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Black Lawyers Submit Names of Three Candidates for California Attorney General

The CABL recommends that either Diane Becton, Paul Henderson or Terry Wiley to replace California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

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Terry Wiley, Diane Becton, Paul Henderson

The California Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) submitted the names of three accomplished African American attorneys to the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) as possible candidates for the state’s soon-to-be open Attorney General position.

In a 46-page document that includes biographical data of the organization’s recommendations, CABL called on Black members of the state Legislature to support attorneys Diane Becton, Paul Henderson or Terry Wiley to become the next Attorney General. The group also forwarded the proposal listing the candidates they are supporting – all public servants with significant experience — to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“We are in a unique position to know, understand, and recommend one of our own members to serve as the next California Attorney General,” stated the letter dated December 23 from Melinda Murray, president of CABL.  “We strongly urge the Legislative Black Caucus to consider the above three candidates and to interview them for recommendation to Governor Newsom.”

Earlier in December, President-elect Joe Biden nominated current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services in his administration. Since then, various candidates have emerged as possible replacements for the state’s top lawyer and law enforcement official.

CABL’s decision to focus on who replaces Becerra rests not only on finding a candidate who can ably prioritize and address the broad and complex range of legal issues all Californians face. The group says it is also motivated by the need to address the persisting concerns of criminal justice reform and police use of force in Black communities.

In the wake of George Floyd’s violent death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and the continued unlawful killings of unarmed Black men and women by law enforcement around the country, the attorney general’s office and the California Dept. of Justice “need someone dedicated to criminal justice reform,” the Black lawyers’ organization stated.

“Californians need and deserve someone who can successfully implement the mandates of Assembly Bill 1506, which authorized the California Attorney General’s Office to investigate and prosecute cases of police use of force resulting in death and officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death,” Murray stated.

The organization believes, Becton, Henderson and Wiley are all candidates with the experience to carry out those tasks. Gov. Newsom signed AB 1506 into law in September. Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) authored the legislation.

“Americans across the country took to the streets this summer rightfully demanding more and better of our criminal justice system – and of ourselves,” Newsom said. “We heard those calls for action loud and clear and today are advancing reforms to improve policing practices by ending the carotid hold and requiring independent investigations in officer-involved shootings.”

Becton has spent most of her professional career as a judge, lawyer and manager. In 2017, she was sworn in as the 25th District Attorney for Contra Costa County. Following her appointment by the county’s Board of Supervisors, she was elected to the position in June 2018.

For 22 years, Becton served as a judge in Contra Costa County. She is a former president of the National Association of Women Judges, the nation’s leading organization for women in the judiciary, and past chair of the State Bar Council on Access and Fairness.

Becton leads a prosecutorial office of approximately 222 lawyers, investigators, and staff. She is the first woman, the first African American, and the first person of color to serve as Contra Costa District Attorney since the office was established in 1850.

Henderson has spent his entire professional career working in public service for the city of San Francisco. He was recently appointed director of the Dept. of Police Accountability, where he and his legal team are tasked with investigating all complaints regarding police use of force and misconduct.

Prior to this appointment, Henderson, an openly gay man, spent seven years as the deputy chief of staff and public safety director to the late mayor of San Francisco, Edwin M. Lee.

Henderson served as chief of administration and prosecutor for former San Francisco D.A. Kamala Harris from 1995-2010. Handling all types of cases, ranging from nonviolent misdemeanors to serious felonies, Henderson became known as an expert in interpreting complex criminal justice public policy issues.

Henderson, who served under four elected district attorneys, was both the highest-ranking LGBT attorney and African American male attorney in the history of the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.

Terry Wiley is an Assistant II District Attorney and the third ranking prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, located in Oakland. Wiley joined Oakland’s DA Office in 1990. He has supervised the felony trial team, the Juvenile Division and the Oakland Branch Courthouse.

Wiley has served in most assignments on the criminal side of the office and has prosecuted difficult and challenging felony cases, including the case against three Oakland police officers who called themselves “the Riders.”

In that case, the officers were accused of kidnapping, planting false evidence and assaulting citizens. Three of the four officers, eventually fired, were acquitted for criminal charges while the fourth cop fled the country. Civil lawsuits settled in the case totaled $10.9 million and led to police reform within the Oakland police department.

Wiley is currently a member of the American Bar Association Criminal Standards Committee, a past vice president of the National Bar Association, and a past member of the State Bar of California Board of Trustees.

