Thursday, February 22, 2018
The survivor youth of the Parkland Florida shooting see the duplicity of politician's sympathy. Action to prevent gun violence is what the survivors are looking for, not words. Senator Rubio accepted over $3,000,000 in NRA funding and received its A+ rating. The hypocrisy of his offering sympathy is as obvious as it is offensive.
Mr. Rubio argues that no law would have prevented the Parkland massacre. The evidence is otherwise. Austraila has virtually eliminated mass shootings since passing its 1997 law banning semi-automatic and other weapons. The US has never had such a ban so Mr. Rubio has no basis for arguing that a law will not prevent gun massacres. That Mr. Rubio and others are unwilling to experiment with a ban that might protect children, may hint at the size of the monster he and other legislators created when they accepted funding from the NRA. Banning future sales of automatic and semi-automatic weapons is one thing. Collecting those currently owned is another. Perhaps the politicians' fear is that they will become targets and a revolt of sorts will ensue. Maybe. But a ban has to start sometime.
That the US is willing to sacrifice youth of all ages is appalling to those within and without our borders. The false equivalency of the claim that gun rights equal rights of freedom does not hold up in the face of the slaughter of children.
A European observer said it well: America´s obsession with equating the right to buy and possess a gun with a fundamental human right and freedom, while simultaneously justifying it as a constitutional right, does not harmonize with the European values, according to which the right to life is a human right and not the right to take someone else´s life.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
The Pozen Center for Human Rights at the University of Chicago is seeking a director for Human Rights Practice. The position is a three year one.
The director is expected to lead graduate and undergraduate students in developing solutions to real world human rights problems.
A range of projects is envisioned including "arts-based projects that explore questions surrounding the rights of migrants and asylum seekers, LGBTQ and women’s rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, policing and other law enforcement practices, the right to shelter, public health, the right to water or land, homelessness, or statelessness. [The Center is] particularly interested in practitioners who use innovative new practices including social media, the visual arts, or big data."
Those with a history of working with students will be preferred.
For more information click here. Application review begins on March 5th.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
The Red Mountain Theater Company announced its first festival devoted to human rights themes. The Birmingham based company has several new plays devoted to developing understanding an empathy for those whose experiences are unlike our own. The productions are i n collaboration with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
A press announcement informs: This empathy and understanding of another's point of view is perhaps now more important than ever in our nation - and especially in Birmingham, a city marked by a fractured and violent past. However, it's from that pain that the inspiration for Human Rights New Works Festival was born- a festival that would serve [as] a catalyst for healing and hope in a future of equitable treatment of all.
The range of topics addressed is impressive. Fighting censorship, struggling parents to accept a transgender child, and voting rights activism are among the topics unveiled in new plays and other writings.
The festival runs March 15-18. More information may be found here.
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Adam Foss is an amazing advocate for juveniles. As a Suffolk County (MA) prosecutor, Mr. Foss learned to listen to his young clients and came to understand the reasons why poor, and often brown or black, youths engage in criminal activity. Interrupting the school to prison pipeline is something he recognizes that all of us can do. Addressing the fundamental needs of poor boys and girls, such as education and self-esteem, are key. The difficulty comes in convincing prosecutors to be invested in listening to the juveniles' stories and creating responses that assist them in escaping lives of financial and emotional poverty. Adam Foss' transformative approach to juvenile justice can lead to not only transformation of the juveniles but of the prosecutors, as well.
Mr. Foss' website, prosecutorimpact.com, emphasizes those benefits when prosecutors have a broader vision of how justice is accomplished. Prosecutors need to embrace a paradigm shift from conviction being considered the only "win". According to Mr. Foss, a win includes:
Improved community safety
Repaired harm of the victims
Improved long-term community health
Hold those who commit crimes accountable in ways that increase their chances for success in the community.
The last element gives essential support to the first three.
Here is link to Mr. Foss' Ted Talk.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Under-reported in discourse addressing prison conditions and human rights violations is the particularly harsh treatment of women prisoners. The dis-empowerment that comes with gender oppression brings with it even more abusive conditions for pregnant women who have even less control over their lives than other prisoners.
A class action lawsuit filed in Almeda County, California addresses the horrific conditions suffered by incarcerated women the Santa Rita prison. The lawsuit details the horrific conditions, particularly for pregnant women. The lawsuit details pregnant women being denied blankets, healthy nutrition, and fresh air. Pregnant women are denied medical care and encouraged to have abortions.
