Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Conyers and Jackson Lee Praise President Obama’s Action to Commute Sentences, Continue Work to Pass Legislation to Reform Sentencing Laws

WASHINGTON- Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) released the following joint statement after the White House announced the commutation of the sentences of 61 individuals:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“We applaud the commutations announced today and commend the President’s continued commitment to using his constitutional authority to reduce sentences when appropriate.  During his time in office, he has now commuted the sentences of 248 individuals – more than the previous six presidents combined.  President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch recognize that incarcerating people for unwarranted lengths of time serves no constructive purpose and that we need to take meaningful steps, including sentencing reform, to make our criminal justice system more just and, at the same time, more effective. We are pleased to be working with them in this effort as Congress continues its bipartisan initiative to adopt legislation to address the problems of unfair sentencing and over-incarceration.” 

Visit for more information.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Double Dipping The Double Standard Of Child Poverty

It is always unfortunate for children to see their parents incarcerated, but it should be even more egregious that poor parents are not afforded the same protections of legal representation.

Parents with financial resources can negotiate placement in what is called staggering sentences, where one parent goes first in serving a sentence while the other stays free to provide for the children to serve time once the first parent is released.

Poor parents have their parental rights terminated, then are subject to child support payments, in some cases, as a way of reimbursing the state for foster care placement.

Keep in mind that parents who are poor are met with disparaging policies of mandatory sentencing.

If a state is successful in collecting child support from a parent who has had parental rights terminated, the state does not reimburse the federal funding.

This is why double dipping has two sets of legal standards for sentencing the poor.

Staggering Sentences and the Children of Incarcerated Parents

After Joe Giudice, husband to Real Housewives of New Jersey reality star Teresa, turned himself in last week to federal authorities to begin his 41-month sentence for fraud, his four daughters went home to live with his wife and co-defendant. Teresa’s home from prison because she was allowed to serve her sentence before him.
Giudice and her husband were allowed to stagger their sentences so that at least one parent was home with their daughters at all times. The instances where staggered sentences have been used reveals that they are an exercise of judicial discretion usually reserved for wealthy defendants. Often only fortunate people can keep their children out of a system where poverty and law seem to work together to separate children from incarcerated parents.
Staggered sentences came into public view when Lea Fastow, an assistant treasurer at Enron was charged with crimes alongside her husband, Andrew, a top executive at the energy company. In exchange for assistance to the Enron Task Force, Andrew served a 10-year sentence, only after wife Lea completed her one-year stint and was home to raise their two sons.
In 2013, before the Giudices, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his wife served staggered sentences for their dual role in misusing $750,000 of campaign money.
Keeping one parent out is probably the only way to keep a family intact throughout parental prison time, One reason why staggered sentences are so rare among an indigent populations is the cash bond system; anecdotally, I can see that the setup usually requires at least one parent to be out on bond already taking care of the children so they never enter foster care.
When both parents are defendants in criminal cases at the same time and both are sentenced to a term of incarceration simultaneously, they lose their rights over their children. A Child Welfare League of America 2005 case study determined that this happened in a whopping 100% of cases.
While we know that approximately 2.3 million children have at least one parent in prison, no specific data exists on how many children have lost both parents to incarceration.
From my six plus years in prison, I know that the number of children who have both parents in prison is significant. They’re not always co-defendants in the same crime; unfortunately many families’ dysfunction envelops both parents in separate crimes and both are taken away. This almost always results in a child protection agency’s becoming involved and placing the child in foster care.
While many of those foster care placements are with family - 65% of incarcerated mothers reported that their children were placed with grandparents or other relatives - a good number of them are placed with other families they don’t know.
Then the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 kicks in and sets a 15-month limit on the amount of time a child can remain in foster care; actions to terminate parental rights are supposed to commence after this time if the child’s foster care placement is with someone other than family. Considering that theaverage prison sentence is three years, termination of parental rights is practically guaranteed if the two incarcerated people’s children are not placed in “kinship foster care” - with family.
It doesn’t make sense that 100% of families with both parents incarcerated would lose parental rights. Surely some of their extended families take care of their children, even we have no formal data that indicates such placements.
The only explanation for this statistical completeness is that a child protection agenda is advanced more forcefully against prisoners than others and, when both parents are incarcerated, the targeting is doubly strong. More than twenty states permit parental rights to be terminated absent proof of parental wrongdoing that places the child in danger. These states have adopted an “impliedly bad parent“ approach. If one parent in prison is impliedly bad, then two behind bars can be explicitly disastrous, at least according to the patterns in terminating their rights.
The approach actually runs counter to the canon of family and child law. Termination should happen only when it is the last resort to protect the child.
By virtue of their separation from their children, incarcerated parents cannot pose immediate risk to their children so there is an argument that prisoners’ parental rights shouldn’t ever be severed as the corrections system goes about its task of rehabilitating them for their return to society. Conviction data shows that parents who are justice-involved are no more likely to neglect or abuse their children than those people without criminal convictions.
Of course, the unfortunate truth is that it is better for some children not to be reunited with their incarcerated parent for safety and other reasons.
But that can’t be the case in for all prisoners; their children have rights to parental relationships. In fact, it may endanger the child’s emotional well-being to terminate their parents’ rights to see and raise them.
While the effects of termination on children is surprisingly understudied, we know that approximately 50% of school age children separated from a parent who is incarcerated suffer academically, develop aggression and relate to peers in less skillfully. If that is how they react to temporary separation, imagine what will be revealed when a researcher examines the effects of permanent parental exile.
More research must be done on families with two incarcerated parents to determine if staggered sentencing should be used more often, even built into sentencing guidelines. Termination of parental rights is a shield to protect children, not a sword to punish parents, yet that is how we seem to be using the proceedings. Until we know more about two-incarcerated-parent households, the real threat to children of incarcerated parents is the justice system as it commits one of the biggest sins: using a child to achieve its own goals.

