We've fought back, and won, against the Trump campaign's efforts to disenfranchise PA voters after the election. 

A voting booth
Our work protecting our right to vote has continued after Election Day. Since November 3, we have worked as part of a broad coalition of civil rights organizations to defend against three post-election cases that sought to invalidate valid ballots. One of these cases, Trump v. Boockvar, was particularly egregious. In federal court, the Trump campaign sought to block the certification of Pennsylvania's election results--effectively attempting to disenfranchise more than 7 million voters. 

We intervened to oppose this attempt to undermine our electoral system, representing the Black Political Empowerment Project, Common Cause PA, the League of Women Voters of PA, the NAACP PA State Conference, and eight voters, joined by co-counsel from ACLU, ACLU-PA, the Lawyers' Committee, and Covington Burling LLP. In our motion to dismiss, we asserted that the case--filed after the results were already known--could have been, and should have been, filed prior to the election. In addition, we asserted that granting the Trump campaign's request would violate voters' fundamental right to have their ballots count. 

In court filings for this case, the Trump campaign did not make a single allegation of a fraudulent ballot cast by a voter or counted by an election official. On November 17, at an in-person oral argument on motions to dismiss that we attended in Williamsport, the President's attorney Rudy Giuliani affirmed that the case was not about fraud. Rather, the case is built on differences between counties in the administration of elections--specifically, whether or not counties should notify voters of mistakes in their mail-in ballots, like missing inner envelopes, and give them a chance to fix them. We believe that helping voters avoid losing their vote over a technicality is not just completely lawful, but should be celebrated. Even if one puts that aside, and concedes that county officials somehow erred, a disagreement over the local interpretation of PA election code could not possibly justify the shocking disenfranchisement of voters who followed all the rules, which the campaign sought. 

On November 21, Judge Matthew Brann of the Middle District of Pennsylvania agreed, dismissing the case. ""(T)his Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations...unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state," his opinion read. On November 27, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this dismissal in a unanimous decision from a three-judge panel.

 "The Trump campaign's attempts to subvert democracy have been deeply concerning," said our legal director Mimi McKenzie. "But it is reassuring that yet again a court has outright rejected their efforts to disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters."

Read more about the case and our efforts to protect voters' rights in coverage from the New York Times, Reuters, and ABC News.
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Inmates in FDC Philadelphia are facing a COVID-19 outbreak. We're in court to force the facility to take action. 

The Philadelphia Federal Detention Center
The Philadelphia Federal Detention Center
In April, we began representing pretrial detainees at the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center in a putative class action lawsuit demanding protection from COVID-19, joined by co-counsel from Dilworth Paxson LLP and attorney Jim Davy. Since then, the facility has increased testing of inmates-a crucial step toward mitigation that was virtually non-existent when we filed the case. In recent weeks, that testing has uncovered a massive and rapidly spreading outbreak, one whose scale is likely understated due to the FDC's refusal to commit to universal testing. More than 171 detainees in the 1,000 person facility have tested positive for COVID-19 since late October, along with 28 staff members.
The facility is currently locked down and communications are limited. The FDC also refused to make it possible for pretrial detainees, who have not been convicted of a crime, to speak confidentially with their attorneys through video conferences, interrupting their right to due process. On November 19, District Court Judge Anita Brody issued an order in the case, directing the FDC to notify all inmates that they can request release to home confinement if they are at increased risk for severe complications from COVID-19. Read more in this report from Billy Penn.
Though the notice given by this order is a step forward, the FDC needs to take additional action to properly manage the outbreak by improving healthcare within the facility and implementing regular testing. Our clients contend that the dangerous conditions within the FDC violate the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment and their 5th Amendment right to due process, and we will continue to assert their right to basic measures of safety.
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Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday!

Collage of clients for Giving Tuesday
Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, a global giving movement and a call to action to inspire effective charitable giving during the holiday season. 2020 has undoubtedly been a difficult year. We've been here through it all, defending tenants from illegal evictions, fighting to protect our right to vote, and so much more. We are ready to continue working with our communities to advance justice together, but we need your support. Giving Tuesday is a wonderful opportunity for anyone to get involved in our work with a first-time donation or a renewal of last year's Giving Tuesday gift. And this year, thanks to a generous matching gift from Reed Smith LLP, your donation will be matched $1-for-$1, up to $10,000. 

