Appleseed justice centers across the country seek to amplify community voices and empower community members to be involved in decision-making processes. At New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, Executive Director Renee Steinhagen is engaged in multiple litigation efforts helping community groups to properly participate in administrative and judicial hearings and enforce community empowerment provisions.
In Jersey City, Renee is representing a community development corporation in a case challenging an amendment to a Redevleopment Plan that ignored the twenty-year old community empowerment mandates embedded in that Plan, and paves the way for a controversial development to be built on land intended to be used for greenspace. She will also be representing multiple community groups in an amicus brief in support of the Fair Housing Center’s challenge to a city ordinance that would allow Jersey City municipal officers to trade away affordable housing units as part of quid pro quo agreements with developers. The ordinance was pushed through after hours of community complaints and without referral to the city’s Planning Board, a requirement for inclusionary zoning laws in Jersey City.
In East Brunswick, where a judge this summer ruled in favor of a new housing development that is to be built on environmentally sensitive wetlands, NJA represented two environmental groups in an appellate amicus brief asking for the developers to produce an updated letter of interpretation that would delineate the boundaries of the wetlands before beginning construction.
New Jersey Appleseed believes that community development decisions must be made by listening to impacted community members and organizations. By representing community groups in these cases, Renee is lifting up their voices and fighting for fair local decision-making processes.
We appreciate your support of the Appleseed Network and our efforts to engage with and amplify the voices in our communities. Check out more of New Jersey Appleseed's work on community and environmental health.
I’d like to take a moment to celebrate the release of Ronald McKeithen, an Alabama man sentenced to life without parole for a first-degree robbery – in which no physical harm occurred – 37 years ago. Ronald is one of the many victims of Alabama’s draconian Habitual Felony Offenders Act, mandating life without parole for anyone convicted of a felony if they have three prior felonies on their record, regardless of whether they were nonviolent crimes or how long ago they occurred. This past summer, Alabama Appleseed took on Ronald’s case and, as of December, successfully won his release. They have since been helping him adjust to daily life in the midst of a global pandemic after 37 years inside a correctional facility.
Thanks to the Alabama Appleseed team and his supporters, Ronald says he is “experiencing a rebirth, a second chance at life, and every day has been a blessing.”
However, there are still hundreds of people incarcerated in Alabama because of the Habitual Felony Offenders Act, and many for nonviolent offenses. Three-quarters of them are, like Ronald, Black - a sign of the legacy of Alabama’s historic struggle with white supremacy. Challenging Alabama’s three strikes law could give these folks a chance at a second life too.
Read more about Alabama Appleseed’s work on Ronald McKeithen’s case here, and read Ronald’s story in his own words here. Additionally, you can find more information about Alabama Appleseed’s racial justice priorities and initiatives on their website
Thank you for supporting the Appleseed Network so that our justice centers can continue this critical work.
The white supremacy-fueled insurrection at the United States Capitol Building last week was a horrifying reminder of the hard work we have ahead. The Appleseed Network is dedicated to dismantling racism, advancing democracy and the rule of law, and building a more just society, now and for future generations.
We have a long way to go.
The shattered rooms at the Capitol must not become symbols of shattered hope, but rather a call for us to recommit ourselves to the hard work of justice and equality. We must respond to the violent, racist attack with accountability and reforms, including ending voter suppression laws, reforming our criminal justice systems, integrating our schools, stopping the school-to-prison pipeline, and recognizing full voting rights for DC residents.
The scenes at the Capitol – racist and anti-Semitic symbols wielded by an armed and violent mob – are far too familiar for far too many in our country. We are deeply grateful for the work of our many partner organizations working with us to strengthen the institutions of democracy and move our nation forward.
Justice is not inevitable or a foregone conclusion. It comes from the hard work of dedicated advocates like you. Thank you for your support for Appleseed, and we look forward to working with you as we address the deep roots of last week’s attack.
On behalf of the Appleseed Network,
Appleseed Mexico was founded in 2003 with a mission to strengthen the country’s civil society organizations and provide systemic legal support for vulnerable communities. A key component of Appleseed Mexico’s work has been building up a thriving pro bono culture in Mexico to help more, and to help better.
