From:                              Jennifer Clarke []

Sent:                               Friday, July 23, 2010 8:30 AM

To:                                   Lauren Mirowitz

Subject:                          Law Center Update: "Groundbreaking" Case Could Redefine the Rights of Methadone Users



Affiliated with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

In this Issue

Victory for Methadone Users

Final Gaskin Report

Voting Machine Reliability Challenged

Children's medicaid case

Gambling/health links

Board Updates

Meet Lisa!

Law Center book sale

Upcoming Events


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Letter from the Executive Director


Because I am a trial lawyer at heart, there is still nothing like the professional pride I feel when the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia appears on a cogently-reasoned, persuasive brief or, better yet, when the Court accepts the legal arguments that were in that brief.  My aim for all of our lawyers - and for every paper that leaves this office - is that the Law Center's name will be synonymous with the highest quality of legal work.  The substantive and procedural issues we address are complex and our clients deserve the best lawyers available.  
This is never an easy goal for any firm; but we have a chance to approach it in part because of the rich co-counseling relationships that we enjoy with other law firms.  The procedurally unusual motion that we recently filed in the Tenth Circuit to reinstate a children's Medicaid case, described below, is an excellent example of collaboration between a small, distinguished civil rights firm in Oklahoma, health care lawyers at the large Philadelphia firm, Duane Morris, and the Law Center's expert on children's Medicaid cases, James Eiseman (even though, just yesterday that court denied our motion).  The gratifying victory on behalf of our client, a registered nurse seeking to retain her license, also described below, could not have happened without the painstaking and careful work of our newest partner, Lawrence Berger of Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah.  The list goes on and on: the lawyers at Boies Schiller & Flexner who treat the poorest of Florida children as if they were the firm's most important clients (and I believe they are); or the lawyers at DLA Piper who have joined the Law Center's Sonja Kerr and thrown their minds and hearts into a case alleging discrimination against African American students by the Lower Merion School District which routinely segregates them into below grade or special education classes; or the lawyers at Drinker Biddle who have for years battled with us to change Pennsylvania's erratic and unreliable electronic voting machines.
These lawyers should inspire us all.  They demonstrate the power that can be harnessed when lawyers assume their responsibility to defend society's most vulnerable members and who take as their highest calling the righting of wrongs.  On behalf of the Law Center and in particular on behalf of all of our clients, thank you all!       

Very truly yours,

jenny sig

Jennifer R. Clarke

Executive Director


Victory for Nurse Receiving Methadone Treatment

The federal district court for the Middle District has denied the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's motion to dismiss claims against it, as well as the State Board of Nursing and the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act for injunctive relief and damages in a case by a registered nurse denied her right to practice because she is using methadone to treat her opioid dependency. The nurse, Melinda Reynolds, has been suspended from practice until she is "weaned from" methadone, although the Complaint alleges that methadone does not impair cognitive function or limit mental capability, intelligence or the ability to maintain employment. Ms. Reynolds alleges that the state agencies have an unpublished policy - one that state agents call "secret" - of refusing to license or re-license as a nurse any person known to be participating in a methadone maintenance program. Because of the state's action, Ms. Reynolds, a widow with dependent children, has been forced to live in reduced circumstances for the past three years, working at minimum wages.  More....


"Broken Promise" - Gaskin Advisory Panel on Least Restrictive Environment Issues Final Report

gaskinOn June 3, 2010 a panel of experts established by a settlement of the Law Center's class action lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a scathing assessment of the Department's failure to make significant improvements in the education of children with disabilities. The implementation of the settlement agreement affected countless children, as the report's author points out: "This lawsuit, spanning 16 years, has...covered the entire school careers of many thousands of students with disabilities...taken together, 3.84 million student IEP years have been completed under the time span of this lawsuit, 1.2 million student IEP years have passed just in the time of the Settlement Agreement...This report could have been a celebration. Instead, it is a metaphor of what is wrong in Pennsylvania with education in the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities." At right, Lydia Gaskin, in a photo taken while the case was being litigated.  More...


Report Issued Before 2010 Election Supports Concerns about Voting Machine Reliability

voteThe Election Reform Network issued a report on May 13, 2010 showing that the number of voters and the number of votes recorded by electronic voting machines in Montgomery County, PA were rarely the same.  The report documented discrepancies in three-fourths of the election districts analyzed, with differences of up to 47 voters per district in the 2008 presidential election. The report provides factual support for the contention made in the lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's use of electronic voting machines filed by the Law Center and co-counsel on behalf of Pennsylvania voters. More...