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How come foster parents do not receive equal treatment under the law?

My question is simple:  "How come foster parents do not receive equal treatment under the law?"

In this particular instance, Legally Kidnapped has illuminated a rather serious issue.

Being that an original parent who, more than likely, has had a child removed from the home and placed under the jurisdiction of the state for being poor, undocumented as an immigrant, or just in need of medical assistance, would be in violation of some form of gag order, and immediately be penalized with orders of psychological evaluations or, even in some cases, termination of parental rights, for speaking out on social media about the injustices of the application of child welfare law, why is it foster parents do not face these similar constrictions when it come to foster children?

It only takes a few classes, a criminal background check, and a home visit to qualify as a foster parent.

Oh, and one gets paid to be a foster parent, too!

For original parents who have encountered the child welfare system, there is a gauntlet of criminal background checks, and, believe it or not, background checks to see if the parents have been victims of a crime, psychiatric and psychological evaluations, parenting classes, of which are a waste of time, money and effort, and multiple levels, depending on state requirements, of hoop jumping just to meet the so-called litmus test of being found to be without any economic or moral depravity.

So why is it foster parents do not have to undergo the same level of scrutiny, illustrated in child protection law?

To answer my own question, I even created a term for it:

Why?  Because selling chattel is the oldest form of survival and these were the new guidelines of the Adoption and Safe Families Act.

The ASFA of 1997 was specifically designed to "create jobs" for individuals who lacked the skills to participate in the traditional workforce.

These new jobs were to care for the children who fell into the newly created chasm of poverty of 1996.

The following is an op-ed from our friends at Legally Kidnapped.

Legally Kidnapped

A Foster Mom Who Stalks The Facebook Pages of Real Parents

In the modern age, the internet has us all connected and people are putting too much private and personal information out there on social media accounts.  Now, thanks to a dear friend who brought this to my attention, we see even more of the harm that can come from this.

That said, I have warned time and time again against discussing the private details of your case on Facebook because it is likely that you will be retaliated against by CPS or the court.  In fact, the practice of lawyers checking the Facebook posts of the opposition for dirt has become quite common.  I've also seen this happen back in the Yahoo Groups days, when that was the big thing, but now, (and yes it's time to pick on a foster parent blog) we see that not only will CPS Agents and the lawyers stalk you, but the foster parents will too.
Okay, I admit it- I have totally Facebook stalked the parents of my foster children and/or the birthmother and birthfather of two of my children who I am not Facebook friends with.  (Please tell me I'm not the only foster parent out there who does this!) 
More >> I Foster; Therefore, I Facebook Stalk
What is the harm from this?  Well, it enables the foster parents to formulate an opinion about you.  When that happens, they'll think that it's there job to interfere with your reunification efforts, like in the recent Lexi case.  "How can CPS give this wonderful child back to that horrible bio-family when they have me to take care of them?"  A foster parent who falls in love with your child can be a very difficult obstacle to overcome.

