Winter 2014 Update

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

In this issue:

Speaker Series
CWLC launches our Distinguished Guest Speaker Series with Erwin Chemerinsky and David Codell

Defending a Victim of Military Sexual Assault
Standing up for veterans, CWLC assisted a young member of the Air Force

 “Cruz v. Alhambra”
The U.S. Disttrict Court in Los Angeles ends oversight of the school district in this landmark Title IX case

Staff in the Community
CWLC staff traveled across the state and country to further our mission

Executive Director’s Message

It has been an exciting few months at the California Women’s Law Center (CWLC) as we have hosted two impressive leaders through our distinguished speaker series.  Erwin Chemerinsky talked about women’s rights and the Roberts Court and David Codell discussed gender stereotyping and anti-LGBT discrimination.  We are also planning a number of additional inspiring opportunities to connect with visionary speakers while we continue fighting for justice for women and girls.

On February 26th we will feature Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice, Kathy Spillar of the Feminist Majority Foundation and Celinda Vazquez of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project and in March we will host Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey.

Our board continues to grow with the welcome addition of Mira El Sonabaty and the emergence of new leadership with current member Cathy Kim becoming CWLC’s Board Secretary.  It is invigorating to work with such passionate staff and board members who are committed to the ongoing fight for justice for all.

Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in the 2014 California Women’s Policy Summit: Advancing Women’s Health, Wealth and Power in Sacramento along with CWLC Senior Staff Attorney, Cacilia Kim who spoke on a panel regarding Title IX compliance and expanding opportunities for girls and young women.  Cacilia and I came away from that event motivated to continue our legislative advocacy for female veterans, women’s economic empowerment, women’s health and Title IX compliance among many other important challenges facing our state.

Thank your continued support and commitment to achieving justice for women and girls.

With gratitude,

Betsy Butler

Interim Executive Director


CWLC Hosts Impactful Speakers

In November 2013, the California Women’s Law Center proudly launched our Distinguished Guest Speaker Series program.  The Speaker Series is intended to connect CWLC supporters with leaders to share ideas advancing our mission of justice for women and girls in California.

Our inaugural Distinguished Guest Speaker was constitutional scholar and Dean of the Law School at UC Irvine, Erwin Chemerinsky (pictured above).  Dean Chemerinsky joined us in November and discussed women’s rights and the Roberts Court, directly addressing the impact of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on women’s rights and evaluating how the composition of the court might impact future rulings.

In January, we hosted David Codell, the newly selected Constitutional Litigation Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.  Formerly with the Willams Institute at UCLA, David shared the legal history and current state of the law on gender stereotyping and anti-LGBT discrimination.

We hope that you will be able to join us for the next installment in our Speakers Series to be held at the Feminist Majority Foundation on Wednesday, February 26th at 5:30 PM.  We will be screening the groundbreaking film Roe at Risk: Fighting for Reproductive Justice which will be followed by a panel discussion featuring speakers from the Alliance for Justice, the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project.

Please also mark your calendars for when Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey will join us at O’Melveny & Myers in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 19th.


CWLC Defends Victim of Military Sexual Assault While Serving Abroad

Last month, CWLC partnered with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) to represent a 19 year-old member of the U.S. Air Force who was sexually assaulted by a superior officer while serving his country.

Airman 1st Class Trent Smith was assaulted while assigned to Vogelweh Air Base in Germany and properly reported his attack to his chain of command.  The Air Force evaluated him and misdiagnosed him with a personality disorder.  Airman Smith was subsequently found unfit to serve because the Air Force claimed that the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stemming from his assault would not be treatable due to his misdiagnosed personality disorder.

Airman Smith is appealing this decision with CWLC’s help.  We connected Airman Smith with an independent forensic psychiatrist and, thanks to funding from Protect Our Defenders, we were able to have an exhaustive battery of tests performed prior to the military hearing to provide an unbiased outside evaluation of his mental state.  According to the independent forensic psychiatrist, there was no evidence of a personality disorder and his PTSD is treatable with medication.  CWLC assisted Airman Smith in his defense and will continue to support him during the appeals process.

