2017-2018 PISLAP Events

Dear PISLAP Community,

Hoping this note finds you all well! and if you haven't yet had a chance to read our very dynamic recent Pislap newsletter, please go back and open it. It has some wonderful pieces, and also an announcement of the dates for our next conference, which will be in Washington, D,C, October 14-17, 2018.

We are delighted to announce our 2017-2018 PISLAP Conference call series. Below are the names of our presenters, the general subject matter of their presentation, as well as the dates.  When the date for each gets closer, we will send out an updated announcement with more information about the call.

In addition, for those of you who live in New York City, and are not on our local PISLAP list, I wanted to let you know that we will be gathering for a PISLAP Community dinner this Wednesday evening, October 18th, at 6:30pm at the Niles restaurant, located at 371 7th Avenue, New York, NY.  You are welcome to join us. You can rsvp by replying to contactpislap@gmail.com

Conference call Series

November 28th at 6pm eastern
Deborah Cantrell
Deborah will speak on how her Buddhist practice informs her social activism, teaching and writing
October 31st at 6pm eastern
Pamela Donison
Pamela will speak about the transformative potential of collaborative law, and how it is developing on a national and international level
January 18th at 6pm eastern
Elaine Quinn and Mothiur Rahman from England
Elaine (http://www.theconsciouslawyer.co.uk/) and Mothiur (http://www.communitychartering.org/the-team) (https://www.facebook.com/theconsciouslawyeruk/posts/1700695860243617)
Elaine and Mothiur will speak about: Looking at the U.K. What is hopeful in terms of the unfolding of a values based / spiritual perspective in their approach to law and shifts in the legal culture
February 6th at 1pm eastern (please note the change in time)
Shari Motro
Reading and discussion led in circle by Shari Motro, live from Jerusalem
April 12th at 6pm eastern time
Peter Gabel
Peter will be discussing his new about to be published book
“The Desire for Mutual Recognition: Social Movements and the Dissolution of the False Self”
May 7th at 6pm eastern time
Perry Saidman and D.C. folks
On the 2018 PISLAP conference

Nanette Schorr
for the Pislap team

Notes from the Desk of Perry Saidman: Restorative DC is Off and Running

By Perry Saidman

Restorative DC was organized a few months ago with the goal of bringing restorative practices into DC schools.  Here is a summary progress report.

•Schools - We are working with the following 5 schools this year:

◦Ballou High School

◦Hart Middle School(the feeder school for Ballou)

◦Luke C. Moore High School

◦Maya Angelou Public Charter High School

◦Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC) – Middle School and High School

Highlights - Training and Circles

◦Advanced Restorative Justice and circles training (3 days) has been provided to District of Columbia Public School’s central staff and select staff from Ballou

◦Introductory training (2 days) has been held for school personnel from Ballou, Hart, Stanton, and Johnson  

◦Introductory training (1 day) for Restorative Practices in the classroom has been provided to Ballou teachers

◦Peer mediation training (2 days) has been held for 50 students at CHEC

◦Student circles have been held for 9th grade student orientation at Ballou

◦Restorative conferencing facilitator training has been conducted for the DC Office of the Attorney General staff, Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services staff, and a representative from the Mayor's office.

Two responsive restorative circles have been facilitated at Ballou and CHEC.

Highlights - Partnership with the DC Office of the Attorney General

◦We have been working closely with Seema Gajwani from the Office of the Attorney General to support a pilot to reduce the number of on-school arrests and suspensions at Ballou. Attorney General Carl Racine is committed to reforming the juvenile justice system and wants to focus on Ballou since they have some of the worst numbers in the city. Seema is the point person from his office and she is amazing. Restorative DC is providing significant training and technical assistance to plan and implement this pilot.

Highlights - Building the Restorative DC Team

We finalized the purchase orders with the Office of the Superintendent of Schools for Education (OSSE) and the DC Public Schools for FY15 funds. We have begun negotiating with OSSE for FY16 funds and believe we will be able to get more than anticipated.

◦We are developing an evaluation plan and data collection process, Restorative DC outreach materials, team norms and reporting tools, etc.

Overall, the RCD Implementation team has gotten a great deal accomplished in the last two months. The Advisory Committee for RDC, facilitated by Perry Saidman, is beginning to think about longer term funding and organizational development.


Setting My Intentions As An Integrative Lawyer

By Shoshanna Silverberg

I find myself at what feels like bizarre crossroads.  On the one hand, I have just completed what was one of the more challenging projects I’ve ever taken on — law school.  This accomplishment came on the heels of years spent engaging in political advocacy at the grassroots and state level.  On the heels of teaching yoga and meditation (self-care) to a variety of folks, from “at-risk” youth and human services professionals to legislators and their staff.  And, on the heels of having completed a first degree, a Master of Arts in Holistic Thinking.  The rub for me, in any of the ways that I assert my intellect and my spirit, is how to bring a sensitivity, an awareness, of thought as well as of feeling, into any realm of decision-making we as individuals and communities are involved in.

