Member News Digest 3/26/20: Global Solidarity During a Pandemic, COVID-19 Responses, and more


3/18/20 | NLG Statement on COVID-19: Solidarity in Times of Crisis

In case you missed it, here is the NLG’s statement on the COVID-19 pandemic, featuring responses from a number of NLG committees. It also includes a list of letters in response to the pandemic that the NLG has signed onto, as well as resouces for further mutual aid and other organizing.

In the spirit of our mission of valuing human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests: “We must lift coercive economic sanctions, prioritize mutual aid, ensure access to quality health care for all, and secure protections for houseless people, disabled people, prisoners, immigrants in detention, and low wage workers,” says NLG president Elena Cohen. Read the full statement here.


NLG Endorses The People’s Bailout

The NLG is proud to endorse The People’s Bailout in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the five principles of which are:

  1. Health is the top priority, for all people, with no exceptions
  2. Economic relief must be provided directly to the people
  3. Rescue workers and communities, not corporate executives
  4. Make a downpayment on a regenerative economy while preventing future crises
  5. Protect our democratic process while protecting each other

Check out thepeoplesbailout.org for more info and ways you can take action to make this a reality.


Announcing the new NLG Director of Mass Defense!

The NLG National Office is thrilled to welcome Tyler Crawford (he/him) as the new Director of Mass Defense. As an NLG law student at Fordham, Tyler demonstrated a deep commitment to the Guild’s principles. In 2018, Tyler was a Haywood Burns fellow, and helped mobilize Guild members in response to the Conn crisis faced by thousands of low-income Eastern Kentuckians.
Tyler has a robust vision for what mass defense in the Guild could look like in the current political context, and the NO staff is excited to work with him as we navigate our response to the uncertain future we’re facing. He can be reached at tyler@nlg.org, and his bio is below. Welcome, Tyler!

Tyler Crawford is an organizer, activist, and a graduate of Fordham Law School. Over the last decade, he has worked extensively with community organizations and workers’ rights groups, launching worker centers, tenant associations, and legal clinics. While attending Fordham Law, Tyler was an NLG Haywood Burns Fellow while he clerked at Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky. During law school, Tyler also worked in Fordham’s Criminal Defense Clinic, representing protesters and others, as well as in the Community Economic Development Clinic, counseling not-for-profits, community organizations, and worker centers.


NLG Seattle Chapter Efforts to Release Prisoners during the Pandemic

On March 16, the NLG Seattle Chapter sent this letter along with the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Washington Defender Association to Gov. Inslee, urging him to release people from prisons through a combination of furloughs, commutations and reclassifications.

On March 24, the NLG Seattle Chapter filed an amicus brief in Nagel, et. al, v. Washington Department of Corrections urging the governor to release prisoners in light of the pandemic. As the brief states, “While the State has the power to commit thousands of people to confinement in our prisons, no person’s crime in Washington currently justifies a death sentence… Because the State has a special duty to protect those entrusted in its care, the Court should grant the Plaintiff’s requested relief.”


3/23/20 | The Cornell Sun | Crisis Calls For Desperate Measures: Activists Push for Emergency Fund, University Adds Sick Days

Cornell Law NLG formed a coalition with other local community groups calling on Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Cayuga Medical Center to (1) freeze rent payments on their Tompkins County properties; (2) lobby for a freeze on utilities and Internet payments in the State of New York; and (3) create a fund for Tompkins County to provide community members with paid leave and other emergency expenses. Read the full article here and sign the peititon here.


3/24/20 | NLG LEC Co-Sign Letter to Congress Endorsing the PAID Leave Act

The NLG Labor & Employment Committee signed on to endorse the PAID Leave Act of 2020 (Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave Act).

As the letter states: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 self-quarantine for 14 days. Individuals may also need to stay home longer if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, or if their workplace or family member’s school or place of care is closed for longer than 14 days. But for people without access to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave, this is a near impossibility. Millions of workers face the devastating decision between risking their own health (and that of their families and communities) or risking the loss of a paycheck or job. No one should face this choice, let alone during an unprecedented public health emergency.”

Read the full letter and view all endorsing organizations here. Other organizations are invited to endorse the PAID Leave Act at this online form.


3/22/20 | Chicago-Kent NLG Chapter Urge Administration to Switch to Pass/Fail System for Spring 2020 Semester

“The unfortunate reality is that some of us can afford to balance the demands of law school with personal survival and duties to our families and communities, and others — for reasons ranging from poverty to disability — cannot. To account for the disparate and unforeseeable circumstances that will undoubtedly confront us all in the coming months, we urge you to adopt a Pass / Fail system for the Spring 2020 semester.” Read the full letter here.


