Meet LGBT Pride Month Local Hero Mattheus Stephens

By admin, June 27th, 2016 in Uncategorized

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LGBT Pride Month Local Hero Mattheus Stephens

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Mattheus Stephens is a founding partner of the Progressive Law Group — a firm based in San Diego, built with the goal of claiming the “progressive” political label in the legal world. But despite his full time work there, Stephens puts a lot of energy in to teaching. He’s lectured at UC San Diego for about a decade. He loves teaching. And part of what he loves most is learning from students.

“We as educators tend not to give students as much credit as they deserve for how creative and intelligent they are,” Stephens says.

He says by far the most important course he teaches is “Race and Law,” which reviews the legal history of slavery through its constitutional end, and the impact that history has on housing, voting and employment today.

Not surprisingly, Stephens’ “Law and Sex” course is quite popular. “When they learn it’s not a how-to course, they get a different feel for it,” Stephens says.

Aside from his academic and professional endeavors, Stephens is also passionate for public service. He’s been on the San Diego Civil Service Commission since 2008. “It’s awesome,” he says. “The reason I love it is because I really am passionate about the city of San Diego. I think it’s a phenomenal place to live and work and raise a family. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Outside the classroom and City Hall, Stephens is a standout in the LGBT community — a leader just by being who he is in the roles he’s earned. He’s the first transgender person to receive KPBS’ Local Hero award, and the highest-ranking transgender person serving the City of San Diego, to his knowledge.

“Frankly, not enough of us survive to achieve the community recognition I have had the privilege to attain,” Stephens says. “We are quite literally just trying to survive.”

Suicide and poverty rates are well above average in the transgender community. Stephens noted that for these reasons, it’s unusual for transgender people to have the resources to help improve local communities as he’s had the opportunity to do.

To that end, Stephens aims to elevate the LGBT community through the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. It’s a national organization that helps elect LGBT politicians to office, particularly in areas with low LGBT representation (unlike San Diego). When more openly LGBT candidates get elected to office, the areas they govern are more likely to support equality, and people get treated the same, according to the nominee.

Stephens said he learned of his nomination by voicemail, left by KPBS general manager Tom Karlo. “I was alone in my office, and when I listened I literally blushed. I turned beat red. I’m beyond thrilled and grateful for the acknowledgment.”




Marriage Equality Decisions

By admin, June 14th, 2013 in Uncategorized

Shortly the US Supreme Court will decide the “Marriage cases”. It would be welcome if the Court set the Federal floor on equality and made gays and lesbians equal citizens such that they could no longer be the target of expressly discriminatory laws. The Country as a whole is moving away from those tactics and is now realizing that is is about the relationship of all citizens to our government. Nothing less than full equality should be the benchmark. However, if my predictions are accurate we will continue to have fractured equality. The California Marriage case is likely to be dismissed for lack of standing. That would establish marriage equality in California, but not everywhere, which in turn means that at the Federal table, gays and lesbians are served fewer rights than their straight counterparts. The DOMA case may also be dismissed on standing grounds. That would mean DOMA is declared unconstitutional in the Second Circuit, but again would not set the Federal floor on full equality. Edith Windsor would receive her retirement fund back, but there will be another Edith Windsor in a different circuit waiting for the Federal government to take her retirement because of legal inequality by its hand. We are a formidable country and we are better than this. We understand that what makes the US great is not just the ideal of equality, but achieving actual equality for us all. We can hope at least five justices see the wisdom and necessity of this and rule accordingly.




Active Duty Service Members March in Pride Parade
By: Mattheus E. Stephens

By admin, July 20th, 2011 in San Diego

Last Saturday, July 16, 2011, for the first time in history, openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force marched in the San Diego LGBT Pride Parade. As these brave individuals—all willing to give their lives for the protection and well-being of our country—marched proudly down University Avenue, a sense of awe struck the crowd. While some parade goers cheered loudly, others rested their right hand over their hearts, and still others looked on reverently, tears wetting their sun-kissed cheeks.

More than 200 days have passed since President Obama signed legislation repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Because the statute requires “certification,” however, DADT has not yet been fully repealed, and LGB service members technically remain subject to discharge if their sexual orientation is revealed.

