LJP Update: Urging SCOTUS to review Puerto Rico Debt Restructuring, Cesar Vargas Sworn in as Lawyer and more

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Advocates Urge U.S. Supreme Court to allow Puerto Rico to Restructure Debt

LatinoJustice PRLDEF and pro bono co-counsel from Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, filed an amicus brief on behalf of twenty organizations urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow Puerto Rico to move forward with a plan to restructure part of its debt given the dire economic and humanitarian crisis the island is currently facing.

“Puerto Rico’s ability to address its own fiscal crisis is clearly hampered by its colonial relationship with the United States,” said Juan Cartagena, LatinoJustice PRLDEF President and General Counsel. “It is clear that immediate access to a structured debt reorganization vehicle is needed now. Puerto Rico’s attempts to do so were halted by the lower courts and this appeal to the Supreme Court seeks to restore one method of addressing this fiscal crisis. Amici support that effort because we recognize that the harms are immediate and go well beyond the borders of the island.”

If the court allows Puerto Rico to restructure its debt, it would provide a desperately needed lifeline that will prevent the country from further implementing policies that disproportionately burden the people of Puerto Rico, while creditors continue to remain untouched, demanding full payment for the discounted bonds they purchased. Implementation of the Recovery Act will also help stem the migration from Puerto Rico, allowing more residents to remain and contribute to the island’s tax base and supporting the growth of the local economy.

A copy of the brief can be found here and you can read the full press release here.

Cesar Vargas is Sworn in as One of NY’s First DACAmented Lawyers

César Vargas, who was brought to the United States from Mexico when he was 5 years old and later graduated from CUNY School of Law, was sworn in as a lawyer on February 5, 2016, more than four years after passing the New York bar exam. Cesar was one of the first DREAMers to graduate from law school and apply for bar admission in New York State.

“This is an important day for all New Yorkers, all DREAMERs nationwide, and for Cesar Vargas and his family who supported him steadfastly as he pursued his dream to become a lawyer. But it is also a significant accomplishment for New York’s Judiciary branch which affirmed its exclusive role in determining who is fit to practice law within the Empire State, even when challenged by the federal government,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “LatinoJustice is proud to be counsel to such a promising legal advocate. Felicidades Cesar!

In June 2015, a five-judge panel in New York ruled that César could be admitted to practice law in New York. The court ruled conclusively: “We find that the undocumented status of an individual applicant does not, alone, suggest that the applicant is not possessed of the qualities that enable attorneys to vigorously defend their client's interests within the bounds of the law, nor does it suggest that the applicant cannot protect, as an officer of the court, the rule of law and the administration of justice.”

Read the full press release here.

Appeals Court affirms denial of immunity to SWAT officer who killed innocent civilian

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit issued a unanimous opinion affirming the denial of qualified immunity for a police officer who shot an innocent black man in his home in the case of Stamps v. Town of Framingham. Last fall, LatinoJustice PRLDEF joined with the ACLU of Massachusetts and other civil rights organizations in submitting an amicus brief supporting the Federal District Court’s decision denying the police officer summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds.

During a police raid of Eurie Stamps, Senior's home in January 2011, a SWAT officer shot Stamps, Sr. in the head during the execution of a search warrant for his stepson. Mr. Stamps—who was 68-years-old, not a criminal suspect, and complying with police instruction when shot —had been lying face-down on the floor with Officer Duncan’s rifle pointed at him while other police searched the house.

On February 5, 2016, the First Circuit issued an opinion upholding the denial of the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity, affirming the District Court’s decision that “a reasonable jury could find that police officer’s actions leading up to the shooting were objectively unreasonable.” The Court further found that the defendants’ contention that Officer Duncan should still be immune from liability even when violating Mr. Stamps’ constitutional rights would have “the perverse effect of immunizing risky behavior only when the foreseeable harm of that behavior comes to pass.”

Meet the #LJPFamilia – Felipe Lima, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy Pro Bono Legal Fellow

Message from Felipe: I remember as a kid growing up with 10 aunts and uncles and 23 cousins, how hard it was to make decisions that made whole groups of people happier and better off. When I first was introduced to economics I appreciated that there was a whole area of study dedicated to resolving the problem of scarcity. I started to see the law as a concerted attempt by all of us to bring about justice, in a way that made everybody happier.

I think as a lawyer, whether I am working with my colleagues on a deal, an advocacy brief or an immigration case, I can bring my cause of justice and equality to bear on the result, and can come up with a solution that makes everybody better off. I see it as a duty of every lawyer to make sure that everybody means everybody, not just those with the money and power to change things on their own.

Event: Law of the Soil, a Comparative Analysis of Birthright Citizenship

This program will focus on the controversial 2013 Dominican Republic Constitutional Court ruling divesting Dominicans of Haitian descent of citizenship. It will examine the historical underpinnings and legal landscape that has led to this decision and its attendant outcomes. The program will also delve into issues relating to birthright citizenship in the United States and current litigations happening in the country. Through a comparative analysis, the program will answer why what is happening in the Dominican Republic can inform our understanding of citizenship in the US. The program which is being organized by the Haitian American Lawyers Association of NY and co-sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, Federal Bar Association and LatinoJustice features a distinguished panel of presenters ranging from academia, practitioners and activists including LatinoJustice President & General Counsel Juan Cartagena.

When: Thursday, February 11, 2016 6:00 PM
Where: Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman - 1540 Broadway New York, NY 10036

You can RSVP for the event here.

Event: Understanding Puerto Rico's Economic Crisis

Please join CUNY School of Law CLORE & LALSA for a screening of La generación del estanbai (The Stand-By Generation) followed by a panel discussion about Puerto Rico's crisis, its status, and the implications of pending U.S. Supreme Court rulings with:

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, Associate Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Juan C. Dávila Santiago, Documentarian, Democracy Now!
Betty Lugo, Pacheco & Lugo, PRBA President
Marissa Soto, Esq.
Moderator: Prof. Natalie Gómez-Velez Director, CUNY Center on Latino and Latina Rights and Equality (CLORE)

When: Tuesday | February 16, 2016 | 5:30 – 8:00 PM
Where: CUNY School of Law 2 Court Square, Long Island City, NY 11101

Please RSVP to nazia.hanif@law.cuny.edu

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