Now it is true that this foster care provider sugar coats it by saying that she does it so she can share baby pictures with the real parents, but I'm sure her motivations are much more invasive.  Perhaps it's simply a part of her emotional justification process or perhaps it's a part of her overall scheme to undermined your reunification efforts.  Who knows?

But now we're onto her.  

So there.


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Pediatricians Launch Medicaid Fraud In Child Welfare

This is one of the most poorly penned articles I have read in quite some time regarding policies of
Families who do not get asked if they are poor by their pediatricians.

You mean to actually have me to believe that an impoverished family who takes a child to the doctor, whereby the pediatrician, who has access to the billing information to find out if the child's health insurance is covered by a Medicaid program, is now, encouraged to "ask" by a professional medical society, if the family is poor?

I smell the stench of a Medicaid fraud scheme in child welfare brewing for the benefit of this American Academy of Pediatrics because there is big money in new databases for predictive models and training for mandatory reporters.

This is the same mentality which generated the research of the 1970s to launch CAPTA, the monetization of poor children.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — In the fall, the nation's largest pediatricians' group urged its members to ask their patients if they regularly had enough to eat or ever went hungry.

Now, the same group, the American Academy of Pediatrics, is asking its 64,000 members to pose another question during doctor visits: "Do you have difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month?"

It's a simple way doctors can screen for poverty, the group says, and there are many reasons why pediatricians should care if their patients are poor.

"Poverty shortens life and it makes people ill," as children and later as adults, said Dr. James Duffee, a pediatrician with 30 years of experience who practices in Springfield, Ohio. "It influences how a child grows, even how the actual architecture of the brain develops."

Poverty's effects can be measured at birth. Kids born into poverty are more likely to be underweight and are less likely to survive the first year of life. Children living in poverty are also more likely to suffer from a number of chronic health and developmental conditions, including ear infections, obesity, diabetes, asthma, anemia, and pneumonia, inability to concentrate, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder.
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Child Poverty Skyrockets Under Michigan Emergency Manager Law

In the spirit of the kickoff for National Child Abuse Propaganda Month, which commences, appropriately on April 1st, I would like to take this time to introduce the theme for 2016 by honoring the lawmakers who make state laws which abuse and neglect children for the profit of privatized contracts of non-profits which are then funneled, under the darkness of 501c3s, for the purposes of funding political campaigns to keep the status quo, you know.

Our poster child for the 2016 child abuse propaganda month is, of course, the one and only Rick Snyder, who, in my own personal beliefs, was simply given really jacked up advice from a group of nefariously greedy, sanctimoniously arrogant, financial stakeholders, in the name of Maura Corrigan,

Before you read the independent task force report on the Flint crisis, I would like to remind the
readers that child poverty in Michigan, during the tenure of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, has substantially increased, specifically in Detroit and Flint, under the his, now, infamous, emergency manager law and the gutting of the Earned Income Tax Credit, just to name a few.

This administration needs to be held accountable for the promulgation of policies which abuse and neglect children.

Actually, the entire nation needs to held accountable for the more than 16 million children who live in poverty, and the other more than 20 million children who live just a dollar more above the poverty thresholds, in juvenile detention facilities, foster care and the ones who live in the shadows of the streets and remain uncounted.

These children will eventually grow up to become adults, if they are lucky.

Report: Child poverty rate climbs in Metro Detroit

Child poverty is on the rise, with all three Metro Detroit counties showing an increase over the past eight years, according to data released Monday by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The data, published in the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2016, revealed that Macomb County had the biggest jump among counties between 2006 and 2014, with an 8 percent increase.

In Detroit, child poverty increased 13 percent during the same period. That reflected roughly 94,000 children up to age 17 living in poverty, or 57 percent of the total child population.

Overall, child poverty went up in 80 of 83 Michigan counties, according to the data.

Task force slams Flint crisis, demands review of emergency manager law

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

House Judiciary Democrats Introduce Resolution Urging Senate to Give Full and Fair Consideration to SCOTUS Nominee Merrick Garland

Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), together with the support of all House Judiciary Democrats, introduced a resolution (below) that urges the Senate to observe regular order and to give President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court full and fair consideration and an up-or-down vote.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Judge Garland is an eminently seasoned jurist and an exemplary nominee for the Supreme Court. His deep respect for and fidelity to the Constitution and his sensitivity to the impact of the law on ordinary people make him a good choice to fill the vacancy,” said Rep. John Conyers. “Unfortunately, with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, we have seen partisan politics regarding Supreme Court nominations reach a new low.  While the House of Representatives does not have a formal say in the nomination process, it is important that its voice be heard on this important constitutional matter. I urge the House to pass my resolution and for the Senate to do its job.”

