Winter 2015 Update

We have been working diligently in the pursuit of justice for women and girls at the California Women’s Law Center and we have much to share.

In this issue:

CWLC Attorneys Receive Award for Ollier v. Sweetwater
Read more in the March 2015 issue of California Lawyer Magazine

Distinguished Guest Speaker Series with Amy Ziering
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Ziering and her new film The Hunting Ground

Inaugural Los Angeles County Veteran & Families Stand Down
CWLC staff assist veterans in need

CWLC Hosts Biannual Alliance Meeting
State-based advocates for women’s rights and gender justice gather to strategize

CWLC Attends the California Women’s Policy Summit
Spreading awareness on issues impacting Californian women

42nd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade Press Conference
Interim Executive Director Betsy Butler speaks with reproductive justice advocates

The Global Struggle for Women’s Equality Symposium
Women leaders discuss global inequality

CWLC Welcomes Michele Deane
We are proud to welcome Michele to our team

Executive Director’s Message

Greetings and much joy and good health to you and yours in 2015. We look forward to working with you to improve the lives of women and girls in California and stay focused on our goal of working toward equality and fairness for all.

This year began on a most purposeful and impactful note as CWLC hosted The Alliance: State Advocates for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in our office in early January. The Alliance is a collaboration of five women’s rights and gender justice organizations from across the country that are working together to advocate and influence policy to improve women’s lives.

January also marked the 42nd anniversary of the passage of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision which guaranteed that abortion is legal in the United States.  The choice to abort a pregnancy is never easy but it is a right that women in this country have been granted and needs to be protected.  As I write this, signatures are being gathered for another parental notification initiative to appear on the ballot and anti-choice proponents are also circulating legislation in Sacramento that would prohibit abortions after twenty weeks.  If the parental notification initiative qualifies for the ballot again, it will be the fourth time that this fight has been waged via the initiative process in California. Legal abortion has been the law of the land for more than four decades and CWLC will do all it can to ensure women have the right to make reproductive and family planning decisions that personally work best for them.

Purposeful February began with our Distinguished Guest Speaker Series hosted at the Writers’ Guild with a discussion and preview of the film The Hunting Ground, which is Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Ziering’s (The Invisible War) most recent documentary on campus sexual assault. Amy was joined by director and screenwriter Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) and television writer Pam Veasey (CSI and CSI: Cyber) for a revealing conversation about rape and sexual assault on our college campuses and the extent to which certain institutions of higher learning have protected campus predators.  We particularly want to thank former CWLC Executive Director Katie Buckland for helping make this evening possible. The Hunting Ground will be shown in select cities starting February 27. If you live in Los Angeles or New York, please plan to see this important film during its opening week and support the effort to end campus sexual assault.

CWLC also recently filed an amicus curiae brief asking for a judicial review by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding immigration decisions that keep families apart. The US Constitution prohibits the Government from depriving a U.S. citizen of their liberty without due process of law. This case raises questions about the scope of the fundamental liberties guaranteed to all Americans, including the right to have a family with the person you love.

Progress comes when people who care deeply about an issue or injustice come together and demand change. Whether it is working to ensure a women’s right to choose, or helping build a foundation of support to make sure our college campuses are safe, or making our voice heard about a family’s right to stay together, the California Women’s Law Center is proud to be a part of the march toward equality for women and families in California and across the nation.

Thank you for supporting our mission and for joining with us to pursue justice for women and girls.

Here’s wishing you a safe and happy 2015,

Betsy Butler
Interim Executive Director


CWLC Receives CLAY Award for Ollier v. Sweetwater

California Lawyer magazine has announced it will honor CWLC Attorneys J. Cacilia Kim and Vicky Barker with their 2015 Attorney of the Year (CLAY) Award for their work on Ollier v. Sweetwater Union High School District.

In September 2014, the attorneys scored a significant victory when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling that Sweetwater Union High School District is out of compliance with Title IX. CWLC has been fighting since 2007 to ensure that girls at Castle Park High School have equal access to the athletic opportunities they deserve.

