Monthly Archives: June 2020

CPCS Statement on Pride Month

It is incredibly fortuitous that I am able to share some thoughts in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month  so soon after the U.S. Supreme Court, in an historic 6-3 decision, definitively ruled in the Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia case that employment discrimination toward LGBTQ individuals violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). In Bostock, the Court considered the definition of sex under the Title VII law against employment discrimination. The Court found that even if Congress had chosen not to apply this law to LGBTQ individuals, the “necessary consequence” of the term sex and how is has been construed over decades of jurisprudence means that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” This is a major pronouncement ensuring the most basic and critical of equal employment rights, and I am excited and delighted to share in this moment with our LGBTQ CPCS colleagues as we celebrate Pride Month.

Due to the pandemic, June 2020 will be the first time that Pride Month across the United States will not be celebrated in the open, loving and vibrant way lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people have known for 50 years. Pride month is seen by most for celebrating being able to be out and open as LGBTQ people, but this month also serves to support people who cannot safely or comfortably come out in all or part of their lives, and those who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As we celebrate Pride month, I ask that everyone think about how we can support our LGBTQ colleagues, clients and community, whether they are out to us or not. Tragically, this time is roiled by the racially motivated murders of George Floyd in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbury in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, along with countless prior killings and daily acts of bias and hate rained upon Black people across the United States. Even as we embrace the history leading to increased rights within the LGBTQ community, we cannot ignore the connection of race-based hatred, violence and killings to this movement, or to the onslaught of outrage, pain and injustice Black and Brown people continue to experience every day.

The first Pride event celebrated a clarion demand for equal rights and freedom that exploded from the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. Stonewall was a frustrated, angry and determined community response to brutal police and political reproaches toward people seeking only the free expression of their humanity and sexuality. The Stonewall activists were led by many would-be CPCS clients – poor, homeless, young, Black and Brown people, as well as others across the LGBTQ community.

The history and key players around the Stonewall riots provide an instructive moment on injustice, responsive advocacy and cross-cultural challenge. Members of the LGBTQ community could dance and engage at the Stonewall Inn, a Mob run bar near NYU and local parks where community members hung out, slept and shared company. Stonewall was rundown and subject to recurring, orchestrated police raids where payoffs gained advance warnings, even as the Mob blackmailed more affluent patrons on threat of exposing their sexuality. Transgender individuals and others openly reflecting their pride were subject to arrest and abuse, in some instances, for not wearing three pieces of “gender appropriate” clothing consistent with birth gender.

On June 28, 1969, yet another early morning raid, without warning because the police went unpaid, triggered the Stonewall Riots. This time, customers and local neighbors rebelled against the unjust harassment, beatings and arrests. Demonstrators chanted, overturned cars and set them on fire, threw items at the police, and set the Stonewall Inn on fire, after the cops retreated into the building. Two transgender women of color, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, were advocates for homeless gay, lesbian and transgender people of color, and helped inspire and leverage the outrage that became six nights of street protest. This incident turned the tide on LGBTQ oppression in the United States and around the world. Sadly, however, many in the white, middle-class LGBTQ liberation movement that benefitted from Stonewall showed Johnson and Rivera scorn, because of an unwillingness to accept transgender people as part of the movement. Their advocacy and organizing for homeless transgender youth of color and broader leadership are now recognized across the LGBTQ community, though neither woman survived to fully relish this embrace – Marsha P. Johnson died in a reported 1992 suicide suspected to have been murder, and Sylvia Rivera died of liver cancer in 2002.

Today, the seeds planted by the Stonewall Riots of 1969 have blossomed into rights that prior generations could only dream of, including marriage equality, state and local LGBTQ rights legislation, LGBTQ leadership in government and federal hate crimes laws. Nonetheless, unequal treatment persists, including the lack of broader federal legal protection, repressive state and local law and policy and unrelenting hate crimes.

We celebrate the fight Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera waged to gain rights denied for so long, and the achievement of equality that has made a difference for many, but fails to reach our clients. This recognition must be in the face of the ignorance and hatred that still impact LGBTQ people, and that has been thrust into our awareness as Black people are killed, in the case of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, as she slept in her bed. Our advocacy mission challenges each of us to understand and leverage the complex mix and meaning between and among poverty, race, sexual preference, gender identity, age and disability, along with the goals and wishes of our clients, to embrace their humanity on behalf of justice rightfully deserved. Later this month, we will share information and data on the work of CPCS on behalf of LGBTQ individuals across our divisions, as well as the challenges we face in our advocacy on behalf of these clients.

