Wednesday, January 13, 1999 the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in Anderson vs Roe, California's challenge to the Ninth Circuit decison blocking the state from limiting welfare payments to new state residents.

The ACLU of Southern California, the ACLU of Northern California and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties represent defendants in this challenge along with the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Western Center on Law and Poverty. This is California's second attempt to reduce welfare benefits to women and children, many of whom are fleeing domestic violence in their states of origin.

Former Governor Wilson first tried to cut the benefits of new arrivals with a waiver from the Bush Administration in 1992, a scheme the ACLU of Southern California challenged in Green vs Anderson. The District Court declared that proposed policy unconstitutional in 1993 and the Ninth Circuit upheld the decision in 1994. The Supreme Court dismissed California's appeal in February 1997.

ACLU/SC legal director Mark Rosenbaum, who will deliver oral arguments before the Court said, "This case will decide whether our constitution treats newcomers as bonafide citizens. The Court's decision will affect women and children who come to California seeking to rebuild their lives, but who are faced with a two-tier system to penalize them for being victims of violence and abuse."

If California is allowed to reduce benefits to new residents for one year to the amount they would have received in their state of origin, a family of four from Mississippi, for example, would receive $144 a month rather than California. s allotment of $673.

Martha Davis, legal director of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund said, . This is a pivotal case for women fleeing domestic abuse who are forced to move across state lines in order to avoid stalking and violence. Our constitution guarantees that people will not be penalized for crossing a state border.

Date

Monday, January 11, 1999 (All day)

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The California Department of Education, the Compton Unified School District and the plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Robert Myers of Newman. Aaronson & Vanaman and attorney Karl Manheim, today announced an agreement on improvement of school facilities and educational services in the Compton Unified School District.

The 16 page agreement places in abeyance, pending a comprehensive inventory of the district's needs, a lawsuit filed last July by the ACLU on behalf of parents with children enrolled at Compton USD. The first-stage agreement calls for the department and the district to ensure that school facilities are brought up to standards, and addresses other areas such as school security, community involvement, student promotion policies and adequate textbooks.

"We are pleased that Delaine Eastin, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Dr. Randolph Ward, State Administrator for Compton Unified School District, have taken bold action to improve the quality of education for all children in Compton," said Mark Rosenbaum, Legal Director for the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. "This historic agreement reflects their good intentions and the progress already underway demonstrates that they are moving the 29,000 students in the Compton School District closer to the equal educational opportunities they so clearly deserve."

Specifically, the agreement requires that a certified teacher will be present in every classroom on every school day and that any teacher hired after the agreement will be employed for no more than two years without passing the California Basic Educational Skills Test. The agreement calls for continued and expedited efforts in the following areas: (1) all broken and loose electrical wiring and fixtures will be repaired or replaced; (2) bathrooms will be safe, sanitary and operable; (3) all schools will remain clean and operational and free from graffiti; (4) all playground equipment will be repaired or removed if unusable; (5) broken windows will be replaced; and (6) drinking water will be available to all children.

The agreement will provide guarantees on school conditions and textbooks and will create site committees to help oversee facilities improvements. New district plans will be created to address school security and student promotion. The agreement also requires the ACLU and the district to collaborate to bring new parent volunteers into the district to help with site maintenance, tutoring and security.

Compton Unified School District has already begun implementation of many of the plans and provisions required under the ACLU agreement. For example, more than $16 million in modernization projects have been or will soon be completed at nine of the district's 38 K-12 campuses. To renovate many of the other aging schools, the district acted earlier this week to place a $107 million bond measure before voters in April.

To stem the threats of El Nino, the district has accelerated completion of 183 re-roofing projects, the result of an $8.5 million emergency repair plan begun in late 1996. A new textbook accountability system was implemented in September, and the district's textbook budget increased from $1.4 million to $1.95 million for 1997-98 school year.

A School Safety and Security Program, introduced in September, calls for random weapons screening on high school campuses, as part of a long-range plan to further reduce campus crime, which dropped 41 percent last year. The district has beefed up its uniformed police force and increased the number of security assistants by 40 percent in the last year.

In addition, Compton USD is introducing five new "student safety net" programs to provide additional tutoring, corrective reading, summer school, and test preparation for its neediest students. A new student promotion policy, based on reading ability, will be implemented in September.

Superintendent Delaine Eastin said, "I am pleased that all parties have agreed to work together to bring about the positive changes we all want for kids in Compton. By avoiding a protracted court proceeding, we can return now to devote our full attention and resources to educating youngsters."

Dr. Ward, who just marked his one-year anniversary as Compton's State Administrator, acknowledged the key role of the ACLU in raising community awareness of the needs of the school district. "After decades of neglect and mismanagement, the public is recognizing the plight of Compton schools. We have accomplished much in a short time, but we have only scratched the surface. I challenge every parent, teacher, business and community organization that has a stake in improving our schools-- work with us. We need your help now more than ever. Our kids need you."

Date

Wednesday, December 16, 1998 (All day)

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At a press conference on Monday, December 14, 1998, the ACLU of Southern California spoke out against the House Judiciary Committee's vote to impeach the President. The ACLU/SC charges that the impeachment proceedings have produced serious threats to civil liberties and to the constitutional structure on which they depend.

Lies under oath, perjury and obstruction of justice are serious matters. However, they constitute impeachable offenses only if they relate to the discharge of official duties or governmental powers, and corrupt or subvert the political and governmental process.

Constitutional law professor and ACLU Board Member, Mary Ellen Gale, said, "I stress the fact that the ACLU/SC does not deny the seriousness of perjury and obstruction of justice. However, the question should be whether these are impeachable offenses when they do not relate to the discharge of official duties or governmental powers, and do not corrupt or subvert the political and governmental process."

The ACLU/SC believes Congress should consider whether the independent counsel abused government power by using interrogation to transform the desire for personal privacy into false statements or perjury, and whether evidence procured by such means can legitimately provide the necessary foundation for removal of a president from office, at least in the absence of other presidential wrongdoing that rises to the constitutional threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Ramona Ripston, ACLU/SC Executive Director, said, "The founding fathers knew all too well the consequences of political rivalry and bickering. No future president will be safe from the partisan removal from office by the opposite party, should it gain a Congressional majority. Unjustified impeachment proceedings should not be used to undermine the presidency or to usurp the people's right to decide who shall serve as President."

A major foundation of our constitutional democracy is respect for human dignity and autonomy, and for individual freedom to make intimate personal choices without unjustified government intrusion or inquisition. The investigation of the President and the impeachment proceedings have placed these constitutional values in grave jeopardy.

Date

Monday, December 14, 1998 (All day)

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