CABL represents approximately 6,000 Black attorneys, judges, law professors and law students. According to its web site, the organization was founded in 1977 to eradicate the root causes of racism and to defend the legal and human rights of African Americans.

Activism

California Elected Officials, Civic Leaders React to George Floyd Verdict  

“The hard truth,” Gov. Newsom said in an April 20 statement, “is that if George Floyd looked like me, he’d still be alive today.” Newsom made the remark after a Hennepin County jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, guilty in the murder of George Floyd.

Photo by: Antonio Ray Harvey.
Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-LA), Tecoy Porter, President of National Action Network Sacramento, Western Region, Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), vice-chair of the CLBC, Senator Steven Bradford (D-LA ), chair CLBC, Assemblymember Chris Holden ( D-Pasadena) Assemblymember Kevin McCarty ( D-Sacramento) and Secretary of State Shirley Weber. Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

“The hard truth,” Gov. Newsom said in an April 20 statement, “is that if George Floyd looked like me, he’d still be alive today.” Newsom made the remark after a Hennepin County jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, guilty in the murder of George Floyd.
The jury convicted Chauvin on two counts of murder, homicide and one of manslaughter for pinning his knee on the neck of Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds on May 25, 2020.
The California governor joined other Golden State officials to speak out about the verdict and the enduring problems of police violence against unarmed citizens, particularly African American suspects.
“No conviction can repair the harm done to George Floyd and his family, but today’s verdict provides some accountability as we work to root out the racial injustice that haunts our society,” the governor continued. “We must continue the work of fighting systemic racism and excessive use of force. It’s why I signed some of the nation’s most progressive police reform legislation into law. I will continue working with community leaders across the state to hear concerns and support peaceful expression.”
Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, took to Twitter to comment on the verdict.
“I’m overwhelmed to tears over this verdict: Guilty. #GeorgeFloyd did not have to die that day. His family is still healing from this trauma. We must continue to fight for justice in this country, for all of us,” he tweeted.
Earlier in the day, the California Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference to address police brutality and lethal force by peace officers in California and across the country.
“There may be calls about a crisis. There may be calls about an emergency, but they are not calls intended to initiate death. They are not calls for lethal force. They are calls for issuing de-escalation and resolution.” said Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles).
Kamlager, along with her colleagues – including Assemblymember Mike Gipson, who Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) appointed Chair of the Select Committee on Police Reform – spoke at the briefing. They called on their peers to pass the C.R.I.S.I.S. Act, or Assembly Bill (AB) 2054, legislation that proposes for communities to rely on social workers to intervene in some public safety incidents instead of police officers.
The bill was first introduced last year but died in committee.
California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber also attended the Black Caucus press conference.
“You know it’s really hard after 410 years in this country to continue to raise the same issues over and over again,” Dr. Weber said. “When I look and begin to analyze it I realize that all we’re asking is to have what everybody else has…to be treated fairly – to be treated as a human being, to be treated just.”
President of the NAACP California-Hawaii Conference Rick L. Callender said justice was served in the Chauvin case.
“It was very clear that our very right to breath was on trial,” Callender told California Black Media. “For too long, African Americans have been subjected to the knee of injustice choking us out – in so many different ways. This verdict demonstrates that a badge is never a shield for accountability.”
Speaking from San Diego, Shane Harris, founder and president of the People’s Association of Justice, a national civil rights alliance that started in California, said the Floyd verdict represents a starting point for re-imagining policing in America through federal legislation.
“The reality is that there is a Derek Chauvin in a police department near you, and the question is whether our local, state and federal governments will step up to protect the next George Floyd from being killed in our country,” he said. 

“Chauvin had multiple complaints against him during his career on the Minneapolis Police force, but the city and the department failed to act,” he said “We will not have an Attorney General like Keith Ellison in every state going forward to press for justice like he did, which is why I call on the U.S. Senate to urgently bring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 to the Senate floor now, pass the legislation and send it to the President’s desk to sign immediately.”
After 12 hours of deliberations – as people across the country and around the globe waited in anticipation – the jury returned with the verdict that held Chauvin responsible for second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
The jury consisted of six Black or multiracial people along with six White individuals. Chauvin’s attorney requested bail, but the presiding judge denied it, and Chauvin was taken into custody.
Under Minnesota laws, Chauvin could receive a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.
California Congresswoman and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) drew some criticism on social media for a statement she made regarding the verdict. Her critics chided the Speaker for thanking Floyd for his “sacrifice,” a man who they point out was unwittingly murdered by a police officer.
Standing with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in front of the U.S. Capitol, Pelosi said, “Thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice. For being there to call out to your mom, how heartbreaking was that, call out for you mom, ‘I can’t breathe.”
“But because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice,” the Speaker said.