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San Diego Welcomes Judge Vaughn Walker

By admin, May 18th, 2011 in Marriage Equality, San Diego

Tonight San Diego welcomes Judge Vaughn Walker. The personal attacks against him continue to my dismay but not my surprise. The current flavor suggests that he was disqualified from deciding the marriage case because of his orientation. The argument is legally preposterous and unfounded. Taken to its logical conclusion, all judges who are heterosexual would have to recuse themselves from deciding straight marital dissolutions; all judges who are women would have to recuse themselves from deciding sexual harassment or discrimination cases involving women and all judges who are people of color would have to recuse themselves from cases involving race discrimination. Judge Walker deserves a warm San Diego welcome, one that reaffirms his abilities as a judicial officer and rejects these desperate claims in a losing proposition.




VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

By mstephens, October 22nd, 2010 in Uncategorized

Please do not take this right for granted. Not all citizens have had this right in our lifetimes. Not to mention, as we currently face some of the most gripping financial times in our history, it’s something you can do for free. Speaking of free, voting is one of the things that keeps us that way and is an exercise of our important liberties. If you have not exercised your voting muscles in a while (as some candidates have not), then get yourself to the poll and start lifting! We do not want those muscles to get flabby. Likewise, if you vote by mail, complete your mail-in ballot early and send it in before you forget and the date passes you by!

People often ask about voting for judges. It is a bit odd that judges are part of our voting process in California, but it does give the people an opportunity to think about what is happening in a critically important portion of our state government. Take a minute to learn who serves as our judicial officers. Learn their history of appointment to the bench and more. That information is available for sitting judges on the California Courts website: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courts/. As I have lamented before, we should have more information about potential judicial officers. But, in the meantime, learn what you can and….

VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!




DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER
Misguided Attacks in the Marriage Debate

By mstephens, September 21st, 2010 in Marriage Equality

The recent court rulings on marriage are historic, both legally and socially. The most disappointing aspect of the “debate”, however, has been the right wing attack on Judge Walker personally. Walker is a Republican-appointed judge and not a progressive by any stretch, yet when the right wing loses there is no bottom too low. So they personally attack the judge who by all legitimate accounts handled himself fastidiously and deftly in a matter to which he gave great care and consideration.

This baseless attack on the impartiality of our judiciary has got to stop. The right wing needs a clear message that its “debate tactics” cannot include unfounded assaults on impartial judges. This strategy sullies them as well as our court system. When you lose, you lose. But don’t then stoop to attacking the very judges whose appointments you initially sought or cheered.

The fact is that socially conservative judges, lawyers and politicians (such as Walker, Olsen, Sanders and Schwarzenegger) are seeing that as a matter of law, all citizens must have fair and equal access to a fundamental, government-provided right called marriage. Rail against the correct ruling if you must. But do not attack the legitimate system from whence it came, as that very system protects you also, and has provided ordered liberty to all citizens for the better part of 230 years.




AFFRONT TO JUSTICE
Why Better Courts Now isn’t better at all

By mstephens, June 4th, 2010 in Uncategorized

As a concept, it is a good idea to have organizations draw attention to often over-looked judicial races. It raises important questions about whether judges should be elected since it makes them subject to the very political process the Founding Fathers sought to insulate them from. But the organization Better Courts Now is not a non-partisan think tank designed to bring information to the people about judicial candidates, nor is it a “group of ordinary citizens … rising up to preserve democracy” as Baptist Pastor Chris Clark claims. To the contrary, the organization is the antithesis of an effort to preserve democracy. It is instead a group of religious ideologues attempting to shake the very foundation of impartiality that currently exists in the San Diego judiciary. The irony of the organization is their alleged claim to combat “judicial activism”, when in fact their ideology as a group is to tear down what they view as an overly liberal or progressive judiciary. Better Courts now is not about impartiality at all, and they make no bones about that, having put forth a slate of unqualified judicial candidates to carry their political flag to the bench.

An impartial analysis of judicial candidates is conducted by the Judicial Evaluation Commission of the San Diego County Bar Association. The JCE was created in 1978 to fill the information gap that existed around the qualifications of judicial candidates. The Commission is made up of a cross-section of the San Diego County Bar as appointed by the President of the SDCBA. There well may be room for a similar evaluation process by non-members of the SDCBA, but impartial analysis is clearly not what Better Courts Now is here to do. They are nothing more than a bank of candidates with a strikingly narrow viewpoint, who have a history of attacking particular judges when they disagree with those judges’ rulings. The brazenness and transparency of this political challenge to impartiality are staggering.

