Charlottesville NOW Publishes Statement to UVa on Sexual Assault on Campus

civilrightsactivist:

Stop Violence Against Women NOW diamond

Stop Violence Against Women NOW

Charlottesville NOW, this is a great letter to the administration at the University of Virginia on things they can done to reduce campus sexual assaults. Let’s see if UVA takes a strong stand or wiggles away from this issue, creating a climate of indifference towards violence against women. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that UVA takes the first path rather than the alternative, negative one.

Originally posted on Virginia NOW Online:

VA NOW is very proud to share this open letter to the administration at the University of Virginia concerning its policies and handling of sexual assault on campus.

A major focus of VA NOW’s advocacy work in 2015 will be on sexual assault, and sexual assault on campus — along with work on violence against women generally.

We are very happy to see Charlottesville NOW leading the way in their community and for the state. You can read a public record of UVa’s response to recent sexual assault allegations and the campus climate here: (click).

Background: In November 2014, Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” the story of Jackie and the wrongs done her. Later, RS published a partial retraction due to their lack of reporting and editorial diligence, and some uncertainties in Jackie’s report of her experience led to…

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2013-2014 #Justice4Cherise

Stop Violence Against Women NOW diamond

Stop Violence Against Women NOW

As my final blog for 2014, I want to summarize what I believe to be my most successful endeavor in social justice for this year. It is the case in Montana that in social media became known by the hashtag #Justice4Cherise.

In 2013 and 2014, I worked closely with both Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW to remove G. Todd Baugh—a local Montana judge—from the bench in Yellowstone County, MT for using rape myths to trivialize the 2007 rape of a 14-year-old girl Cherise Moralez by her high school teacher Stacey Rambold. The trivialization of this crime committed against this young woman occurred after she had died in 2010 by suicide and could no longer speak for herself.

Baugh sentenced Stacey Rambold to 30 days in jail because the girl was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist and that she looked “older than her chronological age.”

Using my blog site and the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund website as a public forum and pinning my blog posts to Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, I worked with others to spread the word about this case and called upon the state to provide #Justice4Cherise. Here’s the chronology (with links) to what happened from August 2013 through December 2014.

August 2013

We helped spread the word that we were collecting signatures through We Are UltraViolet of our outrage at Judge G. Todd Baugh’s unethical behavior on the bench and called for his removal by the Montana Judicial Standards Commission (August 29, 2013).

September 2013

We then filed a complaint with the Montana Judicial Standards Commission about Baugh’s unethical behavior. We presented the background of the rape case and a summary of Judge G. Todd Baugh’s misconduct; cited the portions of the judicial rules of conduct that were violated; and noted that thousands of “witnesses” had joined Montana and Pennsylvania NOW in this complaint. These witnesses included more than 250,000 people around the world who called for either the resignation or removal of Judge Baugh (September 24, 2013);

December 2013

Baugh Responds to Our Complaint and We Respond Back

We announced that “Judge” Baugh had agreed with our complaint that he had violated one of the three ethical rules we cited in our September complaint. He did say that he failed to

“promote public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and [did not] avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety [by his actions].”

His response to our complaint then continued with additional bias and use of rape myths to support his unethical behavior. So we responded with a written follow-up to our complaint and again let the public know what was happening (December 8, 2013).

Amicus Brief Filed

Five days later, six women’s groups — Montana NOW, Pennsylvania NOW, Legal Voice, Sexual Violence Law Center, Women’ Law Project, and Legal Momentum — filed an amicus brief before the Montana Supreme Court. This brief documented the rape myths that Baugh used in determining and handing down the sentence he gave to former teacher and convicted rapist Stacey Rambold. We were supporting the Montana Attorney General’s call for overturning the original sentence and remanding the case back to Yellowstone County Court for re-sentencing. The amicus brief we filed focused on rape myths and their inappropriate impact in adjudicating and sentencing in sexual-assault cases. We asked the court to take the effect of these types of rape myths into account when making their decision in this case and, upon remand, to assign the case to a new judge for sentencing. Our amicus went further than the Attorney General’s appeal in that we did not want Baugh to do the resentencing and that we wanted the Supreme Court to order the county to reassign the case to another judge who would be less biased in handling sexual assault cases (December 13, 2013).

