Greetings from the California Women’s Law Center. It has been a busy year at CWLC and we have a lot to share:
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I am excited to have joined the California Women’s Law Center in April as the Interim Executive Director, following in the footsteps of Katie Buckland who left CWLC to become the new Executive Director at the Writer’s Guild Foundation.
In May, it was my pleasure to have met so many people at our annual Pursuit of Justice Awards who are dedicated to our mission and I look forward to connecting with many more partners and other stakeholders in the coming months.
The California Women’s Law Center has had a busy, successful year to date. Highlights include an inspiring and motivational annual awards breakfast, being chosen as the recipient of two new grants focusing on access to healthcare for female veterans and a visit from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who held a press conference in our office regarding the Senator’s military sexual trauma (MST) bill. In addition, we have had several amazing new members join our board. Together, I know we can continue to build upon an already solid foundation.
As Interim Executive Director, a number of issues have taken priority as I work to grow CWLC. Most importantly, I plan to stay in better touch with you. CWLC is an incredible organization doing life-changing work every day and I believe it is important that the community be kept apprised of, and encouraged to participate in, our effort to champion the issues impacting women and girls in poverty in California. This newsletter is a key component of a multifaceted communications plan including an increased social media presence, an updated and more interactive website and a broad plan to communicate with our constituents, supporters and funders.
CWLC will continue to focus on the areas of greatest importance to women and girls in California: gender discrimination, women’s health, violence against women, reproductive justice and the unique concerns of women veterans. We will also continue working on Title IX issues on behalf of female high school athletes. We are delighted to continue to work in partnership with similarly focused organizations in all of these endeavors.
It is a privilege to work with you to ensure that the needs of women and girls are being met. With your ongoing support, we will continue to build upon CWLC’s amazing accomplishments. Please join our email list and share this opportunity with others who want to help achieve equality and fairness for all. To be added to our email list, please contact Elvira Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly at email@example.com. I welcome your input and want to work with you to build a more just society for women and girls.
With gratitude and appreciation,
2013 Pursuit of Justice Awards Breakfast
On Wednesday, May 29th, the California Women’s Law Center honored Sandra Fluke, the Honorable Fiona Ma, Amy Ziering and Susan Burke at the Abby J. Leibman Pursuit of Justice Awards breakfast. Sandra Fluke was honored for a career advocating for women’s rights. She came to national prominence in 2012 after being denied the chance to testify at a congressional hearing on insurance coverage for birth control. She has since continued to be an outspoken advocate for women and girls using platforms like the 2012 Democratic National Convention to bring these issues before a broader audience.
Former Speaker Pro Tempore of the California State Assembly Fiona Ma was honored for her tireless work fighting for women’s rights in the California State Legislature. Assemblymember Ma chaired the Assembly Domestic Violence Committee and discussed her effort to enact legislation on behalf of incarcerated women who are survivors of domestic violence.
Amy Ziering and Susan Burke were awarded the Pursuit of Justice Award for their roles in the documentary “The Invisible War.” Producer Amy Ziering was horrified to discover an ongoing epidemic of sexual assault in the military where survivors are not provided access to an impartial system of justice. Susan Burke, a lawyer featured in the film for her role filing suit on behalf of survivors of sexual assault in the military, was honored for her commitment to justice. Burke’s firm interviewed hundreds of survivors and now represents dozens of plaintiffs in several complaints. The film has been cited by community and elected leaders as a key motivating factor in the pursuit of legislation to protect survivors of sexual assault in the military.
The breakfast also honored departing Executive Director Katie Buckland who left CWLC in April to serve as the Executive Director of the Writers Guild Foundation. Board President Lois Thompson and Interim Executive Director Betsy Butler both spoke about Katie’s dedicated service and plans for CWLC’s growth building on Katie’s work.
On May 31st, the California Women’s Law Center hosted a press conference with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and military sexual assault survivor, Stacey Thompson. Senator Boxer is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 967, the Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013. The bill, authored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, addresses Military Sexual Trauma (MST) by removing decisions about prosecuting instances of military sexual assault from the military hierarchy and instead would place this responsibility in the hands of independent lawyers.
For the first time, MST survivor Stacey Thompson shared her personal experience and called on Congress to pass legislation that would have brought her rapist to justice had Senate Bill 967 been in place during her MST experience. Thompson faced retaliation from her superiors after bringing her rape to their attention and was ultimately discharged as a result.