It is important to dialogue about the qualifications of our judges, including those not currently running for office. But let’s do it by actually evaluating those qualifications, gathering impartial and non-partisan information about our judicial officers and those running for judicial office. The SDCBA is a respected organization that does that work, but it certainly would not hurt to have another group that is a conglomeration of non-lawyers and non-members of the SDCBA make that effort as well. San Diego is America’s Finest City and it will be made that much finer by adding helpful information to our election cycle, particularly as it pertains to our judges, who decide what our laws mean and who have such a profound effect on our lives.




Go Green & Save Green!

By svasich, April 22nd, 2010 in Tips & Tools

No doubt by now you’re tuned in to the not-so-new trend toward being eco-conscious, and you can list many of the benefits of leading a more environmentally responsible life. You know what a carbon footprint is, and have probably taken steps to reduce yours through changes in your daily routine. Maybe you even drive a hybrid car now, or power your home with solar panels.

While most of us have made changes toward greater sustainability in our home lives, there is still an important area often being neglected: the workplace. And what’s more, did you know that many office “greening” projects can actually end up reducing your expenses?!

Compiled below are some great ideas that are easy to implement at the office. We’ve instituted many of these at Stock Stephens LLP and have seen the benefits in measurable quantities. Following the list are links to some great resources to help you in your quest to go green!

Opt in for online statements. Request from your vendors, banking institution(s), credit card companies, etc. that they discontinue paper statements and invoicing on your account(s); most companies now have an online and/or email option available for those wishing to go paperless. Worried you’ll miss a due date without the bill coming in the mail? With most institutions, you can choose to or will automatically receive an email reminder when your statement or invoice is ready.

Pay bills online. Many companies have options for paying online or over the phone with a credit card or virtual check from your bank. Not only does this save you time and dramatically reduce your use of expensive paper checks, but you also save on postage since there’s nothing to mail!

Buy green supplies. With environmental conscientiousness and sustainability figuring heavily in everyone’s lives these days, you’ll be hard pressed to find an office supply company that doesn’t have an array of green products to choose from. Companies like Staples and Quill, and even smaller local companies like Coastline Office Supply now offer green cleaning supplies, recycled paper, even pens made from recycled materials; and they’ve become widespread enough now that the prices aren’t necessarily higher than their not-so-sustainable counterparts.

Update your lighting. While it may be difficult if you lease space in a larger office building, do your best to replace old lighting with energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) wherever possible. According to EnergyStar.gov, “Energy Star qualified CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy (electricity) than incandescent light bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes. That would prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of about 800,000 cars.” This is especially important for those of us living here in southern California, where the energy crisis has directly impacted our lives in recent years with rolling blackouts. Remember also to turn lights off in areas not being used.

Reduce… There are many ways to reduce your consumption in the workplace. Make the shift to running a paperless office, including communicating with vendors, clients, colleagues and others electronically instead of through the mail or by fax (again saving paper and, in the case of mail, postage). Another expense-saving habit is to use your printer’s “econo”, “toner-save” or “draft” mode whenever possible to reduce your ink and toner consumption. If you have a kitchen or break room, have cloth towels instead of (or in addition to) paper ones, and real utensils, plates, cups, etc. to avoid using and throwing away so many non-biodegradable disposables.

Reuse… One of the simple changes we implemented in our office is re-using paper in-house. That is to say, we collect “scratch paper” that has been printed on one side only, and use the blank sides to print all of our draft copy, online research that we need hard copies of, etc. Once both sides are used and the printed matter no longer needed, then the pages are shredded or tossed in the recycling. On average we now purchase roughly 40% less paper each month, which is beneficial to both the environment and our bottom line. In addition, we save on sticky notes by cutting up scratch paper and old one-sided forms and appointment calendars into small scraps for quick notes and reminders.

