Major Victory in School Funding Lawsuit

Fair Funding
Fair funding rally
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court delivered a major victory this week for schoolchildren across the commonwealth  when it ordered the Commonwealth Court to hold a trial on whether state officials are violating the state's constitution by failing to adequately and equitably fund public education. This decision comes in our School Funding Lawsuit, which was filed in 2014 on behalf of parents, school districts, and statewide organizations in response to the failure in Harrisburg to adequately fund public education and provide students with the resources they need to succeed academically. In a sweeping decision, the Court agreed that it has a clear duty to consider the case and ensure legislative compliance with the state's Education Clause, which requires the General Assembly to "provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education" for Pennsylvania's schoolchildren. You can learn more about this decision and the full case on our website.

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Using Class Action Litigation to End Exploitative Eviction Practices by Collection Lawyers

Cassandra Baker
Cassandra Baker
This week we filed a class action lawsuit seeking to give meaning to the legal protections
 Philadelphia enacted to protect vulnerable renters from unsafe housing. 

Shortly after moving into her Hunting Park apartment in 2014, lifelong Philadelphian Cassandra Baker notified her property manager that there was no heat in one of the bedrooms, making it unusable during the winter. Other problems arose as well, but instead of making sufficient repairs, her landlord filed an eviction lawsuit against her. 
Under Philadelphia law, Ms. Baker owed no rent. But like thousands of low-income tenants, Ms. Baker did not have an attorney to represent her, leaving her without power to ensure her landlord's lawyer followed the law. We are bringing a class action on behalf of Ms. Baker and others like her against her landlord's collection lawyer to ensure other lawyers in the landlord bar comply with the law, and stop demanding money from low-income tenants that those tenants do not owe. 

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2017 Annual Celebration: Rise Up
Thursday, October 19, 2017
6 - 9 PM | Fringe Arts + La Peg

2017 Annual Celebration
2017 Annual Celebration: Rise Up
On Thursday, October 19, 
join us as we Rise Up   to protect the values of equality and opportunity that we treasure so deeply in this nation. The magnificent Fringe Arts will serve as the backdrop for a wonderful night of food, drink and celebration. Most importantly, we will honor others who have Risen Up, including:
  • our Tenant Clients for standing up to their landlords and trying to change the system in Landlord-Tenant Court
  • attorney Stephen F. Gold for advancing the rights of people with disabilities through decades of radical litigation and advocacy
  • Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Deborah R. Gross for her advocacy and leadership in  support of Philadelphia's critical legal service organizations.
We are also excited to announce that Tamala Edwards of 6ABC will serve as the event emcee! 

Sponsorships: $500 - $20,000 (Available until October 3.)
The Fair Market Value of each ticket used is $75

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Annual Celebration Spotlight: Tenant Clients

Yazmin Vazquez attorney Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg and Gerrell Martin
Yazmin Vazquez, attorney Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg and Gerrell Martin
We will honor our tenant clients at our Annual Celebration on October 19, 2017.  In order to bring landlord-tenant cases, like the new class action we just filed, the Law Center partners with low-income clients who have the courage and capacity to stand up for their rights. In addition to Cassandra Baker, we will honor clients Yazmin Vazquez and Gerrell Martin. All three faced uninhabitable living conditions and landlords that refused to fix the issues and still demanded rent. We applaud the courage of our tenant clients, and we are proud to honor them at our Annual Celebration.

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Pennsylvania Redistricting Lawsuit Hearing
Wednesday, October 4 , 2017
10:00 AM | Pennsylvania Judicial Center, Harrisburg

Pennsylvania Judicial Center
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court is currently scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday, October 4, in our partisan gerrymandering lawsuit.
  And we need your help to fill the court room in Harrisburg and show the Court how important this case is to Pennsylvania voters The hearing will focus on an Application to Stay filed by the General Assembly and the legislative leaders. We oppose this application, in which legislators ask for a delay of the case until a federal lawsuit out of Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford, has been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. RSVP if you can join us so that together we can demonstrate to the Court that Pennsylvania voters want our votes to matter.

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Fighting Neglect in Philadelphia

Blight in Philadelphia_ credit_ Philadelphia Magazine
Rowhomes in Philadelphia
Community groups fighting to revitalize their communities from boarded up and uncared for buildings lost an important tool when first a Philadelphia court and then the Commonwealth Court struck down a City ordinance requiring operable doors and windows on vacant buildings. In response to this devastating interference with community revitalization, we, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, and community groups around the city filed an amicus brief telling the Pennsylvania Supreme Court how important the Windows and Doors Ordinance is to the fight on blight and how mistaken the lower courts were. Blight and neglect of property are significant problems in Philadelphia, as there are thousands of vacant and abandoned buildings. The ordinance required buildings in neighborhoods that are 75% occupied to have functioning doors and windows. In the 17 years since it was passed, the ordinance has served the City well and over 3,000 citations were filed to bring buildings up to code. 

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New Fellows and AmeriCorps Member

Top Left: George Donnelly; Bottom Left: Darlene Hemerka; Right: Leslie Wimes
We are pleased to announce our team is growing! 

George Donnelly is a  Penn Law  Postgraduate Fellow, funded by the Langer, Grogan & Diver Fellowship in Social Justice, who will target the severe power imbalance in Philadelphia between tenants and their landlords. 

Darlene Hemerka is an Equal Justice Works fellow sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, who will help students with disabilities gain greater access to transition services that help them move from high school to post-secondary opportunities such as college and employment. 

Leslie Wimes is an AmeriCorps Ability member who will serve a year-long term focusing on inclusion services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 
Langer and Griffault elected to Board, Mehta Recognized for Service

Aneesh Mehta
Aneesh Mehta
At its September meeting, the Law Center Board of Directors elected Megan Jones Griffault of FMC Corporation and Howard Langer of Langer, Grogan & Diver P.C. into its membership. The board also expressed its appreciation for Aneesh Mehta, who resigned from the board after seven years of service. You can read the full board resolution in Aneesh's honor on our website. Welcome Megan and Howard, and thank you for everything Aneesh!

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