A press release describing the suit states the "The women seek injunctive relief under the U.S. and state constitutions and demand an end to inhumane and sexually biased treatment at Santa Rita. Plaintiffs charge they are subject to more restrictions and harsher treatment than male prisoners, including being held in holding cells for longer periods of time, being denied equal access to jobs outside the cell, limited on classes and education, and subjected to more frequent strip searches and body cavity searches." One woman delivered her child alone with the baby's umbilical cord around the child's neck. The woman screams were not only ignored, a prison employee shut a door to muffle the sounds. Other inhumane treatment is described in the complaint.
Sunday, February 11, 2018
The Public Welfare Foundation will hold a day-long forum: A Conversation on Race, Redemption and Restoration. The forum will be held on March 9, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
The invitation states "We will dive into candid conversations about: advancing racial justice, particularly within the youth and criminal justice field, the steep barriers to opportunities facing individuals who transition back to communities from the justice system; and necessary strategies to restore communities experiencing crime, violence, and lingering impacts of the criminal justice system. "
While the conference is by invitation only, it may possible to secure admission by contacting the Foundation directly to explore availability.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
by Margaret Drew
Previously, I wrote about the human right to transportation. In modern culture, access to basic human rights, such as work, housing, medical care, and education, can hinge on the ability to travel. During the spring 2017 semester, students in UMass Law's Human Rights at Home Clinic conducted a transportation study of the South Coast Massachusetts area. Prior area transportation studies had been conducted, but none from a human rights perspective.
Students rode bus routes operated by the Southeast Regional Transportation Authority (SRTA), interviewing riders during the process. As part of their due diligence, students met with Eric Rousseau, SRTA administrator, who twice during the semester engaged students during our weekly seminar. The first visit came at the beginning of the study and the second when the students presented their findings. The collaboration that developed created an opportunity for both sides to discuss their different approaches. One obvious difference revolved around economics. While Administrator Rousseau must justify expenditures to regional stakeholders, the students argued for change based upon the needs of riders, without regard for cost or the number of riders affected. Once the student's report was released, the partners easily found common ground on changes to be made. Some changes will be accomplished in the near future, while others may take longer, while others involve third party cooperation, such as municipalities.
Simple changes, such as enforcement of no-parking zones, and cutting tree limbs that block bus stop signs are more easily accomplished and are under local control, rather than SRTA's. The same is true of sign postings, as well as ensuring that bus drivers routinely lower buses to ease access for elderly and disabled. One change that will be likely accomplished by year's end is creating a bus stop for those visiting our local house of corrections, as well as increased signage along specific routes.
We anticipate a long term collaboration with SRTA and look forward to additional improvements. Anyone wishing to read the report's executive summary or would like assistance in designing a transportation study are welcome contact Margaret Drew at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, February 4, 2018
Increasingly, courts and legislatures recognize the importance of the rights to counsel in immigration cases. New York expanded to universal representation in immigration court due to its of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project.
Vermont has a bill pending that would require appointment of counsel in any matter arising out of or relating to immigration status.
Meanwhile, in the manner of two steps forward and one back, the 9th Circuit, held that children in removal proceedings have no right to counsel. The case involved accompanied children, but the opinion denies that the child in question had a sufficient liberty interest in having counsel because of his short time in the United States. The court noted that the Immigration Court judges' more proactive involvement in the proceedings the child is protected. Apparently the Court failed to remember the Immigration Court judge who thought that a three year old was qualified to represent herself.
More on the juvenile immigration case may be found here.
Thursday, January 25, 2018
A study done by the Vera Institute found that women in jails are one of the fastest growing segments of the prison population. And nearly 80% of women are mothers. Women are an afterthought in the discussion of mass incarceration. Little attention is given to the impact on families when a mother goes to jail. And little is done to help families stay connected when mothers are incarcerated. In a nationwide move, sheriffs and other jailers are replacing live child-mother visits with Skype visits. Nothing replaces touch between parents and children. Particularly young children are less likely to bond with a virtual parent. And the incarcerated women are expected to pay for the Skype visits, making even virtual contact out of reach for many.
There are a myriad of discriminatory problems faced by women and girls in prison. One other is the failure to provide menstrual products to them. Some states charge for the products, and those who do not often distribute an average of 2.5 pads per month.
