Dear Guild Members,
We hope this letter finds you well. It is time again for our annual membership renewal drive, and we are excited to update you on the Guild’s work. In the face of federal policies that oppress the most vulnerable, chip away human rights, tear apart families, offend human dignity, and threaten the livability of our climate, our work is as important as ever. As a member, you fund the Guild’s vital programs and stand with the ranks of people’s lawyers and activists on the front lines of resistance. Below is a sampling of our work over the past year.
- We provided legal observers for approximately 150 protest actions in 2019—serving to deter and document violations of protesters’ civil rights. Some examples from this past year include: legal observing at weekly Torrance City Council meetings with our friends Black Lives Matter LA, who have been protesting the murder of Christopher DeAndre Mitchell by Torrance police; legal observing at a building-takeover of GEO Group headquarters in a large immigrants’ rights action; and legal observing in the rain with teachers in their historic strike.
- We provided post-arrest legal support and representation for multiple actions—including a mass arrest at LAX airport by a coalition of labor groups, a mass arrest at a large immigrants’ rights action protesting private detention facilities, as well as a group of young people arrested at a May Day action. We also helped secure protest permits, conducted warrant searches (for activists to see if they have an outstanding warrant), and provided other pre-protest legal assistance for events throughout the region.
- We provided dozens of know-your-rights trainings to groups throughout the region. We now have curricula for the following trainings: students’ rights, workers’ rights, street vendors’ rights, protesters’ rights, and legal considerations during civil disobedience actions.
- We continue our efforts to promote street vendor rights, in collaboration with community partners. We staged a pop-up legal clinic on the beach in Santa Monica, staffed by Guild law students, to assist street vendors in dismissing old vending convictions, as well as substantially reducing their fines and fees for pending administrative citations. We have also deployed legal observers to document law enforcement confiscations of street vendor property, and we recently hosted several know-your-rights trainings for vendors. Several Guild attorneys are currently working with street vendors to vindicate their rights.
- We co-founded Court Watch Los Angeles, a volunteer-led effort that has trained hundreds of community members to observe criminal court hearings throughout LA County. The program’s goals are to monitor and expose ways that exorbitant fines are imposed on those who can least afford to pay them, as well as our region’s criminalization of poverty and the disparate punishments for communities of color. Observing in the courtroom is also a powerful radicalizing experience. In the words of one volunteer, “I haven’t stopped talking about my experience [court watching]. It was truly the wild wild west in there. It’s one thing to know injustice exists and it’s another to witness it.”
- We worked alongside coalition partners in the #CheckTheSheriff Campaign. The campaign brings together families who have been directly impacted by the Sheriff’s Department with community advocates, clergy, and allies to check the sheriff’s abuses of power. The campaign calls for real transparency, accountability, zero tolerance of intimate partner and sexual violence by sheriff deputies, and an end to all Sheriff’s Department entanglement with ICE (no county funds or time should be spent to facilitate ICE arrests and deportations).
- We offered legal support and provided legal observers for the Central American Refugee Caravan, in coalition with partner immigrants’ rights organizations.
- Our attorneys have fought crucial legal battles. Guild attorneys have sued California jails, prisons, and police on behalf of people whose rights were violated, and people who were otherwise mistreated or killed by law enforcement. Guild attorneys representing Stop LAPD Spying Coalition won an important victory for free speech, forcing the department to turn over records about police spying on progressive activists and communities of color throughout the region. These are just a few examples.
- We offer two monthly homeless legal clinics, in partnership with LA-CAN and Venice Justice Committee, in Venice and Skid Row. Volunteers conduct intakes, and lawyers provide free representation to fight infractions related to criminalization of homelessness. Attorneys routinely get cases dismissed in the interest of justice and obtain favorable outcomes (come volunteer in the clinics!).
- The Black and People of African Descent Task Force, formed last year, is dedicated to building the Chapter’s capacity to meet the increased demand for Black legal observers, conducting outreach and know-your-rights programming in the Black community, and providing legal support throughout LA. Formed earlier this year, the chapter’s TUPOCC Committee (The United People of Color Caucus) provides a dedicated space and events for chapter members who identify as People of Color.
- Our Immigration, Workers’ Rights and Housing Committees hold regular educational panels on topics of interest to attorneys and advocates in these practice areas, as well as those from impacted communities. Our Worker’s Rights Committee continued to distribute its Know Your Rights in the Workplace booklet in English and Spanish, providing an overview of legal protections for workers in California. The committee also hosted several educational events, and it worked closely with the Rideshare Drivers Union in its struggle for fair pay and better working conditions.
- This past summer, we hosted our largest Law Student Activist Retreat yet, with approximately 100 participants representing every law school in LA and OC. Students participated in panel discussions about activism and people’s lawyering. We also hosted more than 100 students this summer at our annual Summer Law Student Mixer, providing a space for students to meet Guild members and attorneys. Importantly, we work to foster mentorship between Guild attorneys and law students in hopes of building meaningful friendships, collaborations and guidance for newer Guild members.
- We hosted many Continuing Legal Education (CLE) sessions, including two well-attended trainings that provided practical advice on how to request vital records for activist and legal campaigns. We also sponsored many community forums, teach-ins, and trainings for the progressive community.
- We have renewed our close partnership with People’s College of Law (PCL). Established in the 1970s as the “Guild Law School,” the collectively-run law school is founded on principles of people’s lawyering. PCL generously donates office space to us at its MacArthur Park building. Please let us know if you would like to volunteer as a professor at PCL!
- We continue to provide a progressive voice in the media through our weekly public affairs radio show on Pacifica Radio, The Lawyers Guild Show. It airs Wednesday afternoons at 2pm on KPFK 90.7.
We have accomplished a lot in the past year, but there is so much more to do. Thank you for your ongoing support as a member of the Guild which allows us to continue to do this work. We welcome your leadership and active participation in the chapter. Please reach out at any time. It is an honor to work by your side for justice.
Yours with Gratitude,
Kath Rogers, Executive Director
Karen Suri & Gilbert Saucedo, Co-Presidents