Landmark Lawsuit Settled, Paves Way for Fair Treatment of Low-Income California Drivers

Solano County adopts model policies that lessen the burden of traffic fines and fees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 8, 2017
Media Contacts:
Linda Kim, Bay Area Legal Aid
, Lkim@baylegal.org, 510-250-5218
Bethany Woolman, ACLU of Northern California, bwoolman@aclunc.org, 415-621-2493

San Francisco, CA – A settlement was reached today in the first lawsuit in California to challenge the suspension of driver’s licenses as a means of collecting unpaid traffic fines. The lawsuit was originally filed on June 15, 2016 against Solano County Superior Court, challenging the court’s practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of people who could not afford the astronomical price of traffic tickets.

“Having to choose between food and a traffic fine is not a choice at all,” said Jane Fischberg, President and CEO of Rubicon Programs, a plaintiff in the suit. “This settlement gives us hope that we are finally moving away from unjust systems that criminalize poverty. We applaud the Solano Court’s good faith effort to make the system more equitable – so that everyone in our communities has an opportunity to achieve economic mobility.”

Prior to the lawsuit, the Court routinely failed to notify traffic defendants of their right to demonstrate they were low-income and unable to pay the fines – which the suit alleged was unlawful. The Court also lacked a mechanism for low-income drivers to seek a reduction in the fine or an alternative to payment based on their poverty.

Today, the parties filed a settlement that achieves the goals of the lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement, the Court will notify every traffic defendant of their right to be heard regarding their “ability to pay.” The Court will update all notifications to traffic defendants, including its website, the oral advisements provided by traffic court judges, and the “notice of rights” handout given to all traffic defendants. The new notices explain the traffic defendants’ rights to ask the Court for a lower fine, a payment plan, or community service if they are indigent.

Further, the Court agreed to change its procedures for assessing a defendant’s ability to pay. For traffic defendants who are homeless, receive public benefits or are low income, the Court has agreed to consider alternative penalties that do not involve payment of a monetary fine – such as community service.

“We hope that Solano’s reforms will be a model for other counties to follow,” said Rebekah Evenson, Director of Litigation and Advocacy at Bay Area Legal Aid. “We laud the Solano County Superior Court and Presiding Judge Fracchia for working with us to reform their traffic system in a way that treats low-income drivers fairly and equitably.”

“We appreciate that the governor and legislature recently put an end to the harmful practice of using license suspension to punish low-income people who can’t afford to pay costly tickets,” said Christine Sun, Legal Director at the ACLU of Northern California. “Now we’d like to see counties across California follow Solano County’s example and address the exorbitant traffic fines and fees structure that plunges people into a cycle of poverty.”

A 2017 study by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Paying More for Being Poor: Bias and Disparity in California’s Traffic Court System, showed that Californians pay some of the highest fines and fees in the country—which can devastate the lives of Californians with lower incomes.

People of color also bear a disproportionate amount of this burden. The study’s Bay Area data revealed that African-Americans are four to sixteen times more likely to be booked into county jail on a charge related to inability to pay a citation. Because of over-policing in communities of color and racial profiling, African-American and Hispanic individuals are more likely to receive traffic tickets than are white and Asian individuals and are far more likely to be cited solely for driving with a license that was suspended for failure to pay or appear in traffic court.

The lead plaintiff in the suit, Rubicon Programs v. Superior Court, is Rubicon Programs, a nonprofit that provides comprehensive employment, career, financial, legal and health & wellness services to thousands of low-income people across the Bay Area. Additional plaintiffs in the suit include the ACLU of Northern California, and Henry Washington, a low-income Hayward resident whose license was suspended because he could not pay a “fix-it” ticket. Plaintiffs were represented by:

  • The ACLU of Northern California
  • Bay Area Legal Aid
  • The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR)
  • Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
  • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
  • Western Center on Law & Poverty

 

###

 

 

Action Alert: Last Committee for AB 1008 – Ban the Box, & SB 180 RISE Act Goes to the Floor!

Help Get Our “Ban The Box” Bill Out Of The Final Committee! 