The crossroads I am at has emerged like a Frostian divergence in the wilderness of life after law school.  Something inside of me has preferred a firm NO to practicing law, at least in the sense that we tend to understand legal practice traditionally.  That is, the type that requires a license.  Many times I have wished that a YES flowed more freely from me, so that I could embrace a path in the field of law which allowed me to fit more easily into the various compartments that conventional legal practice affords new graduates.  I have wanted, with what feels like all of my heart, to again, fit into what has been done before.  That I have been unable (so far at least) to answer yes is part of the crossroads.  It allows me to avoid traveling down a path that I have observed being full of misery and lack of gratification for so many lawyers.  It has also allowed me to take a pause and really intuit, really study, where it is I am intending, in my heart AND my mind, to travel next.  But there are questions that have been raised in this in-between space of feeling like I am following my legal path and feeling like I am refusing to follow a legal path all at the same time.

See, what I have chosen to “do” with myself since leaving school is work for a start-up specializing in business consulting and fundraising for enterprises in the legal cannabis space.  I am a personal assistant to be exact.  I am learning about hedge funds and what it means to, quite literally, be building an economic empire.  It is not what I ever imagined I would be doing with my degrees and my convictions and my life experience which has largely so far been grounded in the work of nonprofits.

I can say that I love my boss.  I love my company.  I am exposed to fascinating legal and political controversies every day.  I am learning, slowly but surely, how to bring the stock market into my understandings of economics and am developing a limited but real vocabulary of terms from the field of finance.  It all seems like very valuable information when I consider the possibilities for a sharing economy in an emerging industry.  It’s very exciting when I dream about how the profit that is going to be made form legalized cannabis could be leveraged to facilitate healing (via, for instance, restorative justice programs) in communities where the War on Drugs has wreaked the most havoc over a period of decades.  And yet, there is still some fear in me.  Fear about whether it is okay that I am on what feels like a side of something — a side that. traditionally speaking, has been perceived by those of us in the activist community as being diametrically opposed to the aspirations we have for attaining a truly beloved community (encompassing access to health and prosperity for all).  I guess I am experiencing an identity crisis in a way.  And this identity crisis, or the experience of that, is what I want to highlight in this issue of PISLAP’s newsletter.

There is more I could share here from a personal perspective.  I could share examples of times when I feel like my talents at facilitating dialogue about matters of the heart and mind are being overlooked or undercapitalized on because the demands of my job require me to focus on details that are “below” the type of change I am ultimately concerned with helping our integrative law movement to birth.  There is nagging frustration because a part of me fears that I have signed up for something that is not really a match for my values, and that because of this, I am keeping myself from making the kind of difference I feel capable of making in the world.  And yet, there seems to be a fairly simple lesson in patience and ego there — the trickier thing, the root of this fear, is what I’ve described above: the experience of this as a crossroads and the inner-conflict about identity which seems to accompany any choice that we as human beings make when it falls away from or outside the predicted parameters for our courses of travel in life.  For me, this has to do with making choices that feel like they are taking me away from activism, and trusting my gut — that what I am learning on “the other side” is going to give me what I need to not only help change society, but open up the field of law.

**This post is being re-posted from its original version on Shoshanna's blog HolisticToolKit.com.

Fostering Connection and Collaboration for Restorative Justice in New York

By Mika Dashman

In early January 2015, I organized a public forum on Restorative Justice in New York City at the New York County Lawyers Association. The event featured eight speakers from a range of non-profit organizations and one city agency that are utilizing restorative practices in their work with young men of color facing felony charges in Brooklyn criminal court, people serving long sentences in state prison, school safety officers, people on probation, youth in the Bronx and others. Nearly 120 people came out on one of the coldest nights of the year to attend the forum and they were still lined up to ask questions at 9:00PM when the bar association closed. But what was perhaps most extraordinary about the event, was that it marked the first time that many of the panelists were meeting and hearing about each other’s work.

That event cemented my resolve to create more opportunities for New Yorkers to learn about and experience restorative practices, while fostering more connection and collaboration within the local restorative practitioner community. To that end, in February 2015, I incorporated Restorative Justice Initiative and began building a web presence (www.restorativejustice.nyc). During the start-up phase, support from PISLAP’s David Lerman Memorial Fund was indispensible. In June 2015, the Fund for the City of New York invited Restorative Justice Initiative to join their highly selective non-profit incubator program.

When I began this endeavor, I had a contact list of approximately 30 restorative practitioners in the New York-metropolitan area. Over the past year we have built a network of 500 local restorative practitioners and supporters. We have begun organizing diverse groups of stakeholders—representing community groups, schools, and the criminal justice sector—in different boroughs, who meet regularly to discuss shared goals for building the restorative justice movement in New York City. We have also formed an advisory board, currently representing 12 organizations and individuals working in the fields of education, mediation, corrections, criminology, youth empowerment and advocacy, and juvenile justice policy. This group will convene two to four times annually to develop a city-wide strategy for increasing the visibility and availability of restorative practices.

Central to our community-building strategy is the email list and social media platforms through which we distribute information about upcoming events, trainings, articles of interest, plus employment and funding opportunities. We recently distributed an online survey to collect feedback on our communications strategy, to which nearly 100 people responded. These efforts have ensured excellent turnout for events, full-enrollment in trainings, and the most qualified applicants being matched with jobs in the field.     

It’s clear that momentum is building around restorative practices in New York City. Over the course of this year, two different schools in the City University system hosted well-attended, restorative justice-themed conferences.  In addition, two pilot projects were launched to roll out restorative practices in 19 New York City public schools. We believe that as people continue to connect and forge relationships across boroughs and across sectors, these opportunities will expand. In the meantime, Restorative Justice Initiative will continue to serve as the City’s restorative clearinghouse and connecting hub.  

