Menashi: Unfit to sit

By Ann G. Daniels

The bad news: Steven Menashi, nominated to the super-important Second Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, thinks it’s “obvious” that Western culture, government, science, etc. is superior to everything else, especially everything Muslim; was a top legal advisor on Betsy DeVos’ plan to protect for-profit colleges that ripped off their students; and has denounced feminists, LGBTQ+ rights, and diversity efforts. The good news: he’s so bad that even Sen. Susan Collins has said she’ll oppose him, and his supporters in the administration and the Senate repeatedly had to postpone the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on his nomination before the Committee passed the nomination 12-10 on party lines on November 7. The bad news: now the nomination proceeds. And while we don’t yet have a date for the next vote, and trying to predict what the Senate will do is a little like trying to predict the future by reading chicken entrails, we have to be ready.

More good news, though: Senators Feinstein and Harris – both of whom voted no in the Senate Judiciary Committee – have already spoken out on this appalling nominee. And there’s a chance that Sen. Collins and other Republicans will cross party lines when the full Senate votes.

Senator Feinstein has expressed her concerns about Menashi’s “role at the White House” and his lack of disclosure about his work there, including on issues including family separation; and about his work under Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education’s efforts to reverse sexual assault protections, use federal funds to buy guns for teachers, and reverse attempts to crack down on deceptive for-profit colleges. She has also expressed deep concern over his racist statements, since a judge – especially in an area as diverse as that governed by the Second Circuit – must be impartial toward all who come before him

Similarly, Senator Harris has stressed that Menashihas refused to answer questions” about his work in the White House or whether he was “involved in Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky,” and she has also cited his work for Betsy DeVos on “predatory for-profit colleges.” She finds his nomination “Unacceptable.” 

We agree. As the NAACP so eloquently says: “Steven Menashi has a vile, offensive record … Under no scenario should he sit in Thurgood Marshall’s former seat on the Second Circuit and preside in the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse.”

What to do:

Please thank our Senators for speaking out on this unacceptable nominee, and urge them to stand strong and keep speaking out.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code  is ______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator _____ for speaking out with her concerns about Steven Menashi, and I want to urge her to keep speaking out. I trust she will vote NO on Menashi’s confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals and I hope she’ll do everything possible to persuade her colleagues to vote NO. Menashi has shown that he’s hostile towards Muslims, women, the LGBTQ+ community, lower-income families, and immigrants. He cannot be trusted to fairly decide matters before the court. 

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Do you live outside California, or have friends or family in other states? Use this link to find contact info for your Senators: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. Or call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121, ask to be transferred to your Senator, and say this:

Hello, my name is ____ and my zip code is _____. Please vote NO on Steven Menashi’s confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Menashi has shown that he’s hostile towards Muslims, women, the LGBTQ+ community, lower-income families, and immigrants. He cannot be trusted to fairly decide matters before the court. 

 

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

“Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse”, photograph by Ken Lund

 

 

Tell Congress: Fund Libraries, not the Wall

Whoops, he did it again! The newly-released Presidential budget again proposes eliminating the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent grantmaking agency that provides approximately $189.3 million funding for libraries through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). The proposal also cuts the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL), a program administered by the Department of Education (yes, that’s Betsy Cruella DeVos’s stomping grounds) that helps school libraries buy books, materials, and training focused on serving students in underserved communities across America.

LSTA and IAL probably give the biggest economic and social bang for the buck in the entire federal budget. LSTA grant funds go to every state, every year, according to a population-based formula. Each state contributes matching funds and decides how best to use their grants. Over the past few years in California, LSTA has funded improving access to legal information in Eastern Alameda County; computer training for adults; bringing books to communities without libraries; special needs and inclusive library services; summer tutoring; and so much more. Without this funding for libraries, Americans across the country run the risk of losing access to valuable services, training and education that are only possible when they’re supported by the federal government.

Think about it. Under $200 million to educate and serve people of all ages, all over the country. Versus another $8.6 billion for the presidential budget’s obscene proposal for the border wall …

Fortunately, Congress has prevented this exact travesty in previous presidential budgets; library services are one of the few things with bipartisan support. But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You need to make your voice heard!

What you can do:

Ask your Members of Congress to publicly oppose cuts to federal library funding and commit to fighting for libraries throughout the appropriations cycle.

  • Print postcards to mail to your Members of Congress! We’ve designed a sheet with four postcards for you to send to your two Senators and your Representative. Give the extra to a friend! Print on stiff paper, with your document set to landscape orientation.
  • Call or email your MoCs and say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am strongly opposed to cutting federal funding for libraries from the 2020 budget as the Administration wants to do. Federal library funding isn’t a big part of the budget but it funds important programs for everyone. These budget cuts would make libraries provide more services with less money, or cut services altogether. Our communities need our libraries and we need you to help save library funding through the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Library Services and Technology Act, and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program.

Keep Readler off the bench

Deadline: now and ongoing –

The GOP continues to push through horrendous federal judges at berserker-pace, making it hard to even keep up, and harder to fight since they have a death grip majority in the Senate. We still need to stand up against the worst of the horribles. And gee, here’s one! In June 2018, Trump nominated Chad Readler to a lifetime judgeship on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, one level below the Supreme Court.

As Trump’s point man in the Department of Justice, Readler has attacked the Affordable Care Act, including protection for people with preexisting conditions, and has defended Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), from Readler’s home state, opposes his nomination. We’ll go even further and say Readler should never be a judge — read more below about his record.