Cal. AB 1008 infographicAB 1008 (McCarty) passed out of the California State Assembly and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. We need your help to pass AB 1008 out of this final committee by calling the seven members on the Sentate Judiciary Committee listed below and have them tally your support for the bill. 

AB 1008 will extend Ban the Box / Fair Chance Hiring policy to private employers, removing the “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” question from employment applications and prohibiting employers from performing a background check until after they extend a conditional job offer. Removing this barrier to employment allows formerly incarcerated and convicted people a chance to interview in person and be evaluated according to skills and experience relative to the job.

Please call the Judiciary Committee Members by end of day Monday, July 10:

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (Chair) – (916) 651-4019 
(If you make only one call, make it to Senator Jackson!)
Senator John M. W. Moorlach (Vice Chair) – (916) 651-4037
Senator Joel Anderson – (916) 651-4038
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg – (916) 651-4018
Senator Bill Monning – (916) 651-4017
Senator Henry I. Stern – (916) 651-4027
Senator Bob Wieckowski – (916) 651-4010

Feel free to use this sample script:

Hello, my name is __________ from [town in CA]. 

I am calling in support of AB 1008, the Fair Chance Hiring bill. 

Formerly incarcerated people already face many barriers to re-entry, and they/we need access to meaningful employment to take care of families and contribute positively to the community. 

Please extend California’s “Ban the Box” policy to private employers and give formerly incarcerated and convicted people a chance to show employers their skills and potential. 

[Share personal experience here, if applicable or possible—keep it short!] 

True public safety is created through employment, housing, and community. 

Please pass AB 1008 and add me to the support tally you keep for your Member. 

Thank you. 

[Bonus: if one of the members represents your district, let them know!]


WAIT! WHILE YOU HAVE YOUR PHONE IN YOUR HAND!
Help Pass the RISE Act! 

SB 180 - RISE Act - Sandra in committee 01 2SB 180 (Mitchell) is on the Floor of the Assembly and headed for a vote! The Repeal Ineffective Sentencing Enhancements (RISE) Act will end the three-year sentencing enhancements for certain prior drug convictions, a practice that, as LSPC Policy Fellow Sandra Johnson (at right) told the Public Safety Committee earlier, does nothing to help people with drug issues and just wastes human lives and taxpayer money.

We need your help to pass SB 180 by calling your Assemblymember and have them tally your support for the bill.

Can’t stop, won’t stop? Call these key Assemblymembers:

Assemblymember David Chiu (San Francisco) – (916) 319-2017
Assemblymember Evan Low (San Jose) – (916) 319-2028
Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (San Mateo) – (916) 319-2022

Feel free to use this sample script:

Hello, my name is __________ from [town in CA].

I am calling to ask you to vote yes on SB 180, the RISE act which ends the three-year sentence enhancements for drug related prior convictions.

These unnecessarily long enhancements do not increase public safety because they do not address the real proble which is often substance use and addiction. Sentence enhancements do not stop people from selling drugs; they do not stop people from using drugs; they do not stop people from committing felonies; they do not improve public safety.

The current system spends tax money on prison sentences instead of what we need to spend money on such as mental health counselling, drug addiction treatment programs, education, and vocational training.

I am asking you to prioritize funding these services that actually help people and improve public safety in our communities. Please pass SB 180 and add me to the support tally you keep for your Member.

Thank you.


 

AOUON-Logo-Circle w SpanishAnd thank YOU for taking the time to support AB 1008 (McCarty), SB 180 (Mitchell), and all the current and formerly incarcerated people and our family members.

We’ll need your help again when AB 1008 heads to the floor for a final vote, so keep up the fight!

For more information about our Ban the Box Campaign, check out our Toolkit here!

Public Defender to Hold Press Conference and Rally on Thursday to Oppose Plan to Hold Oakland Arraignments at New Courthouse in Dublin

OAKLAND, Calif. – Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods will host a press conference Thursday, June 29, to announce a coalition opposing plans to hold all in-custody arraignments at the new Dublin courthouse set to open in July.