The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls works to address the particular barriers that females face during and after incarceration. From disparities in sentencing, to assisting with re-entry and healing, the National Council provides tremendous community based resources for the recently incarcerated and those currently incarcerated. I recommend a visit to the Council's website for an introduction to the wide variety of work the Council does, as well as their sister organizations.
Sunday, January 21, 2018
President Trump's disturbing remarks about certain countries has prompted both outrage and response worldwide as well as within the human rights
communities. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the remarks both shocking and shameful. The Commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, noted that there is no way avoid labeling the remarks "racist". "You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 's***holes', whose entire populations are not white and therefore are not welcome", remark that people from Norway would be welcome and not reach the conclusion that the president is racist.
Overlooking the fact that it is hard to imagine why Norwegians would want to emigrate to the US under President Trump, the President's remarks come closer to the truth of the current state of affairs in the US than any prior remark. The President may have been able to hide behind terrorism and Homeland Security warnings in his earlier comments around refugees from war engaged, middle eastern countries. But there is no terrorism threat to the US from Haiti or the other targeted countries. The difference is skin color. And that is the underbelly of the vile backlash the US is currently experiencing.
The UN High Commissioner distilled the impact of President Trump's comments to the core danger. "This isn't just a story about vulgar language, it's about opening the door to humanity's worst side."
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
The right to truth coincides with the US founders’ understanding of truth’s essentialism in creating and maintaining democracy. Some may see an international, legally enforceable right to truth as separate from democratic societal interests in knowing the truth, but those principles are interdependent. Democratic autonomy cannot be maintained if residents do not have access to the truth. Likewise, access to the truth is necessary to the nurturing of autonomy through democratic political organization.
We are in an era when truth is minimized and lies are hawked as truth. Our challenge is to develop new ways of delivering truth so that the charge of "fake news" fails.
Sunday, January 14, 2018
One of our inheritances from Dr. King was maintaining hope in the face of despair. The past week has been particularly challenging. The President seems determined to degrade the office as much as possible. It was not enough that the president denies reality, he now has employed profanity to further the shock us and feed his narcissism. We do not know where this behavior will end. The contrast between the dignity of Dr. King and the crudeness of our current president is stark.
The civil rights movement took time to regroup from the grief of Dr. King's assassination. However, among his many lessons was that persistence in the face of oppression brings its own results and the movement survived. Now more than ever we must maintain our dignity and optimism that we can change direction. Dr. King said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that."
Monday, January 8, 2018
Reese Witherspoon, Tracee Ellis Ross, Natalie Portman, America Ferrera and so many other actors have organized and supported a legal defense fund for women suing their employers for sexual harassment. Time's Up has over 300 female supporters from the entertainment industry. Attorneys Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan are founders of the fund, as well. The Time's Up Legal Defense Fund has raised over $15 million to date. The legal defense fund will assist lower income employees to fight discrimination and harassment in the workforce.
The fund will be administered by the National Women's Law Center. The Center's website says:
"This Fund will enable more individuals to come forward and be connected with lawyers — regardless of industry, rank or role. Countless activists, celebrities, and other donors want to see an end to a culture that allows sexual harassment and retaliation of those who courageously step forward to go unpunished. This effort is not just to support women in Hollywood, but others in need – the factory worker, the waitress, the teacher, the office worker, and others subjected to this unacceptable behavior. Now is the time to finally stop the sexual harassment and retaliation that has often gone unchecked."
This fund is important for many reasons, and one important reason is to unite women of all income levels and diversity. The #WhatAboutUs movement is best replaced with #WomenUnited. While lower earning women might feel even more victimized due to lack of resources to defend themselves and the lack of choice that resources bring, separation of women at this time divides the power, as well as the results.
Sunday, January 7, 2018
Is Matt Damon one of the celebs looking to derail the #MeToo movement? For those of you who have the sense not to follow celebrity "news", Mr. Damon remarked during a recent interview that there is a big difference between patting someone on the rear and rape. Well, I concede, there is a difference, but Mr. Damon should not diminish the serious psychological harm that comes to women who endure unwanted physical touching day after day. The behavior not only demeans their work, but their entire being, causing some severe psychic pain and loss of self-esteem. Just ask the women at Ford. Or ask the women who left the entertainment industry, forfeiting their chosen careers due to harassment. Mr. Damon also suggested that men who grew up believing patting women's rears was ok should be treated differently.
