ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

September 17, 2009

2009.09.17: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories

From:  Letwin, Michael
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 2:51 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories

Importance: High

The following is in response to Debbie Wright’s message of earlier today.

1. To vote or not

If one thing is clear from the membership-wide discussion that began yesterday, it’s that vague oral reassurances at some offices in August, when many members were on vacation, have not clarified our rights, the proposed “compromise,” the events that underlie it, and options other than surrender.

There should be no vote until the membership has had a full and informed discussion of this issue — particularly since the “compromise” is no better than what management wanted to begin with.

2. Just a trial period

Even under the most liberal reading, we would lose both individual and collective free speech rights during any “trial period.” For example, under the new system, no one could respond to Debbie’s position — or for that matter, about how our free speech rights will have been diminished.

3. “Management-run email”

The union e-list was never meant be confidential — there is no such thing in a discussion list of 700 people — whether on or off LAS email. Moreover, the threat of censorship has come not from management “spying,” but from snitching within our own ranks.

4. It’s not just the war or Palestine?

But it is: the only known demands for censorship at Legal Aid involve messages against the war or in defense of Palestinian rights.

5. Management is just being “prudent”

Under the law, a hostile work environment means “discriminatory workplace harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age or sex. Additionally, the harassment typically must be severe, recurring and pervasive.” Clearly, none of these criteria applies to the political opinions under attack here — and management does not claim otherwise.

Therefore, the union’s responsibility is not to justify or excuse management censorship, but rather to defend those who risk unwarranted punishment for expressing protected political opinions. Members who demand that management silence and punish those views do not belong on the union email list.*

*(In response to questions about the history cited in yesterday’s statement, Allen Popper does not deny repeatedly demanding that management suppress and/or punish speech against the war or in defense of Palestinians. Rather, he says, “I am very proud of my conduct. If you do not like it. I really do not care.” As previously stated, reports about threats to Legal Aid funding (and the ADL’s involvement) comes from management and union leaders. Last week, the ALAA Executive Board (including Popper) rejected Susan Morris’ proposal to verify those claims through a Request for Information to management pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act Section 8(a)(5)).


Current Signers of Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid Statement

As of today, the following 32 union members have endorsed the Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid statement (apologies for any unintended omissions). (List in formation; affiliations listed for identification only.)

Noha Arafa (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Alt. Vice-President)
Julie Fry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Vice-President)
Michael Letwin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former ALAA Pres., 1990-2002)
Susan Olivia Morris (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., LGBT Rep.)
Ivan Pantoja (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., Jr. Atty. Rep.)
Azalia Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
Jennifer Burkavage (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn, Delegate)
Steve Terry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Florence Morgan (Criminal Defense-Queens)
Mimi Rosenberg (Civil-Brooklyn)
Antonia Codling (Criminal Defense-Bronx; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
Roslyn Morrison (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Patrick Langhenry (Civil-Brooklyn)
Marisa Benton (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Janet Forrester (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Lisa Edwards (Harlem Community Law Office)
Brian Hutchinson (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Reda Woodcock (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Sigmund Israel (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Terrence Davidson (Criminal Defense-1199)
Simone Berman-Rossi (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Kathryn Thiesenhusen (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Gregory Johnston (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Bahar Mirhosseini (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Stephanie Kaplan ((Criminal Defense-Manhattan)
Katherine Fitzer (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Cheryl Williams (Criminal Appeals)
Jonathan Garelick (Criminal Appeals)
Steve Kliman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Marva Brown (Criminal Defense-Bronx)
Adrian Lesher (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)(“I endorse this statement to the extent it opposes the proposed compromise.”)
Laurie Dick (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)


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