The event will be on the historic steps of the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland and Woods will speak along with families of criminal defendants, formerly incarcerated and others concerned that moving arraignments from Oakland to Dublin will result in more people being held in jail while they fight their cases.

The Public Defender’s Office, which represents the majority of criminal defendants, has formed a coalition of local politicians, non-profits and activists to oppose the plan, which recently was announced by Alameda County Presiding Judge Morris Jacobson. The Dublin courthouse, officially known as the East County Hall of Justice, originally was to host only South County arraignments, including those currently at the Hayward and Pleasanton courthouses.

North County arraignments – including Oakland, Berkeley and Albany – currently are held at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland. The Dublin courthouse is approximately 30 miles away and is one mile from the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station.

Arraignment is a critical point in a criminal case because that’s when criminal charges are announced and the court sets bail or chooses to release someone on their own recognizance. It must take place at a location that is readily accessible to defendants’ families, who need to attend in person in order to provide essential information to the court, including community ties and employment.

If families are unable to travel the extra 30 miles to Dublin, more defendants will remain in custody for longer periods of time, particularly defendants with the lowest income and the least serious charges.

WHAT: Press conference
WHEN: 12:15-1:15 p.m. Thursday, June 29, 2017
WHERE: East steps of Rene C. Davidson Courthouse, 1225 Fallon St, Oakland

 

Here is a list of coalition members:

1)      American Civil Liberties Union

2)      Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff

3)      Oakland Vice Mayor and Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington

4)      Assembly Member Rob Bonta

5)      Assembly Member Tony Thurmond

6)      Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan

7)      Oakland City Councilmember Abel Guillen

8)      Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb

9)      Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid

10)   Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks

11)   Oakland City Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington

12)   Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney

13)   Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan

14)   East Bay Community Law Center

15)   Ella Baker Center

16)   Equal Justice Society

17)   Silicon Valley De-Bug

18)   Essie Justice Group

19)   Bay Area Legal Aid

20)   Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

21)   Disability Rights Education Defense Fund

22)   Urban Peace Movement

23)   All of Us or None

24)   The Asian Prisoner Support Committee

25)   A. L. Costa Community Development

26)   CURYJ

27)   Participatory Defense Movement

28)   Root and Rebound

 

SURJ Presents Time Wise – Benefit for Quest for Democracy

Click here to go to the SURJ Bay Area event site.

Acclaimed anti-racism author and educator Tim Wise will speak at a benefit to raise funds for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None‘s statewide mobilization to Sacramento on May 8th – Quest for Democracy Advocacy Day.

Wise has spent the past 25 years speaking to audiences in all 50 states, on over 1000 college and high school campuses, at hundreds of professional and academic conferences, and to community groups across the nation. He is the author of seven books, including his most recent, Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America, and his highly acclaimed memoir, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son. His other titles include Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority; Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama; and Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity.

Wise will speak on The Great White Hoax: Racism, Divide-and-Conquer and the Politics of Trumpism, a presentation that explores the rise of Donald Trump and the way Trumpism reflects longstanding traditions of white racial resentment in America. By placing current politics in a historical context, this talk allows the audience to understand what is new, and not so new about the rise of Trump. Furthermore, this presentation documents the way in which Trumpism is rooted in a common and ignoble history in which monied elites have pitted white working class folks against people of color, while ignoring the real causes of economic and social pain felt by millions. From Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric to his calls for “law and order,” Wise lays bare the intellectual absurdity of the Trump phenomenon, and demonstrates conclusively the way in which it it tied to an implicit or even explicitly white nationalist worldview.

Tickets (available below) are sliding scale $10 – $50, no one turned away for lack of funds. Email info@surjbayarea.org with ticket requests or questions. All proceeds go to Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None to support the May 7 – 8 mobilization to Sacramento.

ACCESS NEEDS: This event is wheelchair accessible. If you have specific access needs, please email info@surjbayarea.org, and we’ll be happy to work with you to accommodate them.