One Donation_ Double the Impact

P.S.: When you make a donation of $50 or more, you can receive a t-shirt from our 2020 annual celebration!
Fund Our Schools PA: A new way to stay up-to-date and get involved in our case challenging our school funding system

Fund Our Schools PA
For decades, Pennsylvania's low share of state funding for public education has left school districts dependent on local property taxes to fund schools. This leaves low-wealth school districts--urban, suburban, and rural--struggling to meet their students' basic needs. Alongside the Education Law Center-PA, we are representing districts and families who are challenging this system in court. Trial is set for early 2021. Now more than ever, we need people like you to demand that our State Legislature fulfill their constitutional responsibilities and create a school funding system that gives every student a chance to learn.  
To help, we've created a new website and social media pages dedicated to the case: Fund Our Schools PA. We will still share regular case updates on our own website and pages, but these new channels will provide helpful graphics and information to share with your friends and neighbors. Like Fund Our Schools PA on Facebook and follow Fund Our Schools PA on Instagram!

Right now, we are looking for Pennsylvania public school parents, teachers, students and alumni to share their stories of how underfunding affects their family and their community. Fill out this simple form if you would like to share, and we will get in touch with you. There are other ways you can join the fight for fair funding--check out Fund Our Schools PA for more info. 
On November 15, the Delaware County Daily Times published a detailed report on what this systemic underfunding means for local school districts. "[Our students] deserve the same opportunities as everybody else in the public education system, to compete on that playing field, and unfortunately that's not a reality," said Upper Darby superintendent Dr. Daniel McGarry.
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The Need for Permanence in a Pandemic: Fighting the displacement of gardeners and tenants 

Protester at socially distant protest

Protestors in TV news capture of socially distant RUP protest

Catalina Hunter Hunting Park Garden

A free educational program on December 9. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the interdependence of every member of our community, and the importance of stability. To stay safe from the pandemic, people need a safe and stable home. Open green spaces like community gardens are crucial resources. But housing stability and green spaces are both under threat in Philadelphia, in ways that both predate the pandemic and have been exacerbated by its economic fallout. These threats fall hardest on the communities that have faced the starkest impacts of the pandemic itself: Black and Hispanic low-income and working class communities.
In this program, our staff attorneys and community lawyers Ebony Griffin and Mary Beth Schluckebier will provide information on the relevant laws governing both tenant rights and community gardens in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. They will also share their direct experience with the opportunities and challenges of pairing organizing and lawyering. An application for approval of this course has been submitted and is pending for the state of Pennsylvania.
Free registration here. This program is open to all, both attorneys and non-attorneys. 
WhenWednesday, December 9, 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Where: Online webinar. 

Cost: Free registration. Program attendees are asked to consider a donation to the Law Center of whatever amount they feel is appropriate. Donate here.

Register Here

This program is co-hosted by Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. Faegre drinker has been certified by the Pennsylvania CLE board as an accredited provider of CLE. 
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We're looking for Summer 2021 interns!

The Public Interest Law Center
We are now accepting applications for Summer 2021 internships from law students, graduate students and undergraduates. Applications for all positions are due December 11.

Interns gain experience in civil rights law and learn the inner workings of one of Philadelphia's premier public interest firms. You'll become part of a close-knit group of attorneys, advocates, and others committed to social justice. Law Center attorneys and staff are committed to helping train the next generation of civil rights attorneys, advocates, and nonprofit leaders. Learn more and apply on our website.

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Welcome new fellow Caroline Ramsey! 

Caroline Ramsey
Caroline Ramsey
We're excited to welcome Caroline Ramsey to the Law Center as a University of Virginia School of Law Robert F. Kennedy '51 Public Service Fellow! Caroline was previously a summer legal intern for the Law Center in 2019. Prior to law school at University of Virginia, where she was a Karsh-Dillard Scholar, Caroline was a paralegal at Klasko Immigration Law Partners and worked for nonprofit organizations focused on education. Among other projects, she will join the team litigating our challenge to Pennsylvania's inadequate and inequitable school funding system. Help us welcome her by liking her post on LinkedIn!
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