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  • 03 Feb 2015 4:43 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) and the Bay Area Latino Lawyers Fund is proud to partner together to offer a $5,000 Public Interest Law Fellowship. The fellowship is designed to provide financial assistance to law students working with Bay Area community-based legal service providers to improve legal access for the LGBT population, especially in the Latino community.
    We encourage all law students who are in good academic standing and meet the fellowship guidelines to apply. The original February 16, 2015 deadline has been extended to March 2, 2015.

    Download the application here.

    Candidate interviews will take place the week of March 9, 2015 and the awardee will be recognized at the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association’s Annual Noche de Gala at the InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco on March 19, 2015.

  • 16 Sep 2014 9:18 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    This past weekend, BALIF sent a delegation to the Conference of California Bar Associations’ (CCBA) annual conference of delegates in San Diego.  One of the core missions of the CCBA is to help the resolutions approved by the Conference become law.  Resolutions proposed by bar associations are voted on at the conference, and if approved, are eligible for inclusion in the CCBA legislative agenda.  CCBA has become a respected body in Sacramento, with numerous CCBA-sponsored bills enacted each year.  In recent years, BALIF has been the only LGBT bar association to propose resolutions and participate at CCBA.

    This year, BALIF proposed a resolution that would require state, local and private correctional facilities to create a safe environment free from sexual abuse for inmates or detainees by adopting policies implementing the U.S. Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).  These standards, widely seen as groundbreaking by corrections professionals, advocates, and survivors of sexual abuse in detention, lay out a comprehensive framework for ending abuse in adult jails and prisons, lockups, community confinement facilities, and juvenile facilities.  LGBT prisoners are significantly more likely to experience assaults, including sexual assaults, than non-LGBT prisoners. This problem is particularly severe for transgender people. Also, as a means to procure safety, some facilities have designated involuntary LGBT specific units, which limit programming in some circumstances to those housed in these units, as well as designates their placement solely based on their LGBT status.  Furthermore, these units, in some circumstances, have become a cesspool for discrimination and harassment by guards and other inmates.  If enacted, the resolution would ensure federal guidelines to protect prisoners from attacks from guards and other prisoners are followed.  It would also establish protections so that prisoners subject to violence will not be subject to punitive measures such as segregation.

    The BALIF-sponsored resolution was approved by CCBA, making it eligible for inclusion on CCBA’s legislative agenda!  More work is still to be done, however, and we can use your help in Sacramento to lobby for this proposal in February.  If you are interested in joining the CCBA Committee to help lobby or to propose resolutions for next year’s Conference, please email

  • 16 Sep 2014 9:16 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    For immediate release:

    Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom Statement on Judge Ashley Tabaddor

    Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) joins the growing chorus of fellow minority bar associations who are outraged and deeply concerned by the facts underlying a lawsuit recently filed by the Honorable Ashley Tabaddor, an Iranian American Immigration judge, against the Department of Justice (DOJ).  The DOJ issued an order disqualifying Judge Tabaddor from cases involving Iranian nationals given her activities within the Iranian-American community.  Judge Tabaddor alleges that the disqualification order violates Title VII and her First Amendment rights.  Notably, other immigration judges active in their ethnic and religious communities have not been subject to similar, blanket recusal orders. 

    Just as we stood against the calls for the recusal of the Honorable Judge Vaughan Walker in the Prop 8 case based on his sexual orientation, BALIF strongly objects to any efforts to recuse judges based on their immutable characteristics, such as their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.  BALIF is particularly concerned that the DOJ, which is charged with enforcing civil rights laws in this country, issued the recusal order.  A copy of the lawsuit, Tabaddor v. Holder et al., which is filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, can be accessed here


    BALIF is the nation’s oldest and largest bar association of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the field of law. Founded in 1980, BALIF represents its members’ interests in the wider San Francisco Bay Area. BALIF members and supporters include San Francisco Bay Area judges, lawyers, law students and legal workers.