Realizing Rev. Martin Luther King's vision for building "the beloved community""

By Susan Brooks

Planning is well underway for the Second Annual PISLAP Conference, which will be held at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, in Philadelphia, PA.

The conference will provide a forum for legal practitioners, community activists and legal educators who share a desire to realize the late Rev. Martin Luther King's vision for building "the beloved community."

Conference themes will include:

Restorative Justice
Racial Justice
Community Engagement and Community Lawyering
Law and Mindfulness
Transformative Dispute Resolution
Lawyers as Changemakers/Law as a Healing Profession

Throughout the conference our aim will be to focus on the intersections among and integration of spirituality, law, and politics. Also, we will try to ensure program elements related to spirituality are as inclusive as possible, and hope to create an atmosphere where all participants can feel comfortable with the ways spirituality is presented, regardless of their own viewpoints or practices.

In terms of the conference design, one distinctive feature is our plan to devote much of the day on Saturday to allowing participants to explore a topic of their choice in greater depth using a workshop format.  Workshops on a select number of topics connected to the conference themes will be offered, and small groups of participants will be able to attend several sessions together over the course of the day.

Other aspects of the conference design will include opportunities for a broader group of participants to lead a discussion or present information about their work or interests.  The final plans will depend in large part on responses we receive to a forthcoming Request for Proposals (to be sent out in early December) and input from local community members, which we are also incorporating into the planning process.  We anticipate that such opportunities may include a poster session, table talks, shorter (TED Talk-like) presentations, or possibly “Open Space Technology,” which would allow more spontaneous offerings.  We are aiming toward allowing a large number of participants to be included as “presenters,” which we understand is often tied to funding and attendance.  Incorporating a session or sessions of this nature would also create more space during the conference for people to share and hear about each other’s work.

An exciting development connected to and dovetailing with the conference in terms of its time frame will be a Law and Social Change Jam.  The Jam will be taking place over several days just prior to the conference, from May 29-June2, at the Farm of Peace in Pennsylvania. It is being produced through YES!: http://www.yesworld.org/.  Further information about the Jam will be forthcoming soon.
As mentioned above, we will be issuing a Request for Proposals for the Conference in early December.  Proposals will be due in early-mid January.

If you are interested in getting involved in planning the conference in a hands-on manner, please contact Susan Brooks at susan.brooks@drexel.edu. I’m looking forward to working together toward enjoying a unique and memorable gathering in June!

A Victory for Wholehearted Lawyering

“[I]f ever there were a time to recognize through action this right to preservation of a healthful and pleasant atmosphere, the time is now”

A Victory for Wholehearted Lawyering: Dutch Citizens Win Climate Case Against the State

By Femke Wijdekop

Together with 886 citizens, Dutch NGO Urgenda brought a climate liability case against the Dutch state. I joined this case as one of the co-plaintiffs. Our argument was that the Dutch state neglects its duty of care towards us, its current and future citizens, by not reducing CO2 emissions quickly enough to avoid catastrophic climate change. We asked the judge to order the Dutch State to reduce its CO2 emissions with 25-40 % in 2020, the percentage that science and international agreements tell us is needed if we want to stay below the 2 degrees global warming threshold.

24 June 2015 was 'judgement day'. What I heard in the Hague district courtroom that day exceeded my hopes and expectations. In a groundbreaking verdict, the judges agreed fully with the arguments presented by us and stated that the Dutch state has a duty of care, under Dutch tort law, to reduce its C02 emission to 25% in 2020 (the judges chose for the minimum percentage as not to infringe too much the discretionary power of the Dutch government to make climate policy). The court ruled that Urgenda had standing and that the State acted unlawful towards Urgenda, representing 886 citizens, under national tort law.

The court used European human right standards, such as art. 2 and 8 of the European Convention for Human Rights, the precautionary principle, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the treaty of the European Union to interpret the 'equity' principle of the Dutch tort article (art. 6:162 Civil Code) and concluded the Dutch state liable for a tort of negligence towards Urgenda. The argument of the State's defense, that climate policy is a matter of discretion for the executive power, was brushed aside when the court appealed to the protective logic of the rule of law and separation of powers: the judiciary's rightful place is offer its citizens protection when the executive exercises its power in such a way that endangers the wellbeing and human rights of its citizens, and this includes the negligence of a government refusing to take timely climate action.

We, co-litigants, and the defense of Urgenda were amazed by the boldness of the court; and I was deeply touched that something really seems to be changing in the world if a court, which could have easily have hidden behind arguments like 'the discretionary power of the executive to determine climate policy', 'the relative small contribution of the Netherlands to the global emission problem, thus refusing to establish proportionate liability' or 'the lack of a strong enough causal link between the actions of the Dutch state and the future damage caused by climate change' - let alone simply refusing to grant Urgenda standing! - that with all these arguments present, the court made a bold decision to take responsibility for its duty to acknowledge scientific facts, apply the law and do justice in this matter of extreme societal importance.