Elizabeth Kristen, a senior staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, and Erin C. Witkow, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, are also receiving the award with CWLC Attorneys Kim and Barker. The attorneys will be featured in the March 2015 issues of California Lawyer. Read the press release here.


Distinguished Guest Speaker Series with Amy Ziering, Kimberly Peirce and Pam Veasey

CWLC proudly welcomed filmmaker Amy Ziering to our Distinguished Guest Speaker Series where we previewed clips and hosted a discussion on her new film about campus sexual assault called The Hunting Ground. Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, the Oscar-nominated filmmakers of The Invisible War, a 2012 documentary film about sexual assault in the United States military, shared their insight into the making of the film and its content.

Hosted at the Writer’s Guild Foundation, Amy Ziering is joined by panelist Kimberly Peirce of the film Boy’s Don’t Cry and Pam Veasey of CBS’s CSI and CSI: Cyber.

Amy spoke about the culture of protecting sexual predators in our country’s institutions of higher learning. “It’s a premeditated crime and they [the sexual predators] highly target their victims,” Ziering explained.

Fresh from The Sundance Film Festival, The Hunting Ground will be released to selected theaters in Los Angeles and New York starting February 27, 2015, and in Boston, San Francisco and Berkeley in March 2015. Advanced tickets are now available for purchase at the Landmark Theatre, Los Angeles.


Christa Demeke, Edie Mermelstein, Amy Ziering, Lois Thompson,
Betsy Butler, Kirby Dick, Cathy Kim and Laura Riley

CWLC Participates in Inaugural Los Angeles County Veteran & Families Stand Down

In December, CWLC Staff Attorney Laura Riley, with CWLC volunteer attorney Jenee Barnes and a team of legal aid and supportive service organizations, participated in a Los Angeles County sponsored Stand Down which drew over 3200 veterans. CWLC offered counsel to veterans and disseminated legal information to the attendees. Knowing that many women veterans suffer from Military Sexual Trauma (MST) in addition to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), CWLC coordinated with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles to have women veterans referred directly to CWLC for assistance.

CWLC Hosts Biannual Alliance Meeting

CWLC hosted the biannual meeting of The Alliance: State Advocates for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, which brought together a collaborative of women’s rights and gender justice advocacy organizations working in 11 states across the country.

Members of The Alliance include Gender Justice in Minnesota, Legal Voice in Washington, The Southwest Women’s Law Center in New Mexico, the Women’s Law Project in Pennsylvania and CWLC. The Alliance was formed to strengthen our collective advocacy and ability to advance women’s rights, reproductive justice and LGBT rights.

Alliance Group Jan. 2015

Alliance Members (Top row, left to right) Shira Saferstein, Jill Gaulding, Lisa Stone,
Jenifer McKenna and Terry Fromson
(Bottom row, left to right) Pamelya Herndon, Carol Tracy,
Lisa Stratton, Betsy Butler, Janet Chung and Paige Duhamel


CWLC Attends the California Women’s Policy Summit

In January, CWLC participated in the California Women’s Policy Summit in Sacramento which prioritized women’s health, wealth and strength and was hosted by the California Center for Research on Women and Families.

Many issues regarding women’s ability to succeed and prosper were discussed, including the California Paid Family Leave Program which provides up to six weeks of paid family leave for workers when they have a child, adopt or foster a new child, or need to take care of a sick family member.

CA_Womens_Policy_Summit Laura Riley with Nancy Kirshner-Rodriguez of the
California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls

(From left to right) Sharon Termon of Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center;
Kate Karpilow of California Center for Research on Women and Families;
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson;
Jenya Cassidy of California Work & Family Coalition

CWLC Attends Senate Hearing on Title IX

In January, CWLC participated in the California State Judiciary Committee hearing on Title IX. The purpose of the hearing was to understand how schools are complying with Title IX and ensure that they are Title IX compliant by providing equal educational opportunities for boys and girls. The hearing covered various aspects of the law, explained enforcement procedures, protections for students from harassment and outlined fair treatment for pregnant and parenting teens.