January 2014

In January 2014, after reviewing Baugh’s response to the complaints filed against him, the Montana Judicial Standards Commission recommended to the Montana Supreme Court that they publicly censure him for his unethical behavior. Meanwhile the Montana Attorney General’s appeal of the Rambold sentence handed down by Baugh worked their way behind the scenes in the Montana Supreme Court.

What Happened to Rambold

April 2014: Sentence Overturned

On April 30, the first outcome of these two cases was announced (April 30, 2014). With a review of all the legal documents provided to the court (no hearing was held as the Court felt they had enough information from the documentation they received), the Montana Supreme Court handed down their decision in the Montana v. Rambold case. The Court overturned the 30-day sentence and remanded the case back to Yellowstone County ordering a new judge to resentence Rambold using the mandatory sentencing guidelines for rape. The last two paragraphs of the Court’s opinion indicate that the Court heavily relied on our amicus in ordering the remand:

¶21 On remand for resentencing, we further instruct the court to reassign the case to a different judge to impose sentence. We have considered several factors to decide whether a new judge should be assigned to resentence a defendant in a particular case, among them; whether the original judge would reasonably be expected to have substantial difficulty in putting out of his or her mind previously expressed views determined to be erroneous, whether reassignment is advisable to preserve the appearance of justice, and whether reassignment would entail waste and duplication out of proportion to any gain in preserving the appearance of fairness. Coleman v. Risley, 203 Mont. 237, 249, 663 P.2d 1154 (1983) 10 (citations omitted). In State v. Smith, 261 Mont. 419, 445-46, 863 P.2d 1000, 1016-17 (1993), we remanded for resentencing to a new judge when the judge’s statement at trial evidenced bias against the defendant. Even where bias did not require reassignment to a new judge, we have reassigned where media coverage and public outrage “have snowballed to create an appearance of impropriety.” Washington v. Montana Mining Properties, 243 Mont. 509, 516, 795 P.2d 460, 464 (1990).

¶22 In the present case, Judge Baugh’s statements reflected an improper basis for his decision and cast serious doubt on the appearance of justice. The idea that C.M. could have “control” of the situation is directly at odds with the law, which holds that a youth is incapable of consent and, therefore, lacks any control over the situation whatsoever. That statement also disregards the serious power disparity that exists between an adult teacher and his minor pupil. In addition, there is no basis in the law for the court’s distinction between the victim’s “chronological age” and the court’s perception of her maturity. Judge Baugh’s comments have given rise to several complaints before the Judicial Standards Commission, which has recommended disciplinary action by this Court. Those complaints will be addressed in a separate proceeding. Under these circumstances, we conclude that reassignment to a new judge is necessary to preserve the appearance of fairness and justice in this matter.

May 2014: Appeal Filed and Subsequently Denied

On May 14, Rambold’s attorney appealed the Supreme Court’s order to overturn the minimal sentence originally handed down and used the same arguments given by Baugh – “It was her [the victim’s] fault.” He seemed to say that the circumstances surrounding the rape of a minor and her responses to her teacher’s advances isn’t all that bad and therefore no change in the original sentence should be made.

September 2014: Resentencing

The Supreme Court denied the appeal and on September 26, Rambold was resentenced in Yellowstone County District Court.

According to the Billings Gazette, Judge Randall Spaulding sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison with five years suspended for the rape of Cherise Moralez. The Gazette reported that Judge Spaulding said that

the victim’s age, Rambold’s position as a teacher and Rambold’s response to being warned by school officials all factored into [the] sentencing. [And] Rambold’s Internet usage was an aggravating factor [in determining the length of the sentence].”

