Regional Conference Wrap Up!

NLG Southern Regional Conference, April 1-2
Jubilee Community Center, Asheville, NC

The NLG Southern Regional Conference was a great success!  We gathered roughly 30-60 to any single panel or workshop on April 1. Thank you to Curry First and Vanessa Lucas for their work in putting together this year’s Southern Regional Conference.  Organizing this yearly event relies heavily on local people-power and resources.  Thank you, Curry and Vanessa for all of your work leading up to and during the conference!

Below is a recap of the events from the weekend. The first section reviews the Regional business and the second section recaps our five workshops and panels.  Please contact southernrvp [at] nlg.org for contact information of those listed below.

NLG BUSINESS

1.     We formally passed two candidates for two open positions in the Southern Regional. Both positions are unopposed.  Anne O’Beary from South Florida announced her candidacy for the Southern Regional Vice President (SRVP) to the National Executive Committee. Brooks Franklin, formerly of Georgia and currently in North Carolina announced his candidacy for the Treasurer position.  To complete the elections, we will send out e-ballots.  Please look for them and remember to vote!  Only paid members are eligible to vote, so if you haven’t paid your dues, please do so!

2.     NLG President David Gespass discussed the finances of the national organization.  Typically, the convention banquet is the biggest fundraiser to support us nationally.  Donors pledge lump sums at the event.  Some donors may not be able to pledge single amounts.  To facilitate the sustainability of the national organization, David introduced the opportunity to pledge monthly automatic donations.  Please email president@nlg.org to see how you can support our work across the country!

3.     This past year, we experienced a vacancy in the SRVP position. It was immediately apparent that we did not have a formalized process for filling vacancies. This is now an opportunity for us to see where we are weak and how we can work better as a region.  Under the new SRVP, several volunteers will draft a proposal for a procedure on filling vacancies resulting from unexpected emergencies and similar situations.  The proposal will be presented at the NLG National Convention in Philly where it will be presented, discussed, and hopefully passed!

4.     We began discussions on where next year’s Southern Regional Conference will be held.  Among the candidates were Puerto Rico, Gainsville and Key West.  The suggestions were wonderful, but we lacked the people-power in each of these cities who could handle the local organizing required.  SRVP candidate, Anne O’Beary offered South Florida as a possibility.  The South Florida chapter is being newly resurrected with Anne’s help and the conference could support and keep motivation for those efforts. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, our next regional will likely be in South Florida, exact location TBD.

5.     The Democratic National Convention in 2012 will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina next year.  Nicholas C. Woomer-Deters of Raleigh requested advance support for the event.  We do not have members in Charlotte who could help manage and organizing incoming legal support for the event.  If you are available to lend advance support to this event, particularly North Carolina members, or if you otherwise have advice to give please get in touch with the SRVP.

6.     To keep our motivation from the conference rolling, we invite your local and student chapters to update the NLG Southern Region’s website, nlgsouthernregion.wordpress.com.  It’s a new tool for our region to keep updated and inspired by comrades and friends working on issues similar to those we face in our homes.  Please email your student and local chapter events and current contact information to southernrvp [at] nlg.org regularly!

PANELS AND WORKSHOPS

1.     National Civil Right to Counsel, John Pollock. John presented the issues and current activities nationwide around providing appointed counsel to indigent litigants involved in civil litigation, as well as the work of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC; http://www.civilrighttocounsel.org).  The efforts focus principally around housing, sustenance, safety, child custody, and health.  Currently, the work of legal services accounts for only about 20% of the need for civil counsel.  If you have or even hear about a case that involves a civil right to counsel issue, or you are thinking about including a right to counsel claim in one of your cases, please get in touch with the SRVP for his contact information. His organization, the Public Justice Center, coordinates the efforts of the NCCRC, and the NCCRC is available to provide guidance and technical assistance on civil right to counsel litigation, legislation, and educational efforts.