As we praise the leaders of the LGBTQ community and celebrate great achievement, including our LGBTQ coworkers, family and friends, we must dedicate unwavering support, advocacy and achievement behalf of the struggles that continue in this community. Sylvia, Marsha and their children would expect nothing less of us. Happy Pride Month!

Anthony J. Benedetti,
Chief Counsel

Public Defender Appointed to BPD Reform Task Force

Roxbury Defenders Attorney-in-Charge Allison Cartwright

Allison Cartwright, the Attorney-in-Charge of the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Roxbury Defenders office, has been appointed to a Task Force charged with reviewing Boston Police policies and making recommendations for progressive reform.

The Boston Police Reform Task Force was launched earlier this month by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. It will review Boston Police’s use-of-force policies, recommend rigorous implicit bias training for police officers, improve the current Body Worn Camera program and look for ways to strengthen the city’s existing police review board, known as the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel or Co-op Board.

“As a public defender and a resident of Boston, I am honored to be appointed by Mayor Walsh to sit on the BPD Task Force,” Cartwright said. “One of the most important issues we are facing as a city, and as a nation, is to critically review policing in our communities, in particular for people of color. The work that we do with this Task Force will have a long-lasting impact on those who are affected by police and the criminal justice system.”

Walsh created the new Task Force to ensure that commitments made as part of the “Mayor’s Pledge” translate into immediate action. Mayor Walsh signed the “Mayor’s Pledge” issued by the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. The “Mayor’s Pledge” commits the City of Boston to the following actions:

  1. Review police use of force policies
  2. Engage communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories
  3. Report review findings to the community and seek feedback
  4. Reform police use of force policies

The Task Force will produce recommendations by July 14, 2020. Aligned with President Obama’s “Mayor’s Pledge,” the community will have until July 31, 2020 to review recommendations and provide feedback to the City of Boston. Mayor Walsh will announce reforms to be implemented as a result of the Task Force and the community’s input by August 15, 2020.

In addition to Cartwright, the Boston Police Reform Task Force includes:

  • Wayne Budd, former United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (Chair)
  • Joseph D. Feaster, Jr., Chairman of the Board, Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts
  • Tanisha Sullivan, President, NAACP Boston Branch
  • Darrin Howell, President, DRIVE Boston Community Resources Inc. & Political Coordinator, 1199SEIU
  • Superintendent Dennis White, Chief of Staff, Boston Police Department
  • Marie St. Fleur, former Massachusetts State Representative, Boston
  • Rev. Jeffrey Brown, Associate Pastor, Historic Twelfth Baptist Church, Roxbury
  • Eddie Crispin, Boston Police Department Sergeant and President of MAMLEO (Mass. Assn. of Minority Law Enforcement Officers)
  • Jamarhl Crawford, Resident & Activist

Press Contact:
Bob McGovern
rmcgovern@publiccounsel.net
617-910-5758

Committee Meeting Agenda – June 18, 2020 Meeting

Due to social distancing, the Committee will be taking all matters by phone.

  1. Approval of minutes of the May 20, 2020 meeting
  1. Amicus Requests – Reporting Only (approved by Executive Committee)
    1. Commonwealth Daniel Nash, 2019-P-0703
    2. Gonzalez v. Immigration & Customs Enf’t, 416 F. Supp. 3d 995 (C.D. Cal. 2019)
  1. Contracts
    1. FY 2021 Bar Advocate Program Contracts
    2. FY 2021 Provision of Legal Services to Dukes and Nantucket Counties Contract
    3. FY 2021 Bar Advocate Program Supervising Attorney Contracts
    4. FY 2021-FY 2022 CAFL Resource Attorney Contracts
    5. FY 2021-FY 2022 MH Regional Coordinator Contracts
  1. Lease Agreement – Boston Office
  1. Committee Rules and Regulations
  1. Monthly Financial Overview Report
  1. Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  1. FY 2021 Obligations over $25,000 for Preapproval
  1. Discussion of Criminal Justice System Inequities and Police Brutality
  1. Chief Counsel Report
    1. COVID-19
    2. Reopening Plan Update
  1. Executive Session – Personnel Matters

