ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

August 17, 2012

2012.08.17: Digest of ALAA-Related Statements on Social Justice Issues (1986-2010)

Digest of ALAA-Related Statements on Social Justice Issues (1986-2010)
Compiled by Michael Letwin (August 17, 2012)
Important note: unless so indicated, the statements below do not necessarily reflect official positions of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325.
Opposition to Racist Violence and Police Abuse
ALAA Affirmative Action Committee-CDD Brooklyn works with external allies, including the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, to protest racist murders of Michael Griffith in Howard Beach (1986), Derrick Tyrus in Staten Island (1988) Yusef Hawkins in Bensonhurst (1989), and elsewhere.
June 15, 1987
Open Letter on the Goetz Trial
(City Sun letter by ALAA Affirmative Action Committee-CDD Brooklyn)
“As public defenders, we represent clients who overwhelmingly are young Black and Latino men. From this perspective, we express our outrage with the Goetz decision and with the atmosphere of pervasive racism that permeated the entire case from the time of the Goetz arrest until now.”
August 17, 1988
Institutionalized Racism In the Criminal Justice System
(City Sun op-ed by ALAA delegate Michael Letwin)
“The entire relationship between the criminal justice system and the minority communities is based on institutionalized racism of the most profound sort.”
June 25, 1989
Proposal for Law Enforcement Intelligence Project
(ALAA-CDD Brooklyn)
“The following is a proposal for a CDD project to systematically collect, evaluate and disseminate to CDD attorneys intelligence on law enforcement procedures, forms and personnel which is crucial to the defense of our clients.”
September 29, 1989
N.Y. Justice: Not Color-Blind
(NY Times op-ed by ALAA VP Michael Letwin)
“The criminal justice system and the media are sending a clear message every day that black and Latino lives are of less value than those of whites. In doing so, they must take responsibility for helping to set the stage for the killing of Yusuf Hawkins.”
February 1, 1990
Legal Aid Attorneys Protest at B’klyn Jail
(NY Newsday report)
“Letwin and others said they are angry that the officers were not suspended. ‘Why are police officers who commit abuse above the law?’ he said to a cheering crowd of Legal Aid attorneys and sympathetic onlookers.”
Spring 1990
Report From the Front Line: The Bennett Plan, Street-Level Drug Enforcement in New York City and the Legalization Debate
(Hofstra Law Review article by ALAA President Michael Letwin)
“[T]he New York City experience illustrates the need for drug legalization, unprecedented programs to combat drug abuse, and-above all-a fundamental transformation in the overall condition of the inner-cities.”
August 15, 1990
After Uprising at Rikers, Guards Are Said to Have Beaten Inmates
(NY Times news report)
”There is photographic evidence of the blood on the wall,” said Mr. Letwin, whose group represents 1,000 New York City Legal Aid lawyers. ”There was no resistance, there was no provocation. It was like declaring open season on inmates.”
September 18, 1990
Cops On the Beat: Back to Basics
(NYS Senate Taskforce testimony of ALAA president Michael Z. Letwin)
“Most fundamentally, any meaningful solution to drug abuse and crime requires that the criminal justice system not be used as a bludgeon against the poor, and that the attention now put toward manufacturing felony records and prison cells be redirected to decent jobs, housing, schools, health care, social services, and to racial and economic justice.”
October 6, 1990
Wrong Way to Fight Crime
(NY Times op-ed by ALAA president Michael Letwin)
“Escalated police programs have succeeded only in crippling the criminal justice system and assaulting predominantly minority New Yorkers with illegal searches and seizures, frame-ups, physical abuse and questionable police shootings. . . . New York and other cities can be made safer only by treating drugs as a health and economic problem.”
October 9, 1991
Response to editorial “Better Guns for the Good Guys”
(WCBS op-ed by ALAA president Michael Letwin)
“Providing officers guns with hair triggers, heavy caliber and lots of ammunition — such as the NYPD’s 9 mm Glock threatens only to escalate indiscriminate police violence against our citizens, particularly African Americans and Latinos.”
May 4, 1992
About Los Angeles: This Means War [Rodney King and L.A. Uprising]
(NY Newsday op-ed by ALAA president Michael Letwin)
“Until there is a change in the policy of using police to ‘contain’ minority communities, we should not be surprised when victims of the resulting abuse retaliate in kind and riot.”