Appleseed is mourning the loss of Mark Joelson, one of our founding members, who passed away last week.
Mark’s life embodied the pursuit of justice that lies at the heart of Appleseed’s mission. A Jewish refugee who escaped to America at the age of seven, shortly before the Nazis occupied his hometown, Mark built a distinguished legal career that earned him the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II in 2001.
Appleseed Centers celebrate new judicial rulings affirming the importance of an inclusive and complete census count
An inclusive and complete census is essential for the communities Appleseed serves, and today we are celebrating two recent judicial decisions.
Last week, a federal court ruled that President Trump’s order to exclude undocumented immigrants from population counts used in reapportionment is unconstitutional. That decision follows a separate federal judge’s temporary restraining order that the Census Bureau must stop trying to wind down its collection process until a court hearing is held on September 17th.
Appleseed Centers in South Carolina, Kansas, and Nebraska are working hard to overcome the barriers caused by the unconstitutional orders from the administration to make sure everyone is counted. These judicial decisions are key affirmations that immigrants are important members of our communities.
Appleseed Network Manager
Last week, Appleseed Centers in Texas, Nebraska, and New Jersey submitted a joint comment letter to the US Comptroller of the Currency to speak out against a recently proposed rule. As the letter documents, the proposed rule would allow predatory lenders to escape rate cap laws, as well as liability for violations of federal and state consumer protection laws, by participating in “rent-a-bank” schemes. Borrowers can get trapped in these predatory loans, often paying extremely high interest rates and taking on more and more loans to extend the interest payments.
Please click here to read the letter from Texas, Nebraska, and New Jersey Appleseed, which was prepared with the pro bono assistance of Fish & Richardson P.C.
Appleseed Network Manager
Appleseed Justice Centers Release New Report: Protecting Girls of Color from the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Report Finds Black Girls are Subject to Discriminatory School Disciplinary Action in Kansas, Massachusetts, and Alabama
WASHINGTON, DC, September 2, 2020 – Three members of the Appleseed Network, a non-profit network of independent organizations in the United States and Mexico working towards social and legal justice, today announced the release of their comprehensive report, “Protecting Girls of Color from the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” the final product of a year-long research project examining disparities in school disciplinary treatment for Black girls in Massachusetts, Alabama, and Kansas. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, an international law firm, served as pro bono partner throughout the project.
On behalf of the Appleseed Foundation Board of Directors, we are thrilled to announce the appointment of Benet Magnuson as Interim Executive Director for the Appleseed Foundation.
Benet has been a member of the Appleseed family for more than a decade. In 2009, he joined Appleseed's immigrant financial access project as its Harvard Law School Kaufman‐Skirnick Fellow, and he served as Executive Director for Kansas Appleseed from 2013 to 2019. Under his leadership, Kansas Appleseed grew from a one-person Center to a staff of twelve, tackling ambitious projects to protect children in the state’s custody, expand civic engagement, reform the state’s criminal justice systems, and repair the broken safety net.
These are hard times, but we firmly believe it is also a time of hope. We take comfort knowing you – and the tens of thousands of supporters throughout the Appleseed Network – share our commitment to confront the deep-rooted injustices that are weighing down our society. And we find inspiration in the profound work of the 16 Appleseed Centers, whose community-driven, systemic advocacy is building a more just world for us all.
Thank you again for all the support you have shown Appleseed. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Benet at bmagnuson@AppleseedNetwork.org to share your advice for Appleseed, or just to say hello. We know he is eager to hear from you.
Co-Chair of the Board of Directors
Co-Chair of the Board of Directors
Chair Elect of the Board of Directors
The Appleseed Network celebrates the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Thursday morning, June 18th, in favor of blocking the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Court found that the Trump administration’s September 2017 move to terminate the program was “arbitrary and capricious,” and that the impact of the program’s termination on DACA recipients – at least 650,000 young immigrants brought to the US as children – was not properly taken into account.