Legal Blog

What is a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

Published on December 14, 2020

A criminal record simply makes your life harder. It may prevent you from being hired, getting an apartment, obtaining a professional license, qualifying for government programs, and receiving student loans. Criminal records usually are publicly available and easily found.

There are some ways to improve your situation. If you are eligible, Spolin Law P.C. can assist you in obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation. It’s one of the few ways you can limit the harm caused by your criminal record in California, New York, or Texas. Call (310) 424-5816 or contact us online for a free consultation.

A Certificate of Rehabilitation Can Help You Get Your Life Back

A Certificate of Rehabilitation won’t expunge or seal your record, but it may be your best option if expungement or other post-conviction remedies aren’t available.

Under California law, it’s illegal for an employer with five or more employees to fail to hire someone because of their convictions if they have a certificate of rehabilitation. The certificate also functions as an automatic pardon application.

Under California law, the certificate is issued by a court and attests to your rehabilitation after a conviction. Texas and New York have their own versions. With this certificate, you can recover some of your legal rights. It should also be easier to find a job.

The process involves filling out a form, gathering evidence to support your application, and a court hearing. If you receive a certificate:

  • Your civil rights are restored, except your 2nd Amendment rights concerning firearms
  • You can’t be denied public licensing or employment (with some limits) due to your conviction
  • Depending on the crime, you may no longer need to register as a sex offender

Do You Qualify for a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

The certificate won’t erase your felony conviction or seal the criminal record. If you served time in either state prison or county jail, you might qualify if you:

  • Haven’t been re-incarcerated after your release
  • Continuously lived in California for at least five years since your release. Some violent and sex-related crimes have longer waiting periods
  • Have proof of your rehabilitation since your release
  • Aren’t on probation for another felony
  • Were convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison, another California state penal institution or agency, or
  • Were convicted of a felony and sentenced to probation, and your conviction has been expunged, or
  • Were convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense in Penal Code 290 (the Sex Offender Registration Act), and your conviction has been expunged

Proof of rehabilitation can be shown by:

  • A record of consistent employment
  • Getting drug, alcohol, or domestic abuse counseling
  • Engaging in community events and affairs
  • Volunteering for non-profit organizations
  • Not having an arrest record
  • Active involvement in your children’s lives
  • Positive letters from employers, clergy, neighbors, community leaders, or volunteer agencies

After filing your application, a hearing is held. You or your attorney will make your case and evidence that you qualify for the certificate. If the court issues the certificate, it’s reviewed by the Board of Parole Hearings. It will later issue a recommendation as to whether the Governor should pardon you.

Take the Next Step. Contact Spolin Law P.C.

A Certificate of Rehabilitation can help get your life back after serving your sentence and successfully returning to society. To learn more about how you can obtain one or to get our help in the process, call Spolin Law P.C. at (310) 424-5816 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Categories: Civil Rights, Criminal Law

What is the Substantial Evidence Standard?

Published on August 24, 2020

Are you interested in appealing your conviction? It’s best to talk with an experienced criminal appeals lawyer or staff member at Spolin Law P.C., right away. Our experienced attorneys will obtain and review your trial record, look for legal errors to support an appeal, and discuss your options.

During our review, we’ll apply various legal standards to the court record as we look for errors and opportunities to have your case reversed, reduces, or re-tried. One of the standards of review that might be relevant is the substantial evidence standard. It comes into play if there’s a question about whether the jury had enough evidence to convict you.

To learn more about appealing a criminal conviction or sentence, contact us online or call (310) 424-5816 to set up an initial consultation.

What Is the Substantial Evidence Standard?

The substantial evidence standard is one of the ways appellate courts review a case. Several standards of review exist at different levels. Courts use these standards to analyze certain legal issues consistently. Standards give judges guidelines for how to measure whether a legal error occurred.

When Do Courts Use the Substantial Evidence Standard?

An appeals court uses the substantial evidence standard when reviewing a factual decision made by a jury, like whether a defendant committed a crime. The appellate judges ask themselves whether there was enough evidence to support the jury’s finding. In other words, was there enough evidence for the jury to reach its conclusion, or did the jury’s verdict stretch beyond what the evidence supported?

What Does Substantial Evidence Mean?