June 3, 1993
Plan to Curtail Street Crime and Turf Wars [Drug Wars]
(American Lawyer letter by ALAA president Michael Letwin)
“[D]ecriminalization would provide the immediate benefit of dramatically curtailing street crime and turf wars, and of ameliorating the gross institutional racism of the war on drugs. Perhaps then we can focus on the need for racial and economic justice which alone can address the problem of inner-city drug abuse.”
June 4, 1993
Rockefeller Drug Laws 20 Years Later
(NYS Assembly Testimony of ALAA president Michael Letwin)
“Those of us who work in the City’s criminal justice have found that the drug war has routinely subjected inner-city communities to illegal search and seizure; indiscriminate arrest sweeps and false prosecutions; and physical abuse and unjustified shootings by police. . . . Thus, the real solution to drug abuse is to accompany drug decriminalization with a real war against abuse which includes treatment on demand, a ban on profit from or advertisement for crack-type drugs, and above all, a broad program of racial and economic justice.”
February 3, 1994
Three Strikes And You’re Out, Mario [Mandatory Minimum Sentencing and the Drug Wars]
(NY Newsday op-ed by ALAA president Michael Letwin)
” ‘Tough’ policies serve only to condemn almost one in four young African-American male New Yorkers to jail, prison, probation or parole — a rate higher than even in South Africa.”
April 18, 1994
Sentencing Angela Thompson [Mandatory Minimum Sentencing and the Drug Wars]
(NYLJ op-ed by ALAA president Michael Letwin)
“While Ms. Thompson’s case is perhaps extreme, it reflects a broader pattern which has condemned one in four young African-American male New Yorkers to jail, prison, probation or parole. . . . [W]e must heed U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, who has issued a politically-courageous call for public discussion of decriminalizing drugs in order to undercut the profit, desperation and violence with which they are now hopelessly intertwined.”
October 20, 1997
Joint Police Conduct Committee
Following police torture of Abner Louima, ALAA Collective Bargaining Agreement, § 4.12.2. (Appendix) establishes joint Joint Union-Management Police Conduct Committee, one of whose responsibilities is to “examine the mission of, and available funding for, a dedicated Society-wide unit to address police misconduct, abuse and brutality through litigation (such as broad injunctive relief and damage claims) and other means.”
ALAA and LAS work with CCR Copwatch Project and NLG legal observers
March 22, 1999
Labor Joins Protest Over New York Police Killing [Amadou Diallo]
(Labor Notes news article by ALAA president Michael Letwin)
“The largest single labor contingent to be arrested came from the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325, whose members provide legal representation to 300,000 indigent New Yorkers who are frequently victims of police abuse.”
October 23, 1999
Counter-Klan Rally in Foley Square
(Rally cosponsored by ALAA)
December 23, 1999
In Defense of Free Speech, Labor and Civil Rights in New York City
(Statement initiated by ALAA)
“On April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous ‘mountaintop’ speech, in which he called for resistance to an ‘illegal, unconstitutional injunction’ against African-American municipal sanitation workers in Memphis. The Giuliani/MTA 1999 order against NYC transit workers — who are also overwhelmingly people of color — is strikingly similar to that Memphis injunction of more than 30 years ago. We, therefore, seek to honor Dr. King’s final battle by condemning these unconscionable orders and by demanding that such egregious violations of free speech, labor, and civil rights never again be permitted to occur.’
March 18, 2000
Arrest of ALAA Legal Observer Antonia Codling [Patrick Dorismond]
(DemocracyNow! interview with ALAA president Michael Letwin)
“[T]here was a protest on Saturday, a week before this Saturday, where — around Patrick Dorismond — where a number of people were arrested, including one of our Legal Aid attorneys, who was there as a legal observer, Antonia Codling, who also, like everybody else, was put through the system.” (Charges ultimately dismissed.)
March 22, 2000
Statement on Police Violence and Abuse
(ALAA Delegate Council resolution)
In response to the police murder of Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond and other people of color, ALAA calls for immediate abolition of the Street Crime Unit and Operation Condor; dismissal of police commissioner Howard Safir; federal prosecution, oversight and reform of the NYPD; creation of an independent state agency to prosecute police abuse; and an “End to the ‘War on Drugs,’ including the Draconian Rockefeller sentencing laws, which only serves to promote violent crime, police brutality, and mass criminalization, particularly against communities of color.”