  • 09 Sep 2014 5:29 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Hi BALIF Members and Friends- 

    It was great to share drinks and tater tots with so many BALIF members last week at the kickoff happy hour for BALIF's mentorship program. This year, more than sixty BALIF members are participating in the mentorship program. We are grateful to this year's mentors - including judges, partners at large and small firms, senior public interest and government attorneys, corporate in-house counsel, and solo practitioners - who have committed to sharing their experience with and providing guidance to BALIF's law students and more recently admitted attorneys.


    The last week has brought more developments on the marriage equality front. On September 3, a federal judge in Louisiana upheld Louisiana's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the first time a federal court has ruled in favor of marriage discrimination post-Windsor. But on September 4, in cases in which BALIF filed an amicus brief, the Seventh Circuit unanimously affirmed district court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana. Commentators have already called Judge Posner's opinion, which has some zingy sound bytes about drunk heterosexuals and elderly first-cousin marriages, a potential roadmap for the Supreme court. Closer to home, on September 8 in San Francisco, the Ninth Circuit heard arguments about same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada in  Latta v. Otter, in which BALIF filed an amicus brief, and Sevcik v. Sandoval.


    In other LGBT news, the California Senate recently passed AB 2501, which would ban people from using "trans panic" or "gay panic" defenses in court. Such defenses seek to excuse crimes such as murder or assault on the grounds that the victim's gender identity or sexual orientation is to blame for the defendant's violent reaction. The bill, which was passed by the Assembly this year, is headed to the Governor's office. BALIF sent a letter of support for AB 2501 to the Governor last week and we are very hopeful he will sign the bill. If Governor Brown signs the bill, California will be the first state to enact such a law.



    Have a great week everyone!



    Julie Wilensky

    BALIF Young Lawyers & Law Students Chair

  • 02 Sep 2014 6:25 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Hello BALIF Members and Friends, 

    This past month, I had the privilege of attending the 2014 Lavender Law Conference in New York City. To be honest, it had been years since I formally attended the Conference. Initially, I was reluctant to attend. Taking off time from work, traveling, and being away from home were my main concerns. Within 5 minutes of the first session, I realized I had made the right decision.


    During the Conference, I learned about the fundamental legal issues that arise with surrogacy (and how it works); the current status of LGBT protection under the Equal Protection Clause (still rational basis?); the ongoing difficulties facing smaller LGBT Bar Associations in less progressive states; the path to the judiciary of 6 outstanding, brave, amazing LGBT Judges (including 2 BALIF members); and so much more.


    At different times during the Conference I was upset and angry, excited and driven. But, I left the Conference with one feeling. Pride. I am so proud of all of our LGBT brother and sister attorneys and law students across the country. That includes each and every BALIF member. I give a special shout out to those BALIF members that attended (from memory: Dave, Jennifer, Nick, Lilah, Ken, Laura, Ethan, Sasha, Robb, Mike, John, Craig, Judges Flanagan, Kolakowski, and Bowen).

    Courtesy of National LGBT Bar Association Lavender Law Conference

    I look forward to seeing you at BALIF Connections Mentorship Program - Kickoff Happy Hour on Thursday at 6pm at the Holding Company (all BALIF members are welcome).



    Peter Catalanotti

    BALIF Board Secretary

  • 02 Sep 2014 1:55 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    It is with deep sadness that we inform you Sher Kung, an amazing person and former BALIF member, was tragically killed in a bike accident on August 29th. She was an active BALIF member, assisting with the 2009 Gala and attending many happy hours, panels and other BALIF events until she moved to Seattle a few years ago. Sher is survived by her partner, Christine Sanders, and their 7-month-old baby girl, Bryn.

    A memorial fund has been set-up in her honor:

  • 26 Aug 2014 8:23 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Summer is almost up (calendar wise anyway, the Bay Area has its own mind when it comes to acceptable weather) and we're slowly getting back to the real world. School is starting for many of you, while others are getting back into the swing of things after some well-deserved vacation time. As you are making plans for the next few weeks, I urge to keep in mind exciting volunteer opportunities and BALIF networking events. I am hoping you all signed up for the Second Chance Legal Clinic, and a quick reminder that the clinic is happening today, with a happy hour to follow. Also mark Thursday, September 4th for our mentorship happy hour. I took part in the mentorship program last year and made a truly wonderful friend in my mentee, Sean. I am signed up again this year, this time I am looking for a mentor. I absolutely urge everyone of you to take advantage of this rewarding opportunity, and sign up for a knowledgeable mentor, or impart your wisdom to an enthusiastic mentee! If you want more information about the mentorship program, and to sign up, check out our website or email Julie at 

    Hope to see you all at our future events! 