Courts defined substantial evidence to mean there is more than a mere scintilla. Simply put, there is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to support a conclusion. When an appellate court is deciding whether there was substantial evidence, they consider the whole trial record, including all witness testimony.

The Substantial Evidence Standard Respects the Jury

Different standards of review require varying amounts of regard to the lower courts. For example, the substantial evidence standard typically shows deference to the jury’s decision.

An appellate court assumes a trial jury, which heard the testimony and saw the evidence firsthand, was in a better position to decide the verdict than it is. The judges will review the trial record with the verdict in the best possible light.

Appellate Judges Don’t Decide if the Jury Was Right

When appellate judges review a trial record for substantial evidence, they are looking at whether a reasonable judge or jury could have reached the relevant finding based on the facts present at trial. The judges aren’t deciding whether they would have come to the same conclusion. Another judge or jury might have reached a different, yet also reasonable conclusion.

What if the Substantial Evidence Standard Is Not Met?

If an appellate court finds there was no substantial evidence to reasonably support the jury’s decision, then this is a legal error it must correct. An appellate court will reverse a criminal conviction if, after reviewing all of the evidence in the most favorable light to the conviction, it still finds that a reasonable and rational fact-finder could not have found the necessary elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Talk with a Criminal Appeals Lawyer Today

If you believe there was, on the whole, not enough evidence to show you committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, talk with a criminal appeals attorney or staff member at Spolin Law P.C. immediately. We tackle federal and state-level appeals regularly, and have a long history of reversals and sentence reductions. We will file a notice of appeal, obtain a trial transcript, submit an opening brief describing the legal or factual errors that took place, and prepare to fight for your freedom.

To schedule an initial consultation about an appeal, contact us online or call (310) 424-5816. We have offices in Los Angeles, CA, Austin, TX, and Manhattan, NY.

Categories: Appeals, Civil Rights

What Is a Petition for Rehearing?

Published on April 29, 2020

After a case is appealed and the decision does not go in your favor, you may feel like you are out of options. However, there is a possible route that your attorney may explore: a petition for rehearing. This petition has strict time limits and requirements, so it is important to discuss it with your attorney as soon as your appeal decision comes through.

To learn more about all your criminal appeals options, contact Spolin Law at (310) 424-5816 now for a free consultation.

Understanding a Petition for Rehearing

After you file an appeal and your case goes to the appellate court, they pass down their decision. The petition for rehearing is a way to contest the appellate court’s decision.

This isn’t the time to try out a new defense angle or fight to have evidence analyzed in a different way. It is primarily used to resolve errors made by the appellate court during the appeal trial. It takes a careful and exhaustive legal review of the court’s decision to find useful flaws.

When is a Petition for Rehearing Appropriate?

When you discuss the outcome of your appeal with your appeals attorney, they will help you understand your options. If they recommend a petition for rehearing, it means that your case falls into one of a few categories.

Situations in which a petition for rehearing may be appropriate include:

  • If the court’s decision focused on an issue that was not included in your attorney’s briefs
  • If the court’s opinion ignores or omits an important fact or issue raised during the case
  • When a fact is misstated or misrepresented and influences the appellate court’s decision
  • A legal error is made
  • If there are concerns over due process

The Deadline for a Petition for Rehearing

A petition for rehearing in California must be filed within 15 days of the appellate court’s decision. This is a very tight deadline, which is why your attorney will explore and explain your options as soon as the original decision is handed down.

What Happens Next

Several things could happen after your attorney files a petition for rehearing. The court might deny the petition immediately with a written order. This is fairly common, as it is relatively uncommon for the court to realize they’ve made a mistake and reverse it.

If they deny your petition, they may still modify the original opinion to reflect the information presented.

The court may also agree that an error was made in their decision. They may issue a new decision reflecting the new information. They may also request additional briefs or oral arguments from your attorney for additional clarification. After receiving this information, they will pass down their new decision.

If the court does not respond to the petition before the original decision becomes final, the petition is considered to have been automatically denied.

Other Options After an Appeal

Your attorney may also recommend filing a review. This strategy is often used if your case poses a new legal question or issue. It is also helpful if there are constitutional violations in the original decision or handling of the case.

Once your options have been exhausted in the appellate process, you may be able to pursue a Supreme Court review.

