September 17 is our EJS 20th Anniversary Virtual Gala – Reflecting on 2019: Remembering 1619

Equal Justice Society President Eva Paterson testified on April 9, 2019, at the hearing on Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary.

2020 is the 20th anniversary of the Equal Justice Society. Our celebration this year on September 17 will be virtual and we’ve prepared 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.



For the past 18 weeks, we’ve been highlighting one year in our history. This week we remember 2019, when produced a year-long series of events Remembering 1619, observing the 400th anniversary of slavery in the United States.

EJS Launches ‘Remembering 1619’ Observance – The Equal Justice Society hosted Remembering 1619, a series of events and activities throughout 2019 to observe the 400th anniversary of slavery in the United States. 1619 was the beginning of much misery, degradation, evil, and pain in our country.

‘Remembering 1619’ Commemoration at SFJAZZ – The Equal Justice Society presented a special “Remembering 1619” event marking the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans at Jamestown, Virginia, on August 20, at SFJAZZ. The evening featured a four-act artistic presentation with The Marcus Shelby Quintet, Joanna Haigood and Zaccho Dance Theatre, Actor Steven Anthony Jones, The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol, Pianist Joe Warner, Directorial Consultant and Dramaturg Kim Euell, Set Designer Wayne Campbell, Filmmakers Cheo Tyehimba Taylor and David Goldberg, and Executive Producer Eva Paterson. Watch the video of the performance.

Panel: The Impact of American Slavery on American Jurisprudence on Activism – On February 21, 2019, a panel that included Lisa Holder, Interim Legal Director, Equal Justice Society; Shauna Marshall, The Honorable Raymond L. Sullivan Professor of Law UC Hastings College of the Law; Dale Minami, Partner, Minami Tamaki LLP; Megan Ming Francis, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Washington; Nusrat Jahan Choudhury, National ACLU; and Eva Paterson, President & Co-founder, Equal Justice Society was held in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco.

New Legal Director Mona Tawatao and Lisa Holder Serves as Interim Legal Director – Mona Tawatao started as EJS’s new Legal Director in April 2019. She was previously a Senior Litigator at the Western Center on Law & Poverty, served on the EJS board of directors from July 2010 to January 2019, and was also our board chair from 2015 to 2017. Allison Elgart served as our Legal Director from 2011 to November 2018. She was appointed a Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Rights Enforcement Section of the State of California Department of Justice. Lisa Holder served as Interim Legal Director from November 2018 until April 2019.

EJS and Co-Counsel Sue Sacramento School District Over the Segregation and Mistreatment of Students with Disabilities, Particularly Black Students with Disabilities – On September 9, a coalition of nonprofit advocacy groups led by the Equal Justice Society have filed a lawsuit against the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD), Superintendent Jorge A. Aguilar, and others on behalf of the Black Parallel School Board and three students in the District. The suit alleges flagrant districtwide discrimination against students with disabilities, especially Black students. The District has organized its programs in a way that segregates and denies students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities, a meaningful opportunity to be educated side-by-side with their peers in an inclusive environment. Further, the suit alleges the District imposes excessive and exclusionary discipline on students with disabilities for behavior caused by their disabilities. The District disciplines Black students with disabilities more frequently and more harshly instead of providing the services and support they need to thrive.

Students, Community Groups, Kern County Office of Education Reach Settlement – A coalition of Latino and Black students, their parents, community groups and the Kern County Office of Education (KCOE) in May reached a settlement of a lawsuit involving a dispute over the enrollment of students in KCOE-operated schools. The lawsuit was filed in 2014 against the Kern High School District, the KCOE and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS), the State of California, the California Department of Education, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Plaintiffs were represented by the California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA), MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), Equal Justice Society, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Inc. (GBLA), and by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, PC. The plaintiffs include families of KHSD students enrolled in KCOE schools, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, National Brotherhood Association, and Faith in Kern. The KCOE and KCSOS were represented by Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud, & Romo. The lawsuit as originally filed included causes of action alleging the KCOE unlawfully discriminated against students of color, and those causes of action were dismissed as to KCOE by the assigned judge during the course of the litigation.

Eva Paterson PBS NewHour Discussing Reparations and the 2020 Election – The April 12, 2019, PBS NewHour featured a segment by Yamiche Alcindor with EJS President Eva Paterson on reparations and the 2020 presidential election.

EJS Board Unanimously Votes to Support Impeachment Inquiry Based on Trump’s Racist Abuses of Power – On September 7, the EJS board voted unanimously to support the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. In August, the staff of EJS met and unanimously voted to ask our Board to support an impeachment inquiry. Legal Director Mona Tawatao wrote a memo outlining the legal and moral rationale for our position.

Implicit Bias Bills by Calif. Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove Become Law – In October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 241 and AB 242, requiring implicit bias training for judges, attorneys, court personnel, and healthcare professionals. The new laws make California the first state in the nation to require implicit bias training for these positions in the state judiciary and healthcare system. In collaboration with the Equal Justice Society, Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles) introduced AB 241 and AB 242 as part of a bills package designed to help reduce disparities in health care, the justice system and law enforcement. Yoana Tchoukleva, EJS Judge Motley Civil Rights Fellow, and Lisa Holder, Of Counsel to EJS, were instrumental in drafting bill language, providing amendments, testifying at hearings, and garnering support for the bills. EJS has been laying the groundwork for this legislation for decades by educating the public on the underlying mind science and by affording institutions tools for managing bias at the individual, interpersonal and institutional levels.

Eva Paterson, Gloria Steinem, Neal Katyal as Special Guests on Mueller Book Club – Equal Justice Society President Eva Paterson joins women’s rights icon Gloria Steinem and former Acting Solicitor General of the United States Neal Katyal on the June 3, 2019, Mueller Book Club. EJS was part of the Not Above the Law coalition, calling on Americans to start local reading groups and participating in a weekly broadcast to discuss the Mueller Report.

Panel on ‘Creating a Progressive Pipeline to the Federal Judiciary’ – The Equal Justice Society, American Constitution Society for Law & Policy, and California ChangeLawyers co-hosted on August 26 a presentation and panel discussion for lawyers and law students exploring how progressives can develop a pipeline to the federal judiciary from law schools through clerkships and legal careers resulting in qualified progressive jurists appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Speakers included: U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson; Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky; ACS President Caroline Fredrickson; EJS President Eva Paterson; California ChangeLawyers Executive Director Christopher Punongbayan; and law student Oscar Sarabia Roman.

We welcome sponsorships to our 20th anniversary virtual celebration on September 17, 2020. 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 for more information. Thank you!