The resolution expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the Senate should fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide full and fair consideration of President Obama’s nominee for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland.

Justice Antonin Scalia passed away on February 13, 2016, leaving a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Acting pursuant to his authority under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland on March 16, 2016 to fill the vacancy with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Within hours of Justice Scalia’s passing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared that the Senate would not consider any nominee that President Obama would select, regardless of the nominee’s qualifications.  On February 23, 2016, all Republican Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter, below, to Senator McConnell in which they pledged not to hold any hearings on any person that President Obama nominated to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

“During my more than 50 years in Congress, I have witnessed few comparable examples of partisan politics and complete obstructionism.  There are too many important cases still pending before the Supreme Court to allow this vacancy to stall America’s progress. This is not the first time we have confronted this very situation, as the confirmation of Justice Anthony Kennedy by President Ronald Reagan occurred in 1988, a presidential election year,” continued Conyers. “The Senate should do its job, comply with regular order, hold fair hearings on Judge Garland’s nomination, and then hold an up-or-down vote on the nomination.” 

The resolution was introduced with the support of all Democratic Members of the House Committee on the Judiciary: Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Pedro Pierluisi (D-Res.Comm.- PR), Judy Chu (D-CA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Karen Bass (D-CA), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Susan DelBene (D-WA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), David Cicilline (D-RI), and Scott Peters (D-CA).

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Markup of H.R. 4771, the “Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2016"

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Today’s markup of H.R. 4771, the so-called “Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act of 2016,” or “HEALTH Act,” is the eleventh time since 1995 that we have considered legislation intended to deny medical malpractice victims the ability to be made whole and to hold wrongdoers accountable.

Notwithstanding the fact that this measure has repeatedly failed to become law because of its many problems, the rushed consideration and timing of this markup are not a coincidence.  We are taking up this bill because the Majority cannot keep its Members together on what to do about the federal budget.   

To begin with, H.R. 4771 is a solution in search of a non-existent problem.

Although the bill’s proponents claim too many medical malpractice lawsuits are driving up medical malpractice premiums, the facts do not support this claim.

It is not the frequency of litigation or the size of jury awards that determines medical malpractice insurance premiums.  Rather, insurance premiums are largely driven by the investment practices of insurance companies that invest premium dollars for maximum return. 

So, when the stock market plummets or interest rates drop, insurers sharply increase premiums and reduce coverage. H.R. 4771 does nothing to address this boom-and-bust cycle in the investment practices of the insurance industry.

And, it does nothing to address the McCarran-Ferguson Act’s unjustified antitrust exemption for the “business of insurance,” repeal of which would go a long way towards stabilizing the medical malpractice insurance market. There is simply no evidence that premiums are going up because of malpractice lawsuits. While not addressing a real harm, this bill would cause real harm by severely limiting the ability of victims to be made whole.

For instance, it imposes an unjustifiably low cap on noneconomic damages.
The bill’s $250,000 limit for noneconomic damages – an amount established more than 40 years ago pursuant to a California statute – would have a disparately adverse impact on women, children, the poor, and other vulnerable members of society.

These groups are more likely to receive noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases because they are less able to establish lost wages and other economic losses. For instance, women recover lower amounts in economic damages than men because they receive lower overall wages, and, not surprisingly, they are 3 times more likely than men to receive noneconomic damages. 

Women are also more likely to suffer noneconomic loss, like disfigurement or loss of fertility, or to be the victim of conduct that is likely to lead to punitive damages, such as sexual assault.
These harms are furthered heightened by the bill’s new burdens on proving punitive damages and its expansive application to all “health care lawsuits,” not just medical malpractice suits. Whatever the short term savings, the bill would impose broad social and financial costs in the long term, including the additional strains on Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs caused when malpractice victims are denied full restitution.

Finally, the bill represents a deep intrusion into state sovereignty. As any first-year law student knows, tort law is supposed to be the domain of states.

