Hundreds will attend our annual Testimonial Dinner on April 5th at the Oakland Marriott City Center. We will honor Anne Weills and Dan Siegel as Champions of Justice, Zahra Billoo as Unsung Hero, and the Prison Hunger Strikers and Hunger Strike Solidarity Committee as Partners in Liberation.
Dan Siegel and Anne Butterfield Weills are husband and wife, who also work together at the Oakland law office of Siegel & Yee.
After working for the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County and the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Project in Southeast Asia, Siegel entered private practice in 1973. He is nationally known as an expert in employment and labor law, particularly in cases involving college and university faculty members and athletics coaches. He has tried over 125 cases to jury verdict. Siegel has developed an sports law practice, representing college and professional coaches throughout the country. He and his associates also have an active labor law practice. Their clients include the National Union of Healthcare Workers and several locals of the Service Employees International Union.
While at UC Berkeley, Dan was a student activist made famous by his call to “take the park” – the park being People’s Park – at a rally on Sproul Plaza in 1969.
Weills has been a civil rights and equity activist since her teenage years. She was one of the first organizers of the women's liberation movement in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to becoming an attorney, Weills worked as a union organizer for the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the International Garment Workers Union (IGWU). Weills worked for Caterpillar Tractor in San Leandro from 1977 to 1982 as a machinist, was a union activist and an Executive Board member of the International Association of Machinists (IAM), Local 284.
After Caterpillar closed its San Leandro plant, Weills went to law school. In her current practice, Weills handles wrongful termination, civil rights and employment cases.
In early 2000, Siegel and Weills won a judgment of over $1.0 million for Dr. Colleen Crangle in her gender bias and retaliation case against Stanford University, the first loss ever for Stanford in a civil rights case. In spring 2003, they won a $1 million judgment in a tenure discrimination case against Brown University, representing Fred Shoucair, a native of Lebanon.
Zahra Billoo is the Executive Director for the CAIR San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA) chapter, where she strives to promote justice and understanding at local and national levels. Since joining CAIR-SFBA in 2009, Zahra has embraced her roles as community organizer and civil rights lawyer. She frequently provides trainings at local mosques and universities as part of CAIR’s efforts to empower the community, while building bridges with allies on key civil rights issues. Zahra also represents victims of discrimination and advocates for positive policy changes that uphold civil rights for all.
In June 2011, at her direction, CAIR-SFBA filed a lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch challenging their firing of a young Bay Area Muslim woman for refusing to remove her religiously mandated headscarf. After a 3 1/2 year struggle, that lawsuit settled in 2013 when the company finally agreed to change their infamous "look policy." This instance is just one of over 1,000 that CAIR-SFBA has provided free legal aid in since 2010.
Zahra's work with CAIR-SFBA has been highlighted in local and national media outlets including KTVU, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, the Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. Most notably, she made waves when she appeared on FOX News’ O'Reilly Factor in Fall 2010 to discuss invasive TSA practices. A 2012 recipient of the Islamic Circle of North America's Community Service Award and a 2013 recipient of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California's Trailblazer Award, Zahra participated in the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute's 2012-2013 fellowship.
Prior to coming to CAIR, Zahra devoted her time to labor rights efforts. While in college, she worked with the California Faculty Association on issues including faculty salaries and the defunding of public higher education. While in law school, Zahra was awarded the Peggy Browning Fund Fellowship to work with the National Employment Law Project.
Zahra graduated Cum Laude from California State University, Long Beach with degrees in Human Resources Management and Political Science. She earned her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of Law, and was admitted to the California Bar in 2009. She bakes in her free time, because it helps her keep mind off the NSA even if only momentarily.
The California Prison Hunger Strikers initially went on strike in 2011. On July 8th 2013, more than 30,000 California prisoners initiated a second, indefinite hunger strike in response to the CDCR’s failure to meet their 5 Core Demands. 60 days and 1 death later, strikers suspended the strike, and California legislators committed to hold public hearings. The hunger strikes have been organized by prisoners in an inspiring show of unity across prison-manufactured racial and geographical lines. Read a letter from hunger striker Peter Salazar (pdf).
The 5 Core Demands are as follows:
1) End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse;
2) Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria;
3) Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement;
4) Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food, and;
5) Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.