Testimonial Dinner 2015

March 21, 2015

Our annual Testimonial Dinner will be Saturday, March 21 from 6 - 9 p.m. at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts - Forum in San Francisco! The event will include a combination of seating and standing. There will be ample food and drink. If you need to sit, we will be sure to accommodate you.


Champions of Justice John Burris and Jim Chanin

John L. Burris is best known for his work in the area of Plaintiffs’ Civil Rights. His Oakland, California based practice has represented hundreds of victims of police misconduct throughout California and handles high-profile cases and high-profile clients. His firm has also represented clients in class action employment cases and criminal matters. In 1999, Burris published a book entitled, Blue vs. BLACK: Let’s End the Conflict between Police and Minorities.

John has successfully handled many high-profile cases including most recently, the Los Angles homeless woman beaten by a CHP officer, and Oscar Grant who was shot to death by a BART police officer New Year’s Day in 2009. The movie Fruitvale Station is based upon this case. He was associate trial counsel in Rodney King’s civil trial against Los Angeles PD. He is a founding Board member of the National Lawyers Guild’s National Police Accountability Project (NPAP) and he is a frequent lecturer and speaker about police, criminal justice and race and gender issues.

John Burris and Jim Chanin, were the attorneys in the infamous “Riders” case against the City of Oakland that resulted in a multi-million dollar settlement and a Negotiated Settlement Agreement where an independent monitor was appointed by the federal judge to oversee the agreed upon reforms. Likewise, he and Jim represented 104 men and women arrested based upon search warrants that were illegally obtained by Oakland police officers and he and Jim also represented twenty Southeast Asian women who were illegally stopped and sexually solicited by an Oakland police officer.

During law school, Jim Chanin was a member of the first Police Review Commission in Berkeley and twice elected Chairperson. After becoming a lawyer, he became involved in police accountability litigation and by 1985, he had been involved in eight wrongful death cases. Jim became involved in prison litigation in the early 1990s. He and Amitai Schwartz represented Vaughn Dortch, whose case was on 60 Minutes and became an important figure in the Pelican Bay litigation. He has been to many prisons from Pelican Bay to Calipatria representing clients, interviewing witnesses, and taking depositions.

Chanin has represented political demonstrators since the 1980s. In 2014, Chanin, along with attorneys Julie Houk and Rachel Lederman, obtained a $4.5 million settlement for military veteran Scott Olsen as a result of the permanent brain injuries he suffered when he was shot in the head by a police officer with so-called “less lethal” munitions on October 25, 2011 during a demonstration in support of Occupy Oakland.

Listen to Chanin on KQED from this past December discussing CHP officers pulling a gun at an Oakland protest.

Unsung Heroes Thomas Steel Interns

Every summer since 2001 the Bay Area chapter has hosted a law student intern to work on queer and LGBT issues. The internship was conceived as a permanent memorial to the work and life of Thomas Steel, a former chapter president and National vice-president of the Guild, who died in the summer of 1998. Interns have had numerous accomplishments over the years. They have organized a marriage equality activist training summit; created Know Your Rights materials for LGBT youth, the transgender community, and sex workers; assisted LGBT asylum seekers; testified before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on evictions of seniors in the Castro; and much more.

Partners in Liberation TGI Justice Project

The Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project is a group of transgender people—inside and outside of prison—creating a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom. TGI has worked with the NLG on a number of projects, especially in collaboration with our Thomas Steel interns. Leaders in TGI have educated Guild members on transgender issues at our national convention and a number of chapter events. As our chapter’s prisoner support work expands, we hope to continue this relationship and focus on the needs of transgender people in California prisons.