Yet this bill preempts medical malpractice and product liability law in all 50 states to protect insurance companies, providers, and pharmaceutical manufacturers at the expense of victims.

Accordingly, I strongly oppose H.R. 4771 for these and many more reasons and urge the Committee to reject this bill.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Conyers, Goodlatte, Upton, and Pallone Announce Bipartisan Encryption Working Group

Encryption a Top Issue for House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce Committees

Dean of the U.S. House
'of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Washington, D.C.  – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today announced the creation of an encryption working group to examine the complicated legal and policy issues surrounding encryption. The group will identify potential solutions that preserve the benefits of strong encryption – including the protection of Americans’ privacy and information security - while also ensuring law enforcement has the tools needed to keep us safe and prevent crime. The House Judiciary Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee have primary jurisdiction over encryption and the issues it presents for citizens, law enforcement, and American technology companies.

Members of the working group are:

Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
Darrell Issa (R-CA)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
Bill Johnson (R-OH)
Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
Joe Kennedy (D-MA)

Chairmen Goodlatte and Upton and Ranking Members Conyers and Pallone will serve as ex officio members of the working group and released the following joint statement:

“The widespread use of strong encryption is important to protecting Americans’ privacy.  We also recognize that challenges remain for law enforcement agencies seeking to disrupt criminals and terrorists from doing us harm. The bipartisan encryption working group will examine the issues surrounding this ongoing national debate. Members will work toward finding solutions that allow law enforcement agencies to fulfill their responsibility without harming the competitiveness of the U.S. technology sector or the privacy and security that encryption provides for U.S. citizens. We look forward to continuing our work on this important issue facing our country.”

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Michigan emergency manager law targeted in congressional bill

DETROIT, MI -- Democrats in Congress on Thursday introduced a bill seeking to hinder emergency management policies that give far-reaching power over local governments to state appointees.

Former Michigan Emergency Manager Darnell Earley
U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, introduced the bill with support from 30 other Democrats, including Michigan Reps. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Twp., and Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield.

The Emergency Financial Manager Reform Act would give the U.S. Attorney General authority to withhold law enforcement funding from states where an state-appointed emergency manager rejects collective bargaining agreements or other contractual agreements without local consent.

The law would also allow funding to the be withheld if an emergency manager "fails to protect against... discriminatory impact on voting rights, harm to public health or safety, conflicts of interest, mismanagement, and abuse of discretion," according to Conyers' office.

It would allow states to be stripped of up to 5 percent of funds allocated under the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program.

"We cannot undo the damage already done by the lead-poisoned water in Flint or fix the harm already caused by the hazardous conditions in Detroit's public schools," Conyers said in a statement.

"But we can stand together and make sure the unaccountable emergency managers responsible for these disasters – and the legal system that empowered them – are not permitted to inflict further harm on our citizens or our constitutional rights."

Michigan's powerful emergency manager law has placed state appointees in control of Detroit, Pontiac, Flint, Ecorse, Hamtramck, Allen Park Lincoln Park and Benton Harbor in recent years.
Each of those cities have since transitioned out of emergency management and remain under oversight of financial advisory boards.

Emergency managers remain in the school districts of Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights.
"Sadly one only has to look at my hometown of Flint, Michigan, to see the dangerous consequences of emergency financial managers," said Kildee in a statement.

"It was decisions by such unelected emergency financial managers that led to the current water crisis in Flint. They are entirely bottom-line focused, bringing a failed philosophy to government that puts saving money at any cost ahead of the livelihood of people. Under Michigan's current laws, democracy is suspended in cities like Flint in favor of absolute power in the hands of emergency financial managers."

Detroit schools have been under emergency management since 2009, and the district is now seeking $715 million from the state legislature to relieve it of burdensome debt built up over years of state control.

But state control over Detroit city government in 2013 and 2014 has faced less criticism, with the city being relieved of $7 billion in debt after a bankruptcy case that was led by an emergency manager.
A message seeking comment on the bill was left with Gov. Rick Snyder's office.
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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Congressman John Conyers to Join National Action Network for Press Conference To Urge Congressional Action on the Flint Water Crisis

Immediately following the testimony of Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder before the House Oversight Committee, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Williams will join families from Flint, Michigan that have been impacted by the water crisis to call for a greater Congressional response.

