We Oppose PA Legislative Leaders' Third Request to SCOTUS to Reinstate  Gerrymandered Map
 
The US Supreme Court
The US Supreme Court has twice rejected requests from Pennsylvania legislative leaders to replace the new, fair congressional district map we secured earlier this year. Nevertheless, on June 21, state legislative leaders submitted a third request for intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court. Senator Scarnati and Representative Turzai filed a petition for writ of certiorari, asking the highest court in the country to review the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's judgment. On September 24, together with our co-counsel from Arnold & Porter, we filed a brief in opposition to their petition on behalf of the original petitioners in our successful case, 18 Pennsylvania voters. 
 
There is simply no basis for the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. In our opposition brief, we argue that if the Court overturned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision it would violate fundamental principles of federalism, as well as legal precedent that establishes that state courts have the independence to make legal decisions about state law. Legislators should abandon their attempts to reinstate the unconstitutional map and focus on more important work, like fully funding public schools. 

 
Voting is Our Superpower: Tickets Selling Fast!
 
Illustration courtesy of Libby VanderPloeg 

Join us to celebrate our historic victory against partisan gerrymandering with a night of fun and festivities at our annual celebration! This year, we will honor Arnold & Porter, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, and our 18 gerrymandering lawsuit clients. 

Thursday, October 18
6:00-9:00 p.m.
Fringe Arts + La Peg
140 N. Columbus Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Tickets: $160

Last year's event sold out, so be sure to secure your tickets soon! 

If you or your firm is interested in sponsoring this years' celebration, the deadline is October 2! 

For sponsorship  and more information, click below or contact Michael Berton at  mberton@pubintlaw.org  or 267-546-1303

Fighting for Communities to be Heard: Our Comments on PA DEP's Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy
 
Members of the Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition
Earlier this year, Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a draft of its  Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy and requested comments. This policy provides guidelines for DEP's approach to the permit review process in Environmental Justice Areas - communities where 20 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line and/or 30 percent of residents are non-white. 

We submitted public comments on behalf of two of our clients: the Wynnefield Residents' Association and the Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition. These groups have experience finding meaningful ways to engage a community in environmental projects. For example, with our support, Eastwick residents have organized their community to develop plans to stave off increased flooding and participate in a community-led planning process.

In our comments, we commend DEP for taking steps towards improving public participation standards. However, we find that the policy falls short in ensuring meaningful community engagement.  We recommend that the policy be enacted as a regulation, with compliance obligations and clearly defined penalties for non-compliance. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Emmanuel Allison

Emmanuel Allison
Volunteers are essential to the work we do, and Emmanuel Allison is one of our most dedicated volunteers. Four afternoons a week, Emmanuel staffs our front desk. He is often the first person someone speaks with when they call us. He directs calls to staff or provides referrals to our peer organizations. Emmanuel worked for the Philadelphia Probation Department before retiring in 2006, and has lived in Philadelphia for 30 years. He found us through the Philadelphia Mayor's Commission on Aging. "I enjoy being able to get out and help people solve their problems," he said. When he's not at the office, Emmanuel is watching his favorite teams: the Phillies and the 76ers. Thank you Emmanuel!

Victory Against Disinvestment: Philadelphia's "Windows and Doors" Ordinance Upheld

Boarded up rowhomes
Flickr user Paul Sableman
We regularly file "friend of the court" briefs to advocate in cases that are not ours, but that have the potential to advance the rights of communities that face  discrimination.  This month, we saw the impact of one of our amicus briefs as it was acknowledged in a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision upholding Philadelphia's "Windows and Doors" ordinance. 

The "Windows and Doors" ordinance requires owners of vacant properties to maintain working doors and windows in an effort to combat the effects deteriorating and neglected buildings can have on a neighborhood. Together with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, we represented six community development organizations to brief the court on how the ordinance can stave off disinvestment, decrease crime, and increase community morale. Prior to the state supreme court's decision, the ordinance was struck down by the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. 

Free Training: Tools to Improve Post-Secondary Outcomes for Students with Disabilities
 
Kids studying
Join us and our co-hosts from the Juvenile Law Center to learn about the legal rights of students with disabilities to receive services that help them succeed in life after high school. You will learn about:
  • types of transition services
  • transition service requirements under the federal special education law and state laws
  • obstacles to these services, especially those that court-involved youth face
  • strategies for obtaining the right services for students with disabilities

Wednesday, October 24, 2018
4:00 - 5:30 p.m. 
Greenberg Traurig, LLP
2700 Two Commerce Square,  2001 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

1.5 hours of CLE credit available for Pennsylvania attorneys. 


#ProtectFamilies: A Proposed Change to the "Public Charge" Rule Would Negatively Impact Immigrant Communities
 
Take Action Philly
A proposed federal rule change could force immigrant families to think that they have to make impossible choices between staying together and meeting their basic, human needs. The draft rule change, announced on September 22 by the Department of Homeland Security, would expand the existing "public charge" test for immigrants seeking lawful permanent residency to include assessment of additional public assistance programs, including Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps). 

The public charge rule  is designed to identify immigrants who may, at some time in the future, depend on government benefits as their main source of support. A public charge determination can be grounds to deny admission to the U.S. or refuse an application for lawful permanent residency, even from immigrants who have lived and worked in this country for years.

DHS acknowledged that the proposed policy could drive down enrollment in assistance programs by otherwise eligible families, leading to worse health outcomes, increased rates of poverty, and increased use of emergency room care. In the coming days, DHS will open a public comment process, and we encourage you to take action and submit comments. Here's how:
  • Follow new developments on social media under the hashtag #ProtectFamilies. 
  • The Protecting Immigrant Families campaign has more information on the rule and ways to take action now
  • On October 2 at 10 a.m., our partners at the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia will host a webinar on the public charge rule and ways to take action. Register online here

Voting is our Superpower Honoree Spotlight: Our Clients
 
Our gerrymandering lawsuit clients
Gerrymandering Lawsuit Clients
League of Women Voters_ Making Democracy Work
At our annual event, we will honor and thank the plaintiffs in our historic case against partisan gerrymandering: the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and 18 voters from each of the 2011 congressional districts. 

These clients showed bravery and fortitude by openly confronting the 2011 gerrymandered map. Pennsylvania's democracy is stronger because of them. 

Help us thank them by liking their post on Facebook! And, join us at  our annual event on October 18!