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Activism

Chauvin Trial Shows Need for Broad Focus on Systemic Racism

Officer’s Conviction Necessary but Not Sufficient, Greenlining Institute Says

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OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – In response to the announcement of the conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin on all three counts in the killing of George Floyd, Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann released the following statement:
“Today we experienced a small measure of justice as Derek Chauvin was convicted and the killing of George Floyd was recognized as the criminal act it was. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that one conviction of one cop for a killing the whole world witnessed on video will change a fundamentally racist and dysfunctional system. The whole law enforcement system must be rethought and rebuilt from the ground up so that there are no more George Floyds, Daunte Wrights and Adam Toledos. But even that is just a start.
“Policing doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Systemic racism exists in policing because systemic racism exists in America. We must fundamentally uproot the disease of racism in our society and create a transformative path forward.”
To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit www.greenlining.org.

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Barbara Lee

Why Barbara Lee Wore Tennis Shoes on January 6

Lee said she was thankful for the NAACP and the civil rights lawyers for bringing the lawsuit forward with members of Congress as plaintiffs.

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Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee joined a federal lawsuit on April 7 filed by the NAACP and Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson accusing Donald J. Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers of conspiring to incite a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election.

The lawsuit, initially filed in February, alleges that by preventing Congress from carrying out its official duties, Trump, Giuliani and the hate groups directly violated the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act.

NAACP president, Derrick Johnson says of Trump that he “ . . . meticulously organized [a] coup . . . that place[d] members of Congress and the integrity of our democracy in peril.”

A federal statute was passed after the Civil war to  “combat violence from the Ku Klux Klan.”  The law allows civil actions to be brought against people who use “force, intimidation, or threat” to prevent anyone from upholding the duties of their office” according to a CNN report,

Nine other members of Congress joined the suit: Karen Bass (D-CA); Steve Cohen (D-TN); Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ); Veronica Escobar (D-TX); Hank Johnson, Jr. (D-GA); Marcy Kaptur (D-OH);  Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Pramila Jayapal (D-WA); and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Lee spoke to the Post on April 14 via phone from D.C., as she was headed to see HR 40, the Reparations bill, pass committee.

Lee said she was thankful for the NAACP and the civil rights lawyers for bringing the lawsuit forward with members of Congress as plaintiffs.

She spoke of the 401-year history of violence against Blacks in this country and the importance of the lawsuit to hold people accountable for the coup d’état.

Lee was on the floor of Congress when the riots took place.  “We have to ensure that this never happens again, to protect our democracy, to protect people from dealing with violence, it’s something we are moving forward through the judiciary.”

Lee said that there were four parts of the relief sought in the civil lawsuit:  “accountability, punitive damages, redress, and injunctive relief to prevent from happening in the future.”

The lawsuit is not about Lee and others personally, it is about the attack on the democratic process, she said.

Lee has been through many near misses and close calls (she was evacuated from the House on 9/11, barely missed being blown up by a cluster bomb in the Middle East, to name just a couple) so she knew intuitively something was going to happen on January 6.  So, she wore tennis shoes to work.  “You just put two and two together, you connect the dots and you know something is going to hit the fan.  So be prepared, right?”

She applauds the Capitol police for protecting her, other members of Congress and the  country’ democracy.  “These people came in not only to stop us from doing our jobs, but they were calling the Capitol police the N word, they were fighting with them, they were trying to kill them.  It was like a war; it went on for hours.  Domestic terrorism is the highest National threat, we need to sound the alarm.  We have to fight to end the country of these insurrectionist, these traitors.”

“On Jan. 6, Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani trampled our democracy, inciting a violent mob of white supremacists to overturn a free and fair election. Though he failed in his ultimate goal, the very foundation of our democracy was shaken. We cannot just let this shameful moment in our history pass because next time, the consequences will be even graver. I am proud to stand with my colleagues and hold Donald Trump accountable for his attempt to destroy the fabric of this nation,” said Congresswoman Lee.

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