Recycle… Many office buildings participate in citywide recycling programs, and work in conjunction with the building’s janitorial service. If your building doesn’t have a recycling program, look into the possibility of establishing one. Alternatively, you can set up a rotation in the office for people to take recyclables to local drop sites located throughout the county. Find one near you here:
http://www.sandiego.gov/environmental-services/recycling/centers.shtml

Travel green. Organize carpools for the daily commute, and/or encourage using public transportation. This benefits the environment, and also cuts down on everyone’s individual auto maintenance and gas costs. Our office has even used a monthly stipend equal to the cost of a transit pass (currently $72) to encourage staff to drive less often.

Educate one another. When you gain new information or have tips of your own, share them with your colleagues the way you do with family and friends. If possible, have a communal bulletin board where helpful information is posted, such as where to buy locally grown foods…
http://www.sdfarmbureau.org/BuyLocal/Farmers-Markets.php

…or why it’s so important to use reusable bags for shopping…
http://www.zerowastesandiego.org/pdf/prc_factsheet.pdf
http://keepcaliforniabeautiful.com/pdf/Got_Your_Bags_Tip_Sheet.pdf

Another great method is to simply email fellow staff when you come across helpful articles, good causes, or organizations that need your help.

The bottom line is, if you haven’t started implementing some or all of these sustainability strategies and the many others that are out there, now is the time! No more creating needless waste… no more needlessly wasting money. Help the environment, cut your costs, and increase employee attitude and cooperation through a collective effort toward greater environmental responsibility!

Check out the following links for more information, great money-saving options, and fantastic resources for achieving a more natural, more sustainable future.

> www.gogreenbook.org
> www.newleafpaper.com
> www.sustainabletable.org/shop/eatseasonal
> www.keepcaliforniabeautiful.com
> energycenter.org
> www.energystar.gov
> www.sandiegonaturalguide.com




Get This Party Started

By mstephens, April 20th, 2010 in Tips & Tools

In recent years, business strategy has shifted from a focus on advertising and marketing to an emphasis on networking. Establishing personal relationships is now the fashionable key to securing new business and building a recognizable and respected brand.

For the not-so-gregarious or even shy types, however, the prospect of attending networking groups and mixers can be daunting. Even for the most seasoned minglers, sometimes at networking events it’s hard to break the ice or approach strangers randomly to start a conversation. If you get stuck or feel like you are just not in the mood, try this: look around the room and “notice” someone. Whether they jump out at you because they have a great hair cut, a nice smile, a handsome suit, a distinguished air, whatever it may be. Once you’ve noticed it, walk up to that person and tell them what you noticed that you liked. “That’s a really great jacket.” Invariably, they say “Thank you” and you can ask the natural follow-up questions like “where did you get it?” Once you’ve opened the door and put them at ease, simply introduce yourself. You’ve made a new connection with a potential client, colleague, or service provider, and they’re first impression of you is a positive one.

Be brave and give it a try the next time you’re cringing in the corner or hovering over the hors d’oeuvres. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your networking skills will improve, and you’ve made the world a better place by paying a compliment.




California’s Financial Responsibility Law

By lstock, March 25th, 2010 in Tips & Tools

As residents of California where most people own at least one car, it is hard not to know our legal obligations with respect to liability insurance and proper procedure in the event of an accident. Still, there are certain details that we all tend to forget, and a few we may never have learned. Here is a quick refresher course…

Always carry written proof of financial responsibility in your vehicle. It can be a valid liability insurance policy for damage to someone else’s property or person; a $35,000 surety bond; a DMV-issued self-insurance certificate; or a DMV acknowledgment of a $35,000 cash deposit.

Here are other legal requirements related to your financial responsibility:

▪ If a peace officer requests proof of insurance, you must show it.

▪ If the other driver or a property owner requests it after an accident, you must show it.

▪ If you have an accident, whether or not you are at fault, and there is an injury, death or property damage of over $750, you or your insurance agent or legal representative must file a Traffic Accident Report (Form SR-1) with the DMV within 10 days.

▪ If you do have proof of insurance and if you do not file an SR-1, your license will be suspended.

For more information on your rights and responsibilities as a driver in California, visit the Department of Motor Vehicles website (www.dmv.ca.gov).

If you are cited for a moving violation or arrested for a DUI, contact Attorney Lauri Stock and her team of experienced professionals at Stock Stephens, LLP for immediate assistance.

Stock Stephens, LLP
(619) 234-5488
www.StockStephens.com