Summer 2014 Update

In this issue:

Town Hall with Phyllis Cheng
Join us for a legal aid advocates town hall with the Director of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing on Thursday, July 31st.

PasadenaLEARNS Settlement
CWLC celebrates another Title IX victory.

The 2014 Pursuit of Justice Awards Luncheon
Honoring US Senator Barbara Boxer and UC Berkeley Professor Nancy Lemon.

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye
The Chief Justice highlighted funding challenges in a conversation with Betsy Butler.

New Board Member: Christa Demeke

Executive Director’s Message

CWLC has had a very busy and exciting year. Recently, we were delighted to acknowledge two remarkable leaders in US Senator Barbara Boxer and UC Berkeley Professor Nancy Lemon at our annual Pursuit of Justice Awards luncheon. In June, we hosted a conversation with the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye.

CWLC continues our work on behalf of women and girls through another Title IX victory, by defending a pregnant student’s right to get an education and our ongoing effort to assist low-income female veterans and ensure they receive better, more accessible healthcare. In light of the recent US Supreme Court decisions regarding buffer zones and medical insurance coverage for contraception, CWLC is working with our legal partners and allies to protect every woman’s right to safe, affordable healthcare.

If you have been closely following the Hobby Lobby case, you know the impact of this ruling is blunted in California because of the Women’s Contraception Equity Act.  Signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, this law requires companies to provide birth control benefits to all employees when the employer’s insurance provides prescription coverage to their employees.  Only religious non-profits can be granted an exemption.  In this case, federal law does not trump state law.

This is a stark reminder of how important it is that we are relentless in our fight to ensure that California state policies protect our rights because all too frequently federal law comes up short.

Right now you can get involved by writing to your state legislators and encouraging support of Senate Bill 1053.  This bill will strengthen state law for all insured individuals in California by ensuring employees have access to the full range of contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) without cost sharing, delays or denial of coverage.

Please click here to view this bill and the other legislation CWLC is supporting this session.

As always, thank you for your ongoing support of CWLC.

With gratitude and appreciation,

Betsy Butler
Interim Executive Director

Phyllis Cheng Town Hall

CWLC and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) invite you to join us for a town hall discussion with legal aid advocates and Phyllis W. Cheng.  Cheng is the Director of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and will be joined by Gregory Mann, DFEH’s Senior Staff Counsel.

The event will be held on Thursday, July 31st, from 3:00 – 4:30 PM at LAFLA’s West Office.  Join us to learn about new developments at DFEH and to share concerns about emerging workplace and housing issues with Director Cheng.  This event is free and open to all.  Light refreshments will be served.

PasadenaLEARNS Settlement: Another Title IX Victory

In June, CWLC claimed victory in our ongoing fight to ensure girls have equal access to school sports.

In conjunction with our partners at the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP (Simpson Thacher), we settled a Title IX claim against Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) after the District agreed to expand access to athletic opportunities for girls.

The claim was brought on behalf of middle school girls who were denied access to interscholastic sports. The Pasadena Unified School District’s PasadenaLEARNs program offered athletic opportunities to boys (such as flag football) but girls were not provided with comparable opportunities. Now, girls will be able to participate because Pasadena Unified and the interscholastic sports program they operate added basketball and soccer programs for girls, and may also add girls’ volleyball this fall.

Over the course of our investigation, we found that 48.9% of the students enrolled in the PUSD are girls yet only 10% of the participants in the PasadenaLEARNs program were girls.

“I was disappointed when I found out that I couldn’t play basketball because there was no girls’ team,” said Sophie Lindsay, one of the Pasadena Unified students affected by this violation of the law. “Playing sports is important to me, and I couldn’t believe that my only option was to cheer for the boys. When I learned they were starting a girls’ basketball team, I was excited! I knew that you have to speak up when you know something is wrong, but I have always struggled with it. I’m proud that I did speak up because girls are just as important as boys.”

With the introduction of new interscholastic sports and a real commitment from the district to include girls in the program, we were able to settle the case without taking legal action.

Click here to visit the press section of our website to read coverage of this case in the Pasadena Star News.

2014 Pursuit of Justice Awards

This year we honored US Senator Barbara Boxer and UC Berkeley School of Law Professor Nancy Lemon at the 2014 Pursuit of Justice Awards luncheon.

Senator Boxer was recognized for her work supporting female veterans and their families. In 2013, CWLC was honored to host Senator Boxer at our office when she announced the introduction of the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) addressing sexual assault in the military and to call for change regarding the way the military handles sexual assault. Senator Boxer also shared her plan to protect and secure justice for survivors and prevent future abuse. A tireless advocate for female veterans, in 2010 Senator Boxer founded the Senate Military Family Caucus to help address the challenges faced by families of U.S. service members.

