EJS 20th Anniversary – Reflecting on 2014: 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Chris Bridges of EJS speaks at a press conference in 2014 announcing a lawsuit EJS filed with CRLA, MALDEF, GBLA, against the Kern High School District alleging discriminatory disciplinary policies and practices that disproportionately impact students of color. Cynthia Rice of CRLA sits behind Chris.

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.

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This week we remember 2014 when we commemorated the second of three parts in a ‘Civil Rights at 50’ three-year commemoration of civil rights milestones, filed a lawsuit against Kern High School District alleging discriminatory disciplinary policies and practices that disproportionately impact students of color, and Eva Paterson delivered a milestone presentation on implicit bias at the 2014 Ninth Circuit Conference.


Eva Paterson Presentation at the 2014 Ninth Circuit Conference – EJS President Eva Paterson delivered a presentation, “Shining A Light On The Hidden Recesses Of Our Brain,” at the July 2014 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy was unexpectedly in the audience.

“The remarks at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference were the culmination of the work of the many able people who have worked at EJS, who have supported EJS, and who have developed relationships with EJS.,” wrote Eva in her reflections of the presentation: “Justice Kennedy, Implicit Bias, Racial Anxiety and Dismantling the 14th Amendment’s Intent Standard.”

Eva received a standing ovation and rave reviews. Justice Kennedy asked to meet Eva. She recalled that “he asked me if one of the interventions I had mentioned aimed at minimizing implicit bias could be a jury instruction. Ever the joker, I replied, ‘Well you are on the Supreme Court.’ “

Watch the video of Eva’s remarks here.


EJS Joins CRLA, MALDEF, GBLA, in Lawsuit Against Kern High School District – EJS was part of a coalition of civil rights legal advocates, including MALDEF, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., and Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Inc., that filed suit on October 10, 2014, in Kern County Superior Court to compel Kern High School District (KHSD) to eliminate a variety of discriminatory disciplinary policies and practices that disproportionately impact students of color.

The suit was filed on behalf of Latino and Black students and parents, as well as community members and community organizations, who have suffered the impacts of discriminatory expulsion and school assignment policies, and who have sought to bring equity to the KHSD system without success.

The organizational plaintiffs include the Dolores Huerta Foundation, Faith in Action Kern County, and the National Brotherhood Association.


Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – On September 13, 2014, EJS celebrated the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in a gala event at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts featuring performances by artists from the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, Zaccho Dance Theatre, and the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre.

The most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin. The law also provides the federal government with the powers to enforce desegregation.

This was the second installment in a series of events over three years (2013 to 2015) observing the 50th anniversaries of four of our nation’s seminal civil rights tipping points.


Other highlights of 2014 include:

EJS Organized Restorative Justice Meeting – On August 5, 2014, EJS hosted a meeting for restorative justice practitioners to share their insights regarding implementing restorative justice in schools with advocates who are seeking to address the school to prison pipeline. Sujatha Baliga and Nuri Nusrat of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and Rita Renjitham Alfred of the Restorative Justice Training Institute were in attendance, as were representatives from California Rural Legal Assistance, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and the National Center for Youth Law. The meeting gave the advocates new insight into the process of restorative justice and a better sense of how to approach the problems in school discipline.

CERD Shadow Report on Residential Segregation – EJS signed on to the CERD shadow report on residential segregation (written by NFHA, AARP, and PRRAC). The report was submitted to the U.N. for the review of U.S. compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as part of the 85th Session of the Committee in Geneva in August.

Judicial Nominations and Diversity – In March 2014, EJS signed onto a letter from Alliance for Justice and other organizations to U.S. Senators regarding professional diversity of the federal judiciary. The letter urged the Senators to work toward filling judicial vacancies with judges who reflect the full diversity of the legal profession – in terms of the gender, ethnic, sexual orientation, and racial diversity of the nation, but also including judges who come from all corners of the legal profession, and particularly those who have worked in the public interest. On April 18, EJS also signed a similar letter to Senators Boxer and Feinstein about the need for and importance of federal diversity on the bench. Over 40 groups based or operating in California joined the letter. In addition to sending the letter to the Senators themselves, AFJ also sent it to members of their judicial selection committees.

Shaking the Foundations: The West Coast Progressive Lawyering Conference – On October 17, Chris Bridges attended the Shaking the Foundations Conference at Stanford Law School. Chris served as a co-panelist with Jennifer Eberhardt, the recent recipient of the MacArthur Genius award. Professor Eberhardt and Chris both spoke about Implicit Bias. Chris specifically addressed the relevance of implicit bias in the law, and strategies that can be used to correct or eliminate explicit bias using legal actions and court resources.

Association of Business Trial Lawyers 41st Annual Seminar “The Science of Decision-Making” – On October 17th, EJS was part of a panel entitled: “Shining a Light on the Hidden Recesses of our Brains: Are We Subject to Implicit Bias and What Can We Do About That?” This was a great opportunity to communicate with attorneys who represent some of American’s largest corporations about how implicit bias, racial anxiety, and misuse of stereotypes can adversely affect hiring and promotion decisions as well as the climate of the workplace. After consultation with our friend David Berger and with our friends at the Perception Institute, we presented some interventions that employers can use such as “blinding,” establishing clear criteria for what would make an ideal hire, establishing a check list when hiring, and institutionalized mentoring.

EJS Endorsed Letter by CCCR and DREDF on Special Education and Disproportionality – On July 28, 2014, EJS submitted a statement in support of letters from both the UCLA Civil Rights Project and Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund to the Department of Education. The letters addressed issues of school discipline, disproportionality, and special education services in response to an RFP about federal oversight of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) from the Department. The letters described disproportionalities in school discipline, the damage caused by the failure to identify students with disabilities, and the issues with needlessly assigning students to receive special education services. The letters urged that the Department create additional safeguards to prevent the over-disciplining of students of color, in addition to safeguards to protect against over- and under-enrolling students of color for special education services.

Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal Article – EJS authored an article with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in April 2014 that was published in Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal entitled: “Lessons from Mt. Holly: Leading Scholars Demonstrate Need for Disparate Impact Standard to Combat Implicit Bias”.

Law Review Article – Eva wrote a law review article that published in December 2014 in The Harvard Journal of Race and Ethnic Equality, entitled: “Implicit Injustice: Using Social Science to Combat Racism in the United States.”