2.     Crimmigration, Azadeh Shahshahani & Jim Melo. The presentations in this panel introduced the issues involved with 287(g) and Secure Communities.  These provisions exist through MOAs with local or state governments respectively.  The effect is that undocumented workers are jailed in facilities as provided by these federal efforts. It is possible for cities to opt out of 287(g), but it requires organizing efforts on the ground level.  For example, using narratives from those impacted by these provisions and providing data on racial profiling by law enforcement can be used in legislative and advocacy campaigns to prevent 287(g) in municipalities.  For more information on the issues and on how you can implement a Crimmigration Advocacy campaign in your city, please get in touch with the SRVP.

3.     Creating Solid and Focused Chapters, Jessica Tiller. Jessica facilitated a workshop on how we can motivate, strengthen and grow our local and student chapters.  Divided into three working groups, participants presented strategies that we can all use!
For student chapters, suggestions include:

  • Regular meetings with other student NLG Chapters in your state/region.
  • Hold yearly Disorientation events. (More info on Disorientation can be found on the NLG Southern and NLG National websites.)
  • Creating informal or formal mentorship opportunities for students to work with local attorneys.
  • Using technology to broadcast events, such as listserves, online calendars, the website, and video conferencing through law school resources.
  • Create a liaison for student chapters whose job connects law students to local, state, and national events, as well as other law school chapters.
  • Generate a presence during 1L Orientation events.
  • film screenings as introductions to the NLG.
  • Create summer projects for Guild students to plug into with NLG attorneys nationally.  Opportunities could be paid by the host or students can seek outside funding for the opportunity to work with like-minded people.

For Students and Practitioners, suggestions include:

  • Practitioners can work directly with students to create programs and opportunities.
  • Offer NLG CLEs as an incentive.
  • Create internships or informal mentorship opportunities for students.
  • Support Disorientation events.
  • Create new attorney mentorship opportunities with established attorneys.  The Next Generation Committee is active in other regions and could be a useful resource for creating these committees in our region.

In the area of Communication and Collaboration, suggestions include:

  • Retaining information on student members as they graduate and follow-up with them as they enter their first years in lawyering.
  • Generate greater marketing on the local level.
  • Create a local chapter liaison to the student chapters who can inform students of NLG events.

4.     North Carolina Connections to the Torture Taxi and Extraordinary Rendition, Steven Edelstein & Josh McIntre. A North Carolina airstrip is a pit-stop in the path to extraordinary rendition.  In a web of connected air strips, individuals are leapfrogged around the world to arrive in torture prisons in a global torture campaign.  The legal hurdles in litigating this issue are the State’s Secrets Doctrine, the Alien Torts Statute, and the concept of National Security.  Related to the complicit airstrip in North Carolina, the www.NCStopTortureNow.org campaign has drafted a call and seeks endorsers.  There is an online form and organizations are encouraged to sign on.  Please note that out-of-state organizations cannot participate in the efforts.  In furtherance of the global campaign to stop torture, advocates can generate discussion on the culture of torture that the US perpetuates both within its borders through prison systems and beyond the borders in extraordinary rendition cases.  For more information on the issue, please see Less Safe, Less Free: Why America is Losing the War on Terror, by law professors David Cole and Jules Lobel through the New Press, as well as former NLG President Marjorie Cohn’s compilation of essays, The United States and Torture, published by NYU Press.

5.     FBI Raids and Grand Jury Repression, Peter Gilbert, Tom Burke, & Azadeh Shahshahani. Joined by local NC members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and other local activists, panelists discussed the ongoing push by federal prosecutors to use grand juries to intimidate, data mine, and repress social movements.  SDS, Muslim, and anti-war activists continue to experience this kind of repression in our region and nationally. Suggestions for countering these efforts include:

  • Hold Know Your Rights presentations in partnership with communities and leaders impacted by this repression, such as CAIR. Even if your community is not pursued by the FBI, these trainings are useful pre-emptively.
  • Conduct NLG CLEs on representing Muslim defendants in a post 9/11 environment.
  • Set up a network of attorneys trained in this kind of representation who can take the cases as they arise.
  • Get involved with a local committee to Stop FBI Repression (www.stopFBI.net) or start one.
  • Raise money for the legal defense of grand jury resisters.

There is a need for this training and experience in the South.  Pleaseget in touch with the SRVP for more information.

Thank you, again, everyone for a rejuvenating and motivating weekend!  See you next year in South Florida!

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