Attempt to Revive Oklahoma Children's Medicaid Case Based on a Clarification in the Health Care Reform Law Unsuccessful

The Law Center and our partners filed a motion in the Tenth Circuit on June 8, 2010 asking the court to revive a children's Medicaid case that we won in 2004 after 19 days of trial, then lost on appeal in the Tenth Circuit. The motion is based on a provision of the health care reform act that clarified that the interpretation of the Medicaid law used by the Tenth Circuit was in fact a misinterpretation of the law. We partnered with our good friends at Bullock, Bullock & Blakemore in Tulsa, OK and Phil Lebowitz and Erin Duffy, a health care partner and associate at Duane Morris in Philadelphia, to prepare the motion. Unfortunately, however, the Court of Appeals denied the motion on July 20, 2010 finding that there were not "extraordinary circumstances" sufficient to justify relief and that there is no indication that Congress intended the act to operate retroactively. More....


City to Gather Data on Gambling in Minority Communities Thanks to Chinatown Preservation Alliance Health Committee's Efforts    

CasinoIn advance of the opening of casinos in Philadelphia, the Law Center's Public Health and Environmental Justice Clinic has partnered with the Chinatown Preservation Alliance Health Committee on issues concerning the public health impacts of pathological and problem gambling on Philadelphia's Asian communities.  Thanks to the Law Center's work with the Chinatown Preservation Alliance, the health committee partnered with the City of Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health to persuade the Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) to include crucial questions designed to screen for pathological gambling in the 2010 biannual household health survey of Southeastern Pennsylvania.  More...


Board and Advisory Board - Welcomes and Congratulations


Congratulations to Board Member Marilyn Heffley, recipient of M. HeffleyCorporate Counsel Excellence Award 

Marilyn Heffley has been named In-House Counsel of the Year by the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel-America (DELVACCA). Heffley works as the Assistant General Counsel and Chief Litigation Counsel for Sunoco, Inc. More...



E. FriedellWelcome to New Board Member, Ellen S. Friedell
The Law Center's board of directors elected Ellen S. Friedell as its newest member in June.  A founder and principal of Reaching Agreement ADR LLC, a dispute resolution firm, Friedell is an attorney with extensive experience in litigation and litigation management...More... 



Welcome New Advisory Board Member, Helen P. Pudlin
H. PudlinHelen P. Pudlin is senior vice president and general counsel of The PNC Financial Services Group.  Ms. Pudlin was a member of the Law Center's original advisory board and we are delighted that she accepted the invitation to re-join in May 2010. More about our advisory board....



LisaMeet our new Comptroller, Lisa Sica

Ms. Sica joined our staff this month after completing her Masters degree in Public Policy at New England College. Prior to joining the Law Center, she gained valuable experience as Controller for the Northeast Financial Corporation where she was responsible for over $30 million in assets and human resources support for a staff of over 150 and as Customer Service Manager for EdgeCraft Corporation where she managed accounts receivable and order processing.  Asked to describe what drew her to work at the Law Center, Ms. Sica said she found the work to be rewarding and stated, "I love the people here and their principles of equal representation." 


50% off Award-Winning Law Center Publications!

booksOur publication, Education in the 50 States:  A Deskbook of the History of State Constitutions and Laws About Education, is now available for only $24.50. We also contributed two chapters to A Quality Education for Every Child:  Stories from the Lawyers on the Front Line, which is now just $13.50.  Both award-winning books were published by The Institute for Educational Equity and Opportunity and are on sale through September 1 on the IFEEO website only,  This is your chance to stock up and share these high quality publications with your colleagues.
Go to and buy now!  Learn more...


Join us at these upcoming events:


"Environmental Justice In Chester: Solutions for Change" Conference

When: July 27-28, 2010

Where: Best Western Widener Hotel, Chester, PA

What: a conference organized by our clients, the Chester Environmental Partnership, to educate participants about environmental justice (EJ), and challenge them to develop a models for change in Chester.  Law Center Attorney Adam Cutler will present at the conference.


"Back to School with the Public Interest Law Center: IEP Tips and Tricks"

When: August 17, 2010, 12 - 4pm
Where: United Way Building, 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103
What: The second in a series of training and CLE sessions for parents, attorneys, educators and advocates of kids with disabilities, hosted by the Law Center's Sonja Kerr.
Online registration is NOW OPEN  | View yearlong calendar of training sessions.


Save the Date: the Law Center's 3rd Annual Symposium on Equality 

When: Thursday, September 30, 2010, 8:30am-4:30pm and 5:00-9:00pm

Where: the Symposium will take place at the Arch Street Meeting House, 4th and Arch Streets, followed by a reception at the Down Town Club, 6th and Chestnut Streets.

What: This year's symposium will focus on education and how we can make access to a quality education a reality for all children. More Information

The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia is dedicated to advancing the Constitutional promise of equal citizenship to all persons irrespective of race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, gender or poverty. We use public education, continuing education of our clients and client organizations, research, negotiation and, when necessary, the courts to achieve systemic reforms that advance the central goals of self-advocacy, social justice and equal protection of the law for all members of society.

The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia is a registered charitable organization. A copy of the official registration may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free within Pennsylvania 1.800.732.0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.


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