WASHINGTON – Tomorrow, March 17, 2016, U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) will join the National Action Network in urging Congressional action to resolve the Flint water crisis and to announce introduction of legislation to reform the Michigan Emergency Financial Manager law.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
WHO:  U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13)
Rev. Al Sharpton, President and Founder of National Action Network
Rev. Charles Williams, President of National Action Network Michigan Chapter
Families from Flint, Michigan affected by water crisis

WHAT:  Press conference to announce introduction of , Al legislation to reform the MI Emergency Financial Manager law and urge Congressional action to resolve the Flint water crisis.

WHEN:  Thursday, March 17, 2016 – NOON

WHERE:  House TriangleU.S. Capitol Complex (map)
*Please note the House Triangle is adjacent to the intersection of Independence Avenue and South Capitol Street SE. *

All media is invited to attend/cover the press conference. For any specific questions, please reach out to Stephanie Báez at(202) 999 – 9699.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Conyers and Cohen Urge Senate to Hold a Vote on SCOTUS Nominee Merrick Garland

WASHINGTON – Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice Ranking Member Steve Cohen (D-TN) released the following statement after President Obama announced D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland as nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Fulfilling his constitutional duty to nominate justices to the Supreme Court, President Obama has nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.  The Senate should now fulfill its responsibility by giving its full and fair consideration to the President’s nomination.

“Judge Garland is an eminently seasoned jurist who has all the qualities that make him an upstanding nominee for the Supreme Court.  His unquestioned intellect, long judicial experience, and even temperament are widely admired and respected.  His deep respect for and fidelity to the Constitution and the law and his sensitivity to the impact of the law on ordinary people make him an optimal choice.

“Leaving a vacancy on the Supreme Court for a prolonged period would be irresponsible. Such a prolonged vacancy would impair the Supreme Court’s ability to fulfill its role and leave many critical constitutional and legal questions subject to only lower-level court review.

“The American people twice elected President Obama to fulfill the duties of the presidency, including the duty to nominate Supreme Court justices.  President Obama has fulfilled that duty, and now it is incumbent upon the Senate to give Judge Garland a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote. It is what the American people deserve and expect of their elected officials.”

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Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member, for the Markup of H.R. 4731, the ‘‘Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act,”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
We are in the midst of a global refugee crisis.  There are currently more displaced people – approximately 60 million – than at any time since World War II. 

They are in refugee camps in Africa.  They are on boats, in trains, and traveling by foot from the Middle East to Europe.  And they are coming to our border from Central America.  These are the world's most vulnerable, many of them women and children.

Unfortunately, the Majority's answer to this crisis is H.R. 4731, a bill that would reduce refugee admissions to the United States by nearly one third, deem all refugees suspect, and effectively build walls around entire communities.

First, H.R. 4731 would impose an arbitrarily low cap on the number of refugees permitted to be resettled each year and would transfer the authority to establish the annual refugee admissions ceiling from the President to Congress.  Doing so, would tie the hands of the President, making it difficult – if not impossible – for him or her to utilize the refugee program to respond in a time of war or other crisis. 

As a result, those fleeing persecution will be turned away because we have reached an arbitrary level that is far below what is needed, what we can do, and what other countries - including Germany and Canada - are doing.

In addition, H.R. 4731 would erect new, costly and ineffective hurdles for those seeking to start a new life in America and would deem all refugees suspect.

It authorizes surveillance monitoring and additional security checks for all refugees without cause and for no other reason than having arrived legally through the refugee program.  It stigmatizes refugees as potential criminals.  It is simply un-American to treat those fleeing persecution, who want nothing more than to start a new life in safe and welcoming communities, as potential criminals.

Finally, this legislation would effectively wall off entire communities from refugee resettlement by empowering governors and local legislatures to block to block the resettlement of refugees.  We know that the U.S. refugee program relies on support from state and local governments, as well as faith-based and other non-governmental organizations.  Without them, it just doesn’t work.

In my home state, I opposed the governor when he tried to exclude Syrian refugees from being resettled in Michigan.  And I am pleased he has backtracked.

In closing, I would note that this is not a serious attempt to legislate.  A draft of H.R. 4731 was just made available to Members on Monday, there have been no legislative hearings or even the opportunity for input from the Administration or organizations that are best equipped to understand how such sweeping changes will affect refugees. 

Instead, I suspect this is just another political exercise to play on our worst fears – similar to the divisive and dangerous rhetoric being used by certain political candidates.

