Join Us for NLG-NYC Spring Fling 2015!

By Chapter Coordinator, March 13, 2015 1:57 pm

Thanks to the generous support of Spring Fling Sponsors:

BELDOCK LEVINE & HOFFMAN LLP

RANKIN & TAYLOR LAW

MARTIN R. STOLAR, ESQ.

Purchase Tickets here!

facebook event page: NLGNYCSpringFling2015

Honoree Bios

Soffiyah Elijah is the Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York. She is the first woman and the first person of color to lead this extraordinary organization in its mission to create a fairer and more humane criminal justice system. Under her leadership, we now celebrate our 170th anniversary.  Ms. Elijah has dedicated her life to human rights and social activism, and is a frequent presenter at national and international forums on criminal justice policy and human rights issues.  An accomplished advocate, attorney, scholar, and educator, Ms. Elijah has practiced criminal and family law for more than 30 years.   Prior to leading the Correctional Association, Ms. Elijah served as Deputy Director and Clinical Instructor at the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. Before moving to Harvard, she was a member of the faculty and Director and Supervising Attorney of the Defender Clinic at the City University of New York School of Law.  Ms. Elijah has also worked as a Supervising Attorney at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, a Staff Attorney at the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society, and in private practice.

Michelle Lewin is a 2L at CUNY School of Law. Born and raised in Atlanta, Michelle has been active in prison abolition and racial justice work since 2005. Prior to law school, Michelle worked for the Fortune Society in their Alternatives to Incarceration program, and in 2013, she co-founded the Parole Preparation Project of the NLG’s Mass Incarceration Committee. She has been part of the Project’s Coordinating Committee ever since, training volunteers and working alongside incarcerated folks in New York State in their struggle for parole release. She has also organized workshops on facilitation, group process and alternative decision-making skills and is active in her Brooklyn women’s group. Michelle believes strongly in movements for collective liberation that prioritize collaboration, grassroots leadership and love.

Daniel L. Meyers, a 1966 graduate of Brooklyn Law School, recently retired after serving  on the Criminal Justice Act panels of the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York for 37 years.  While in law school, he interned with the President’s Task Force War on Poverty under Sargent Shriver, which lead to the creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity’s Legal Services (known by its acronym, “OEO Legal Services.”)  Danny was an original member of the Guild’s Mass Defense Committee in 1968, under the leadership of Mary Kaufman.

Awarded a “Reggie” fellowship, Danny began work at South Brooklyn Legal Services  in 1968.  In his long career, he represented members of the Black Panthers, the Young Lords and other political prisoners.  In 2000, he and five other Guild lawyers, Dennis Cunningham, Michael Deutsch, Elizabeth Fink, Joseph Heath and Ellen Yacknin were given the Lawyer of the Year Award by the Trial Lawyers for Justice for their 26-year battle to secure justice for the prisoner victims of Attica.  The prisoner’s 1971 uprising against brutality and racism was violently suppressed by Governor Rockefeller who ordered state troopers to retake the prison, killing 29 unarmed prisoners and torturing and brutalizing scores more.  The state finally settled in 2000, paying out $12 million for civil rights violations.  This was after the Second Circuit nullified their trial victories, including a $4 million jury verdict awarded to Frank BB Smith in 1997.

As Chapter President  from 2006 – 2009, Danny facilitated intergenerational participation and leadership.

Michael Steven Smith is a New York City attorney and author. For the last 10 years he has been a co-host with Michael Ratner and Heidi Boghosian of the radio show Law and Disorder which is heard on WBAI and 71 stations across the country. Smith is the author or editor of a number of books including most recently with Michael Ratner “Who Killed Che: How the CIA Got Away With Murder” and with Frances Goldin and Debby Smith  “Imagine:  Living in a Socialist USA”.   The Cuban publishing house Ciencias Sociales translated and published his book on Che, which was featured at the 2015 Havana International Book Fair, where it was presented at the University of Havana Lae School by Ricardo Alarcon, the former President of the Cuban National Assembly, who also contributed the introduction.  The book is dedicated to his friend Len Weinglass, the main attorney for the Cuban Five, for whose release Smith worked.  Smith also wrote “Notebook of a Sixties Lawyer:  An Unrepentant Memoir” and a book about Guild lawyers called “Lawyers You’ll Like”.

