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Victory in Rivera v. Douglas!

A superior court judge has ruled in favor of Medi-Cal applicants forced to wait for more than 45 days for an eligibility determination.  Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ruled Friday that the California Department of Health Care Services must process all applicants within 45 days, as required by state law.  The court held that the State may comply with that order, as it complied with an earlier preliminary injunction, by providing temporary benefits to persons who are likely eligible.  The State must also notify all those whose applications have been delayed the specific reasons for the delay and that they have a right to a hearing.

As you may remember, the lead plaintiff in Rivera v. Douglas is the mother of a Medi-Cal applicant who received retroactive approval for Medi-Cal a few months after dying of a preventable ailment.  At the time the suit was originally filed, there were hundreds of thousands of people with severely backlogged Medi-Cal applications.

The State has not indicated whether or not they plan to appeal.

State of Inequality: California’s Vanishing Middle Class and What We Can Do to Rebuild It

Presented by Capital & Main, Western Center on Law & Poverty and UFCW Western States Council Featuring

Professor Manuel Pastor

Director, USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and Co-Director, USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII)

Gary Cohn

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Investigative Reporter, Capital & Main

Jessica Bartholow

     Western Center on Law & Poverty

Plus: Testimony from California residents on the real impacts of economic inequality

Wednesday, September 2

UC Center Sacramento
1130 K Street, Suite LL22
Sacramento, CA 95814

This spring, the online news site Capital & Main published a month-long series on the broad economic and social impacts of inequality in California. “State of Inequality” offered one of the most comprehensive portraits of how economic disparity is reshaping life in the Golden State, and what steps can be taken to rebuild our vanishing middle class. This event will bring the findings of that series directly to lawmakers and their staff.

State of Inequality: California’s Vanishing Middle Class and What We Can Do to Rebuild It- PDF flyer



U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Texas Department of Housing v. The Inclusive Communities Project

Western Center applauds the Inclusive Communities Project and its counsel on securing last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Texas Department of Housing v. The Inclusive Communities Project which preserves the disparate impact doctrine as a tool for combating housing discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

Western Center, with lead amici counsel the Equal Justice Society, and co-counsel Legal Services of Northern California, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, PC, and Rachel Godsil of Seton Hall Univ. School of Law, submitted a brief on behalf of social scientists from around the country whose research and scholarship focuses on how implicit and unconscious bias can lead to discriminatory outcomes based on race and other protected categories.

The brief asserts that despite the persistence of intentional discrimination and overt expressions of racial hatred, as evidenced horrifically by the recent mass shooting in Charleston, most discrimination today operates on a unconscious or hidden level and that disparate impact is critical to revealing and remedying the effects of such discrimination.

For what appears to be the first time, the Supreme Court acknowledged this phenomenon finding that “[r]ecognition of disparate-impact liability under the FHA also plays a role in uncovering discriminatory intent: It permits plaintiffs to counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment. In this way disparate-impact liability may prevent segregated housing patterns that might otherwise result from covert and illicit stereotyping.”Slip op at 21.

Western Center is proud of its contribution to preserving disparate impact as a means by which Californians and people around the country segregated and marginalized by non-intentional housing discrimination can enforce the protections of the Fair Housing Act.


Dick Rothschild, Director of Litigation, received the Kutak-Dodds award in Washington D.C

We are truly honored to work with a legal services legend!  Dick Rothschild, our Director of Litigation, received the Kutak-Dodds award at last week’s NLADA (National Legal Aid & Defender Association) Exemplar Award Dinner in Washington DC.  This prestigious recognition celebrates individuals and law firms that have demonstrated outstanding leadership, vision, dedication and achievement in promoting and supporting equal justice.  His career-long dedication to civil legal aid has inspired countless individuals within the equal justice community, including the nearly 500 guests in attendance at the event.  We are extremely proud and congratulate him on his exceptional accomplishments.


Health Care Coverage For Hundreds Of Thousands of Seniors, Low-income Families And Immigrants Protected

Western Center and co-counsel sued the State in Korean Community Center of the East Bay v. Douglas on behalf of vulnerable immigrants, seniors and low-income families seeking to navigate the complicated annual Medi-Cal determination process and two community organizations serving them.  The suit alleges that hundreds of thousands of people will lose health coverage because the State only sent out English language notices, failed to notify clients of their right to “cure” or have their Medi-Cal reinstated if they provide missing eligibility information in time, and failed to implement a the legally required eligibility review process. Co-counsel are Neighborhood Legal Services, Legal Aid Foundation of LA; Bay Area Legal Aid; Asian American Advancing Justice; and Kirkland and Ellis.

In denying defendant’s Motion for Reconsideration, the Court kept in place the preliminary injunction, mandating that no county can send a Notice of Action (NOA), terminating Medi-Cal coverage due to missing eligibility information without explicitly describing the 90-day cure right and without explaining what information is missing from the application.  The preliminary injunction says that Medi-Cal benefits “may continue and will not be interrupted” if the beneficiary turns in the information within 90 days of the termination date.


Not Just a Ferguson Problem- How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California

Low-income Californians are being disproportionately impacted by state laws and procedures related to driver’s license suspensions. Due to increased fines and fees and reduced access to courts, more than four million Californians have suspended drivers licenses. These suspensions make it harder for people to get and keep jobs, harm credit ratings and raise public safety concerns. Ultimately they keep people in long cycles of poverty that are difficult if not impossible for many to overcome. This report highlights the impacts on families, how the problem happens and what can and should be done to rectify it.

Read the full report here

CA Agency Restricts Access to Critical Aid for Domestic Violence Survivors and Their Children

Velma M. was pregnant, homeless, and on the run with her four children. It had taken all the courage she had to end the nightmare of abuse she had ensured at the hand of her former partner. But now Velma was experiencing another kind of nightmare- living in a car with her children and staying up all night to protect them. She had escaped the violence, but her family was more vulnerable than ever.

Read more here

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013–2014 Term: Both Divided and Unanimous, by Mona Towatao

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013–2014 Term demonstrated an ideological divide in a slew of 5-to-4 decisions, notably Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, impeding access to health care. Sixty-five percent of the decisions this Term were unanimous, some decided on narrow grounds, many implicating access to federal courts. These decisions included rulings on class actions, standard of review, contractual statutes of limitation, preemption, finality of judgments, and timeliness of appeal.

Read more here