Friday, June 19, 2020

SJLC Stands in Solidarity with Those Fighting Government-Sanctioned Violence Against our Black Communities and Speaking Out in Favor of Comprehensive Police Reforms

JUNETEENTH, 2020 - The Social Justice Law Collective (SJLC) and its member attorneys condemn the brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other Black people who have been victims of police violence and racist oppression, and join with the growing movement calling for systematic reforms in policing, housing, and other social service areas for which Black communities have long been denied equal access and treatment.  As we deeply mourn these deaths, we recognize that they are only the most recent examples of a deeper current of racialized police brutality that pervades our law enforcement institutions and which has existed since their inception.  We stand in solidarity with those fighting oppression and unequivocally join them in stating that Black Lives Matter.

We also condemn the brutal and violent tactics that militarized police forces around the country have used against demonstrators seeking to have their voices heard.  We’ve seen protesters beaten, pepper sprayed, tear gassed, and in some cases shot and killed.  We stand in solidarity with them as well, and with everyone working to correct our nation’s legacy of systemic racism.  We also wholeheartedly support the removal of government-sponsored statues, flags, and other monuments that glorify historical proponents and symbols of slavery, and which have long stood in the way of the healing that is so desperately needed.  

The Social Justice Law Collective strives to dismantle modern forms of racist oppression such as the prison industrial complex, the criminalization of poverty, and systemic discrimination in housing, employment, and in places of public accommodation.  We are dedicated to working with and supporting people who have been victims of violence, discrimination, and the harsh criminal justice policies that have led to mass incarceration.  Our litigation and advocacy is just one form of resistance to these modern-day tools of oppression.

As we mourn the needless death and violence, we are encouraged by the many people taking to the streets demanding justice.  We hope this critical moment marks a shift toward true systemic change.  In the meantime, we will keep fighting for our clients and communities, lifting up their voices during this struggle.

Donate to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement here »
Visit SJLC's website here »

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Court Approves Preliminary Settlement in Class Action Lawsuit Against Florida Department of Corrections for Confiscation of Millions of Dollars of Digital Music

MIAMI/TALLAHASSEE/TAMPA BAY – Today, a federal judge preliminarily approved a settlement resolving a statewide class action lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) involving the confiscation of million of dollars of lawfully purchased digital music from incarcerated people in Florida. The settlement requires the FDOC to provide 3.9 million credits for class members to use in the current Multimedia Tablet Program that is available to people in prison, which will enable all class members to replace as many or more songs than they had purchased in the previous program.

The lawsuit, filed in February 2019, explained that the FDOC for several years permitted incarcerated people to purchase and listen to digital songs on media players while in prison, with the FDOC receiving a commission on each song purchase.  But when the FDOC decided to switch program vendors, it required participants to surrender their digital media players, cut off access to their songs, and did not permit any of the songs to be transferred to the new program.  If participants wanted to access their purchased music, they had to re-purchase it in the new program.  The Complaint alleged that these actions violated the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“We are pleased that this resolution restores the class members’ ability to use what they purchased: the right to listen to their chosen music while in prison,” said FJI Executive Director Dante Trevisani. “We hope this case sends a message that the property of incarcerated people cannot just be indiscriminately taken.”

The settlement, which is still subject to final approval by the Court, requires the FDOC to provide 3.9 million credits to roughly 11,000 class members that will enable them to replace as many or more songs than they had purchased in the previous program, or use them for any purpose in the current Multimedia Tablet Program.  The FDOC has also agreed to pay $150,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

The plaintiffs and class representatives are William Demler, Wayne Pula, and Michael Gisi, all of whom purchased hundreds of songs through the previous program, only to have them confiscated by the FDOC without compensation.  They, along with the class members, were promised by the program’s advertisements that they would always own the music they purchased—a promise that turned out to be empty.  Now, as a result of their efforts, and this lawsuit, their property will be restored.

“These men and women, many of whom are indigent, spent lots of hard-earned money on this music,” said SJLC attorney Shawn Heller. “We hope this case informs the way the FDOC approaches the end of the contract with its current vendor when the time comes.”

The case is Demler v. Inch, Case No. 4:19-CV-0094, and is before Judge Robert Hinkle in the Northern District of Florida.  

CONTACT:  For further information, please contact SJLC attorneys Josh Glickman or Shawn Heller at media@sjlawcollective.com.

Visit SJLC's website here »
Visit FJI's website here »
See the Press Release here »
Read the Complaint here » 
See the Court's Preliminary Approval Order here » 
Read the Notice of Proposed Settlement here »

--- END ---