Did you see the Premiere Episode of “Empire”? Cookie’s speech? #RealTalk

Did you see the premiere episode of season two of Empire?  Cookie (Taraji Henson’s character and, allegedly, my celebrity lookalike) delivered a passionate monologue in support of Lucious being freed from jail.  

empire-review-092215

How much longer….are they going to treat us like animals? The entire correction system is built on the backs of our brothers, our fathers, and our sons.  How much longer?  It is a system that must be dismantled, piece by piece, if we are to live up to these words that we recite with our hand over our heart “justice for all”, not justice for some, but justice for all!”  How much longer?

Her speech resonated with me.  It is something I say – and have been saying – in and as part of my law practice.  

Recently, I learned of yet another injustice in our society. In the southern parts of the United States, lack of funding in the courts is causing them to generate income in any way possible and according to an article published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, courts are resorting to a long abolished practice of “debtors prison”.  The incentive for this infrastructure is to increase revenue by issuing tickets and allowing people to be jailed for being unable to pay the fees and fines.  Reports and statistics show that it is the poorest members of society that are most impacted.  Nearly 80% of them are indigent.  It leaves their families are on the hook to pay these fees – often having to pull from the monies they need to pay rent and shelter costs…which puts them in a further bind to avoid jail.

In other words, the injustice of debtors prison is being revived via traffic court.  

How much longer before we can find a way to properly fund our court systems in a way that makes sense?  How much longer until we change the criminal justice system in a way that is actually reforming people and helping families…

How much longer?  

Source: https://www.splcenter.org/news/2014/08/26/splc-lawsuit-closes-debtors%E2%80%99-prison-alabama-capital

This is not a game :: Revenge Porn Law & Social Media Prosecution

Recently, rapper and actor Curtis Jackson, better known as “50 Cent” was found liable to pay a victim $5 M for violating a civil law that made it illegal to distribute sexually explicit media without the consent of the individual involved in the media.  This law has been commonly referred to as targeting  “revenge porn” and with the growth of social media, laws are springing up around the country to provide a means of relief for victims of revenge porn.  

Simmons Law has talked about social media prosecution and revenge porn before.  Earlier this year, Attorney Simmons hosted a panel discussion called “Social Media Crimes:  Two Case Studies in the Prosecution of Online Harassment” where lawyers discussed two different cases where the revenge porn law was applied as a tool for prosecution.  The danger with laws targeting acts of revenge against others on social media lies in how widely interpreted they are by attorneys and judges, alike.  For instance,

  1. Not every state has a revenge porn specific law.  Some states have invasion of privacy laws or harassment laws which expands to acts  that don’t involve using explicit photos, but words.  In December 2014, a man was convicted under such a law for posting lyrics to a song that threatened the life of his ex-wife.   In essence, you can be charged under a “revenge porn” law for words that you post on social media – even if there are no pictures or videos.

  2. The word “revenge” is a bit of a misnomer.  The term “revenge porn” is generally used to indicate content uploaded to revenge porn websites by intimate partners with the intention of humiliating the partner depicted (hence “revenge” when uploaded by an ex-partner). But in reality, it doesn’t have to involve revenge at all.   In California, a man was convicted under the crime for hacking into people’s computers and posting photos of them in exchange for money.  Not only was he charged for extortion, but was also convicted under the revenge law – even though none of the photos were were women he ever dated or even knew.  In essence, you could be charged under this law by simply posting a photo that could be interpreted as being non consensual pornography even if you didn’t intend revenge or know the victim at all.

If you or someone you know has been charged under this law, please contact Simmons Law to discuss your case.  

Attorney Simmons Makes Recommendations in Light of Recent Supreme Court Decision on Same Sex Marriage

Earlier this month – in a truly historic decision – the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) struck down state laws that prohibited marriage between gay and lesbian Americans. Regardless of whether you agree with this decision or not, it is the law of the land unless otherwise reversed. Therefore, as businesses operating under this new law, it’s incumbent upon you, as the business owner or decision maker, to make sure that your business operations and policies are in line with this new decision.

Attorney Simmons says:

“In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, this is a great time for attorneys looking to expand their practice, especially, in the areas of family law and employment law. In the employment sector, title VII’s definition of same sex discrimination will probably expand as a result of the court’s landmark decision. What may be tricky to the Courts and attorneys alike is the application of the laws already in place as it relates to same-sex married couples. Moreover, I see this as a time where the outcome of these types of cases will determine what the “new norm” is in US society. Same-sex vs. religious belief arguments may be a new hot issue before Courts nationwide. To service an expanding client group, I recommend that all litigators, employment, and business lawyers increase their knowledge of the law and its application.”

For the full article, visit:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/thoughts-from-attorneys-scotus-gay-marriage-decision?trk=pulse_spock-articles

Attorney Simmons: “I’m Discovering my Native American Heritage”

choctaws

Recently, I discovered that my grandmother was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian.  While attending the Collective Leadership Bar Academy – a gathering of select lawyers from around the United States – I was able to connect with the Native American Bar Association, as I explore more about myself and my family history.

Choctaw Indians started about in Mississippi and then many migrated to Oklahoma.  History and genealogy shows that a few migrated north to Michigan – which is where I am from.  To learn more about the Choctaw Indians, visit these websites.

www.choctawnation.com
www.choctaw.org

Simmons Law encourages lawyers to actively diversify the legal profession

The Washington Post published a compelling article recently about the legal profession being the least diverse profession in the nation.  The writer cited some stark statistics on gender and racial disparities:

Women:

Women constitute more than a third of the profession, but only about a fifth of law firm partners, general counsels of Fortune 500 corporations and law school deans. The situation is bleakest at the highest levels. Women account for only 17 percent of equity partners, and only seven of the nation’s 100 largest firms have a woman as chairman or managing partner. Women are less likely to make partner even controlling for other factors, including law school grades and time spent out of the workforce or on part-time schedules. Studies find that men are two to five times more likely to make partner than women.”

Racial Minorities:  

“Although blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans now constitute about a third of the population and a fifth of law school graduates, they make up fewer than 7 percent of law firm partners and 9 percent of general counsels of large corporations. In major law firms, only 3 percent of associates and less than 2 percent of partners are African Americans.”

The article goes on to say that lawyers are doing enough to change these facts.

As an black female attorney,I recognize there is a problem and make it a point to do my part to change it.  I want to encourage other lawyers to do the same.  I think that many times, we see a very large, systemic problem and feel it may be too large to take on.  However, if each lawyer takes one step to do something, we will see change.  In 2013, I started the Simmons Law Memorial Book Scholarship to provide money to high school students interested in college and becoming a lawyer .  Recently, I created a “Simmons Law Future Lawyers”t shirts for kids, thus planting the “seed” for the kids that may become a lawyer in the future.   In June, I attended the Collective Bar Leadership Academy to make sure that my voice, as a woman, and an African-American heard on important issues that impact the collective bar associations.  I challenge all attorneys, regardless of color or sex, to do their part to diversify our profession.

Link to the article:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/05/27/law-is-the-least-diverse-profession-in-the-nation-and-lawyers-arent-doing-enough-to-change-that/