Let's not get distracted as Joan Vennochi did. Yes- there are degrees of behavior. There are even differences on what an appropriate employer response should be to reports of current or past sexual harassment.
Let's look at two unexplored aspects of Mr. Damon's chatter. First is the timing. Why interrupt a relatively nascent movement that is just beginning to see effects outside of the entertainment industry? Mr. Damon's follow-up remarks saying that all of the unwanted behavior must be eradicated, do not justify the timing of criticizing the movement when the impact of his remarks could slow, if not stop, the momentum. Mr. Damon is defensive from criticism that he did not "know" about Harvey Weinstein's behavior . That is possible. But it is not plausible that Damon did not understand the consequences of creating diversion at a critical time in women's attempts to be heard.
Second point, once again Mr. Damon removed men's responsibility for decision making and subtly put it on the women of the #MeToo movement. Mr. Damon failed to mention that the men being fired from their positions were being fired by men. Next time Mr. Damon decides to pontificate about men's behavior, perhaps he could make it clear that he is criticizing the male CEO's for their post-allegation responses. The silence of not naming the problem shifts blame to the victims.
Equally unfortunate that the focus of recent firings has been solely on physical behavior, including threats or demands for sex. We risk making inappropriate physical behavior or threats involving sexual demands the bar for firing when non-physical displays of misogyny should be adequate.
Sunday, December 17, 2017
Since the election of Doug Jones as Alabama's junior senator, much has been written about women voters and their role in the election. I fear that this attention is perpetuating stereotypes about women and reinforcing cultural traditions of holding women to standards different from men.
Mercifully, Moore was not elected. But this has not stopped criticism of his white women supporters. Yes- the majority of white female voters in Alabama voted for Roy Moore. Interestingly, black voters supported Jones in an overwhelming amount (95-96%). Black women supported Jones at a slightly higher (but statistically insignificant) rate (98%) than black men. There is no doubt that the black vote was crucial to the Jones victory.
Equally important was Alabama's Senator Shelby's acknowledgement that he intended to vote for a write-in and not Moore. Approximately 22,000 Republican voters followed Shelby's lead and wrote in a name that was not Moore's. Those write-in ballots nearly matched the number of votes by which Jones won the election. That vote was equally crucial to the Jones election.
With so many critical confluences merging to elect the democratic candidate, why are white women being vilified?
68% of white voters supported Moore. 58% of white, college-educated women voted for Moore as opposed to 43% of college graduates overall. 72% of white men voted for Moore. Yet little, if anything, is being written about the men . The majority of women who voted for Moore identify as evangelicals. The majority of white women who did not vote for Moore do not identify as evangelicals, yet the focus on religious differences driving the white female vote is under-discussed.
Black men supported Jones at nearly the same rate as black women. Shouldn't we be thanking black men as much as the women? White men supported Moore at a higher rate than did white women. But I have read nothing focusing on the white male voters.
I posit that the focus on women raises notions of patrimony, this time being promoted by as many women as men. The focus implies that women are held to a higher moral standard than men and that women alone carry the burden of ensuring pedophiles and other dangerous men are not elected. Granted, more women than men are victims of sexual harassment and assault which may create a faulty presumption that no women will support a man with a demonstrated history of assaulting women. But when we raise our expectations that all women will vote as a block, we remove individual autonomy from our Alabama sisters. Also, we perpetuate what male culture has done to women for centuries - we hold different expectations of women than men under the guise of morality.
Equality ought to mean that women can make as many flawed decisions as men. Autonomy means that women are free to make their own decisions, even if we disagree with those decisions.
And above all, the social critics should be mindful that this tactic of dividing different groups of women has been used successfully by men for centuries. Turning the women against each other in their and the public's minds has prevented women from joining together when they do find common ground.
There is no need to separate out the black female vote when their vote was not very different from the votes of black men. The only reason for doing is to contrast the black female vote for Jones with the white female vote for Moore. Thus is the path of dividing and demonizing women.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
December 1st was world AIDS Day.