I have watched with dismay as the leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination talks of building a wall and closing our country to Muslims.  I know the Muslim community in and around my district.  These are hard-working, family-oriented people of faith.  Their dreams are the same as immigrants who came before them – safety and protection from oppression, educational opportunities for their children, and a better life for those willing to work for it. 

H.R. 4731 would have us turn our back on those in most need of refugee resettlement.  It is inconsistent with the letter and spirit of U.S. and international refugee law. Accordingly, I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing this mean spirited legislation and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Is It Time for Reparations?

How do we heal the wounds of slavery in the U.S.?

Posted by AJ+ on Tuesday, March 8, 2016
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Michigan's Dark Secret: Nestle', Free Water And A Legal Defense

Just in case anyone wants to know how Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is, more than likely, funding his Public Relations Image Anti-Prosecution Campaign and his soon-to-be Legal Defense Fund, well, here, I present to the public, the source of the dark money.

The Great Lakes of Michigan!

Yes, that is correct.  The Great Lakes State is here for the privatized picking.

Water is free for corporations, but not for Flint.

The next time you hear someone complaining about poor people getting free water, just tell them Nestle', a Swiss transnational corporation, does.

Nestle' gets free water, Snyder gets a legal defense, and poor people get poisoned.

I truly hope the state and federal investigations look into Michigan's dark money in non-profits.

Look How Nestle Profits By Taking Michigan Water For Free As Flint Pays A FORTUNE For Poison

The residents of Flint, Michigan have been poisoned, some irrevocably, by a long, intentional brutalization brought about by Republican governance. Even after the extent of this act of terror was made apparent in the national media, forcing Republicans to cower and scurry in fear, residents are still being forced by these same legislators to pay the highest water rates in the entire country while they continue to be forced to use poisoned water.
Who is this person you ask? It’s the Nestle corporation. Remember how they are now people too? Nestle is pumping 200 gallons per minute of clean water from aquifers that feed Lake Michigan under a permit granted by the state in the early 2000’s. What’s even more grossly offensive is what Nestle pays – or rather doesn’t pay – for this privilege. They don’t pay anything for the actual extraction of water. They pay a $5000 permitting fee to the state and lease a portion of land from a private landowner for housing their facility. It gets even better, though, because not only do they get this sweetheart deal – they’re also given $13 million in tax breaks and giveaways by the state for deigning Mescota County worthy of their corporate benevolence by “creating jobs” with their facility.

Not only do state Republicans force an average resident of Flint Michigan to pay nearly $1000 a year for poisonous water, but they give away clean water for free so that a corporation can sell it back to the people they took it from for a HUGE profit. In an entire year, Nestle pays approximately .000048 dollars per gallon of water that they then resell for millions of dollars in free profits on top of the millions of dollars they don’t pay in taxes.

Nestle’s spokesperson in Michigan is Deborah Muchmore. She is the wife of Dennis Muchmore, who was the chief of staff for the lead-poisoning terrorist Michigan governor, Rick Snyder. Dennis recently retired from Snyder’s office in order to become a lobbyist. I am sure that Michigan Republicans will find some of the billions in yearly profits from Nestle in their re-election campaigns soon, rather than having money diverted to alleviate the suffering of the people of Flint.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Michigan Governor Snyder Preps For Prosecution

Never fear!

Rick Snyder has a PAC and a 501c3 to sucker money for his image repair campaign for what he believes to be formidable, unjust criminal charges, so I am sure it is only a matter of filing the paperwork to start funneling his dark money into a legal defense fund.

The great Frank Kelley has spoken.

One reason why Snyder's legal fees are so expensive, even before there are indictments, is because he knows he lied and then tried to monetize the situation while covering it up by throwing his cabinet folks under the bus with those darn Type III transfers and selling the emergency manager down the river.

I truly hope Flood and Arena go deep on him and look at state contracts, not just with construction, but also in human services.

Human service programs, particularly child welfare, are privatized, meaning that these programs are exempt and excluded from public scrutiny.

Oh, and by the way, where in the hell is Maura Corrigan?

Former AG Kelley: Snyder's outside legal fees too pricey

LANSING — The nation’s longest-serving state attorney general said Monday it was against the
policy of his office to pay for outside criminal attorneys for state officials and the $800,000 in criminal defense legal fees Gov. Rick Snyder is requesting in connection with the Flint drinking water crisis appear excessive.

"If I was you, I would say it is exorbitant," former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley said in a telephone interview from Florida. "Why not? It is exorbitant."

