public safety.

Click here to read the press release

From left: The team with client Terilyn Goldson; Debtors' Prison Project Director Leslie Bailey and Senior Attorney Brian Hardingham preparing the filing from their Los Angeles hotel lobby.

‘If I could buy freedom, I would’: LA residents who can’t afford bail sue to change system

Editorial: California still violates the Constitution on bail

Public Justice Joins Fight Against

Scientology's Sham-Ridden Arbitration Clause

We recently joined the legal team representing three former Scientologists who assert they were trafficked by the organization’s Sea Org branch. Scientology has been accused of abuse and trafficking before, but each time it used arbitration clauses to funnel claims into its own private dispute resolution process. In this case, our clients argue the clause is unenforceable because they signed their contracts under duress, an argument that has not been made in previous cases. 

There are also important First Amendment issues in this case: compelling the plaintiffs to settle their claims – which include violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act – through a religious process they no longer believe in violates their First Amendment right to choose or leave a religion.

Our Access to Justice Staff Attorney Shelby Leighton joined our co-counsel in Tampa, Florida on November 17 for oral arguments. We’ll continue to keep you posted as the case progresses.

Click here to read more about the case

Access to Justice Staff Attorney Shelby Leighton joins co-counsel from Kohn, Swift & Graft; Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll; and Preti Flaherty for oral arguments in the Eleventh Circuit.

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Scientology workers signed contracts under duress, their lawyers say

‘Tis the Season of Giving!

As Public Justice wraps up our 40th anniversary year, we hope you'll keep us in mind for your year-end giving plans.

Your special 2022 gift will help dismantle racist and oppressive barriers to justice, combat climate change, fight sexual assault and discrimination in schools, and so much more.

Thank you for your continued commitment to justice for all.

Give today!

Save the date for our Presidents' Party!

The Public Justice Presidents' Party will be on Monday, February 6 at the JW Marriot Desert Ridge in Phoenix, AZ.

The event will be co-hosted with AAJ’s Minority Caucus. Stay tuned for more details!

View our full events calendar

Public Justice welcomes this month's new members — your unwavering commitment to our mission of combating injustice helps us reach our goals.

Support our work by joining today!

Questions? Contact us here.

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