Updates on our PA Supreme Court case taking on firearm preemption laws
For decades, firearm preemption laws have blocked cities like Philadelphia from passing and enforcing most local gun safety measures--all while the state legislature refuses to consider action statewide. In October 2020, we sued to change that, and our case is now headed the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. We're representing residents of Philadelphia and Allegheny County who have lost family members to gun violence, and CeaseFirePA, joined by co-counsel from Hogan Lovells, and we filed the case alongside the City of Philadelphia.

Our client Stanley Crawford was featured in an October 28 NBC News report on the case, discussing his family's experience with gun violence and his reasons for joining the case and other efforts to curb gun violence. "It's my duty, it's my responsibility," Mr. Crawford said. "I owe it to my son that his life and his death won't be in vain."

"Philadelphians are moving mountains to keep their families and neighbors safe, and Philadelphians are demanding that their local officials take action to keep guns off the street," they write. "For legislative leaders in Harrisburg to step in and say that a whole category of local solutions — most regulations on guns — are absolutely off the table, thus hamstringing local leaders at the behest of gun industry lobbyists, is unconscionable."
Taking on gun violence: Challenging firearm preemption laws and other legal barriers to action in Pennsylvania

Join us for a free CLE program Wednesday, November 16
Gun violence is a public health and civil rights emergency in Philadelphia. More than 190 children have been shot so far this year in Philadelphia, and gun violence is the leading cause of death for young Black men and youth in Philadelphia. In the face of this crisis, state firearm preemption laws have handcuffed local governments, forbidding Philadelphia and other municipalities from adopting or enforcing citywide policies that research shows will save lives--all while the state legislature refuses to give statewide gun safety measures a fair hearing.

An ongoing lawsuit challenging the General Assembly's firearm preemption laws is now headed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In this CLE program, two attorneys leading this groundbreaking case--Ben Geffen and Mimi McKenzie of the Public Interest Law Center--will discuss the history of firearm preemption in Pennsylvania, why the General Assembly is violating the state constitution's guarantee of life and liberty for communities that face gun violence, and other legal approaches to addressing our city's most urgent challenge.

When: Wednesday, November 16, 12 PM - 1 PM
Where: Live via Zoom OR in person at Hogan Lovells, 1735 Market Street, Floor 23, Philadelphia, PA
This program is approved for CLE credit in California, New York, and Texas. Approval pending for 1 Substantive CLE credit in Pennsylvania. For all other jurisdictions attendees will receive proof of attendance certificates. 
Thank you to everyone who made Persevering for Justice a great celebration!
Michael Churchill speaking
O'Melveny attorney Katrina Robson speaking after accepting the Thaddeus Stevens award
Superintendent David McAndrew of Panther Valley accepting the Thaddeus Stevens award
Spiral Q wearable puppets of city hall and a dancing mailbox
The West Powelton Drummers during their performance
candid shot of guests enjoying the event
Thank you to all of our supporters and friends for making Perseverance for Justice a celebration to remember! We could not keep going in the fight for civil and social rights without all of you. You can read Michael Churchill's remarks after receiving this year's Thaddeus Stevens Award in recognition of 50 years of dedication to taking on discrimination and poverty using the law. We also featured a video interview with Michael reflecting on his time as a lawyer in the public interest.

"If I have one lesson to preach," he said, "it is that lawyers interested in social justice cannot treat their cases as a contest of the best-reasoned law review article, but we must build up networks of support in various venues throughout society in order to create the conditions where courts will find our arguments acceptable."
Law Center in the News: Taking on the independent state legislature theory
On December 7, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Moore v. Harper. In the case, state legislative leaders in North Carolina are putting forth a radical legal argument that could reshape elections across the country: the independent state legislature theory, which posits that state legislatures alone, without the checks and balances of state courts or governors, are responsible for all aspects of federal elections.

In an October 14 op-ed in The Legal Intelligencer, "Does the U.S. Constitution Bar State Courts From Protecting Voting Rights?," our senior attorney Ben Geffen and staff attorney Claudia De Palma take an in-depth look at the history of this spurious legal doctrine. They review the long history of federal jurisprudence upholding the vital role of state constitutions, courts and governors in determining election procedures, and they lay out the high stakes for voters in this important case.

"If the U.S. Supreme Court accepts the independent state legislature theory advanced in Moore, the right of citizens to free and equal elections will be in peril," they write. "In a casino, the house always wins; under the independent state legislature theory, the state house and senate always win. Guess who loses?"
We're ready to protect free and equal elections
Election Day is next Tuesday, November 8! Find your polling place here.

Our attorneys are proud to be part of the team staffing the national election protection hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, led by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. Call or text this hotline with any voting questions or concerns.

We fully expect that the right of all citizens, whether voting by mail or in-person, to participate in our democracy will be respected--and that all candidates will accept the results of a free and fair election. But we remain vigilant in defense of our most fundamental right, and we are prepared to once again vigorously oppose the kinds of specious challenges that we saw in the aftermath of the 2020 general election, should the need arise. This work is part of the the Jeffrey Golan & Frances Vilella-Vélez Voting Justice Project.
Welcome our new staff attorney, Caroline Ramsey!
We're so excited to welcome Caroline Ramsey to the Law Center as a staff attorney, focused on education, special education, and other matters pertaining to people with disabilities!

Prior to joining us as a staff attorney, Caroline helped support our school funding lawsuit as a University of Virginia School of Law Robert F. Kennedy ’51 Public Service Fellow and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Gerald A. McHugh of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Help us welcome Caroline by liking her post on Facebook!
Welcome our new Independence Foundation fellow, Madison Gray!
We're so excited to welcome Madison Gray, our new Independence Foundation Attorney Fellow, to the Law Center! Madison will work to increase access to housing and healthcare for Philadelphians with disabilities. 

Prior to joining the Law Center, Madison served as a law clerk to the Honorable Elizabeth Stong of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York. Help us welcome Madison by liking her post on Facebook!