For me it was a moment in which my idealism touched ground and merged with the hopes of the other 100 co-litigants present in the room, (some of which held hands and many shed tears, like I did), hopes which were confirmed and 'mirrored' by the words of the judge who agreed with our most important grievances and demands. Such was the surprise that Urgenda's lawyers had to pull themselves together afterwards, overcome with emotion and relief - TV news images later showed their teary faces and yet none of them really tried to hide their tears: they were proud to admit that they had put their whole heart into this case - in what they described as 'the case of their lifetimes'. I cannot help but think that some of this wholeheartedness rubbed off on the judges in this rightful judgement.

Right now (medio August 2015) the State has 7 weeks left to decide if it will appeal. Colleagues with 'insiders knowledge' tell me the government (which is a coalition goverment in which liberals and conservatives share power) is divided and that there is a fair chance it will not appeal. Urgenda and other green NGOs sense a possible victory and call upon Dutch citizens - and international supporters - to make themselves heard on social media; to let the Dutch prime minister know '#don't appeal'. This twitter-storm caught the attention of international celebrities like model Cameron Russell and Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo, who added their voices to our choir. The tweets of international celebrities and 'ordinary' citizens like you and me ;) might tip the balance towards the State deciding not to appeal - how exciting is that?!

Another exciting anecdote is that a colleague-lawyer of mine, who works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told me she met one of the lawyers who defended the State before the verdict when he gave a presentation to civil servants at the Ministry. This State lawyer told her that he was actually quite pleased that Urgenda had started the Climate Case and that in a way, they had already half-wun, because they were right in their argument that the Netherlands does not live up to its international climate change obligations and emission reduction standards. That the Dutch climate policy is falling short of international standards was also not disputed in court by this lawyer; the State's defense concentrated on the infringement of the discretionary power of the executive branch if the judges were to rule on climate policy and Urgenda's supposed lack of standing.

My colleague-lawyer is working on a PhD-thesis on the use of Ubuntu-principles in the governance of public goods like the global atmosphere, and the State-lawyer was very interested in her work. This anecdote completely blew my mind because I had never expected such an open mindedness from the State-lawyer. It definitely stretched my mind to let go of any dualistic notions that the State's lawyers were 'the bad guys', and we the good ones. It reminded me to see the common humanness in everyone, and gave me hope that lawyers working in established institutions like the government apparatus can be open to integrative law-ideas like governance based on Ubuntu.

Regardless of whether the State will appeal against the decision, the Climate Case judgement was already a huge victory for climate activists and environmental lawyers all over the world. It gave encouragement and sound legal arguments to NGO's in countries like Belgium, France, Australia and the United States, who have started similar lawsuits. Urgenda demonstrated a true 'gift economy-attitude' by translating all the summons and documents in English and sharing them with any NGO that expressed interest, for free.

It is my wish that the Dutch verdict will hold and be succeeded by many other similiar cases in other jurisdictions, forming a 'ius commune' on climate justice. I wish that other lawyers and co-litigants will dedicate themselves as wholeheartedly to these cases as we did here in the Netherlands on this historic day, and when they reach victory, 'pay if forward' like Urgenda did.

Update 11/23/15:

Although the government did decide to appeal the judge's ruling, last week (11/23/2015) the leader of the green opposition party and the leader of the governing labour party announced that they will propose a Climate Act in the Dutch parliament coming year. This Act, whose exact contents will be decided upon in the coming months, will contain ambitious climate policy: a reduction of CO2 emissions of 95% and 100% renewable energy by 2050s. NGOs like Greenpeace will be consulted for the exact goals and the speed of the CO2 emissions reduction policy. Part of this new Climate Act will also be the proposal to issue a yearly 'Climate Budget', similar to the yearly financial budget; in which the government commits to certain climate goals and CO2 reductions.

It's the first time in 35 years that a leader of an opposition party and the leader of a governing party team up to propose legislation.

The governing labour party, PvdA, did agree to appeal the Climate Case decision, but its leader now says that was because of the 'technical, legal, aspects' (did the judge overstep its mandate?) and not about the climate policy goals announced in the verdict.

Question remains if this new Climate Act could be able to count on a majority in parliament: the conservative party, VVD (coalition partner of the PvdA; together they form the government), will vote against as will some other right wing parties. However, there very well could be a tight majority to have this Act passed next year. This is an unique and exciting development and it is absolutely influenced by the Climate Case-verdict; this verdict prepaved the way for these political leaders to make such a progressive legislative proposal.

Seattle, Washington – Late last night, King County Superior Court Judge Hollis R. Hill issued a groundbreaking ruling in the unprecedented case of eight youth petitioners who requested that the Washington Department of Ecology write a carbon emissions rule that protects the atmosphere for their generation and those to come.

In a landmark decision, Judge Hill declared “[the youths’] very survival depends upon the will of their elders to act now, decisively and unequivocally, to stem the tide of global warming...before doing so becomes first too costly and then too late.” Highlighting inextricable relationships between navigable waters and the atmosphere, and finding that separating the two is “nonsensical,” the judge found the public trust doctrine mandates that the state act through its designated agency “to protect what it holds in trust.” The court confirmed what the Washington youth and youth across the nation have been arguing in courts of law, that “[t]he state has a constitutional obligation to protect the public’s interest in natural resources held in trust for the common benefit of the people.”

“It’s incredible to have the court finally say that we do have a right to a healthy atmosphere and that our government can’t allow it to be harmed,” said 13-year-old petitioner Gabriel Mandell. “This ruling means that what the Department of Ecology does going forward in its rulemaking has to protect us, the kids of Washington, and not just us, but future generations too, like my children and those to come. Now they can’t decide to protect short-term economic fears and ignore us because we have constitutional and public trust rights to a stable climate!”