Over 37,000 people in the US are newly diagnosed with HIV each year. 37 million people world wide are living with HIV or AIDS. The opiod crisis has increased the number of new transmissions. Women in abusive relationships are at increased risk for HIV. Yet many perceive the problem as no longer a crisis in the US because of the effectiveness of treatment (Art). But not everyone has access to treatment. Transportation issues remain a huge barrier to treatment, particularly in rural areas. The gutting of the affordable care act exacerbates the problem. A high percentage of men who have sex with men die from HIV/AIDS.
Those living with HIV experience workplace and housing discrimination, typically following the disclosure of private medical information.
And criminally, those living with HIV are at risk for prosecution if they have sex without disclosing their medical condition to the partner, despite the fact that taking ART as prescribed virtually eliminates any risk of transmission. Arrests and prosecutions under these criminal disclosure statues are disproportionately against people of color.
While the public impression is that HIV and AIDS is no longer a critical problem, those living with HIV and AIDS tell very different stories. For additional information on living with HIV here are just a few sources of information: Positive Women's Network; Center for Disease Control; and AIDS United.
Monday, December 4, 2017
By Margaret Drew
NBC executives should be worried. Their unwillingness to address sexual harassment is well documented. Disrespect for women exhibits itself in many forms. While the degrees of disrespect vary, they are interconnected. Matt Lauer should have been fired thirty seconds after his "interview" with Hillary Clinton during the last presidential campaign ended. During that interview, Lauer repeatedly interrupted Ms. Clinton. He diverted her from the intended topic of the president's role as commander-in-chief by frequently raising the well worn e-mail issue. When matters turned to issues of military leadership, Lauer reminded Clinton that time was short, attempting to prevent her from giving a comprehensive answer. And then Mr. Trump, on the other hand, was unchallenged, even when he made statements that could be easily disproved. More details of the interview may be seen here. NBC failed to discipline Lauer for what most female viewers recognized as misogyny. Hillary Clinton's turmoil during that interview and her split second decision-making on handling the dilemma is documented in her memoir What Happened.
And was NBC management not listening when Katie Couric revealed in 2012 that Lauer often pinched her on her rear "alot". That behavior alone was sufficient to fire Lauer. Then let's not forget that not only did NBC delay in reporting on the Trump/Bush sex videotape, NBC had it in its possession since 2005.
Either of the prior behaviors were adequate to alert NBC execs that there was likely more serious sexual misconduct going on. But those with the power to stop the abuse refused to investigate. Other actions by NBC were telling. The network refused to run a well-documented expose of Harvey Weinstein's sexual offenses written by Ronan Farrow, despite the network's approval of the article as well-documented. NBC's failure to honor its commitment to Farrow was puzzling, but consistent with the network's refusal to address mysoginy and sexual misconduct in any form. NBC would have had the scoop on the Weinstein debacle. The New Yorker ran the article instead. A more recent New Yorker article refers to NBC's actions post-Lauer as the "Theater of Accountability."
Are NBC execs worried that the next people fired for sexual misconduct will be one of them?
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
With an upcoming focus on extreme poverty, discussion must be had on how economic decisions are made in the US. Buddhist economics looks for a "middle way" between profitability, full employment and sustainability. One false foundation of US economics doctrine is a belief in certainty. We see certainty, or perhaps it is inflexibility, playing out in the tax plan pending in Congress. Those claiming that trickle down economics theory is valid believe - or claim to believe- that the more money retained by the wealthiest business owners, the more jobs that will be created. While this theory has been disproved, the notion is hawked with certainty.
In the other extreme, living a life of prayer and mediation may be ideal for some, but few can afford the luxury of a contemplative life, absent a wealthy patron. For most, spirituality must be woven into a life that includes work so that the individual can survive, meet basic needs and sustainability. Finding balance between entitlement and necessity would be one middle way. In order to establish full employment for those who need resources to support self and family, that middle option must be developed. There is no one prescription except that in Buddhism, one would be a consumer only to the extent that one's needs are met and sustainability must be a factor is business decisions.
US corporate economic policy rests in large part upon obsolescence. Products are often not made for sustainability and require frequent replacement. In other instances consumer desire for the latest version or upgrade drives consumer purchasing, again without reflection on sustainability. Attachment to goods is countered by the Buddhist principle of non-detachment. Reductions in force with no work replacement for employees counters Buddhist belief that all are connected. In Buddhist economics, sustainability, fairness and compassion are equal parts with profitability.