On November 24, Rambold’s attorney Jay Lansing filed a “notice of appeal” to the Montana Supreme Court for the 10-year sentence; so far, the reasoning behind this appeal is unknown. We will continue monitoring what is happening in the months to come to see what happens.

What Happened to Baugh

June 2014: Supreme Court Decision

Meanwhile, back to G. Todd Baugh. As the April 30 decision by the Montana Supreme Court hinted at in the Rambold case, censure was in the air for G. Todd Baugh. On June 4, the Court announced that they would not only be censuring Baugh in public for his unethical behavior but that he would also be suspended from the bench. Here’s a link to that decision. We believe and agree with the Court’s written opinion that “There is no place in the Montana judiciary for perpetuating the stereotype that women and girls are responsible for sexual crimes committed against them.”

July 2014: Public Censure

Baugh was given time to respond to this decision of censure and suspension. And on July 22, the public censure was handed down. Marian Bradley, former President of Montana NOW, and I were in the courtroom for the public censure. Baugh stood before the Court for the censure, but said nothing.

According to the Billings Gazette, Chief Justice McGrath “did not read a sentence in the transcript of the censure that asked if Baugh had anything he wanted to say.” We had a statement ready to read to the court. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to speak about our concerns before the Court, most likely because the Court did not want to hear any more of Baugh’s excuses for his behavior. We had expected to deliver these comments publicly. Since we were unable to speak them, we sent our statement directly to Baugh and posted them on this blog for the world to see (July 22, 2014).

This blog was followed up on the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund website with a more detailed overview of rape myths that Baugh and other members of the judiciary have used in trivializing rape (August 31, 2014).

December 2014: Suspension

On December 1, Baugh was suspended from the bench without pay. Today (January 31) is the last day of his suspension. Since he decided not to run for reelection for the bench, he will not be returning to work as a judge as he no longer has a seat within the judiciary. He is gone.

We have as of today

#Justice4Cherise

Stacey Rambold is in prison for ten years for the rape of Cherise Moralez

And

G. Todd Baugh no longer serves as a judge due to his unethical use of victim-blaming rape myths.

It’s a Happy New Year for 2015 for all victims, survivors, families and advocates for social justice. Happy New Year everyone!

Class Action Lawsuit Filed over Pennsylvania Medicaid Cuts

civilrightsactivist:

Concerns have been raised in PA since Governor Corbett initially proposed his so-called “Healthy Pennsylvania” non-expansion of Medicaid program. These fears are now coming to fruition. Let’s hope that Governor-elect Wolf can quickly rectify the problems and move the state towards full expansion of Medicaid as soon as possible. Unfortunately since Mr. Wolf doesn’t take office until after “Healthy PA” goes live, it will take awhile for the state to jump through the state and federal hoops to switch over to Medicaid. This blat’s going on.og from the Women’s Law Project does a decent job at explaining what is going on.

Originally posted on Women's Law Project Blog:

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

Two big problems with Pennsylvania Medicaid emerged yesterday [December 22].

The problems aren’t with Medicaid per se, but with the chaos-riddled transition from traditional Medicaid to Governor Corbett’s controversial, non-expansion alternative. To further complicate matters, Governor-Elect Tom Wolf, who promised to expand Medicaid as intended under the Affordable Care Act, takes office next month, and benefit changes are scheduled to take place January 1.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states are encouraged to expand access to Medicaid coverage, with the federal government picking up the tab through 2016 and then paying no less than 90 percent on a permanent basis.

The background: Ever since the Supreme Court decided that states can refuse to expand Medicaid, the situation here in Pennsylvania been a saga fueled by partisan politics–at the expense of the health and well-being of more than 500,000 low-income residents.

As every state bordering…

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Siblings and Older Foster Kids Need Parents

Nancy Hill posted a blog on her website yesterday regarding adopting older children and sibling sets. As an adoptive parent with an open adoption, I think her comments are right on target. Although we did not adopt our son’s half sibling (she was adopted by her biological grandfather), we are in regular contact with her and her family. These open, blended families, whether within the same household or in an extended family relationship are important for making successful “forever” families.