The court validated the youths’ claims that the “scientific evidence is clear that the current rates of reduction mandated by Washington law. . . cannot ensure the survival of an environment in which [youth] can grow to adulthood safely.” The judge determined that the State has a “mandatory duty” to “preserve, protect, and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations,” and found the state’s current standards to fail that standard dramatically for several reasons.

The judge continued, writing that “current scientific evidence establishes that rapidly increasing global warming causes an unprecedented risk to the earth, including land, sea, the atmosphere and all living plants and creatures.”

The youth petitioners first requested the state initiate greenhouse gas rulemaking procedures in June 2014. The state refused to do so in August of the same year. The youth appealed that refusal last September, and in a June 2015 decision highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis, the judge ordered the state to reconsider the youth’s petition taking into account current climate science. Then, in July 2015, the youth plaintiffs met with Gov. Inslee to plead their case personally. Just 11 days later, Gov. Inslee ordered the Department of Ecology to institute greenhouse gas rulemaking, as the youth had requested for more than a year. In August 2015, Ecology again refused the youths’ request for a science-based rulemaking because they had initiated similar rulemaking at Gov. Inslee’s request. Because Ecology also rejected the youths' constitutional and public trust rights, the case, resulting in this decision, was argued in front of Judge Hollis Hill on November 3, 2015.

“In this important ruling, Judge Hill has made it very clear what Ecology must do when promulgating the Clean Air Rule: preserve, protect and enhance air quality for present and future generations and uphold the constitutional rights of these young people,” said Western Environmental Law Center Attorney Andrea Rodgers. “We will hold Ecology accountable every step of the way to make sure that Judge Hill's powerful words are put into action. This is a huge victory for our children and for the climate movement. To Gov. Inslee, we hope you take this message with you to Paris and heed Judge Hill’s finding that ‘if ever there were a time to recognize through action this right to preservation of a healthful and pleasant environment, the time is now.’”

This case is one of several similar state and international cases, all supported by Our Children’s Trust, seeking the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate. Cases brought by youth to protect the atmosphere are pending before trial judges in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, and before appellate courts in Massachusetts and Oregon.

Significantly, similar legal issues are being considered in a federal lawsuit brought in August 2015 against the federal government by 21 young people from across the U.S. and Dr. James Hansen as guardian for all future generations, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. Just last week in that case, the world’s largest fossil fuel industry representatives filed a request to intervene to protect their commercial economic interests in fossil fuel exploitation and to thwart the youth’s request for protection of their fundamental constitutional rights.

The proposed intervenors, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers

(representing members Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Koch Industries, and virtually all other major refiners and petrochemical manufacturers), the American Petroleum Institute (representing 625 oil and natural gas companies), and the National Association of Manufacturers, called the youth’s case “a direct threat to [their] businesses.”

Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children’s Trust said “this Washington decision establishing constitutional public trust protections for the atmosphere, together with the decision earlier this year doing the same in New Mexico, evidences a wake-up by the judiciary that our collective right to a habitable future is at stake and must be protected by the courts before it is too late. Judge Hill did not mince words on the need for science-based climate action now.


Peter Gabel Receives Honorary Doctorate from San Francisco State University

Peter Gabel received an honorary doctorate this year from San Francisco State University. Below is a transcript of his speech:

    Thank you very much. I’m especially honored and grateful to be receiving this recognition from such a wonderful and important university that has always placed in the forefront its commitment to linking education with the creation of a more humane and just world. From the breadth and diversity of your faculty and student body, to your role in pioneering the development of ethnic studies and other socially progressive courses of study, to the words of your university mission statement that affirm your (and I quote) “unwavering commitment to social justice,” to the actions taken by the university in support of those words including the recent public stance taken by your President Les Wong in opposition to the legislation in Indiana that could have legitimized discrimination based on sexual orientation, San Francisco State has always embodied my ideal of what a public university should be. And in addition, I’m happy and proud that my son Sam is a student here studying among other things the relationship between hiphop, globalization and social change. So thank you very very much for inviting me to receive this honorary degree.

    When I graduated from college in 1968, my father gave me two choices: either make a million dollars by the time you’re thirty or get a seat on the Supreme Court. Fortunately for me (although possibly not for him), in 1968 there was a radiant spirit of idealism in the air that drew me into the great social movements of that time—the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, the women’s movement, the environmental movement, the gay and lesbian movement, all movements that sought to transform the world in a more loving and just direction.  In the years following my graduation, I came to realize that at the heart of all these social movements was a deep longing in all human beings for mutual recognition of our common humanity, a desire to become to fully present to each other as who we really are, to see each other, in the words of Martin Buber, as an I and Thou in a relationship of authentic human connection.  And I also came to see that the world that we have inherited is too much infused with a fear of the other, with a fear of each other, that divides us, leads us to deny our desire to truly see and connect with one another, and leads to see the other as a threat rather than as the source of our completion as social beings.  What I learned from the social movements of my youth was that we really can overcome the racism, the sexism, the more pathological forms of nationalism, and the other manifestations of the legacy of fear of the other that we have inherited—but only by building movements and organizations and workplaces and neighborhoods that foster empathy, compassion, and an open-hearted spirit of cooperation that allows our underlying longing for mutual recognition to  spontaneously bubble up to the surface, and allows the underlying vulnerability that exists within each of us to become visible to the other person and to have it be met by the affirmation and love and grace that it deserves.  As we build what Martin Luther King called “beloved communities” of this kind, with this kind of open-hearted spiritual and moral depth, I’m confident that we will gradually thaw the legacy of fear that separates us and create a world based on cooperation, economic and social equality, and concern for each other’s welfare .