How do we begin to find the "middle" economic way? Business must view the creation of a healthy workforce as a priority. Corporate responsibility needs to extend to the health and happiness of employees. Business must recognize that executive success is best measured by the connection to the people that comprise the workforce, not to the dollars earned. Supporting each individual to engage in "right livelihood" is essential to Buddhist economics but also to the sustainability of US ideals of opportunity. Demanding that shared prosperity benefit all does not require income leveling. Once the lowest of employees is paid an amount that permits workers to meet their needs and the needs of their dependents, CEO compensation may be irrelevant.
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
The celebrity men are falling. Charlie Rose is the latest formerly venerated but large egoed man to fall under the weight of sexual harassment allegations. The line of the dethroned is getting longer, but the time is getting shorter.
During the 1980’s I was one of a handful of lawyers who tried divorce cases on grounds of abuse. “No Fault” divorce had arrived in all but a few states. Trying cases on any other grounds was considered distasteful. But my clients wanted their truth heard in court. The judgments my clients received would today be considered amazing. In the 80’s the judgments were viewed as just compensation for the suffered abuse.
Then came the 90’s. Domestic abuse was discussed widely and openly. Those jurisdictions that had not yet enacted civil protection order statues, did so. Slowly women, who were primarily if not exclusively the petitioners, came forward to demand protection. Judges heard stories of abuse that shocked them.
But then things changed.
So many women came forward seeking protection from abuse that judges assumed that not all of the women’s claims could be true. Judges had difficulty accepting the prevalence of gender bias. By the end of the decade, the seeds had been sown in family court culture for women seeking divorce to be found not credible in that surely women were seeking protection orders only to gain a “leg up” in the divorce proceedings. No mind that all of the data shows that seeking a protection order does not result in an advantage for the abused parent. Quite the opposite. Raise abuse when children are involved, and the mother's presumed motive will be to "alienate" the children from their father.
So I am compelled to raise the alarm. With so many women, and some men, coming forward alleging sexual harassment by celebrities what will be the tipping point where accusers are branded as liars? Am I being an unnecessary alarmist?
We have not scratched the surface of sexual harassment. Rather than #MeToo, perhaps #NotMe would give a more accurate count of who has and has not been the victim of sexual harassment. I am afraid that our non-celebrity sisters will be deprived of their opportunity to air their grievances and be believed. That is where the work needs to be done. Finding platforms for the most vulnerable to air their stories without retaliation has a short window.
So if you have a plan – whether to provide legal services to those who tell their stories and are vulnerable to immediate discharge from work or other consequences – or if you hope to publicize how common sexual harassment is in all levels of our nation- do it soon.
File legislation, record the stories of our unknown sisters, bring the powerful to the workplace to prevent firing when disclosures are made, Prepare for the backlash and have a plan to defeat it - but do it within the next fifteen minutes.
Sunday, November 19, 2017
The question was: does a jury need to know a person's immigration status? The Supreme Court of Washington answered No! In most civil and criminal cases, the court found the information to be inadmissible. The court's creation of a new evidentiary rule addresses the bias that influences decision making when the finder of fact hears irrelevant information on immigration status. There are some exceptions but by and large status information will not be part of the record.
The case in question was a mini-bias exercise. Carpenter Alex Salas was injured on the job. In case no. 1 the jury found his employer to have been negligent and found for plaintiff Salas. Trouble came when the jury awarded no damages. After appeal the case came back for re-trial and the next jury awarded Mr. Salas $2.6 million. The evidence submitted at each trial was the same with an exception - the first jury heard evidence that Mr. Salas was in the country without legal status. The second jury never heard that information.
The appeal that followed the first trial was a precursor of the recent opinion. That decision found that the judge had abused discretion and led to the creation of a new rule of evidence - number 423 - Immigration. The rule excludes evidence of status in civil and criminal cases with narrow exceptions, such as when status is relevant to the crime or the case.
Washington is the first state to create an evidentiary rule on this issue. This rule will be a relief to immigrants in a variety of cases. I particularly think of abused immigrant women who consistently face bias in custody decisions when the court is convinced that even the possible threat of deportation warrants an award of custody to the abusive father. A myriad of other litigants will benefit from this discovery restriction. This is a wonderful opportunity for advocacy to all other US jurisdictions to equalize justice for immigrants through adoption of a comparable rule.