April 2000
Legal Aid Union Defends Protesters Arrested After Cops Are Acquitted
(Labor Notes news article by ALAA president Michael Letwin)
“ALAA has argued that Diallo’s death reflects the criminal justice system’s organized hostility to young people of color, as reflected in routine police abuse, unfair trials, Draconian drug laws, and the death penalty. It has also argued that labor has a common interest in uniting with movements opposed to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s attack on legal and constitutional rights, as witnessed curing the transit workers’ contract negotiations last December.”
March 9, 2001
P.D.’s War on Men of Color
(Chief-Leader letter by ALAA president Michael Letwin)
“This pattern of abuse is the predictable consequence of the Street Crime Unit (Diallo), Operation Condor (Dorismond), and department-wide “quality of life” arrest quotas systematically aimed at young black and Latino men — usually for nonviolent and/or petty offenses. . . . By pursuing such search-and-destroy policies, the administration bears ultimate responsibility for taking the lives of people like Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond and Kenneth Banks.”
March 10, 2001
Labor for Justice: A New Labor-Community Alliance
(ALAA workshop at Critical Resistance Conference)
“Recent dramatic changes in New York City labor that have begun to galvanize an alliance of unions and rank-and-file groups around such issues as labor givebacks, welfare for the rich, and police abuse.”
March 26, 2001
Repeal of Rockefeller Drug Laws
(ALAA union bulletin)
“For the second year in a row, ALAA, 1199 and LAS are mobilizing Society staff for Drop the Rock, a major effort in Albany on March 26 to repeal and/or reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws.”
May 21, 2001
Reply to Justice on the Cheap
(Unpublished letter to The Nation by ALAA president Michael Letwin)
“This increasingly dysfunctional defense system competes with fully-funded prosecutors, and with an NYPD responsible not only for the infamous Diallo/Dorismond murders, but for feeding thousands of Black and Latino teenagers into the criminal justice assembly line. It is a picture that, each day, makes New York City look more like Texas.”
September 27, 2001
New York City Labor Against the War
(Statement signed by 1,254 labor bodies and trade unionists, including 50 members of ALAA and 74 members of 1199)
“[W]ar will inevitably harm countless innocent civilians, strengthen American alliances with brutal dictatorships and deepen global poverty. . . . For Americans in uniform — the overwhelming number of whom are workers and people of color — it will be another Vietnam. It will generate further terror in this country against Arabs, Muslims, South Asians, people of color and immigrants, and erode our civil liberties.”
February 21, 2002
In Defense of Civil Liberties
(ALAA Delegate Council resolution)
“As a labor union whose members fight each day for the statutory and constitutional rights of indigent New Yorkers, The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325 denounces the “Bush administration’s broad assault on precious civil liberties and democratic rights,” including the systematic attack on “men of Muslim and Middle Eastern origin.”
March 23, 2002
NYC Labor Solidarity With Immigrant Detainees
(Demonstration by ALAA, et al)
“Join trade unionists, immigrant, civil rights, peace, and social justice organizations to oppose the mass detention of foreign nationals since Sept. 11. Most of the detainees are from the Mid-East and South Asia.”
September 7, 2002
NYC Labor Solidarity With Immigrant Workers and Detainees
(Demonstration by ALAA, et al)
“ALAA, the UAW and 1199 are among the many labor, civil liberties, community, religious and political organizations to endorse this event, the second day of NYC labor solidarity with post-9/11 immigrants who continue to be detained without charges, some of them secretly and without attorneys.”
January 27, 2003
UAW Antiwar Position
“On January 16, ALAA’s parent union, the 30,000-member UAW Region 9A NY Metro Area CAP Council,  overwhelmingly adopted the resolution below endorsing U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW).”
December 22, 2006
Report On Sean Bell Protests
(E-mail from Michael Letwin to 1199 and ALAA members)
“At yesterday’s Wall Street protest against the murder of Sean Bell, LAS legal observers included Afua Mensah-Atta, Lisa Edwards and Magda Rosa-Rios (CLO); and Reginald Haley, Michael Letwin and Steve Terry (CDD-Bklyn).”