Find Out How We Can Help With Your Appeal

Appealing a court decision can be complicated and time-consuming, which is why it is crucial to work with an attorney who focuses on criminal appeals in their practice.

At Spolin Law P.C., we fight appeals in state and federal courts. Get started now by calling us at (310) 424-5816 or reach out online. We will schedule a free consultation and explore your legal options.

Categories: Appeals, Civil Rights

Release of Famous Inmate, Tekashi69, Due to Coronavirus Leads to Questioning About Protocol

Published on April 20, 2020

A famous rapper, Tekashi69, was released four months before his original release date, sentenced to spend the final months in home confinement. Tekashi69, formally known as Daniel Hernandez, 23, was originally sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to various gang robberies and shootings. Due to the fact that the artist has asthma, he is at greater risk to adverse effects were he to contact Coronavirus, justifying his shortened sentence.

According to the New York Times, the judge, U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, argued that “the pandemic presented ‘extraordinary and compelling reasons’ for a compassionate release of Mr. Hernandez, who, he wrote in his order on Thursday, ‘no longer will present a meaningful danger to the community if at liberty.’” Currently, people are wondering if he was released early because of his celebrity status or because he is immunocompromised.

Hernandez’s release comes at a controversial time, as criminal justice advocates and health officials alike are supporting the release of inmates to increase social distancing and decrease the spread of COVID-19. The New York Times describes this phenomenon with; “thousands of inmates and officers in municipal, state and federal facilities have already tested positive, and at least five inmates at federal facilities have died because of the coronavirus outbreak since March 28, according to the Bureau of Prisons.”

However, this decision to release Tekashi69 has led to backlash and questioning from other inmates, especially fellow high-profile inmates. Both R. Kelly and Bill Cosby have argued for at-home confinement to finish out their terms, without success. What is unique about rapper Tekashi69’s case is that he has had underlying health issues since the beginning, combined with his cooperation with authorities and the short remainder of his sentence. Some argue that if R. Kelly or Bill Cosby were released too, people might assume they are getting special treatment because of their fame. Therefore, judges are trying to exercise caution when it comes to early inmate releases, making sure they have a strong justification for each case.

Some states have decided to take broader strokes to address the risk of Coronavirus spreading in prisons by releasing a large number of inmates at once. An order was signed last week by the Chief Justice of New Jersey, Stuart Rabner, to release 1,000 inmates from county jails who committed low-level offences.

At the same time, some federal decisions have been made to prevent the further spread of Coronavirus. Mr. Barr, the Attorney General, has put an order in place to prioritize the release of inmates at three prisons, in Louisiana, Connecticut, and Ohio, which have reported high numbers of Corona cases. Last week, Mr. Barr

“Asked the bureau to identify and release all inmates who were eligible for home confinement, no longer posed a threat to the public, and were particularly vulnerable to the Coronavirus. After that directive, 522 of the system’s 146,000 total inmates were moved to home confinement, according to the Bureau of Prisons,” (New York Times).

Judges are asked to draw the line between who can be released early and who must stay in prison, in a fair yet timely manner. A prison in Chicago that currently obtains the most concentrated coronavirus cases in the United States, demonstrates the necessity to make these drastic changes. It is vitally important that judges take precautionary measures to prevent further spread of the disease, while also making equitable choices about who can be released and who must remain in prison to carry out their full sentences.

Categories: Civil Rights

Malcolm Alexander: Wrongful Conviction Vacated After 38 Years

Published on April 13, 2020

Unfortunately, wrongful convictions occur in the United States quite often, and the process of vacating these false convictions can take many years. This was the case for Malcolm Alexander, who fell victim to incorrect eyewitness identification, an incompetent defense attorney, and lost evidence.

In 1980 Malcolm Alexander was arrested and convicted for a rape he did not commit. The rape, which took place in 1979, was linked to Malcolm Alexander solely by eyewitness identification. The victim initially described the attacker as a 6ft tall male, but eventually, though somewhat uncertain, identified Alexander. The victim was attacked from behind and did not identify Malcolm Alexander until four months after the rape had occurred. Even then, the police incorrectly conducted the perpetrator line-ups and only regarded her identification as “tentative.”

This incorrect eyewitness fits a pattern in wrongful conviction cases. Eyewitness identification is the number one reason for wrongful convictions. Specifically, 71% of wrongful conviction cases are due to an incorrect eyewitness identification. In fact, in the legal profession, there is growing evidence against the accuracy of eyewitness identification; one in four is incorrect. (See criminal appeals attorney Aaron Spolin’s book, Witness Misidentification in Criminal Trials, to read about this topic in greater depth.)

While most humans believe they can recognize those that have caused them or others harm, the misidentification stems from a variety of factors. Some of the most crucial factors are: witnesses being under high levels of stress, witnesses tending to concentrate more on weapons than the identity of the perpetrator, police or prosecutors using suggestive tactics to sway witnesses while they are in the identification process, and more.

In the case of Malcolm Alexander, the witness was both in an extremely high-stress situation as she underwent a rape, and did not have a good line of sight to the attacker — both of which could have led to the misidentification. In spite of the victim’s uncertain identification, the trial for Malcolm Alexander was quick. The lawyer defending Mr. Alexander did not point out any of the inconsistencies with the witness identification, nor promote another narrative of his innocence. In fact, the lawyer defending Malcolm Alexander presented neither opening nor closing arguments on behalf of his client, nor did he call any witnesses to defend Mr. Alexander. The entire trial of Mr. Alexander lasted one day. In spite of the existence of DNA evidence, including pubic hairs and semen, neither attorney requested that DNA testing be completed. Malcolm Alexander was 21 years old, and the father of a two-year-old, who was then given life without parole.

Malcolm Alexander advocated for his innocence while he was in prison, and eventually, the Innocence Project picked up the case. Unfortunately, the innocence project faced many challenges. Most notably, the evidence from the case had been destroyed by the New Orleans Police Department. However, after a continuous push from the Innocence Project, the pubic hairs from the scene were recovered.

After 38 years in prison in Louisiana, Malcolm Alexander was exonerated, thanks to the evidence found by the attorneys working on his case. A sample of his pubic hair did not match the pubic hair left by the perpetrator at the crime scene. Malcolm Alexander was released from prison on January 30th, 2018.

Works Cited:

Categories: Appeals, Civil Rights, Criminal Law

Fights to end the School-to-Prison pipeline

Published on April 7, 2020

The term ‘School to Prison Pipeline,’ also known as ‘Cradle to Prison Pipeline’ describes the disproportionate impact of historical education policies, such as zero tolerance, on people of color and vulnerable populations. The effect of this is more students being sent to juvenile detention centers with an inevitable increase in racial inequality. Typically, lower-income schools use stricter behavior management systems that implement immediate punishment, instead of using positive reinforcement and other positive behavioral strategies. In lieu of this, some steps have been made in the right direction by politicians, such as Bernie Sanders and Ayanna Pressley, who are joining the fight to end School-to-Prison pipelines. Addressing and amending this issue will set in motion a long-overdue fight to reach equality in the United States.

According to an article written on neaToday, “In 2010, more than 3 million students were suspended from school, aka double the level of suspensions in the 1970s. Meanwhile, more than a quarter-million were ‘referred’ to police officers for misdemeanor tickets, very often for offenses that once would have elicited a stern talking-to.” NEA shares another reason that students are more likely to go to Juvenile Detention Centers if they live in low-income areas is because there are less school resources and more budget cuts. This results in less educational staff monitoring at any given moment, and instead filling those gaps with school police officers. In-school officers are constantly monitoring the ongoings of students in a more strict manner, which leads to an increase of student punishments.

Specifically, Black students represent 15% of public school students, yet they represent 31% of all students referred to law enforcement, and other students of color are also disproportionately arrested in schools (specifically Native American, and LatinX). When these students are kicked out of school they are left with nowhere to go and no community to hold on to. Often, many students get involved in illegal activity and drugs and alcohol due to their lack of direction and school time.

This trend is reflected across multiple underrepresented groups. People with disabilities face harsher punishments than their able-bodied counterparts, especially in affluent schools, according to Huffington Post. “In affluent schools, students with disabilities are overrepresented among students who receive suspensions by 20 points, while in low-income schools, they are overrepresented by nearly 11 points.” This can cause issues because studies show that students who are suspended at least once during their secondary education are more likely to drop out of school, and more likely to enter the criminal justice system. However, some critics argue that less suspensions means more dangerous and disruptive students in the classroom, which can pose a threat to other students and staff members.

As the presidential election of 2020 has begun to ramp up, various left-leaning candidates have spoken up about the need to change the school-to-prison pipeline trajectory. According to a Buzzfeed article, both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have learned about the injustices in the school systems, primarily for students of colors, and have agreed to provide more resources to low-income schools, if elected.

Another politician, Ayanna Pressley, a United States Representative for Massachusetts’ 7th district (including the city of Boston), and the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, has spoken up about ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline in the HuffPost. Pressley has specifically focused her activism on young black girls. HuffPost shares that black girls are “five times more likely to be suspended than white girls, according to a 2017 report from the National Women’s Law Center, which used data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights from 2013-2014.”

In December 2019, Pressley announced criminal justice proposals, which included the Ending PUSHOUT Act, aiming to stop discriminatory punishment in schools, specifically for black and brown students. The Ending PUSHOUT Act, which stands for Punitive, Unfair, School-Based Harm, that is Overt and Unresponsive to Trauma, would bring in money to provide teachers with implicit bias training, hire more school counselors and social workers, and change school discipline regulations based on community input. In order to be eligible for the program, schools have to decrease suspensions and expulsions, and ban corporal punishment for all students. Pressley is one of the first politicians, after President Obama, to take concrete steps towards fighting the School to Prison Pipeline that currently exists in our society and causes extreme disadvantage to students of color.

As Pressley articulately stated, “We must work in partnership with communities to develop holistic solutions that center the lived experiences of girls of color who have been most impacted by cruel and discriminatory school policies and practices.” Especially as President Trump decreases regulations already in place to help the most at-risk populations, we must fight to end the School-to-Prison Pipeline and provide all students with equitable opportunities. This is one necessary action to reach the goal of facing inequality in the United States and prevent unnecessary crowding in juvenile detention centers with innocent youth.

Categories: Civil Rights, Juvenile Court

Activists Demand Answers About Secretive LAPD Program: What Is Operation LASER?

Published on March 28, 2018

An alliance of activist groups is suing the city of Los Angeles because the city has allegedly refused to respond to a public records request. The request concerns Operation LASER, a computer program used to identify criminals and potential criminals as well as areas where crime is likely to occur. Activists groups led by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition have asked the city to give details on the factors they use to operate LASER.

If you have questions about Operation LASER or are facing criminal charges in the Los Angeles area, contact a criminal defense attorney or staff member from Spolin Law P.C. at (310) 424-5816 to schedule a free case consultation.

How LASER Works

LASER, which is an acronym for Los Angeles Strategic Extraction and Restoration, tells police officers where they can locate both ex-criminals and persons whom they believe will be likely to commit crimes. LASER uses tools such as cell phone trackers and license plate scanners to search for these people, and combines this information with other data and CIA-created technology to pinpoint precise locations.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has praised the program for its “predictive policing” abilities, saying it helps reduce the amount of violent crimes committed in the city. Officers claim that Operation LASER has been a tremendous help in diminishing crime in the most dangerous neighborhoods and areas where gang violence is prevalent.

The Problems with LASER

While Operation LASER sounds like a great tool in theory, activist groups aren’t convinced. The fact that the LAPD is reluctant to provide public records on LASER, including the data collected and used to pinpoint criminals, has raised some concerns. They claim the program targets people using secretive tactics, and officers don’t actually inform these people that they are being observed as potential criminals. Peter Bibring, a lawyer for the ACLU, pointed out that once police intensify their observance of you, your chances of being wrongly accused of a crime often increase exponentially.

Groups are concerned about the police choosing to trail ex-criminals as well, saying it’s an unjustified move that keeps people under constant suspicion despite the fact that they have already paid their debt to society.

Another issue surrounding LASER is the data that’s used. What factors does the LAPD consider while pinpointing potential criminals? Groups fear the police are coming by this data in a dishonest manner, using information that is not regulated or made transparent to the public. While officers are encouraged to conduct reviews of their lists every six months, eliminating suspects who haven’t committed crimes in that time, there’s no actual requirement that they do so.

Contact a California Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are charged with a crime, it’s important that you remember your rights must still be observed. One way you can ensure you are treated fairly is by hiring a criminal defense lawyer. At Spolin Law P.C., we focus on building the best defense for your case, and we scrutinize treatment from the police and the courts to safeguard your rights as a citizen. To speak to one of our lawyers or staff members, contact us today at (310) 424-5816 to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Civil Rights, Criminal Law

Los Angeles County Bail Schedules — Felony and Misdemeanor

Published on July 17, 2017

Los Angeles County maintains a “schedule” (i.e., a list) of the amount of bail recommended for various criminal charges. You can use these lists to look up how much bail your judge will likely offer. You should also know that bail is not always set at the amount listed in the schedule; sometimes the judge will set a higher or lower bail amount and may offer “OR release” without bail. Spolin Law P.C.’s Complete Guide to Bail explains how bail is set and how to fight for a lower bail amount.

Los Angeles County Felony Bail Schedule PDF:

Los Angeles County Felony Bail Schedule

Los Angeles County Misdemeanor and Infraction Bail Schedule PDF:

Los Angeles County Infraction and Misdemeanor Bail Schedule

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from an attorney or staff member today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Civil Rights, Criminal Law

Claimed Civil Rights Violations by City of Oakland

Published on May 25, 2017

Earthjustice, purportedly the largest nonprofit environmental law organization in the nation, is representing a historically African American West Oakland community in a case that claims their civil rights have been violated by the City and Port of Oakland. For more than a decade, the City and Port of Oakland have allowed for numerous expansions in pollution-emitting activities. In response, the citizens of Oakland have described their experiences in decreasing health due to increased diesel emissions. The Pacific Institute, in conjunction with the Coalition for West Oakland Revitalization, found in a recent report that Oakland has diesel emissions 90 times higher than the California average.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a pillar civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or nationality, the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project has filed a complaint in opposition to the city’s systemic neglect of its residents’ well-being. As 80% of West Oakland city is populated with minorities, the Project alleges that the community is suffering at the hands of racial discrimination from the City and Port. Margaret Gordon, a team member on the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and community member for over 20 years, recalls how difficult and unjust it is to live with toxic pollution. The community’s struggle due to the City and Port’s approval for industrial expansion has increased unhealthy vapors that infiltrate both the lungs and homes of community residence. Yana Garcia, an attorney who focuses on environmental justice issues with Earthjustice, states that the City and Port have, “consistently ignored federal protections against discrimination,” and adds how the city’s administration does not plague other parts of Oakland, where the [racial] demographics are different.

The US National Library of Medicine lists in a 2001 medical journal how an “association between different levels of air pollution and various health outcomes including mortality, exacerbation of asthma, chronic bronchitis, respiratory tract infections, heart disease, and stroke” have been correlated. The seniors and children in the West Oakland community have experienced “gasping asthma attacks.” The residents have been reported twice as likely to be sent to the emergency room than the Alameda country average. A release from the Alameda County Department of Public Health notes that the residents of West Oakland can expect to live nine years less than those in other parts of Oakland. This does not sit well with the community.

The City and Port of Oakland receive federal funds. This means that Earthjustice can use Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, a section that declares that “any agency receiving federal money cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin.” Because the City any and Port allegedly utilize these grants to fund projects that increase dangerous health hazards for the community, Earthjustice argues that the City and Port have a responsibility and obligation to ensure the safety and equal opportunity between Oakland districts. The complaint has been sent to the Department of Transportation as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If Earthjustice’s complaint is accepted, a full-scale investigation into the City and Port of Oakland’s engagements will be examined. The EPA determines if a complaint warrants an investigation within 20 days, with 180 to reach a conclusion. If the City and Port of Oakland are found to have committed the acts outlined in the complaint, the administration is given a chance to fix the issue. If the city’s administration chooses not to, the EPA has the ability to withhold federal funds. The withholding of federal funding does not equate to factories having to shut down. If they have the financial means, these factories have the chance to continue their operations, no matter the pollution emissions. Additionally, a possible conflict of interest between Earthjustice and their submitted complaint to the EPA may warrant more obstacles. With a political shift and a transitioning EPA, there may not be as much tenacity within the EPA to resolve the issue as there once was in previous years. Whether the political climate will affect this specific case is unknown. Nonetheless, Earthjustice highlights that communities with complaints under Title VI have been awaiting a response for more than a decade.

