EJS 20th Anniversary – Reflecting on 2013: 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

2020 is the 20th anniversary of the Equal Justice Society. Our celebration this year on September 17 will be virtual and we’re working on an exciting and engaging program including an oratorio by Marcus Shelby inspired by the courage of Harriet Tubman and by the two decades of EJS. Every week leading up to the celebration, we will highlight one year in our history.


This week we remember 2013 when we kicked off a ‘Civil Rights at 50’ three-year commemoration of three civil rights milestones, starting with the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

EJS Commemorates 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – The Equal Justice Society was joined by hundreds of guests at our event on August 28, 2013, at the Oakland Museum. The performances by the Marcus Shelby Jazz Organization, the Zaccho Dance Theatre, and the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre received rave reviews from the audience. The event was the start of our “Civil Rights at 50” campaign. The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a time to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come to advance civil rights and equality. It was also an occasion to renew our efforts to fulfill the Dream. The performances by the Marcus Shelby Jazz Organization, the Zaccho Dance Theatre, and the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre received rave reviews from the audience.

Eva Paterson on Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin at Beyond the Bench XXII Conference – Eva Paterson was a panelist on a workshop titled “From Oscar Grant to Trayvon Martin: A Dialogue about Race, Public Trust and Confidence in the Justice System,” at the Beyond the Bench XXII conference in December of 2013 in Anaheim, Calif. The gathering was hosted by the Administrative Office of the Courts, State of California. Beyond the Bench brought together judicial officers, court professionals, social workers, probation officers, attorneys, educators, and others working with families and children coming to court.

Victory for Business Owners of Color – In 2009, Associated General Contractors (AGC) brought suit seeking to invalidate the California Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program, which seeks to ensure that minority and women-owned businesses are on equal footing to compete for federally-funded contracts. Along with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Bingham McCutchen LLP, and ACLU-NC, the Equal Justice Society represented the Coalition for Economic Equity and the San Diego Chapter of the NAACP in the case, two groups that intervened to ensure that the perspectives of DBEs themselves would be represented in the litigation. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Caltrans program in April.

EJS and Calif. Advocacy Groups File Brief Opposing Race-Based Prison Lockdowns – The Equal Justice Society and other organizations filed an amicus brief in Oct. 2013 in federal court opposing the race- based lockdown policy used in California prisons, saying the practice is unconstitutional because it uses race as a proxy for gang affiliation. The brief was filed with the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, in Mitchell v. Felker, supporting the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Morrison & Foerster LLP submitted the brief on behalf of the amici, which included (in addition to EJS): Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus; Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles; Asian Prisoner Support Committee; Chinese for Affirmative Action; Equal Rights Advocates; Impact Fund; LatinoJustice PRLDEF; Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the SF Bay Area; Lifelines to Healing Campaign (of PICO National Network); NAACP Bakersfield; and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Robert Mitchell, a California inmate, filed the lawsuit in 2008 to stop the Department of Corrections from locking down prisoners based on race. The department uses lengthy race-based lockdowns purportedly to control violence in overpopulated prisons – the only corrections system in the county that employs this method. Current and former prison administrators from other states find California’s race-based lockdowns “astounding” and “reprehensible.” In the brief, the amici state that the lockdown policy fails the “strict scrutiny” test for race-based policies as set forth in Grutter v. Bollinger.

Mount Holly Supreme Court Case Challenges Disparate Impact Standard – The Equal Justice Society filed an amicus brief in Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. The Mt. Holly case was brought by residents of the Township of Mount Holly, New Jersey to halt a plan to demolish all homes in the only Township neighborhood where residents are predominantly African American or Hispanic. Mt. Holly is a critical case because it provides the Court with an opportunity to review an important section of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the leading law that protects against housing discrimination in this country. Specifically, the case implicates the “disparate impact” standard under the FHA, which allows a plaintiff to bring a claim based on the disproportionate harmful effect of a governmental or private action, regardless of the motive behind that action. Without the disparate impact standard, many of the harms stemming from those biases will go unaddressed. This is why it is so important that the civil rights community work together to convince the Supreme Court to uphold the disparate impact standard being challenged in Mount Holly. The case was settled after after amicus briefs were submitted.

Washington State Supreme Court Cites Law Review Article by EJS on Implicit Bias – The Washington State Supreme Court recently cited a law review article on implicit bias co-authored in 2008 by Kimberly Thomas Rapp, Sara Jackson, and Eva Paterson. Kimberly was our Director of Law and Public Policy and Sara was our Staff Attorney at the time. In its August 1, 2013, decision in Washington v. Saintcalle, the Court asserted that the Batson procedures for challenging race discrimination in jury selection were not “robust enough,” since “a growing body of evidence shows that racial discrimination remains rampant in jury selection.” The Seattle Times invited and published an op-ed by Eva Paterson on racial bias in jury selection after learning that our law review article was cited by the Washington State Supreme Court in Saintcalle.

Protecting the Rights of Same-Sex Couples – EJS signed on to amicus briefs in both landmark gay marriage cases recently decided by the U.S.Supreme Court. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, EJS signed on to a brief filed by Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP arguing that California’s Proposition 8 should be held unconstitutional. In Windsor v. United States of America, EJS signed on to a brief filed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) should be subject to heightened judicial scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause.

EJS Mind Science Conference in Chicago – EJS co-hosted a Mind Science conference in April 2013, bringing together scholars, researchers, activists, and attorneys in Chicago at Northwestern University’s law school to talk about implicit bias. Thanks to the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Ford Foundation, EJS hosted a conference featuring some of the nation’s most brilliant thought leaders in both the social science and legal realms. The two-day conference provided an intimate forum for social science researchers, attorneys, judges and activists to discuss the nature of unconscious bias and structural racism, and also strategize ways to disseminate current research to legal scholars and practitioners.

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!

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