    So what I would say to you graduates today is this: Don’t listen to your fathers! Actually, I’m only kidding—my father was a wonderful person and I learned an enormous amount from him. But I am saying that another world is possible, and that whatever you may decide to do as you move your life forward, use your life energy to recognize the true humanity of the others you come into contact with, and through your efforts, help to give us all the confidence that the longing for a loving world that we each feel within ourselves actually exists in all of us, no matter how much out of fear we may at first conceal it. At some point, we really will emerge into public space as a great evolutionary social movement and we will transform the world for the better. As a poet of my generation put it: “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one; I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.” Or as my son Sam puts it today in one of his verses, “When the masses come together intertwine the sounds//When it happens conquer Never and apply the Now.”


Cultivating the Next Generation of Transformative Lawyers

Image Source: Courtesy of John August Swanson - http://www.johnaugustswanson.com/

Image Source: Courtesy of John August Swanson - http://www.johnaugustswanson.com/

“Why haven’t we learned about this before?  This should be a required course!”
— New Paradigms in Law and Lawyering student, spring 2005

Imagine.  PISLAPers Kim Wright, Susan Brooks and Femke Widjekop were all guests in my seminar this past semester, New Paradigms in Law and Lawyering.  So was Therapeutic Jurisprudence former jurist, Peggy Hora.

Through the wonders of technology, and specifically the Adobe Connect platform, these four leaders in transforming legal practice, legal education, and criminal justice spent an hour or so sharing their wisdom with the five students who comprised the inaugural offering of this seminar.  And the students were able to engage in informed interaction with each of them.
New Paradigms, like PISLAP, was focused on introducing non-adversarial , more healing, more relational, more value-driven approaches to practicing law, resolving controversy, administering justice and planning legal relationships.   Kim discussed the Integrative Law Movement.  Susan engaged the class in exercises demonstrating relational communication.  Femke shared the amazing developments of the International Earth Justice movement.  Peggy Hora discussed the history and efficacy of drug courts, both domestically and in New Zealand.

Long Island Collaborative lawyer, Chuck McEvily and his colleague, Roxane Polak, a Family Specialist explained their interdisciplinary approach to enabling healthy, nonadversarial rearrangement of families when parties are seeking divorce.  Shoshanna Silverberg, then in her last semester of law school, conducted a dynamic class on Sharing Law and Conscious Contracting.

Our three live in-the-flesh guests included Carol Fisler, director of Mental Health Court and Alternative to Detention Programs at the Center for Court Innovation.  Carol discussed empirical findings on what makes treatment courts successful.  Mediator Peter Miller introduced Transformative Mediation, conducting a brief mock mediation with two students playing supervisor and employee.  It was one of the best spontaneous simulations I have ever witnessed.  And, at our last class, a celebratory bagels & smoked salmon brunch, Central Islip Judge Robert Ford shared his experience as a relative newcomer to the Central Islip special Drug and Mental Health treatment courts.

That, plus my class on Emotional Competence, was the basic curriculum.
In my opinion, this maiden voyage was a resounding success when measured by the enthusiasm of the students and the quality of the guests.  Even the two students who hadn’t a clue what the course was about when they registered (it just fit nicely in their schedule), were completely engaged, and surprised about all the possibilities for ways of practicing law of which they were previously unaware.  

And this was just the classroom component.  In addition, each student spent at least 56 hours over the course of the 14 week semester in one or more Integrative Law settings.  Although arranging these placements proved to be one of the bigger challenges for me and for the students (schedules, available transportation, limited local opportunities were all contributing factors), all five students were happy with their experiences.  One student apprenticed with Joy Rosenthal, a New York City family law mediator and collaborative lawyer.  Another worked with Touro alumnus, Rob Goldman,  who runs T.A.S.T.E., a court-supported restorative justice program, largely for youths.  The remaining three experienced a variety of treatment courts, including Mental Health, Drug and Veterans courts.

I am pleased to report that I will be teaching New Paradigms again this fall.  If any Integrative or PISLAP-oriented practitioners within the New York metropolitan area might consider mentoring a student in the class, please do get in touch.

 Marjorie is Professor of Law at the Touro Law Center and the editor of the PISLAP-inspired book, Transforming Justice, Lawyers and the Practice of Law (Carolina Academic Press , forthcoming 2015-16).  She can be reached at msilver@tourolaw.edu.

Systems Thinking 101

By J. Kim Wright

This is an excerpt of Kim Wright’s upcoming book, Lawyers as Changemakers, to be published by the American Bar Association and expected out in late 2015.

“Every day 75,000 people die of starvation despite the fact that we have plenty of food for everyone. Our distribution system, our nations, all the different kind of separateness blocks the whole thing. … Simply because we’re badly organized, we not taking care of it.”

— Buckminster Fuller

If we’re going to change the legal system or our larger systems, it is helpful to know something about systems theory and systems thinking.

