Thursday, December 1, 2016

How to Respond to this Election - Part II "Get Legal!"

In part I of this post, I showed a great amount of my chagrin and sorrow about the election. I still doubtless feel those things, but at this point, it's more important for me to discover avenues of hope and empowerment. In order to do so, I look to the women that I love.

There are a few women I know that are nearly unperturbed by this election. It has impacted them, but they have not missed a beat. In fact, their urgency to work hard is only rising. I was curious as to how these women could be so stalwart; how they could be so disappointed in the election, but resist feeling disheartened. Then something occurred to me. These women have the most faith in the US legal system of all the women I know. I wanted to find a door into the Church of Legal Faith, myself. So here goes.

When in need of legal-lady-power, I often look to one of my heroes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She must be particularly aggravated with the fact of our new President Elect, whom she deems inconsistent and egotistical —I second that motion, Justice Ginsburg, and despite your graceful apology, we all know where you stand— but in the aftermath, she continues to be a rockstar on the bench and off. Perhaps this is because RBG originally became interested in the law during a time I liken very much to the milieu of our nation today: the Red Scare (there is some agreement about this comparison). In a heartfelt interview with NPR's Nina Totenberg (podcast version on What It Takes), Justice Ginsburg spoke of an undergraduate constitutional law research assistantship at Cornell in the early 1950's. For her RA position, Justice Ginsburg was tasked with reading transcripts of hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Senate Internal Security Committee. She told Totenberg:
"[F]rom those transcripts I saw that there was no one standing up for these people reminding our Congress that we have a 1st amendment guarantee of freedom of speech and we have a 5th amendment guarantee against self-incrimination. So I thought that was a good thing to do; that a lawyer could have a professional career, could have paid job . . . and also volunteer services in hard times to make things a little better. That’s when I had the idea that I would like to be a lawyer."
Amen, Justice Ginsburg. These are definitely hard times. I therefore intend to look to the lawyers who, in the face of a Trump Presidency, are planning to do exactly what inspired RBG to become an attorney: make things a little better. Here are my heroes of the day:

1. The Southern Poverty Law Center: SPLC has been doing amazing work lately, particularly around the surge of hate speech and violence that has arisen in the wake of the election. In their publication Ten Days After: Harassment and Intimidation in the Aftermath of the Election, they urge the President Elect to "do everything in his power . . . to reach out to the communities his words have injured" as opposed to "feign[ing] ignorance." They have also been collecting extraordinary amounts of data: observing that 867 hate incidents have occurred nationally since Trump's election. In addition, they continue to fight hate through impact litigation such as Southern Poverty Law Center, Inc. v. United States Department of Homeland Security, et al. where their complaint argued that Department of Homeland Security and ICE violated the Freedom of Information Act by withholding information on raids that targeted over 100 women and children in Texas.

2. California's likely new Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who recently tweeted: "#DREAMers are some of the most courageous people I’ve ever met. We stand with you & are ready to fight for you", says he intends to fight to retain California's liberal clean energy, environmental, criminal justice and immigration policies. If he does so, he might lead California into being "the tip of the spear for state-based resistance to Trump and the Republican party’s inhumane vision for our country."

3. National Center for Lesbian Rights: NCLR has updated its blog several times regarding the election, including informational posts about Transgender Rights, consoling its constituents that marriage equality will hold strong due to stare decisis, and campaigning against Jeff Sessions' nomination. In addition, NCLR continues Equality Utah v. Utah State Board of Education, the case they filed on October 21st, 2016, challenging state laws that ban positive speech about LGBT people in Utah public schools.

Read more here:

4. The American Civil Liberties Union: There was very little that buoyed me up on the days following the election, however, the ACLU's homepage made me smile every time I clicked. Trump's face was plastered it with bold words hanging in the air beside him: See You In Court. The ACLU leveled up from that rallying cry, calling the President Elect a "one man constitutional crisis" and, wasting no time, released a 27-page brief entitled the "Trump Memos" that brilliantly displayed the unconstitutionality of Trump's policies regarding mass deportation, large-scale surveillance, profiling, and attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade. Yesterday, the ACLU lived up to its promise and joined with the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood. They filed simultaneous lawsuits concerning unnecessary abortion restrictions in Alaska, Missouri, and North Carolina. Their message was clear: "we'll see [people like] you in court" before you even take the Presidential Oath, Mr. Trump.

I may still be a Legal Faith agnostic, I can't lie. But these warriors of the legal system have encouraged me, and more than anything, reminded me why I am am joining the Profession. Thank you, SPLC, the State Government of California, NCLR, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Center for Reproductive Rights. I'm grateful. 

In my gratitude, I'll leave you with the words of NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:
"Together, we fight on and we fight back. We must harness our grief, fear and outrage and serve justice. Onward. . ."

1 comment:

Joan Maya said...

Kyle Kate,

While reading your blog I could not help but get a warm fuzzy feeling. Hearing about the individuals and organizations that have been working for justice in the aftermath of the Trump's election is something that I personally need to keep reminding myself of so as to not get depressed or complacent with the political state of the country. Finding the good around you isn't always easy but I think it is so important. Little things, like my roommate telling me Trump's election has re-affirmed her career path as a public interest attorney and my friend who decided she was going to take the LSAT so she could go to law school to protect women's rights, have all shown me that Trump's election is pushing people to fight for justice.

Charles Dickens' famous quote from A Tale of Two Cities seems appropriate here: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness".