Major Panels

Now’s the Time: Which Way Forward for the Guild?

In these challenging political times, in order to serve the needs of the movements and people we represent, we must work in ways that challenge old orthodoxies.

NLG history offers rich examples: opening an NLG law office to support Mississippi Freedom Summer; representing GI resisters in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War; the successful defense that stopped the prosecutions of the Attica Brothers;  to our current work in support of Occupy and NATO protestors in Chicago.

How do we as an organization take advantage of what we have learned while remaining open to new ideas to confront new challenges? Past NLG presidents William Goodman and Barbara Dudley will join President-Elect Azadeh Shahshahani and National VP Adrienne Wheeler, both of TUPOCC and Next Gen, in a dialogue about the future of the Guild. Past president John Brittain will moderate.

New COINTELPRO: How the NLG is Responding to the Targeting of Muslim Communities and Palestinian Human Rights Activists in the United States

This panel will convene attorneys from the NLG-NYC Muslim Defense Project and others who are working to protect Muslim communities and Palestinian human rights activists. The panel will discuss the patterns of surveillance, infiltration, entrapment, and predatory policing in their regions. NLG-NYC Muslim Defense Project members will provide information on their work to support the local Muslim community and how other Guild chapters can replicate the project’s structure. Panelists will include Lamis Deek, NLG-NYC vice president and board member of the Council on American Islamic Relations New York; Fahd Ahmed, legal and policy director of Desis Rising Up and Moving, and NLG-NYC Muslim Defense Project members Beena Ahmad and Bina Ahmad.

Fighting Guest Worker and Undocumented Worker Exploitation in Light of Anti-Immigrant Attacks

In today’s political climate, workers and their allies are confronting a belief that non-citizen labor should be cheap and exploitable. The panel will discuss congressional guest worker bills which seek to sharply limit immigrant rights, state anti-immigrant laws (such as Arizona’s SB1070 and Alabama’s HB56), attempts to ban day laborers from seeking work, harassment of undocumented communities, and resistance to these attacks. Panelists will share successful tactics—from federal litigation to advocacy to organizing campaigns—to advance the human rights of all immigrants.

Crashing the System: Strategies for Confronting Mass Incarceration

This panel will lay out tactics to confront mass incarceration in the U.S. Strategies discussed will include: jury nullification, increasing trials for drug offenses, confronting discriminatory policing, and shifting the punishment paradigm.

Deborah Peterson Small, executive director of Break the Chains, will discuss the concept of “crashing the system” and specific case categories where increasing trials might be pursued as a strategy. Kyung Ji Kate Rhee, project director of the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform & Alternatives, will discuss her work organizing New York City youth to oppose NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy. California NAACP President Robert Rooks will discuss his successful campaign to reform Connecticut’s crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity, plus strategy for criminal justice reform in California. Jeff Adachi will discuss practical considerations from his perspective as a San Francisco public defender. Susan Burton will outline her work as director of a reentry program for women in South Central Los Angeles.

Human Rights, Housing, and Homelessness

The City of Los Angeles has the dubious distinction of being the homeless capitol of the nation. The city has lagged in developing supportive housing when faced with rising rents, even as it comits extraordinary resources to the criminalization of homelessness. A coalition of activists, public-interest groups, and attorneys has been working together to counter these policies. This panel will discuss the coalition’s achievements as well as its goals, which include implementing a human rights framework, opposing the criminalization of homeless and low-income people, organizing low-income communities against gentrification, working with academics to develop supporting materials, working with the United Nations Special Rappoteur and the Department of Justice, and supportive litigation.

Shut Out of the Public Square: Removing the Ground Under Our Feet

In recent years, government entities have limited access to public space to prevent First Amendment activities at national political conventions, international trade organization meetings, presidential inaugurations, and, most recently, Occupy protests. This panel will talk about the increased restrictions on access to public space and strategies for challenging these restraints. Among the issues to be addressed are: the abuse of permitting schemes, the privatization of public spaces, the creation of post hoc ordinances or unwritten regulations, the use of variable exclusion areas and “free speech zones,” and pretextual safety concerns.