I remember when I first started hearing about Systems Thinking, it was some mysterious topic that I couldn’t quite get.  The reason I couldn’t quite get it was similar to the adage that fish can’t get they are swimming in water.   I think I was a systems thinker from a very early age and it was invisible to me.  Didn’t everyone think that way?  Well, actually, no, they don’t, but I didn’t know that, then.

My shorthand description of systems thinking is now this:  everything is connected to everything else.  We live in an interconnected, interdependent universe.  

A systems thinker sees how things are connected and influence each other. For example, in the human body, we have many nested systems: respiratory, circulatory, digestive, etc.  Each can be studied separately, but they are interrelated and affect each other.  Recently I had a bad case of the flu.  As I lay in misery, it became clear to me that my whole body was sick, not just one part.  This body also exists in relationship to others (some of whom passed on the virus).  
Wikipedia uses a few more words to say it:

Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things, regarded as systems, influence one another within a whole. In nature, systems thinking examples include ecosystems in which various elements such as air, water, movement, plants, and animals work together to survive or perish. In organizations, systems consist of people, structures, and processes that work together to make an organization "healthy" or "unhealthy". Systems thinking has roots in the General System Theory that was advanced by Ludwig von Bertalanffy in the 1940s and furthered by Ross Ashby in the 1950s. The field was further developed by Jay Forrester and members of the Society for Organizational Learning at MIT which culminated in the popular book The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge which defined Systems thinking as the capstone for true Organizational learning.[2]
There are a few stories that help to ground our ideas about  Systems Thinking.  This is a well-known one, adapted from WorldChanging 101 by David Lamotte:

One day a woman was taking a walk. She heard a splashing sound and turned to see a baby floating down the river. It was thrashing and trying to breathe and clearly in danger. She plunged into the cold river and got the baby. She brought it to the bank and tried to warm and comfort it while it choked out water and cried.

Then she heard another splash and turned around to see another baby in the river. She set the first baby down on and dove back into the water. She hadn’t even made it back to the shore when a third baby came floating downstream. This time, though, someone else was coming along the path, so she shouted out for him to come help.

The woman informed the man what was happening, and along came another baby. The man started calling friends to bring blankets, formula, and whatever else they could think of. They continued to pull babies from the river.

Soon, more people came to help. The babies kept coming. Eventually they started raising money and obtained their 501c3 tax exempt status. They had a volunteer crew and a long-term plan for feeding and housing the babies.

Just as they thought they were making progress, a woman walked into the building, looked around and firmly but quietly said, “Don’t you think it’s time we went upstream to see who is throwing them in?”

This fable describes a lot of the work that gets done in the world of social change.  Lawyers valiantly defend clients accused of crimes that grew from systemic problems.  We wear ourselves out with efforts that are akin to pulling babies out of the water, rather than changing the system that creates the babies.  

It isn’t our lack of commitment or compassion that keeps us down the river.  The work we do makes a difference for the ones we serve, but it doesn’t stop the stream of cases that seem to never end.

[I should note here that I am intentionally simplifying the Systems Change movement.  It is actually a complex academic and organizational development discipline with noted scholars, journals, conferences, and books.  If you want to know more, a good starting point would be to investigate the work of Peter Senge. ]
From Systems Thinking to Systems Change

So how do we make the changes that need to be made, to stop the flow of cases and create the society we want to create?  Systems change theory has some ideas for us there.


The most common image for exploring systems thinking is the iceberg.   As we all know, only a small percentage of the iceberg is visible.   In our systemic view, that 10% of visible iceberg equates to the events and results we can see each day.  Looking at the typical law office as part of this system, this first visible level is the hamster wheel of activities, the clients who hire you, the conversations you have with the people you work with.  It is what you actually do and what you actually can see, the cases you handle, the babies you’re pulling out of the water, if you will.
Just below the surface of the visible iceberg, you will find the patterns in your office.  Do you come in at a certain time each day?  What is the office routine?  What are the habits that support your everyday law practice?  This level includes things like your filing system, the way you manage deadlines.    What is the way that you pull the babies out of the water and what do you routinely do to care for them?

The next level is the layer upon which those habits and the happenings occur, the community within which you practice and the habits and procedures. In law, it could be about what day you report for calendar call, your area of practice, the habits of lawyers as a group of people, as part of a system.   

The deepest layer of this legal iceberg is Consciousness and Values.  This layer is the foundation of the others:  what are my values?  What do my values tell me about who I am and what I do?  What do I believe?  What is my worldview and the culture in which my life occurs?  What are the values that shape everything I do and everything that is done in the community?  

Change is most lasting when it is deeper

At the very top level, all you can really do is react to each circumstance as it arises.  It is easy to fall into this mode of putting out fire and fire, never getting to the source of the problem. Reactivity is not the most effective tool for change.  There are a lot of practice management tools that are sold to lawyers to try to address the chaos.  

As you work at deeper levels, you have increasing leverage.   By going a level deeper and exploring the patterns in the law office, you can anticipate problems at the top level of the iceberg and prevent them.  

The next level starts to look from the viewpoint of a larger system, with other lawyers and stakeholders.  We’ve all experienced changes in the design and structure of the courts.  A big change in my jurisdiction came when Mediation was required before litigation could commence.  It affected our patterns and the way we did our everyday business, and it wasn’t just my office which was affected.  Everyone made changes in their office routines and procedures for that.   
Finally, when change occurs at the level of values and consciousness, it causes a domino effect of change throughout the system.    

