EJS 20th Anniversary: Reflecting on 2005 and Early Work on Repealing Prop. 209

2020 is the 20th anniversary of the Equal Justice Society. Every week leading up to our 20th anniversary celebration on September 17, we will highlight one year in our history. This week we remember 2005, and our early work on repealing Proposition 209.

In 2005, the Equal Justice Society engaged in fierce efforts to protect the federal judiciary against the court-packing by the Bush administration. Working in concert with groups like Alliance for Justice, we called attention to numerous judicial nominees who were unqualified or selected for their conservative ideological agenda. We also launched a website, FairAndIndependentJudges.org, to provide media with subject matter from ally organizations regarding judicial nominations.

At our year-end event, we recognized U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and then-Senator Barbara Boxer for their ongoing efforts to protect the independence of our judiciary. You can watch their remarks below.

2005 was also the year that Hurricane Katrina, the Category 5 cyclone, hit the U.S. in August. It killed 1,200 people and caused $125 billion in damage, particularly in the city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas.

Katrina ripped the veil off America’s often hidden visage of race and poverty. Hours stretched into days while tens of thousands of people, mostly African Americans and people of color, remained stranded on rooftops and overpasses in smoldering heat without food, water, or medicine. The Bush federal government’s apathetic approach to rescuing tens of thousands of African Americans was disgusting.

EJS joined a class action lawsuit that resulted in a judge stopping FEMA from forcing Katrina victims out of hotels. U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval, Jr. extended a deadline for hurricane evacuees to remain in hotel rooms across the country. EJS; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; the law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP; John Pierre, Attorney and Professor at Southern University Law Center; the Public Interest Law Project filed the action.

In 2005, we also played a major role in one of the first efforts related to our desire to repeal Proposition 209. We helped start a statewide coalition of civil rights advocates, community organizations, research centers, academics, scholars and students assessing the impact of Proposition 209 on individuals, society and the economy of California. 

The coalition included Impact Fund/Discrimination Research Center, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Davis, Hastings College of Law, Power PAC, National Economic Development & Law Center, Chinese for Affirmative Action, The Applied Research Center, the Greenlining Institute, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and AGENDA L.A.

Fifteen years later, EJS is at the forefront of the effort to repeal Prop. 209 through ACA 5 and the Opportunity for All Coalition. Strong momentum is growing for ACA5, which will ask voters to decide whether the state government can again address discrimination against women and people of color in contracting, public employment, and education.

If ACA 5 is passed, voters would have a say on affirmative action for the first time in a generation. California would join the 42 states in the U.S. with programs addressing structural discrimination hurting women, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.

Please visit https://opportunity4all.org to learn more and demonstrate support of ACA 5 before the bill’s next hearing on Tuesday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

We welcome sponsorships to our 20th anniversary celebration on September 17, 2020, at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. The evening will include a oratorio by Marcus inspired by the courage of Harriet Tubman and by the two decades of EJS. Please contact Ginger Johnson at gjohnson@equaljusticesociety.org for more information. Thank you!