CWLC is part of a statewide Title IX Coalition working to ensure greater compliance with the law and assisted in the production of an executive summary called “Title IX Check List, Results & Recommendations from Nine Local Assessments.” Other members of the Coalition include AAUW of California, The California Center for Research on Women and Families, Equal Rights Advocates, and Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center. Read more about the California Title IX Coalition Report from the Legislative Hearing here.

The hearing can be viewed here.


The 42nd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade Press Conference

CWLC participated in a press conference with City of West Hollywood Councilmember Abbe Land, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles, the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute and actress Annabeth Gish who came together to recognize the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. The press conference was held at City Hall in West Hollywood, the first city in our nation to declare itself pro-choice.

Butler stated at the press conference that, “In California, 68% of adults believe government should not interfere with a woman’s access to abortion.”

“It’s been four decades, 40 years-plus, and the fight continues,” said Councilmember Land. “Congress is trying to set back the clock once again on women’s rights, trying to reduce the ability of women to access abortion that the Supreme Court guaranteed 42 years ago.”


 Lauren Jow, The Williams Institute; Betsy Butler; Abbe Land; Actress Annabeth Gish and Dinah Stephens, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles

CWLC Urges the Supreme Court Review of Immigration Decisions Affecting Families

The California Women’s Law Center has filed an amicus curiae brief in Kerry v. Din urging the U.S. Supreme Court to require the State Department to provide, at minimum, a “facially legitimate and bona fide reason” when denying a visa to a U.S. citizen’s foreign spouse. CWLC argues that the denial of a visa implicates the citizen’s fundamental liberty interest in marriage and family; therefore, the Government must show that it did not deny the visa for arbitrary or discriminatory reasons.

“As the Supreme Court has repeatedly held, marriage is a basic civil right that at its core is about two people building a life and a home together,” said Theane Evangelis, counsel for CWLC. “Therefore, any meaningful protection of marriage must also protect a citizen’s choice to marry a non-citizen and raise a family in the United States.”

Read our press release here.


CWLC Speaks at AAUW

In keeping with our commitment to advance equality for women and girls through advocacy and education, CWLC addressed the South Bay Chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) about cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court as well as California legislation and issues affecting women and girls.




What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid To Fail?
The Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival March 19

Please support an upcoming film chronicling the incredible journey of 5 female filmmakers driving across America to encourage, empower and inspire the next generation of strong women to attain their goals. CWLC will be supporting the opening night reception of the film The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things at The Colony Theatre in the Burbank Town Center on March 19.

Driving more than 7,000 miles from Los Angeles to New York in 30 days, the documentary spotlights 17 positive and powerful women leaders across a variety of lifestyles and industries. From flying above San Francisco with a female pilot, and sitting down with the creator of ‘The Oprah Show,’ to working in a lab with a cancer biologist, the empowerment gals get the chance to spend a day in each woman’s shoes and are impacted as women, as filmmakers, and as friends.
Created for women by women, they challenge the audience to ask themselves, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?” For more information about attending the opening night reception with CWLC, please call 323-951-1041. Seating is limited. For more information about the film visit


CWLC Speaks at The Global Struggle for Women’s Equality Symposium

A four-panel symposium held at Southwestern Law School addressed combatting inequality through economic development, electoral politics, international human rights and a focus on combatting sex trafficking and enslavement by providing local solutions to global problems.

A common theme discussed throughout the symposium was how women can successfully address these issues thereby improving women’s ability to live healthier, more equal, stable and successful lives.



CWLC Welcomes Michele Deane

CWLC is happy to introduce our new Director of Communications, Michele Deane.

In her role as Communications Director, Michele brings a breadth of experience from the public and private sector to the California Women’s Law Center.

As a former President and CEO of a Los Angeles girls youth mentoring nonprofit, Michele created an environment where hundreds of underserved girls in Los Angeles County obtained work experience, scholarships and greater confidence through experiential learning programs, allowing them to graduate from universities across the nation. She raised and administered numerous levels of government, foundation, corporate and individual donor funds and produced events through collaborations between other community based organizations and the entertainment and fashion industries. Michele has also worked in the technology industry and has experience in digital marketing and targeted campaigns.

Michele is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach’s Film and Electronic Media Arts program.