Boxer spoke about the need to end sexual assault and rape in the military. She emphasized flaws in the process saying, “the current military justice system gives commanders the power to make sure that even rock solid cases never see the light of day in court.” The Department of Defense estimated that approximately 26,000 servicemen and women were sexually assaulted in 2012. Ninety percent of cases went unreported, and only 238 attackers were convicted out of 3,374 reported cases.
Last year, Boxer successfully passed legislation to ban those convicted of felony sex crimes from joining the military and she testified before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, calling for a proactive response to this problem.
The Military Justice Improvement Act’s passage would mean an upheaval of seriously entrenched military policy, removing the commander’s power to decide whether or not to prosecute cases involving serious crimes such as sexual assault, giving the cases directly to trained military prosecutors. CWLC supports the Military Justice Improvement Act and strongly believes that systemic change is necessary to better protect survivors of sexual assault in the military.
CWLC and Partners Provide Free Legal Services for Women Veterans at Stand Down
On Friday, July 19th, the California Women’s Law Center (CWLC) was joined by the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, the Inner City Law Center, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, Public Counsel and Levitt & Quinn to provide a wide range of services to women veterans at the Third Annual Female Veterans Stand Down hosted by the United States Veterans Initiative (U.S. Vets). CWLC was proud to organize this collaboration between non-profit, private and government attorneys. The Stand Down took place in Long Beach, California and is the largest event of its kind in the country.
Stand Down events are intervention programs designed to connect veterans to needed legal, medical and other services at no cost. Conscious of the unique needs and experiences of female veterans, U.S. Vets sponsored this all-female Stand Down. Female veteran events encourage higher attendance as many women are hesitant to attend an event with male service members.
CWLC and our partners coordinated the legal services component of the event which brings together state and local resources and caters to the needs of returning female service members and their families. Legal service providers were carefully chosen to ensure the services provided matched the needs of those in attendance.
Laurie Aronoff, the Pro Bono Director for the Los Angeles County Bar Association, was in attendance as well as and Elizabeth Warner-Sterkenburg who is a 30-year veteran of the Public Defender’s Office. These county resources proved invaluable because Ms. Aronoff and the County Bar brought private attorneys to provide free consultations and consider many of these cases for further action.
Ms. Warner-Sterkenburg coordinated with public defenders offices across the state in advance of the Stand Down and on the day of the event, Ms. Warner-Sterkenburg was able to call each public defender’s office and get nearly immediate answers about veterans’ cases so that on-site attorneys could take action.
This years’ Stand Down assisted over 50 women veterans with their legal needs.
New Projects Focused on Healthcare for Female Veterans
The California Women’s Law Center is excited to launch two new projects focused on the unique healthcare needs of female veterans funded by grants from Swords to Plowshares, a non-profit veterans service organization.
We are excited to partner with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center in creating the California Women Veterans Legal Collaborative. The collaborative focuses on strengthening the system of care for women with a history of MST (military sexual trauma) by addressing multiple legal concerns related to their assaults. We will also focus on discharge determinations and ensuring that female veterans receive all their benefits. The collaborative will also create a statewide legal assistance resource center that will provide private pro bono legal services and technical support, training and assistance. The Women Veterans Legal Collaborative aims to build expert knowledge, data, and capacity to deal with the unique legal challenges facing women veterans who experience MST.
Swords to Plowshares has also funded a project designed to ensure women veterans have access to necessary health care services. The goal of the Eliminating Health Barriers Project is to work directly with female veterans, veteran advocates, healthcare professionals, and other key informants to gather robust data. This data will be used to identify new barriers and provide solutions for well-documented problems that female veterans face when they seek health care. CWLC and our partners will conduct focus group discussions with female veterans about health barriers and potential solutions to overcome these obstacles in discussions to be held statewide. Our research will also integrate interviews with veteran advocates and healthcare professionals. This information will be gathered to produce a policy report with specific legislative recommendations based on our findings. We are proud to partner with organizations that have demonstrated success and experience supporting female veterans including the California Statewide Collaborative for our Military Families, San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center, Women Veterans Strategic Alliance, Inc., and Twenty and Four, Honor Society of Women Legionnaires.