Here’s that blog.  And to all families, whether biological, blended, and/or “forever” families, Happy Holidays!

Siblings and Older Foster Kids Need Parents

by Janice Hill, December 16, 2014

Regular readers will find this to differ from my usual post, at first glance.  Social action that sees light on this blog is often political, but at this time of the year, when everyone is thinking of family, family gatherings, and tradition, I’ve decided to take a moment to consider youths whose family structure is so fragmented that they essentially have no family or are in danger of being torn apart  by the foster and adoptive systems from the only loving relationship they know – that of a sibling.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

This week U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, AdoptUSKids and the Ad Council are unveiling a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs)  to encourage the adoption of children from foster care with an emphasis on the importance of keeping siblings together.  This is legit.  The program itself is 10 years old. The gist of the idea is that no one needs be perfect to be a needed, appreciated, and loved parent.

I said good-bye to a brother last month.  But I had him 57 years before he died at age 66.  I cannot imagine how I could have survived without family, even my imperfect big brothers.  I know there are many mid-lifers who have aged out of biological parenting almost accidentally.  It isn’t too late to provide love and all the imperfect parenting you have to offer to older kids and siblings who desperately need you.

Give yourself the gift of checking into adoptuskids.org.  Consider:  Older parents, older kids.  Successful singles of a certain age who thought about being a parent but never found the right partner.

Growing up I knew a brother and sister who were adopted together.  I thought that was wonderful then, and I think it is even more wonderful now.  I have a friend who lost both parents in High School but she and her brother were not separated.  My cousin was adopted.  People I care about had people who cared enough to make them family.

Check out AdoptUsKids on Facebook.  There are currently 402,000 children in the foster care system in the US.  102,000 children, under 18 years of age, are waiting for adoption.  They are waiting to have you share your life, your regular old life, with them.

A Good Time To Remember Ella Baker

Originally posted on Social Justice For All:

ella-bakerIn the wake of the death of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of white police officers with no indictment, I am looking for hope  somewhere.  After learning of the verdict in New York yesterday morning, there is a very sad heaviness for the United States. We have yet another death of a black mother’s son. For me, I am trying to remember Ella Baker and reflect on how much work we still have do around issues of racial equity and equality.

Baker was one of the most influential players in the civil rights movement. Baker’s grandparents were slaves and she would hear stories from her grandmother about slave revolts. After finishing college and graduating valedictorian, she moved to New York and started her life’s path of social justice. Baker fought for civil rights alongside others such as, W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Dr. Martin Luther King. She…

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End of an Era: Sr. Francis Ellen Bowery

Aunt Frankie. Officially known as Sister Frances Ellen Bowery.

picture of Sr. Frances Ellen Bowery (1920-2014)

Aunt Frankie touring the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, VA in July 2011 (age 90)

Dominican nun for 76 years. She was a teacher and a Social Justice advocate. Part of her work included working on peace issues and with immigrants and international students. Little however has been noted of her quiet work for justice.  Still, I honor her for this work and her dedication to humanity.

Picture of Sr. Frances Ellen Bowery as a young woman in her habit.

Sr. Frances Ellen Bowery as a young woman in her habit. Aunt Frankie took the name Sr. Mary Eucharia when she took on the habit. In the 1960’s, the convent rules loosened up and she, like many others, abandoned the habit and returned to her original name. One of the reasons she made these changes after almost 30 years in the convent was to be more accessible to the people she was working with. I believe it worked.

Humorist. She loved to make jokes. And she had a wonderful laugh. For example, she enjoyed teasing and joking. She also loved to play cards and particularly enjoyed getting caught cheating at the game.

Picture of Aunt Frankie hamming it up for the camera with her great-niece.

