Monday, January 30, 2017

Court actions against Trump's anti-Muslim ban

Five federal courts have now stayed parts of Trump's order. Most require the government to allow entry to travelers who were en route to the United States and hold valid visas or green cards. The most far reaching, from a Washington State federal court, ordered Customs and Homeland Security officials not to rely solely on the executive order when making admittance decisions.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Standing Rock gets more legal protection

WPLC Wins Change in Rules For Out of State Attorneys to Defend Water Protectors 
Court Creates New Regulations for NoDAPL Criminal Cases

BISMARCK, ND: Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) applauds the ND Supreme Court’s ruling today in our Petition to Permit Temporary Provision of Legal Services by Qualified Attorneys From Outside North Dakota.

The request filed on December 14, 2016 sought to relax the rules governing pro hac vice admission for out of state attorneys in order to meet the urgent need for quality criminal defense lawyers to represent the over 600 Water Protectors who have been arrested since August.

Today the Court granted our request in significant part, allowing a “streamlining of our procedures for temporary admission of lawyers to provide pro bono services” including excusing the requirement that a North Dakota associate lawyer appear in-person and remain in court for all proceedings, and waiving the fee for pro hac vice applications from out of state attorneys wishing to provide criminal defense services to Water Protectors.

The court acknowledged “the potential for delay or inconvenience for litigants due to the relatively large number of arrests and finite resources to handle the judicial proceedings related to those arrests” and granted the change in rules “due to the significant increased caseload of the South Central Judicial District as a result of criminal charges stemming from the pipeline protests.”

“This will be a game changer for our ability to defend Water Protectors moving forward,” said WPLC cooperating attorney Bill Tilton of St. Paul, MN who filed the Petition along with 9 other lawyers. “The Court showed courage in crafting a creative response to this very grave and difficult situation.”
A public comment period that ended December 30, 2016 generated over 16,000 comments, including a letter from over 175 law professors urging the Court to grant the Petition in order to protect the Constitutional rights to adequate and effective counsel in these cases.

The Water Protector Legal Collective has been providing legal representation and coordination for Water Protectors engaged in resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline including coordination among local and out of state attorneys.

Sandra Freeman, Criminal Defense Case Coordinator for Water Protector Legal Collective said, “We are pleased the Court has recognized the peril posed to the over 175 people who are still without lawyers.”

Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) provides on-the-ground legal representation and coordination at Standing Rock, North Dakota in partnership with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG).

Fighting camera tickets

Great post at ArsTechnica about fighting a speeding ticket issued by a camera. The key court event:
On cross-examination, I established that:
- He [the police officer] was not present at the time of the alleged violation.
- He has no photographic evidence of the driver.
- There were no witnesses.
- He does not know where Adam MacLeod [the author] was at the time of the alleged violation.
And so on. I then asked the question one is taught never to ask on cross—the last one. “So, you signed an affidavit under the pains and penalties of perjury alleging probable cause to believe that Adam MacLeod committed a violation of traffic laws without any evidence that was so?”
Without hesitating he answered, “Yes.” This surprised both of us. It also surprised the judge, who looked up from his desk for the first time. A police officer had just testified under oath that he perjured himself in service to a city government and a mysterious, far-away corporation whose officers probably earn many times his salary.
Make sure to read the sections on why this case matters and the basic constitutional questions at stake, Also, the case typifies the merging/denial of criminal and civil procedure in these citation cases, which are a growing (and profitable) part of local government in this age of tax cuts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Being a Legal Observer

An interview aired on Wednesday, Jan. 11th, on WMUU 102.9 FM about legal observing and featured UW-Madison law student Dan Schneider and Amanda Leipold about being legal observers. This interview was recorded on January 9th, 2017, and can be heard on SoundCloud

Saturday, January 14, 2017

ICE Raid Toolkit

First Toolkit to Help Prepare Communities for ICE Raids in face of Trump’s Mass Deportation Plans 

Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) and Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) announce the release of Defend Against ICE Raids and Community Arrests: A Toolkit to Prepare and Protect Our Communities and an accompanying web page compiling tools and efforts to uphold rights of immigrants in the Trump era of racialized policing.