We ask that attendees please refrain from wearing scented or fragranced body products or laundry detergent, to support access for people with chemical sensitivities. Please refer to this resource from the East Bay Meditation Center for more information on what that means. There will be a scent free section of seating offered.

WHEN
April 18, 2017 at 7pm – 9pm
WHERE
First Congregational Church of Oakland
2501 Harrison St
Oakland, CA 94612
United States
Google map and directions

2017 Quest for Democracy Advocacy Day!

Register HERE for our 2017 Quest for Democracy Advocacy Day!
May 7-8, Sacramento, CA

Every Spring, LSPC / All of Us or None organize a large-scale statewide lobby day in Sacramento for formerly-incarcerated people, our family members, and allied community leaders and activists. We gather to show our support for pending legislation that affects people that are impacted by incarceration, and to assert ourselves as leaders, experts, and contributing members of our communities.

We are asking that all organizations, particularly with members who have been previously incarcerated, to join us on May 7-8, 2017. Sunday will be an education and training workshop on our sponsored bills and on effective legislative advocacy. Monday will feature Action Teams visiting each legislator’s office to advocate in person, followed by a rally on the Capitol steps.

We are organizing buses from Northern and Southern California locations, as well as lodging for Sunday night.
We will provide more information as we organize.

Register HERE for our 2017 Quest for Democracy Advocacy Day!

If you have any questions, please contact manuel la fontaine: manuel@prisonerswithchildren.org / 415-625-7051

 

 

 

May 9: Quest for Democracy Day 2016

Multi-generational role play from advocacy training at Quest for Democracy Day 2015

Multi-generational role play from advocacy training at Quest for Democracy Day 2015

Every spring, Formerly Incarcerated People, their families, friends, allies & comrades are ALL invited to join our Annual Formerly Incarcerated People’s Quest For Democracy Advocacy Day at the California State Capital! The day also provides an opportunity for all other people of good will to come out and support formerly incarcerated people in our fight for inclusion, and our determination to speak in our own voice.  We will make our voices heard on bills that directly relate to our capacity to thrive as human beings.

Quest for Democracy Advocacy Day helps formerly incarcerated people speak truth to power, regain our dignity, and make our communities a better place for all people. Afterwards we coordinate follow-up and relationship-building between training participants and legislators/staff.

FAQs

What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?

If you are driving yourself or a group, there are several paid parking garages & lots nearby (Expect about $20 for the day).

If you need a ride, we are organizing ride-shares from across California as well as buses from certain locations:

Riverside bus: 3657 Lemon St. (Corner of Mission & Lemon) at 12 Noon on Sunday May 8th
Contact: Terrance Stewart (310) 579-1296 or terrance@icucpico.org

Los Angeles bus: 9512 South Central Ave La (A New Way of Life office) at 12 Noon on Sunday May 8th
Contact: Amber Rose  (323) 563-3575 or amberrose@anewwayoflife.org

SF Bay Area bus: Fruitvale Bart station at 7am on Monday May 9th
Contact: Manuel La Fontaine (415) 255-7036 x328 or manuel@prisonerswithchildren.org

Stockton bus: 338 Market street (Fathers & Families of San Joaquin office) at 7:15am Monday May 9th.
Contact: Eduardo Crabbe (209) 941-0701 or ecrabbe@ffsj.org

Buses will leave Sacramento at 4pm & return to original point of departure.

What can/can’t I bring to the event?

Breakfast and lunch will be provided, as are legislative information & advocacy training.  Please leave weapons, alcohol, & all negativity at home. Bring comfortable shoes, your voice, & your passion to organize & advocate for current- & formerly incarcerated people & our families!

Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?

Alex Berliner (415) 255-7042 or alex@prisonerswithchildren.org
Manuel La Fontaine (415) 255-7036 x328 or manuel@prisonerswithchildren.org
Amir Varick Amma (415) 361-4692 or amir@prisonerswithchildren.org

When
Where
Sacramento – 10th & L Streets, Sacramento, CA 95814 – View Map
Q4D 2015_whole group

Whole group at end of Quest for Democracy Day 2015