Aunt Frankie hamming it up for the camera with her seven-year-old great-niece. October 2011

Family overseer of the Bowery clan. Many of my mother’s clan turned to her. Just before my grandmother died in 1963, she asked Frankie to “look after” Marty, her second youngest remaining sister. Which she did until my mother died three years ago. Calls, visits, vacations… Any time. Anywhere. Frankie was there whenever she was needed or wanted. After my mother died, Aunt Frankie became the last survivor of her generation. At my mother’s funeral, she told me, “My [family] job is now done. I did what my mother asked me to do.” She sure did.

Picture of the Bowery Clan in West Palm Beach, FL.

The Bowery Clan:
Front row: Martha Bowery, Loretta Bowery Randolph, Edward Smith, Louise Bowery Smith, Tracy Smith, Bernice Savage Bowery, John Alvin Bowery Sr.
Back row: Sister Frances Ellen Bowery, John Alvin Bowery Jr, Bernice Helena Bowery, Sarah Bowery, Harold Randolph, and Sister John Loretto (ne Mary Tracy) Bowery. This picture was taken circa 1948.

Sr. Frances Ellen Bowery, always known to me as Aunt Frankie, died on Tuesday evening December 2, 2014 at the young age of 94. She will be buried Saturday, December 6, 2014 in her bright red “Mrs. Claus” outfit beside her sister Sister, Sr. John Loretto Bowery, who was known to us simply as Aunt Mary.

Aunt Frankie's headstone 67161856_130061114640

Sr. Frances Ellen Bowery’s headstone, located next to her sister Sister John Loretto Bowery. Picture courtesy of “Caveman” at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=67161856&PIpi=39910824 on March 20, 2011.

Picture of SR. John Loretto Bowery's headstone

Sr. John Loretto (aka Aunt Mary) Bowery’s headstone at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Cemetary in Adrian, MI. Each set of plots is created in a circle. After Aunt Mary died, the Adrian Dominican Sisters left the space adjacent to Sr. John Loretto for her biological as well as religious sister, Sr. Frances Ellen Bowery. Picture courtesy of “Caveman” at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=13395413&PIpi=39910802 on March 20, 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was lucid and still making jokes right up to the end. She will surely be missed by all of us nieces and nephews and within her religious community.

Luv ya Frankie! Farewell and rest in peace.

Addendum – Aunt Frankie’s Elves

Monday December 9, 2014: I just got back from the funeral in Adrian, MI. It was probably the nicest celebration of life I’ve ever attended.

Aunt Frankie was buried on December 6 on the Feast of St. Nicholas – her favorite holiday. She donned her Mrs. Claus suit and distributed candy canes to her community every year on this feast day; she was also buried in this outfit.

Picture of Aunt Frankie wearing her Mrs. Claus suit.

Aunt Frankie as Mrs. Claus at an annual Feast of St. Nicholas party at the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She was buried in this outfit at her request.

In her honor and with the fun spirit she engendered in our family, all of the nieces and nephews attending the funeral donned Santa Claus hats and distributed candy canes to the members of the convent at the wake. We also gave out rawhide candy canes for the doggie members within the community (yes some of the nuns have dogs as pets).

Thanks again Aunt Frankie. The best funeral I’ve ever attended.

 

Ferguson: White Entitlement Defeats Justice, Part II

civilrightsactivist:

Here’s Part II of the blog on Ferguson, MO and white entitlement.
Two quotes stand out to me:
“The lack of indictment, although not surprising, was highly unlikely. Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich,” a statement backed up by data. Of the 162,000 federal cases prosecuted in 2010, grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. Wilson’s case was in state, not federal, court, but a lack of indictment is extremely rare in those courts as well. “If the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong,” said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries. “It just doesn’t happen.”