March 26, 2007
Justice for Sean Bell
(Statement signed by 54 individual ALAA and 1199 members)
“Police shootings, and the systemic failure to effectively prosecute their perpetrators, shows that the problem is not a ‘few bad apples’ in the NYPD. Rather, they are the predictable result of a criminal justice system that — as a matter of deliberate policy — systematically targets communities of color for search-and-destroy arrest sweeps, widespread criminalization and inhumane drug sentences.”
April 28, 2008
Sean Bell Bulletin
“On Friday evening, activists and members of the community met in front of Queens Supreme Court to protest the acquittal of police officers who killed Sean Bell. Legal Aid staff members present included Lisa Edwards (CLO); Lucy Herschel (CDD-Queens); Mimi Rosenberg (Civil-Brooklyn); and Julie Fry, Michael Letwin, David Ocasio, Nanette Kripke, Laurie Dick, Rebecca Kurti and Noha Arafa (CDD-Brooklyn). We held handmade signs that said, “Legal Aid attorneys against NYPD terrorism” and ‘Legal Aid attorneys for justice.’ Protesters and members of the community told us that they were glad to see Legal Aid staff members present.”
May 8, 2008
Sean Bell Bulletin: Report on Yesterday’s Protests
“Yesterday, at least one thousand people protested around the city against the acquittal of police officers who killed Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets in 2006. Two hundred and sixteen protesters were arrested in peaceful civil disobedience. . . . Legal Aid participants in protests around the city included Antonia Codling (CDD-Bronx); Mimi Rosenberg (Civil-Brooklyn), one of the Brooklyn arrestees; Lucy Herschel (CDD-Queens); and Michael Letwin, Charles Billups and Noha Arafa (CDD-Brooklyn).”
January 13, 2009
Legal Aid NYC Union Members: Stop Israel’s Massacre in Gaza and End the Siege Now
(Statement by 44 union members at NYC LAS)
“The undersigned members of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325 and 1199SEIU join millions around the world — many of whom are Jewish — to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, Israel’s ongoing massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza.”
September 2, 2010
New York City Workers Stand with the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Communities: Our Grief Is Not an Excuse for Racism, Islamophobia, Bigotry or War
(New York City Labor Against the War statement, signed by 8 ALAA members)
“As New York City workers and trade unionists, we deplore the attacks on Park51, desecration of mosques, violence and all other forms of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry.”
September 28, 2010
Labor Activists Condemn FBI Repression
(Statement by individual LAS union members and others)
“We deplore FBI raids on antiwar and Palestinian rights activists that took place in several cities on Friday,
September 24, 2010.”
Appendix: ALAA Collective Bargaining Agreement
§ 4.12.1. Police Conduct Committee.There will be a Joint Union-Management Police Conduct Committee representative of all Society practices.
§ 4.12.2. Programs and Materials. The Society will provide the Joint Police Conduct Committee with the resources to develop and implement a Society-wide plan to seek out, maintain, update, and make available the following programs and materials in relation to the New York City Police Department and all other relevant law enforcement agencies (e.g., PAPD, FBI, DEA, BATF, etc.):  1) computerized citywide records of individual police misconduct, abuse and brutality, accompanied by a mechanism through which such records can be routinely input and accessed; 2) manuals and other statements of police policy, including the NYPD Patrol Guide, Administrative Guide, Detective Guide, OCCB Investigative Guide, Narcotics Division Manual of Procedures, Legal Bulletins, Special  and Interim Orders and all other such materials which exist for specialized units within the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies; 3) guides to all police forms, annotated by case type; 4) preprinted or computer-formatted subpoenas designed to procure appropriate police reports by case type; 5) complete reference sets of police reports and procedures, at least one [1] copy of which will be maintained in each relevant Society office; 6) checklists to ensure the earliest possible transmittal of police reports from trial to appellate offices; 7) rosters of current and former members of law enforcement agencies available to educate attorneys about police practices; 8) form motions and sample memoranda of law that discuss the legal basis for discovery of police reports and personnel records at the earliest possible stage; 9) incorporation of the above police practice issues into the Society’s training programs; and 10) referral of individual clients to appropriate agencies.
§ 4.12.3. Police Abuse Project.  The Joint Police Conduct Committee will examine the mission of, and available funding for, a dedicated Society-wide unit to address police misconduct, abuse and brutality through litigation (such as broad injunctive relief and damage claims) and other means.  Funding will be subject to final approval by the Society’s Board of Directors.

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