EJS 20th Anniversary – Reflecting on 2011: Victory in Associated General Contractors v. Caltrans Case

In 2011, EJS commissioned Joanna Haigood and the Zaccho Dance Theatre, and Marcus Shelby to create “Dying While Black and Brown,” which fused Marcus’s music with the unique movements by Zaccho. Performed at EJS’s annual gala that year at Yoshi’s SF, it marked the first collaboration between Joanna and Marcus. Photo by Bob Hsiang.

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 2011.

In a significant victory for equal opportunity, a federal district court judge in 2011 granted EJS and its litigation partners’ motion for summary judgment in the case Associated General Contractors v. Caltrans, thereby upholding the race- and gender-conscious provisions of Caltrans’ Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program. EJS partnered with the ACLU, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the law firm Bingham McCutchen LLP as defendant intervenors in this suit, representing the interests of women and minority business owners.

In August, EJS convened with key litigation allies in Montgomery, Alabama, at the offices of the Equal Justice Initiative led by our friend Bryan Stevenson, a visionary litigator and Executive Director of EJI, to develop a long-term death penalty litigation strategy using implicit bias concepts.

EJS continued to refine its litigation strategy by determining the areas of the law where its mission to dismantle the Intent Doctrine is likely to be most effective. After convening litigation experts and allies and a series of internal meetings attended by key staff, we concluded that racial disparities in the application of the federal death penalty and in the provision of municipal services were the most fruitful areas to pursue.

EJS also continued its amicus work in some important cases, most notably Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, in the Supreme Court, National Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. United States Food & Drug Administration, in the Second Circuit, and Friendly House v. Whiting, in the U.S. District Court, District of Arizona.

EJS joined efforts supporting the appointments of Edward Chen to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit, urging the U.S. Senate to provide timely confirmation hearings to deserving nominees. While Judge Chen was eventually confirmed after a long confirmation battle, Senate Republicans obstructed Liu’s appointment and he was nominated instead by Gov. Jerry Brown to the California Supreme Court and confirmed in September 2011.

The California Civil Rights Coalition (CCRC) hosted the “Civil Rights State of the State,” organized by Claudia Pena, then CCRC Statewide Director and an EJS staffer. Member organizations shared their policy priorities, determined next steps for CCRC and also began the process of creating a more cohesive communications structure for progressives. In conjunction with the State of the State, CCRC hosted a civil rights policy briefing at the California Secretary of State building, addressing issues regarding criminal justice, workers’ rights, health access and education equity.

in 2011, Eva received a number of honors and awards, including:

  • Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association;
  • Named to the 2011 Women Leaders in Law by the Recorder;
  • Trailblazer Award from the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at Berkeley Law; and
  • Gertrude E. Rush Award from the National Bar Association, the nation’s oldest and largest network of predominately African American attorneys and judges.

We welcome sponsorships to our 20th anniversary celebration on September 17, 2020, at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. The evening will include an 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!