The exception to these statistics is police shootings. A recent Houston Chronicle investigation found that “police have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootings” in Houston and other large cities in recent years. ”
And
“Not considered by the grand jury was whether Wilson could have avoided killing Brown.
Read on…

Originally posted on Nel's New Day:

People all over the United States are still protesting the grand jury’s lack of indictment against Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown almost four months ago. St. Louis DA Robert McCulloch firmly believed that Wilson is innocent and manipulated the evidence to present that case. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) will not appoint a new prosecutor, but, according to state law, Maura McShane, presiding judge of the 21st Circuit, can appoint a special prosecutor. There is a precedent for this action:  in State v. Copeland (1996), a Missouri court replaced the prosecutor because the judge “sensed that [the prosecutor’s] sympathies for [the defendant] may have prevented him from being an effective advocate for the state.”

There are many reasons that there should be an indictment to send Brown’s killing to a trial.

After the shooting, Wilson removed evidence by washing the blood of his body before there was any investigation. His…

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Ferguson: White Entitlement Defeats Justice, Part I

civilrightsactivist:

More to the Ferguson Grand Jury story that I haven’t seen elsewhere.
President Obama’s idea of requiring police officers to wear body cameras, IMHO, would do two things: 1) help see the truth in such encounters and 2) reduce the likelihood of violence since both the police officer and the person being confronted by police would more likely be on their best behaviors.

Originally posted on Nel's New Day:

One week ago, St. Louis DA Robert McCulloch gave a rambling, defensive press conference announcing that the grand jury had not indicted Darren Wilson, 28, for killing Michael Brown. Since then, the killer, a police officer, has resigned from the Ferguson force, but his action does not stop the news that about the inconsistencies, bad police procedures, and cover-ups that the 4,799 pages of grand jury testimony reveal.

Initially Assistant District Attorney Kathy Alizadeh told the jury to base their decisions on a law that was ruled unconstitutional almost 30 years ago. She told the jury that Wilson had the legal right to shoot and kill Brown as soon as Brown ran away from the police officer, that Wilson could legally do this even if he didn’t feel threatened. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional any law stating that an officer is “justified in the use of such physical…

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Ireland Images, Blessings Sayings

Last April, my friend Mary Vollero was invited to show her video —The Long Goodbye — about the last days of the Garman Opera House at the international Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival in Schull, County Cork, Ireland.  FYI, I previously blogged about the demise of our town’s historic theatre, which you can see here, here, here, and here. After losing the court battle, the Bellefonte Borough Council had the theatre torn down between December 30, 2013 and January 15, 2014 (additional pictures can be seen in my Facebook “RIP Hotel Do De and Garman Theatre” album.

When Mary told me she had been accepted at the festival, I teasingly said, “Could I come in your suitcase?” She laughed and then a couple of days later called me and asked if I’d like to go with her.

picture of Joanne Tosti-Vasey and Mary Vollery

Left: Joanne Tosti-Vasey
Right: Mary Vollero

So on May 21, 2014, the day after the two of us helped staff our precinct for the Pennsylvania 2014 Spring Primary, we left for Ireland and flew to Cork and then drove to Schull in West Cork. We attended the festival in Schull for several days and did a bit of touring in County Cork.  We drove/took a ferry to tour West Cork, including the Altar Wedge Tomb, Bandon, Goleen, Long Island – Inishfada, Macroom, Mizen Head, and Schull.

We both took lots pictures of our trip. We also stopped in Bandon to pick up an Irish cloak that I ordered and paid for online in April after finding out I was headed to County Cork. This is the same store that my sister had purchased the  green Irish cape for me as a gift for our mutual birthday in 2013 (see picture above of me with Mary Voller0). Here’s a picture of me wearing the heavier-weight Irish cloak I had custom-made by Siobhan Wear, picked up in Bandon, and brought home with me.

Picture of Joanne wearing her custom made Irish cloak

Joanne at home wearing her custom-made Irish cloak in the fall of 2014.

Mary then turned her pictures into a subtitled video with Irish music.  I think she captured our visit quite well.  Here it is:

“May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.”

And,

“May your day be touched with a bit of Irish luck, brightened by a song in your heart, and warmed by the smiles of the people you love.”

− two of the Irish blessings included in this photographic video: my wish to all my readers.