He has been a member of the National Lawyers Guild since the 60s when he started a movement law firm in Detroit. Before going into private practice in New York City representing seriously injured persons he worked at Harlem Legal Services, Queens Legal Services, and directed Seafarers Legal Services.

Smith was educated at the University of Wisconsin.  He lives in New York City with his wife Debby and talking parrot Charlie Parker.

 

 

 

NLG-NYC Mass Defense Committee Rejects New NYPD Protest Unit

By Ben Meyers, March 9, 2015 2:11 pm

NLG-NYC Mass Defense Committee Condemns NYPD Proposal to Create a Special Operations Unit to Handle Demonstrations, Urges City Council to Reject Additional Funding.

For Immediate Release

March 9, 2015 – New York – In response to the Black Lives Matter protests in NYC, Police Commissioner Bratton announced the proposed formation of a massive new Strategic Response Group (SRG) that would handle future demonstrations or “civil disorders”. The plain intent of such a surge in police resources is to suffocate political dissent, especially among those New Yorkers already most susceptible to police attention. The National Lawyers Guild-NYC Mass Defense Committee condemns such a proposal, and urges the City Council to reject additional funding for the SRG.

By way of comparison, the size (and additional cost) of this new 550-officer force would be several times the number of officers budgeted for the entire Community Affairs Bureau (182 officers in 2014); larger than the entire current Counterterrorism Division (budgeted for 482 officers in 2014) and likewise larger than the entire Intelligence Division. Over the next five years the cumulative expense for this surge would certainly cost New Yorkers hundreds of millions of dollars. This will not increase the safety of New York City’s communities, and will drain financial resources from those communities already most in need.

The character of this proposed unit is also alarming. Deploying large-scale, paramilitary-style, “tactical” forces from the Special Operations Division in New York’s neighborhoods would contradict a community-based approach that draws on the officers of the neighborhoods’ Precincts and Boroughs – an approach that, until now, has often been proudly cited by NYPD’s own leadership as a distinctive character of policing in New York. Indeed, the proposal would adopt the very same discredited Special Operations approach taken in Ferguson, Missouri, widely criticized as contributing to the escalation of violence and destruction.

These are not the reforms the NYPD needs, or that New Yorkers have been demanding. Rather, this targeting of demonstrators threatens to chill protest at a time when a new generation of young black and brown leadership is sounding its voice, along with the wide spectrum of New Yorkers seen in the streets during the December 13 Black Lives Matter march. The SRG, rather, sends the message “Black-led civil rights struggles must be quelled, by any means necessary.”

NYPD has said that they would make these new tactical forces available to Precincts and Borough commands on occasions when the SRG is not otherwise on call or carrying out the necessary continuous training. However, even for these uses, NYPD’s experience with other tactical forces, such as the tragedies of the Street Crimes Unit, have proven that highly tactical forces, trained and equipped for confrontation, are not easily integrated into the day-to-day needs of the Precinct Commanders or the neighborhoods they serve.

In summary, the Strategic Response Group proposal is unjustifiably massive, dangerous in its approach, and wasteful. Ferguson should not be the model for policing protest in New York City. To amplify the voices of New Yorkers and support safe communities, the City Council must reject the Strategic Response Group proposal.

***
The Mass Defense Committee of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild was created in the spring of 1968 in response to Vietnam war protests and arrests at Columbia University. Over the intervening decades, the MDC has provided Legal Observers at thousands of demonstrations and appeared in court for thousands arrested as they marched and rallied for civil rights, immigration rights, economic justice, reproductive rights, or against police misconduct and war. For more information on the Committee, click here.

NLG-NYC Newsletter Winter Issue is Here!

By Chapter Coordinator, December 26, 2014 5:17 pm

The Winter issue of NYC News is here!

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