CREEC, CIVIC File Litigation Hold to Preserve Sexual Assault Records of People in Immigration Detention

For Immediate Release, November 7, 2017 LOS ANGELES, CA – Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) are putting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on notice over ICE’s plan to destroy the records of immigrants in detention, including deaths in custody, solitary confinement and sexual assault. In late August, ICE petitioned the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for permission to start routinely destroying 11 kinds of records on several proposed timelines. CIVIC and CREEC sent ICE a litigation hold letter which, according to Tim Fox, an attorney and the Co-Executive Director of CREEC, “places ICE on notice that litigation may be commenced concerning the topics covered in the letter, and thus ICE has a duty to preserve related documents, and this is true even if NARA approves ICE’s petition.” “These records are vital to anticipated litigation. They are essential to obtaining justice for those individuals who’ve needlessly suffered at the hands of government officials,” says Christina Fialho, an attorney and the Co-Founder/Executive Director of CIVIC. Earlier this year, CIVIC filed a civil rights complaint after uncovering, through a Freedom of Information Act request, widespread sexual abuse, assault and harassment in U.S. immigration detention facilities. CIVIC uncovered that between January 2010 and July 2016, Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General received over 33,000 complaints of sexual assault or physical abuse against DHS’s component agencies. But the Inspector General investigated less than 1 percent of these cases. For example, Rosanna Santos was sexually harassed by a male guard at the York County...

CREEC, Disability Rights Organizations File Cake Amicus!

CREEC joined nine other disability rights organizations in filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in support of the gay couple turned away from a Colorado bakery based on the owner’s prejudice.  The Colorado Court of Appeals held in favor of the couple, recognizing that the baker violated their rights under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (“CADA”), and the Colorado Supreme Court declined to review.  The case is currently before the United States Supreme Court on the baker’s argument that it violates his first amendment rights of free exercise and free expression to force him to make a cake that would be used in a gay wedding.  The statute at issue — CADA  — prohibits discrimination in public accommodations based on disability as well as sexual orientation and a number of other protected classes; Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act also prohibits disability discrimination in public accommodations. CREEC and other organizations filed their amicus brief to caution the Court that recognizing personal scruples exceptions — including free exercise or free expression — to the general requirement that public accommodations serve everyone without discrimination could significantly jeopardize enforcement of Title III and the protections it affords people with disabilities to fully participate in our nation’s economic and commercial life. CREEC strongly urges the Supreme Court to affirm the Colorado Court of Appeals and reaffirm our commitment that American businesses are #OPENTOALL. We would also like to thank the rockstars at Rosen, Bien, Galvan and Grunfeld who wrote the brief, and our fellow amici for the terrific discussions the brief engendered. 16-111, AC...

Sacramento Bee op-ed written by Bill Lann Lee

Bill Lann Lee, CREEC’s Senior Counsel, wrote an op-ed about some of the Medi-Cal system issues we are seeking to address in the lawsuit we filed with MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and the law firm of Feinberg, Jackson, Worthman & Wasow LLP on behalf of individuals, as well as St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), and National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) in the The Sacramento Bee today! “Making sure that Medi-Cal provides the access to health care for those it covers is simple justice.” Here’s the full...

CREEC joins advocates in challenging discrimination in California’s Medi-Cal system

The official press release for the Medi-Cal case filing is below: For Immediate Release   LOS ANGELES, CA, July 12, 2017 – State officials are violating the civil rights of 13.5 million individuals enrolled in Medi-Cal, the health insurance program for low-income Californians, a majority of whom are Latino, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.   The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges that Medi-Cal patients face huge obstacles in obtaining timely access to care because the state pays providers so little for their services that many doctors decline to accept Medi-Cal patients. Those problems are further compounded by the state’s failure to adequately monitor and oversee the program, according to the lawsuit.   MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), CREEC and the law firm of Feinberg, Jackson, Worthman & Wasow LLP filed the suit on behalf of individuals, including a man who has cerebral palsy and is semi-paraplegic, as well as St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), and National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON).   “Medi-Cal is a critical program to so many of California’s children and adults; it is no exaggeration to say that our current and future workforce – our very prosperity as a state – depends on Medi-Cal providing access to vital physician care,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “We must ensure that Medi-Cal is administered in a fair and non-discriminatory manner that serves the healthcare needs of Latinos and all others enrolled in the program.”   At issue is Medi-Cal patients’ inability to access the care they need because of low reimbursement rates and unnecessary red tape.   Currently, California’s rates are so much...

Seattle Commits to Ensuring an Accessible City

The official press release from the Seattle curb ramps settlement is below. A copy of the Proposed Consent Decree is also available for review. SEATTLE, WA, July 18, 2017– The City of Seattle has settled a landmark class action lawsuit by committing to installing over twenty thousand accessible curb ramps throughout Seattle over the next eighteen years. Curb ramps provide people with mobility disabilities a safe way to get on and off sidewalks as they travel through the pedestrian right of way.   People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the country; census figures estimate that 56.7 million, or 1 in 5, Americans has a disability. In Seattle alone, there are approximately 26,000 people with mobility disabilities who use wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, or other mobility devices to get around. Missing, broken, or poorly maintained curb ramps prevent people with mobility disabilities from safely using city sidewalks, crosswalks and other walkways to participate in daily activities like getting to work or going to school.   “As a lawyer with a disability practice in Seattle, I am beyond thrilled with this agreement,” said Conrad Reynoldson, one of the plaintiffs who brought the case. “This means that both my clients and I will have full, equal, and safe access to an inclusive community. It has been hard finishing up law school, setting up my practice, or even getting to court, when I have to figure out a way to get there that doesn’t involve me going blocks out of my way or traveling in the street due to a missing curb ramp.”   David Whedbee, another plaintiff, explains “beyond the thousands of new curb ramps, one of Seattle’s most promising commitments is improving how...

CREEC, DU Civil Rights Clinic are Finalists for Public Justice’s Trial Lawyer of the Year!

We are very excited to announce that a team of lawyers and (then) law students from CREEC and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law’s Civil Rights Clinic (CRC) is one of four national finalists for the Trial Lawyer of the Year award presented by Public Justice. We have been nominated for our work on the Anderson and Decoteau cases. Public Justice — a nonprofit organization that pursues high-impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth’s sustainability and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses — presents its Trial Lawyer of the Year Award to the attorney(s) who made the greatest contribution to the public interest within the past year by trying or settling a precedent-setting, socially significant case. CREEC also wants to congratulate the other three finalist teams, especially our good friends at Schneider, Wallace, Cotrell, Konecky, Wotkyns, LLP; Goldstein Borgen Dardarian & Ho; Legal Aid at Work; and the Disability Rights Legal Center for their great work on the Los Angeles sidewalk case, Willits v. Los Angeles.  Possibly the coolest thing to come from this nomination will be the chance to hang out with these rockstars in Boston at the Public Justice gala! CREEC and the CRC brought the Anderson and Decoteau cases on behalf of men incarcerated in the Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) who had been denied outdoor exercise for years or even decades. These men, who were locked in 90 square foot cells for 23 hours a day, were only permitted to exercise in an empty cell similar to the ones they live in with a narrow slit of a window and a pull-up bar....
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