Professor Nancy Lemon was acknowledged for her decades of work as a leading authority on domestic violence matters. Professor Lemon pioneered the study of domestic violence in law schools and is the author of Domestic Violence Law, the premiere textbook on the subject. Since 1988, Lemon has been teaching the Domestic Violence Seminar at Boalt Law School and she directs the Domestic Violence Practicum.

We are also grateful to Ana Garcia for being our event emcee and to CWLC Board Secretary, Cathy Kim, for sharing her story and experience with CWLC prior to joining the board.

Thank you again to the honorees, guests and sponsors who made the event a success.

Click here to read more and view pictures from the event.

Distinguished Speaker Series: Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye

California’s Chief Justice shared the dais with Interim Executive Director Betsy Butler for a conversation at Loyola Law School in June. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye addressed the limitations and far-reaching consequences of an under-funded court system and outlined how these financial challenges profoundly impact Californians’ access to justice.

As a result of previous budget shortfalls, California has been forced to close courtrooms and drastically reduce court staff across the state. The Chief Justice expressed concern that these closures and staff reductions have blocked access to justice for many Californians due to the time and expense associated with bringing a case to trial.

The Chief Justice is a vocal advocate for collaborative courts especially those tasked with addressing the needs of veterans and survivors of domestic violence. Inadequate funding has meant these courts have not been able to expand despite evidence that collaborative courts reduce recidivism and ease reintegration into the community.

She also remains committed to her vision of a justice system where everyone has safe physical and electronic access to the courts.

Update: In June, the Chief Justice got Governor Brown and the Legislature to add more funding to our courts.  Far from the amount our Chief Justice says we need to ensure there is a access to justice for all the governor did add $160 million in general court funding and $40 million for court construction and infrastructure to the 2014-2015 budget.

Click here for more from the event.

New Board Member: Christa Demeke

Christa Demeke is an attorney at Roll Law Group, P.C., representing Roll Global LLC’s affiliated companies. Christa is formerly of counsel at O’Melveny & Myers, LLP and she clerked for Judge Michael Ponsor of the US District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her pro bono work has focused on assisting asylum seekers, juveniles charged as adults in criminal cases, elder fraud, adoptions and pay equity. She is active with the I Have a Dream Foundation in Los Angeles. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and earned her law degree from Stanford Law School. Welcome Christa!

CWLC Participates in Rally to Stop the Sultan of Brunei

On May 5th, California Women’s Law Center Interim Executive Director Betsy Butler spoke at a rally to protest the Sultan of Brunei’s barbaric policies against women and the LGBT community. Betsy joined Jay Leno and members of the Feminist Majority along with human rights leaders Dolores Huerta, Ellie Smeal, Lorri Jean of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center and many others in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

Click here to read press coverage of the event.

Pregnant 8th Grader Forced Out of School is Able to Graduate Thanks to CWLC Intervention

A pregnant eighth grade student at a Pasadena middle school was able to graduate and will be attending high school in the fall due to our direct intervention. Our partners at the Alliance for Children’s Rights referred this case to CWLC after learning the middle school’s principal asked the student not to attend school when she began to show sings of pregnancy.

The school offered to create an independent study program and provide weekly assignments for the student to complete at home. The student’s mother reached out to the Alliance for Children’s Rights after the school failed to provide any work for two months.

CWLC remains committed to supporting pregnant students and ensuring that they are not discriminated against or prevented from completing their education because they have chosen to have a child.

Alliance Meeting in Seattle

Interim Executive Director Betsy Butler and Senior Staff Attorney Cacilia Kim participated in a meeting with The Alliance, a collaboration of five state-based women’s rights and gender equality centers formed to strengthen the ability of state organizations to advance reproductive justice as well as LGBT and women’s rights issues.  Working with Legal Voice in the Northwest, Gender Justice in the upper Midwest, the Women’s Law Project in Pennsylvania and the Southwest Women’s Law Center in New Mexico, our collective vision is to leverage the Alliance states as legal and policy laboratories for incubating innovative approaches to advocacy.

Summer Intern: Riki Rattner

We are grateful that Riki Rattner volunteered with CWLC this summer and assisted our projects helping female veterans.  A junior at Vanderbilt University, Riki is working directly with Senior Staff Attorney Cacilia Kim on our effort to help eliminate health barriers for women veterans. Riki has traveled throughout California over the last few months with Cacilia and has been a real asset to our team. Thank you Riki!

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