3/21/30 | National Immigration Project of the NLG Issues Practice Advisory on COVID-19

The National Immigration Project of the NLG issued a practice advisory intended to assist advocates seeking release of their clients from immigrant detention based on the threat COVID-19 presents to their life and health:

The rapid advancement of the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused a public health emergency and presents a fatal threat to incarcerated people. Thousands of immigrants are held in the patchwork of detention facilities in the United States, which is comprised of federal immigrant detention facilities, private detention facilities, and local jails and prisons contracted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to hold immigrant detainees.

Below is a practice advisory intended to assist advocates seeking release of their clients from immigrant detention based on the threat COVID-19 presents to their life and health. We have included sample filings addressing the emergent nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the detained immigrant population.

NIPNLG will continue to update these materials and guidance as needed. This material is up to date as of March 21, 2020.  View the practice advisory, which continues to be updated, here.


3/21/20 | Truthout | Our Responses to COVID-19 Must Center Disability Justice

Katie Tastrom, NLG Disability Justice Committee Chair, wrote this important article about what disability justice should actually look like during this moment.

“Employers and organizations need to be committed not just to mitigating a pandemic, but to disability justice, collective access and a shared understanding that different ways of being in the world should be more than simply tolerated. We must recognize the unique value that disabled people bring to our lives and collective work. Of course, we as disabled people would still have a right to access if we did not contribute specifically to work-oriented projects and organizations, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are already making those kinds of contributions, and we are needed now more than ever.” Read the full article here.


3/20/20 | NLG Joins 18 Interfaith & Civil Rights Groups Urging UCLA to Protect Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech

The NLG signed onto this letter to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, organized by CAIR-LA: “We write to you in response to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) decision to open investigations into two complaints made against the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Notably, the OCR investigations are in line with a larger effort to silence any individuals or groups on US campuses who voice support for the dignity and self-determination of Palestinians, opposition to Israeli policy or politics, or opposition to Israel’s discriminatory apartheid practices against Palestinians.” Read the full letter here.


3/18/20 | DECARCERATION IS A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE: An Open Letter to Minnesota Criminal Legal Agencies Regarding COVID-19

The NLG Minnesota Chapter published an open letter to state criminal legal agencies, co-signed by a number of community rights groups, on the urgency of decarceration during the pandemic:

“The false presumption that our current criminal legal system serves public safety is even more dangerous during a State of Emergency due to a pandemic. Proposals to reduce jail visitation and release some who are serving sentences to electronic monitoring, and the postponement of “low” and “medium”-priority court proceedings are wildly inadequate responses. The only answer is to release those inside (many of whom await trial and are presumed innocent under the law) and to halt unnecessary arrests and prosecutions. No one deserves a death sentence.” Read the full letter here.


3/13/20 | NLG International Statement on Economic Sanctions/Unilateral Coercive Measures

The National Lawyers Guild International Committee condemns the U.S. government’s illegal use of unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) to force regime change by undermining the economies of countries whose governments it opposes. The recent financial and secondary sanctions imposed by the Trump administration against Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran are openly intended to destroy their economies and immiserate their people by making it impossible to engage in normal trade and tourism and even to import medicine and food. These sanctions are in clear violation of both UN and OAS charters, as outlined by UN Rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures Idriss Jazairy, and meet the status of crimes against humanity. Full statement on the NLG International Commmitee website.


3/19/20 | CU Independent | Students demand removal of surveillance cameras in CU’s Wolf Law Building

Students at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Law School are fighting for the removal of surveillance cameras in the Wolf Law Building, arguing that it contributes to excessive policing and poses a threat to vulnerable populations.

“The arguments in favor of the presence of surveillance cameras is that they make others feel safe,” said Amanda Blasingame, president of the National Lawyers Guild’s CU Boulder chapter. “However, it is important to consider who we’re making feel safe while simultaneously making others feel less safe and at risk. In a balancing of interests, the risks of the cameras’ presence far outweigh any supposed benefits.” Read the full article here.


Members-Only Job Board

Are you searching for a movement related legal or organizing job OR internship?

A reminder that all current NLG members have access to our Members-Only job board! This resource includes open positions for attorneys, paralegals, organizers, legal workers and law students.

Check it out at nlg.org/job-board (NOTE: you must be logged in with your nlg.org account to view this page). Have a job or internship listing you’d like to share with fellow Guild members? Send it to jobbboard@nlg.org.

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