Based on years of community defense, litigation, and research, including hundreds of accounts of ICE raids, our joint #stopICEcold toolkit offers social justice advocates, lawyers, and community members critical information on our country’s massive detention and deportation system, as well as straightforward ideas on preparing for new waves of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. Defend Against ICE Raids and Community Arrests is the first comprehensive guide and organizing resource to help fight back against the Trump administration’s stated efforts to criminalize and deport millions of people.

What’s inside:
·         Definitive information on who ICE targets for deportation, priority locations for ICE activity, and common ICE arrest tactics and strategies.
·         Recommendations on emergency preparedness for those at risk of deportation, individual rights during ICE encounters, and potential legal and community challenges to ICE raids.
·         An initial forecast of what might happen under a Trump administration based on years of monitoring the world’s largest detention and deportation apparatus.
·         Select internal DHS/ICE enforcement memos and training documents secured through a pending FOIA litigation -- as well as summaries of raids reported.
Coming soon:
·         An online interactive map of the raids reported to IDP in the New York City area.
·         An online directory of FOIA documents from Immigrant Defense Project et al. v. ICE et al.
·         A web-based version of the toolkit.
·         Ongoing updates and more resources on emergency preparedness.

Help spread the word:

Use #stopICEcold to promote on Twitter and Facebook. Follow us on facebook and on Twitter at @ImmDefense and @theCCR to stay connected to campaign developments, including updates and added materials. Retweet this message or tweet your own!

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Last Gasp

Last Gasp with the National Lawyers Guild-Madison
Thursday, January 19th ~ 5:30 - 8pm
Argus Bar & Grill
123 E Main St, Madison
Live Music!
First Drink is on us!

Calling all progressive lawyers, law students, and social justice organizers. The National Lawyers Guild will be hosting a last gasp solidarity celebration on the eve of the inauguration for local change-makers and folks on the left end of the legal community. Come join us in celebration and struggle!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

New Front Line for NoDAPL Attorneys: Criminal Courts

NOTE: Below is a great article by Steffani Cochran who recently traveled to Standing Rock to support the Water Protector Legal Collective (formerly Red Owl), describing the current climate there and the immediate needs of Water Protectors there. Criminal defense attorneys and experienced Legal Observers are still needed -- if you're interested in going to Standing Rock to lend legal support, please contact
Please continue to share the Water Protector Legal collective fundraising page at and follow them on Facebook at

By Steffani Cochran, 11/16/16 (and originally posted here)

Courtesy Myron Dewey
One of more than 400 people arrested by militarized police during the standoff against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I recently returned from spending time at Standing Rock as a legal observer. The experience was nothing like I anticipated and yet one of the most important experiences of my life. I woke each morning and went to sleep each night to prayers, songs, stories and drumming. But my day also began and ended with the constant hum of surveillance planes and helicopters circling the camp—taking pictures, as well as intercepting and interfering with communications. I drove through police barricades, past Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) command centers and DAPL mercenaries with cameras, guns and who knows what else aimed at me. I prayed each day that the snipers perched in the nearby prairie didn’t determine it was a good day to fire.

None of that deterred me from my purpose—to assist the efforts of the Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC, formerly the Red Owl Legal Collective), to interact with individuals within the camp and to listen and record the stories of water protectors. None were easy to hear, but all shared a common theme of increased, indiscriminate, and excessive use of militarized force against a Native community and its allies.

These, and subsequent stories, highlight the extent of force and intimidation used: security dog attacks, tear gas and mace, sound cannons and flash-bang grenades, armored vehicles, rubber bullets and snipers. Once arrested, the individuals face strip searches, being kept in pens resembling dog kennels, the ransacking of impounded cars, personal property “lost,” and sacred items destroyed. More recently, the WPLC reports,
“a dumpster-load of seized property was recovered at a Bureau of Indian Affairs checkpoint . . . When protectors returned for their things, they found sacred item after sacred item had been defaced, with apparent intentionality. One item, a bull skull, had its horns snapped clean off.”