In October of 2016, Prologis, a major developer, was given permission by the City and Port to build an Oakland Army Base warehouse. What they did not include in their plan was an air quality improvement strategy. The community apparently expects 55 truck docks and 78 truck trailer stalls. The amount of construction vehicles that number of parking stalls amounts to is unknown. Presumptively, the West Oakland community can expect a drastic increase in the poor quality of air with the addition of this new project. Even if the EPA accepts West Oakland’s complaint, with viable evidence against the construction of the Army Base warehouse, the EPA has never formally reported a violation of civil rights in the plethora of cases they’ve investigated. It is with this information that Earthjustice has made the additional move of simultaneously filing cases with the federal courts in California.

While there are laws to protect the environment, there are limitations inherent in the organizations tasked with enforcing these laws. Although California is at the forefront of environment protectionist laws, and Earthjustice is doing everything in its organizational power to defend the City of Oakland’s community, advocates argue that time is of the essence. With an increase in hospital visits in conjunction with an increase in construction and pollution-emitting activities, there is no resolution in sight. It will be up to Earthjustice and their push in the federal courts to yield results. In utilizing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect a community comprised of 49% African Americans, 17% Latinos, and 13% Asians, one may see how Earthjustice has a suitable case that may even be powerful enough to reach the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the health of the community is expected to continue its decline. The daunting odds and difficult path ahead will not stop West Oakland’s citizens and activist organizations from pressing forward in the fight for an improved quality of life.

Talk to a Los Angeles Civil Rights Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from an attorney or staff member today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Civil Rights

Freedom of Speech on the College Campus

Published on April 4, 2017

Los Angeles Daily News covered a story about Kevin Shaw, President of Pierce College’s Young Americans for Liberty, who claims that last fall he was banned from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on his college campus. Pierce College’s Woodland Hills Campus has designated free speech zones; Shaw reports the space is about the size of three parking spots. Shaw filed a lawsuit against Pierce College’s Woodland Hills campus on Tuesday, March 28th, with the claim that the college has infringed on his civil right to freedom of speech. The Los Angeles Community College District has a rule that asserts its colleges are forums of public speech only in the selected areas. Shaw has voiced his disdain for the rule, claiming that other students feel the rule is “arbitrary.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group dedicated to defending the rights of students on college campuses, is on Shaw’s side. The foundation’s litigation director announced that public campuses are not allowed to limit students’ freedom of speech to tiny spaces. Pierce College allegedly had no further comments on the lawsuit.

Tinker v. Des Moines is a landmark United States Supreme Court case presiding over the function of freedom of speech in public schools. After the Vietnam War, many public schools designated freedom of speech to small zones in an attempt to limit protests. When two Des Moines, Iowa students wore black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam war, they were suspended. The first ruling in a U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the school, concluding that the armbands would disrupt student learning. After losing in a U.S. Court of Appeals, the students went directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ruling 7-2 in the favor of the students, the Supreme Court stated that students had free rights, and do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate” (Justice Fortas, Tinker v. Des Moines). In other cases, such as Morse v. Frederick, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that school officials have the right to prohibit students’ freedom of speech when encouraging illegal activities. After Tinker, two categories for the rights to freedom of speech have arisen regarding public schools. The first is that students have their right to freedom of speech, but secondly, school officials have the right to limit the speech if it is promoting illegal activities. Whether the court rules that Shaw’s activity in passing out U.S. Constitutions promotes illegal activities is unknown. However, many college campuses have reportedly been redefining their rules on freedom of speech, and expanding speech zones.

Public institutions, especially higher academic institutions, take great pride in their diversity. In an academic environment in conjunction with a multitude of different political influences, there is bound to be some sort of chafing of ideals between communities. Free expression protects these communities when adding opposing views into the intellectual atmosphere a college campus provides. Nonetheless, The Washington Post’s, In Defense of Free Speech, reported that around 40% of millennials, the student body majority on college campuses, “favor government restrictions on offensive speech” (Petri, 2015).

There will be no punishment in the court ruling in favor of Pierce College or Shaw. The court’s conclusion on Shaw verses Pierce College could have the ability to outline other public institutions and its relationship to freedom of speech in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Until then, Shaw plans on not provoking the situation until the court makes a conclusion.

Talk to a Los Angeles Civil Rights Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from an attorney or staff member today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.

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