We are proud to stand up for veterans who have experienced sexual assault during their service.  We must be vigilant in making sure that those who serve our country are not forced out of the military in retaliation for reporting their abuse and that they receive all the benefits they have earned from their service.  In response to the decision, Airman Smith said,

 “All I want to do is serve my country.  I hope that our appeal is successful.”

Board Welcomes New Member and Elects Secretary

CWLC is proud to welcome Mira El Sonbaty to our board.  Mira replaces Jill Rattner whose service to the board was exemplary and greatly appreciated.

Mira El Sonbaty

Mira El Sonbaty is Senior Counsel for Privacy at Fox Group Legal.  Mira advises Fox entertainment, film, television, cable, and production businesses on all areas related to privacy and data security.  Mira is a former associate of Arnold & Porter where she focused on consumer protection, intellectual property and complex commercial litigation.  Mira is committed to public service and is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.  Mira received her law degree from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Pomona College in Claremont, California.

In addition to congratulating Mira, we are excited to announce that Cathy Kim has been elected to serve as our new Board Secretary.  With these changes, our board continues to grow and is imbued with new energy from truly committed individuals.

CWLC Legal Director, Vicky Barker and LAS-ELC Senior Staff Attorney, Elizabeth Kristen celebrating the Alhambra victory with the female athletes and their families.

Remembering Alhambra

In December 2013, the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ended its oversight in “Cruz v. Alhambra,” the landmark class action Title IX lawsuit involving Alhambra High School.  This decision was made almost 10 years after the case was originally filed in recognition of the district’s compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement.  Over the last decade, Alhambra High School built new softball fields, added a number of girls athletic teams, and remedied other athletic inequalities at the school as a direct result of the settlement.  CWLC worked in conjunction with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) to represent a class of female high school athletes who were unjustly denied the opportunity to participate in team athletics.

The Alhambra case serves as a reminder that the struggle for equal treatment for women and girls continues.  In 2011, when the school sought to end monitoring, we continued to advocate for parity for female athletes because equal treatment still had not been achieved.  Realizing we would not stop fighting for equality and fairness, the school put a genuine effort forward to recruit female athletes and they responded en masse to participate in school athletics.

CWLC in the Community

Working with Female Veterans in Tulare, CA

CWLC Senior Staff Attorney Cacilia Kim visited Tulare in January to continue her work identifying the barriers preventing female veterans from seeking and taking advantage of the healthcare benefits they have earned through their service.  Funded by a generous grant from the non-profit organization Swords to Plowshares, Cacilia is working with our partners across the state.  With a focus on rural areas, Cacilia traveled to Tulare to work with Sharon Allison-Crook and Shelley Huff of AMVETS to identify the unique healthcare needs of female veterans in their area.

Gathering with Women Leaders in Washington, DC

CWLC Legal Director Vicky Barker traveled to Washington, DC in December to meet with women non-profit leaders from across the country to discuss attacks on reproductive rights in the United States.

Women’s Policy Summit in Sacramento

Interim Executive Director Betsy Butler and Senior Staff Attorney Cacilia Kim attended this year’s Women’s Policy Summit: Advancing Women’s Health, Wealth and Power hosted by the California Center for Research on Women and Families (CCRWF).  Cacilia participated on a panel addressing “Title IX Compliance: Opening the Door for Girls and Young Women.” CWLC looks forward to working with legislators and others from the conference on potential legislation and ways we can continue to advance equality in our state.

“Clothes the Deal” Wrap Up

Non-profit Receives Over 300 Clothing Items From CWLC Donors

Last fall, CWLC hosted a professional clothing drive in partnership with Clothes the Deal, a non-profit organization which provides business clothing and accessories to low-income individuals who are preparing for job interviews and work in professional settings across Los Angeles County. A special thank you to the CWLC friends and supporters who donated over 300 pieces of professional clothing and accessories to Clothes the Deal. In particular, we would like to thank Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Health Net, Inc., Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Prosauker Rose and the Walt Disney Company for going above and beyond in their incredible effort to secure clothing contributions. For more information about Clothes the Deal, please visit their website at


CWLC History: 1995

Successful suit against the Department of Education

In 1995, the California Women’s Law Center successfully sued the California Department of Education.  In this case, the court mandated that the department issue regulations governing sexual harassment in schools and sex discrimination in sports and other extracurricular activities.


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