    Dmitri Pikman

    BALIF Board Programs Co-Chair

  • 20 Aug 2014 5:22 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    The rush of the end of summer is upon us, and that fresh crisp in the air is the sound of fall and the academic year beginning. It's a time to cherish our fond memories and dive back in to work! But even if you're caught up in work, I hope everyone remembers to take time out of their schedule to focus on growing their career-especially by finding a mentor!


    BALIF's "Connections" Mentorship program is in full swing, and mentor/mentee pairs are being assigned on a rolling basis right now. Both young lawyers and law students are welcome to apply to have a mentor. The first Mentor/Mentee event will be a kick off happy hour on September 4, 2014, so make sure you get your applications in soon so you have a mentor to greet when you get there! For more information, read on below or contact Julie Wilensky at


    As summer comes to a close, I want to pay special respects to the new 1Ls who have just started or are soon starting their law school career! Congratulations on making it this far, and please remember that we're here for you!

    Midori Hirai

    BALIF Board Law Student Representative
  • 12 Aug 2014 1:27 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    I hope you are enjoying your summer. It was great seeing such a big turnout at last week's happy hour!

    BALIF's Amicus Committee and our pro bono counsel, Munger, Tolles & Olson have been busy this summer working on the marriage equality front. BALIF has recently filed amicus briefs for cases in the 6th, 7th, and 9th Circuits, and will submit a brief in the 5th Circuit next month, challenging state statutory and constitutional gay marriage bans in Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Texas.

    The amicus briefs argue that the marriage bans inflict tangible legal and economic harm on same-sex couples and their children without any legitimate governmental purpose. We are pleased that the decisions coming out of the 4th and 10th Circuits (where BALIF also submitted amicus briefs) have struck down as unconstitutional the marriage bans in Virginia, Utah, and Oklahoma, though it is still a waiting game pending the disposition of the petitions for writ of certiorari that were recently filed with the U.S. Supreme Court for each of the cases.

    BALIF is proud to have coordinated with numerous other bar associations, LGBT organizations, and civil rights groups from around the country in submitting these briefs. If you would like to join BALIF's Amicus Committee, or wish to recommend a case for the submission of an amicus brief, please contact us at

    Leah Nutting
    BALIF Board Amicus Chair

  • 06 Aug 2014 1:14 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    BALIF filed an amicus curiae brief yesterday in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in the consolidated cases Baskin v. Bogan, Fujii v. Commissioner of the Indiana State Dept. of Revenue, Lee v. Abbott, and Walker v. Wolf, supporting the right of same-sex couples in Indiana and Wisconsin to marry and to have out-of-state marriages recognized. The press release can be viewed here.

    The brief argues that the marriage bans of Indiana and Wisconsin are unconstitutional and that the tangible legal and economic harm inflicted by the bans, including the denial of substantial benefits and the perpetuation of stigma and discrimination, cannot be remedied by the availability of domestic partnerships or civil unions.

    "We applaud the decisions out of the 4th and 10th Circuits striking down similar bans," said Leah Nutting, BALIF's Amicus Committee chair, noting recent cases where BALIF has also submitted amicus briefs. "And we are heartened by the 7th Circuit's emergency order requiring Indiana to recognize the out-of-state marriage of a set of plaintiffs in this case, where one spouse is suffering from a terminal illness. The case illustrates the very real and irreparable harm suffered by same-sex couples while waiting for the marriage bans to work their way through the courts."

    Fourteen other civil rights groups joined BALIF on the brief. The brief was filed with pro bono support from Jerome C. Roth and Nicole S. Phillis of the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olsen.

    Click here to read the amicus brief.

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