To join the meeting from your phone.
+1 (872) 240-3311
Access Code: 576-070-133

 

CPCS Statement: No Lives Matter Until Black Lives Matter

In 2014, we all bore witness to the video footage of a white police officer gunning down Michael Brown, a black and unarmed, recent high school graduate.  Since that unforgettable date and time, the blood of black men and women has been mercilessly spilled, and their lives cut short by police brutality, in nearly every state in the country:

See their names, say their names:       

  • Sylville Smith, 23 – Wisconsin
  • Korryn Gaines, 23 – Maryland       
  • Joseph Mann, 51 – California
  • Philando Castille, 32 – Minnesota
  • Gregory Gunn, 56 – Alabama
  • Freddie Gray, 25 – Maryland
  • Alton Sterling, 37 – Louisiana
  • Paul O’ Neal, 18 – Illinois
  • Antwun Shumpert, 37 – Mississippi
  • Akiel Denkins, 24  – North Carolina
  • Aaron Bailey, 45 – Indiana 
  • Keith Childress, 23 – Nevada
  • Felix Kumi, 61 – New York
  • James Leatherwood, 61 – Florida
  • Donnie Sanders, 47 – Missouri
  • Danny Washington, 27 – Pennsylvania
  • Tyre King, 13 – Ohio
  • Tamir Rice, 12  – Ohio
  • Marcus Peters, 24 – Virginia
  • Walter Scott, 50 – South Carolina
  • Channara Pheap, 33 – Tennessee
  • Jesse Quinton, 35 – Idaho
  • Gregory Griffin, 46 – New Jersey
  • Deravis Rogers, 22 – Georgia
  • Isaiah Lewis, 17 – Oklahoma
  • Naeschylus Vinzant, 37 – Colorado
  • Jacai Colson, 28 – Maryland
  • Yvette Smith, 47 – Texas
  • Atatiana Jefferson, 28 – Texas             
  • Pamela Turner, 45 – Texas
  • Sandra Bland, 28 – Texas
  • Miriam Carey, 34 – DC                
  • Ahmaud Arbery, 25 – Georgia
  • Breonna Taylor, 26 – Kentucky
  • Michael Brown,  18 – Missouri
  • George Floyd, 46 – Minnesota              

Perversely, this list is not exhaustive but it does serve to illustrate and document the pervasive, ubiquitous and inescapable reality of American apartheid. This has been one of the most troubling and daunting periods in our history as a nation. The unfathomable pain and suffering that is continually being unleashed upon the Black community by law enforcement is relentless. We shall not stand silent and do nothing. Silence is compliance.

From brutal slayings to the disruption of even simple ordinary life choices, such as, birding in Central Park, sleeping in your bed, taking a swim in the swimming pool where you live, barbecuing in the park, or even not being in the mood to wave and smile at a white woman in a neighboring home to your Air BnB, the weaponization and inherent fear of black skin remains one of America’s favorite past times.

“When the color of your skin is seen as a weapon, you will never be seen as unarmed.”

We stand now, not just as lawyers, administrative staff, social workers and investigators who have dedicated our lives to ensure justice for the least amongst us, but we also stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues and the Black community that has now, for centuries, been ravaged by hate, oppression, fear and death. We must do all within our power to eradicate this pervasive and lingering ideology that black people be brought to heel under the yoke of white supremacy. We must speak out, stand up, and stay vigilant to guard against our own implicit bias, and privilege, in order to push towards a common goal to eradicate racism in this state and this nation.

I will not pretend to imagine what it is like to be a person of color and have to deal with this daily tragedy and heartache.  I share this message, which has been built with the voice of Black leadership within CPCS, to ensure that our voice is complete and inclusive and thank Arnie Stewart and Nan Whitfield specifically for their contributions.

Please stay safe, healthy and working toward the tomorrow we want and must achieve.

No Lives Matter Until Black Lives Matter

Anthony J. Benedetti
Chief Counsel
Committee for Public Counsel Services