CWLC Welcomes Four New Board Members
In 1990, Victor George opened his own practice, the Law Offices of Victor George, representing plaintiffs in employment discrimination and catastrophic personal injury matters. In 2005, Victor was named Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) and has been nominated for this honor eight out of the last ten years. Victor has been nominated as the National Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice twice.
Shawn Khorrami, Partner, Khorrami Boucher Sumner and Sanguinetti, has extensive litigation experience covering environmental, employment, fraud, consumer class actions and product liability matters. Shawn has testified multiple times as an invited expert before the House of Representatives and serves on `several boards including the American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Public Justice Foundation, the Consumer Attorneys of California, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, AIDS Project Los Angeles and the Pepperdine University School of Law Board of Visitors.
Prior to joining Amonix, Cathy Kim was a team leader for the APEC Business Advisory Council, researching economic trade issues for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation report on sustainable energy for business leaders gathered from around the world in Japan in 2010. She was a senior litigation associate for Winston & Strawn where she defended publicly traded companies to resolve SEC and DOJ matters. She also served as a litigation associate at Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory and was an assistant Development Director for the Sundance Institute.
Christine Spagnoli is a Partner at Greene Broillet & Wheeler and is a leading plaintiff’s attorney focusing on personal injury and product liability cases. Chris is the former president of the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) as well as the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). She has received numerous awards including being named Most Outstanding Young Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2001 by the American Association for Justice and the 2012 Trial Lawyer of the Year by CAOC.
Hanging On to Unused Business Clothes?
The California Women’s Law Center will be hosting their first Clothes the Deal clothing drive August 1st – September 31st. Clothes the Deal is a non-profit organization that provides business clothing and accessories to low-income individuals who are preparing for job interviews and work in professional settings. CWLC will be taking donations of high-quality, new and used professional clothing at our office located at 5670 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 460. Thank you in advance for you generous support of CWLC and our partners.
Title IX: Sweetwater Case
CWLC will be back in court this month calling for the Federal District Court to enforce the injunction won against Sweetwater Union High School District. CWLC staff attorneys continue to fight for female athletes in Title IX cases across the state. Check our website for regular updates on the case.
Equal Pay Today! Campaign
In June of this year, CWLC joined 14 partner organizations to call for an end to the gender-based wage gap that exists in the United States. The campaign focuses on stopping the practice of women getting less pay for doing the same work, job segregation, retaliation against workers for discussing their pay, pay reductions due to pregnancy and caregiving responsibilities, and wage theft. CWLC joined our partners in sending a letter to every Governor in the country asking each one to close the wage gap in their state.
CWLC Summer High School Interns
CWLC is grateful for the contributions and hard work of our dedicated summer interns.
Listed from left to right: Our interns are, Claire Gross – a senior at Oakwood School, where she runs a Women’s Awareness Club that addresses pertinent issues facing women. She hopes to be a lawyer someday. Sophie Kupetz – a junior at Oakwood School. She is a passionate debater and is vice president of student government. She enjoys working on women’s rights issues. Hana Chop – a senior at Harvard Westlake where she created and runs a blog that focuses on women’s issues; she also plays competitive field hockey. Lucy Putnam – a rising senior at Harvard Westlake. She is an active soccer player, as well as a member of her school’s Mock Trial team. She plans to go into law. Grace Rehaut – a rising senior at Palos Verdes High School, where she works as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and writes many op-ed pieces on women’s rights.
Betsy Butler Joins CWLC as Interim Executive Director
The California Women’s Law Center is proud to welcome former Assemblymember Betsy Butler to her new role as Interim Executive Director. Elected to the California State Assembly in 2010, Betsy represented the 53rd Assembly District which stretched along the coast from Venice to Torrance.
During her two-year term, Betsy authored and Governor Jerry Brown signed, fourteen pieces of legislation addressing the needs of seniors, veterans, consumers, the environment and working families. She authored landmark legislation banning the toxic substance Bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby products and was named the Vietnam Veterans of America’s Legislator of the Year (2011) as well as the American Veterans’ (AMVETS) Legislator of the Year (2012) in recognition of her work benefiting those who have served our country.
Currently, Betsy serves on the board of Equality California, the Redondo Beach Veteran’s Memorial Task Force and the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project of Los Angeles. CWLC is excited to have Betsy’s leadership and assistance in more effectively advocating for women and girls in California.