If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.  If a revolution destroys a government,  but the systemic patterns of thought that produced that government  are left intact,  then those patterns will repeat themselves. …There is so much talk about the system, and so little understanding.
                Robert Pirsig,  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Integrative Law reflects one of those basic, deep changes in Consciousness and Values.  Our values call us to work on ourselves, to do the inner reflection, then bring our awareness of the bigger picture.  We seek to bring those values into the legal system and the broader society.    Our awareness of our interconnectedness, our commitment to a better society, and our recognition of broader issues lead us to practice in new ways, to challenge systemic inequities, and to seek lasting change in consciousness.

My take is there is an internal aspect of this bureaucracy, an emotional, psychological dimension of this stressful problem-solving landscape that generates fear in us, which further inhibits our ability to move forward in innovative and sustainable ways.  Essentially, the systems we have created to serve us actually shoot us in the collective foot.  And this phenomenon, this feedback loop of anti-progress is what keeps us often from feeling functional (well), and by extension, from remedying the underlying issues which have created the conflict we are experiencing in the first place.

My solution?  Let’s attempt to deal with the morass as it exists inside us as well as the morass as it exists outside, so that our process for disentangling what is at issue can emerge in a way that is fundamentally different from the mode of or approach to thinking that has gotten us to a place of challenge originally.  Let’s address the problems facing us from an internal (human) perspective as well as from an outside, tactical one.  Let’s use our understanding of how inefficient systems affect us internally in order to affect them externally.    - Shoshanna Silverberg



The seeds of the late 1990s and early 2000s have flourished.  We are grateful to our pioneers and trailblazers who held this vision and brought it to fruition.

Lawyers are now recognized for our true purpose: peacemaking, problem-solving and healing the wounds of the community.  Trials are rare and civil.  Collaboration, prevention, and transformation are the lawyers’ stock in trade. We create sustainable agreements and resolutions.

Lawmakers serve, conscious of all the stakeholders, and of our interconnectedness with Nature and each other.  They work on common goals and values to benefit everyone.

Law enforcement focuses on Right Relationships, working in partnership with the community to foster strong, empowered and safe communities.

Judges are wise leaders who help to balance competing values, hold everyone accountable, and deliver fair results with love, compassion and empathy.

Prisons are a part of our past. Now we focus on rehabilitation, healing, and reconnection for all members of society. Criminal behavior is seen as a symptom of brokenness that needs to be healed.

Law students still learn the focused, analytical thinking that is known as thinking like a lawyer. Now they are also trained in holistic thinking. Art is part of the balanced core curriculum.
Our history of restorative practices and nonviolent communication in schools has helped to produce citizens who tell their truths, take responsibility and accept accountability.

The Legal System Works for Everyone.

There are no more lawyer jokes. They're not funny anymore.

J. Kim Wright is an author, workshop leader, and coach who is working toward a new legal system. 

Georgia Justice Project's Incredible Story of Change

An excerpt from Doug Ammar of the Georgia Justice Project

A few weeks ago, I had an unexpected visitor.  Bill was one of my legal clients at Georgia Justice Project 25 years ago, and we were able to reduce his sentence and help him secure treatment for his addiction. This March, he celebrated 24 years of sobriety.  Although we have stayed connected over the years, that day he was struggling and needed to talk with someone.  Last month, Bill lost his wife to cancer, and he is now left to raise their four kids alone. He sat across from me, tears in his eyes, wondering how he and his family would survive and move forward.  After we talked, he met with one of our social workers who is helping him chart a path during this difficult phase in his life.   “A few hours later, I had another unexpected visitor.  Mike was an early GJP client. He spent 24 years in prison.  After his case was resolved, we regularly visited Mike and supported him.  Mike finished serving his sentence five years ago and is doing very well now. He dropped by the office to share a cup of coffee in our kitchen, to fill me in on his promotion and to tell me about his new apartment.   “These are not unusual events at GJP. These two visits – each client in a very different place, one celebrating, the other in difficult straits – reinforced for me the value and significance of our work.  Thanks to the vision of our founder, John Pickens, Georgia Justice Project does something quite extraordinary.  We provide legal services combined with social services for the neediest among us, poor people accused of a crime.  GJP makes an investment both in immediate impact and in long-term relationships with our clients and their families in order to help change the patterns that change lives.    “So many of our clients have the deck stacked against them.  Their journeys often feature poverty, pain, abuse, neglect, violence, addiction and loss.  When they come to GJP, they are often broken, in both heart and spirit.  But we are able to see their full story, their potential and their hope for a better future.  This is why we go beyond just legal representation and also provide the critical counseling, skill-development, accountability, and sincere care needed to help our clients make real and lasting change in their lives.  My life is richer because of this work, and because of the incredible people I meet along the way.

If you wish to make a contribution to GJP, here’s a link:   http://www.gjp.org/ways-to-support/donations/.

The Georgia Justice Project (GJP) is an organization that embodies the values and visions of PISLAP.  GJP, with over 25 years of experience, strengthens the community by demonstrating a better way to represent and support individuals in the criminal justice system and reduce barriers to reentry.  GJP promotes innovative change through direct legal representation, policy advocacy, education and coalition building.  Doug Ammar, a PISLAP executive committee member, is the Executive Director of GJP