Kelley, a Democrat, said that during his 37 years as attorney general, from late 1961 through 1998, if a state official was facing a criminal investigation for official actions, his office would provide legal assistance but would not approve funds for outside attorneys.

If a state official was charged with a crime, no state-funded legal representation would be provided unless the official was acquitted, Kelley said.

"A crime is against the people of the state, so you could not pay to defend the crime with the people's money," Kelley told the Free Press.

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler has said the Republican governor has not committed any crimes but needs the legal expertise of Warner Norcross & Judd because of ongoing investigations by the U.S. Attorney's office and the state Attorney General's office and because the firm's lawyers and paralegals have the ability to review and process massive amounts of records in the way the investigators want to receive them. Adler also defended a proposed $400,000 contract for civil defense work with Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker, saying the large volume of civil lawsuits filed in connection with the Flint water crisis is too much for the Attorney General's office to handle.

The two contracts, together worth up to $1.2 million, are up for approval today at the State Administrative Board, though Adler said Monday the approval appears to be a formality because the governor's office is exempt from a requirement that contracts worth $250,000 or more be submitted to the public body.

Kelley said there was one instance during his time in office when the state agreed to pay for criminal defense fees for a state official after the fact. Norman Berkowitz, a deputy in the Secretary of State’s  office, was indicted for mail fraud in 1979 in connection with a case involving an award for the design of a license plate but was later acquitted.

Flint's drinking water became contaminated with lead in April 2014 while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has acknowledged it failed to require the addition of needed corrosion-control chemicals when the city switched its drinking water supply to the Flint River from Lake Huron water supplied by Detroit. As a result, lead leached from pipes, joints and fixtures, sending unsafe levels of the toxic metal into an unknown number of Flint households. Officials are also investigating possible links between the Flint River water and outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease that are linked to nine deaths.
Looking nationally, Snyder’s request for the state to cover up to $1.2 million in legal fees for criminal and civil investigations into the Flint drinking water crisis is unusual but not unprecedented.

For example, Texas Gov. Rick Perry charged taxpayers $80,000 for criminal defense attorneys while he was being investigated in an abuse-of-power case related to his actions as governor, then switched to paying his lawyers from his campaign and political action committee funds after he was indicted in 2014.

Those legal fees eventually grew to about $2.5 million before all charges were dismissed against Perry related to allegations he used his budgetary veto power to try to coerce a state official to resign after a drunken-driving conviction, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Geary Reamey, a law professor at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, said even the $80,000 Perry charged to taxpayers was controversial.

"At the time, it was noted by people on both sides of the issue (that) if this was not unprecedented, it was certainly a very rare occurrence," Reamey said Monday. "Gov. Perrry was criticized."

Many interpret state law in Texas to say no public funds can be spent in defense of a criminal case against a public official that ends in a conviction, he said.

Looking at Snyder's bills, Reamey said that $800,000 is "a lot of money to spend to spend on defense at the investigation stage," and "what a lawyer can do at that period is somewhat limited."

In New Jersey, the law firm Gov. Chris Christie hired to handle investigations related to "Bridgegate" — allegations that his top aides blocked lanes to the busy George Washington Bridge as an act of revenge against a mayor who did not endorse him — cost taxpayers $7.3 million by September 2014, the New York Post reported.

Under Michigan state civil service rules, employees named in civil suits for actions arising out of their employment are entitled to legal representation at state expense.

The state "is not required to provide legal services at state expense in connection with prosecution of a criminal suit against an employee," the rules say.

Adler noted that while state-funded legal representation related to criminal investigations is not required, it is permitted.

Margaret Lynch, a retired Detroit special education teacher who lives in Royal Oak, said it's appalling that Snyder wants taxpayers to foot the bill for his legal fees.

"Michigan schools are suffering terribly, and he's going to make taxpayers, who need this money for their schools, for our children, pay for his defense," Lynch said. "It's just wrong."

House Minority Leader Tim Greimel said Monday that Democrats will try to strip at least $800,000 from Snyder's $5.6-million office budget unless the governor withdraws the requested legal contracts.
Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said in a telephone news conference that Snyder should raise money through a legal defense fund to cover the outside fees and not make taxpayers foot the bill. He called on Snyder to withdraw the contract approval requests and said the $800,00 in fees related to criminal investigations is "the most egregious part of this."

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