What you can do:

NOW’s the time to make all of our voices heard to scuttle this nomination. Pick up your phone to call your Senators – and then stay on the phone to tell all of your friends, especially those who live in states with Republican senators, to call theirs! Pressure is working – Senator Collins announced on March 5 that she will vote NO based on Readler’s role as a lead attorney and policy adviser in the Justice Department’s decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act, including its provisions protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions.  Send your friends this link with contact info for their Senators.

What to say:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Please do all you can with your colleagues in the Senate to fight Chad Readler’s confirmation to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Readler has defended the Trump Administration’s worst policies, including separating immigrant children from their parents, and he has spent his career working for causes and for policies that would hurt millions of people.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

More information:

Some lowlights about Readler from Alliance for Justice, a national association representing 130 groups committed to equal justice and access to justice:

  • As acting head of the Department of Justice Civil Division under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Readler defended the Trump Administration’s most odious policies, including separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, while claiming that “[e]verything that the Attorney General does that I’ve been involved with he’s . . . being very respectful of precedent and the text of the statute and proper role of agencies.”
  • Readler has become a leader in the Trump Administration’s fight to destroy the Affordable Care Act and the protections it offers to millions of Americans. As acting head of the Civil Division, Readler filed a brief to strike down the ACA, including its protections for people with preexisting conditions.
  • He has tried to undermine public education in Ohio; supported the efforts of Betsy DeVos to protect fraudulent for-profit schools; fought to make it harder for people of color to vote; advanced the Trump Administration’s anti-LGBTQ and anti-reproductive rights agenda; fought to allow tobacco companies to advertise to children, including outside day care centers; sought to undermine the independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and advocated for executing minors.
  • And read these powerful letters opposing Readler’s confirmation:

Fired up to do more?

  • See the Indivisible East Bay Judiciary team’s calls to action list and help fight other horrendous judicial nominees.
  • Read about our hardworking, effective Judiciary team! Have a question or want to lend a hand? Contact us!

Don’t Let DeVos Gut Title IX

Deadline for public comments: January 28, 2019 – 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed regulations that would modify the implementation of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs. Well, let’s call it what it is – Betsy DeVos has proposed a scheme to destroy an important part of Title IX. We have a chance to say NO.

The proposed regs, which have the outrageously misleading title “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance” would gut Obama-era Title IX guidance for how schools address sexual violence. Among other changes, DeVos’s proposed regulations would specify how institutions covered by Title IX must respond to sexual harassment incidents, and would also revise the availability of remedies for violations. Hint: all the changes remove protections for women …

You have until Monday January 28 to protest the proposed changes by submitting a public comment. Go to this link and click the “COMMENT NOW” button in the upper right. If that doesn’t work, go to www.regulations.gov and click on “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex…” under “What’s Trending” and follow the instructions to submit a comment. Be sure to reference Docket ID No. Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064. See below for suggested language and alternative methods to submit comments.

What to write:

Here are some suggested comments (personalize the language because copied & pasted comments or overly similar comments may be grouped together and not counted separately). Several of these are adapted from the Equal Rights Advocates’ excellent comment guide. Submit your comments by the end of day January 28:

My name is _____ and I am [fill in relevant identifying info, if appropriate – such as teacher, student, advocate, sexual assault survivor, etc.] I am writing in reference to Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064.

I oppose the proposed regulations for the following reasons:

  • General:
    • They would allow schools to refuse to investigate online sexual harassment.
    • They provide for dramatically reduced liability for schools, allowing them to turn a blind eye to sexual assault or harassment and shielding them from responsibility if they ignore or cover up sexual misconduct.
    • They would drastically reduce the number of school employees responsible for addressing or reporting sexual harassment.
    • They would encourage schools to reinstate an antiquated mediation process rather than investigating.
    • They would narrow the definition of sexual harassment, requiring schools to investigate only the most “serious forms of harassment and assault,” and only act when the sexual violence or harassment completely denies a student access to education, forcing students to endure repeated and escalating levels of abuse without being able to ask their schools for help.
  • Duty to Report:
    • I am concerned about how the proposed regulations narrow which school employees are required to act on reports of sexual harassment and misconduct in higher education settings (§§ 106.44(a), 106.30), as well as the regulations’ requirement of schools to dismiss reports of sexual violence that happen between students off campus (§§ 106.30, 106.45(b)(3)).
    • These rules would not balance the scales of justice between student complainants and student respondents, but would rather result in students’ reports and complaints being dismissed or ignored, which will very likely decrease reporting overall.
  • Burden of Proof:
    • Proposed regulation 106.45(b)(4)(i) requires schools to apply the higher standard of evidence to Title IX cases – Clear and Convincing Evidence. Application of this standard of evidence is inequitable and impractical, and contradicts decades of legal practice.
    •  The Department fails to consider and address the grave consequences to the victim of sexual assault when compared to other crimes. It is unfair for the Department to apply a higher standard of evidence based on its conclusion that the consequences to the respondent are “grave” without consideration of the grave consequences to the victim, whom the provisions of Title IX were designed to protect.
    • Application of this higher standard is impractical and seems intentionally designed to reduce the overall number of findings of sexual assault.
  • Deadline for comment period:
    • Please extend the comment period for these regulations for a minimum of 60 days beyond the currently scheduled public comment deadline. The proposed 60-day comment period is insufficient to receive meaningful public participation in the rulemaking process.
    • Please schedule public hearings at schools and colleges campuses throughout the country to encourage additional input from students, teachers, administrators, and advocates.

For more information, read the Equal Rights Advocates’ article. Also, this letter from the National Women’s Law Center, joined by more than 100 groups and 200 individuals, points out that the proposed changes are extensive and far-reaching and would drastically alter students’ rights and affect almost every aspect of schools’ obligations to respond to sexual harassment against students, and requests that the Department of Education extend the brief comment period.

Graphic © Equal Rights Advocates