All contribute to the ongoing civil, human and religious rights violations endured by the water protectors. The next front-line for some of them will be in courtrooms, first to defend themselves from criminal complaints and then to hold authorities accountable for human and civil rights violations.

That’s where we attorneys come in. Last week I came upon a posting from a former tribal official relaying a request for attorneys to come to Standing Rock. I reached out and we met for lunch to talk about my experience and what the attorneys are responding to.

As we talked about our shared concern for the escalation of violence and aggression perpetrated against the water protectors, the reality sank in that Indian country has few points of reference in the 21st century for mass demonstrations of this scale. How can tribes support the legal needs of the water protectors? What can attorneys within Indian country do to confront the challenges and obstacles people on the ground are up against? While the path is not entirely clear, there are some measures that tribal leadership can take to attract and support legal assistance. The list below can point us in the right direction.

Send up a flare.
One initial step tribes can take is to reach out to in-house counsel, contracted law firms, tribal judiciaries, tribal bar associations, and any other attorneys within their community to find willing and experienced volunteers. With the escalation of force and mass arrests since I left, legal representation, jail support and legal observers are as crucial as ever.

Take stock of available resources already on hand.
In partnership with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the WPLC pro bono attorneys and legal workers maintain a regular legal presence in the camp. The NLG is working to identify and place experienced legal observers on the ground. Attorneys should contact the NLG to let them know they are willing to travel to Standing Rock as a legal observer. Even if the attorney is not experienced, but willing to volunteer, he or she should contact the NLG. They and the Civil Liberties Defense Center offer training and other resources for potential legal observers.

Support attorneys willing to serve.
There are several ways a tribe can support an attorney willing to serve as a legal observer:

(1) Authorize time away from the tribe’s legal activities. If the attorney is an employee, this could be simply paid time away, but more important, allowing the attorney to solely focus on their role in providing legal support to the water protectors without worry about work back home.

(2) Provide financial or other resources for the journey. This might include items necessary for their stay, such as a winter tent, travel trailer or hotel room, winter clothing or other winter camping essentials (wood, propane, etc.).

(3) Provide support in case of arrest or detainment. Current police tactics include targeting and arresting legal observers, medics, and journalists. Should that happen, a tribe could provide the necessary support for an attorney’s release.

Donate to legal funds.
Tribes may also provide direct donations for legal support to the Water Protector Legal Collective. The Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund is also online. Direct contributions can be made via PayPal. This fund is restricted to the direct support of those arrested—bail, fines, court costs, vehicle impoundment, defendant travel, and attorney fees.

Bring in criminal defense attorneys.
With the rising number of arrests and the propensity of officers to charge felony offenses, there is a substantial need for criminal defense attorneys. If attorneys are licensed in North Dakota, or willing to become licensed in North Dakota, they should contact the WPLC to coordinate their services. Tribes can offer support by providing financial or other resources that will allow the attorney to provide criminal representation, including licensing fees where needed, travel, personnel costs, etc.

Make a game plan for responding to future legal challenges.
Finally, how does Indian country respond to the future legal challenges? This includes finding experienced attorneys in the human, civil, cultural and religious rights of Indigenous Peoples and bringing them to the table with others presently involved. Some of this will undoubtedly take form as class-action lawsuits. This is a crucial piece of building that capacity within Indian country. We are going to face future challenges beyond Standing Rock. For those specialists who have devoted their entire career to Indian country, now is the time to step up and add your knowledge and experience to the process. Efforts are now under way to connect Indian country attorneys to the public and environmental interest groups currently assisting the legal needs of the Water Protectors. Reach out to me if you wish to be a part.

Stay centered, and keep heart.
Our support is greatly needed, and there are things we can and must do from within Indian country. While battles will play out in western courtrooms, the issues are at the heart of who we are as Native people. I encourage attorneys to engage, especially those of us whose livelihood comes from working with and for tribes. The journey will be long, but we have some of the most capable people to rise to this call.