A.N.S.W.E.R.Coalition and the Partnership for Civil Justice

See also: A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition not letting Ferguson crisis go to waste and

A.N.S.W.E.R. and the Party for Socialism & Liberation in Ferguson

The “Justice Center” in D.C. is the center for the hydra-headed effort behind the A.N.S.W.E.R.Coalition.org signs in Ferguson, Missouri.

The narrow, brown-brick, three-story, renovated row-house at 617 Florida Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. is the office of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF). As noted earlier, that is also the headquarters address for A.N.S.W.E.R., and the Washington, D.C. address for the Party for Socialism & Liberation.

PCJF’s two principals are the wife-and-husband co-founders (1994) of the law firm: Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director; Carl Messineo, Legal Director.

The PCJF webpage highlights the couple’s joint statement:

As we look to the future, the Partnership will continue to be at the forefront of legal struggle, using the law to defend and create room for the peoples' movement for progressive social change."

Here are the lead paragraphs from PCJF’s self-description:

“The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund is a public interest legal organization that brings a unique and cutting edge approach dedicated to the defense of human and civil rights secured by law, the protection of free speech and dissent, and the elimination of prejudice and discrimination. Among the PCJF cases are constitutional law, civil rights, women's rights, economic justice matters and Freedom of Information Act cases.

Founded by Carl Messineo and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, who the Washington Post has called [May 12, 2003 article] ‘the constitutional sheriffs for a new protest generation,’ the PCJF’s work includes landmark constitutional rights litigation, often concentrated in the areas of free speech, assembly or other protected political organizing activity. The PCJF’s litigation program works alongside an equally important programmatic emphasis on education and outreach.”

In March 2010, a Washington Post article entitled “D.C. husband-wife legal team fights for protesters' rights” featured the “three-person law practice” and identified Radhika Miller as the third attorney. The website for the Party for Socialism and Liberation lists Miller among its prominent members as “an attorney in Washington, D.C., a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and frequent guest on Liberation Radio.”

The PCJ Mission and Revenue Stream

PCJF’s mission statement is found on the organization’s 2011 Form 990: “To defend and advance fundamental civil, constitutional and human rights secured by the constitution and under law.” 

In 2011, PCJF reported gross receipts of $1,795,365. The PCJF Form 990’s for 2010-2012 report average annual gross receipts for those three years as $1,013,686. 

In 2012, Verheyden-Hilliard and Messineo reported their base incomes from PCJF as $165,000 each.

PCJF spends money to make money in its “Litigation Program.” For example, in 2010, it spent $219,097 on litigation expenses and realized litigation revenues of $865,000.  The purpose of its “Litigation Program” is stated as:

“Litigation Program: Litigation to defend human rights and civil rights as secured by law. The larger component of this program is the defense of constitutional rights to free speech and assembly (U.S. Constitution, First Amendment). The right to be free from arbitrary and unconstitutional police or government misconduct (U.S. Constitution, Fourth Amendment) and to be free from discrimination and have the benefit of equal protection of the law (U.S. Constitution, Equal Protection Clause). A growing litigation program component focuses on open government and government accountability and focuses on public records litigations when public authorities fail to disclose public information on request.” (PCJF 2010 I.R.S. Form 990, Part III, 4a)

PCJF spends money on its “Education Program” with no revenue intent. Its non-revenue generating “Education Program” is described on its 2011 Form 990:

“Equal in importance to litigation as an organizational function. The PCJF seeks to education the public about their rights and also to education legal professionals in skills to protect and defend Constitutional rights.  The PCJF’s education activities to the public at large are intended to bring public awareness to Constitution and civil rights violations and provide relevant background and information in a manner that is widely accessible and understandable.” (PCJF 2011 I.R.s. Form 990, Part III, 4b)

In 2012, it reported spending $138,096 on its “Education Program,” yielding zero revenue.

As for its income from grants, the CSFund/Warsh-Mott Legacy granted PCJF a total of $205,000 from 2009-2013. The CSFund family foundations are “dedicated to supporting progressive social change in the areas of rights and governance, emerging technologies, and food sovereignty.”

PCJF’s financial solvency has predominantly come from the firm’s success in winning more than twenty-two million dollars in awards for its clients. According to its website:

“The PCJF won the largest monetary settlements for violations of protestors’ rights in U.S. history in addition to securing extensive changes in both the law and police practices in the handling of demonstrations.”

A.N.S.W.E.R. is a client of the PCJF.  PCJF successfully represented A.N.S.W.E.R. in    A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition v. Norton, Civil Action No. 05-00071, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  In an August 2007 YouTube video, Verheyden-Hilliard announced the filing of a free speech lawsuit on ANSWER’s behalf.

Standing behind Verheyden-Hilliard is an A.N.S.W.E.R. “volunteer,” a current candidate for the Washington, D.C. City Council, and a former founding member of the Party for Socialism & Liberation – Eugene Puryear. Puryear also spoke at the press conference.

In September 2007, Verheyden-Hillary, representing A.N.S.W.E.R., engaged in a C-SPAN debate with Kristinn Taylor.

Clearly, the attorney-client boundary between A.N.S.W.E.R. and the PCJF is blurred. And, by extension through A.N.S.W.E.R., the PCJF is also aligned with the Party for Socialism and Liberation. It’s a three-fer.

The PCJFS and the National Lawyers Guild

In its 2012 Form 990, the PCJF lists its Board members as:

  • Heidi Boghosian, Director
  • Carol A. Sobel, Director
  • Zachary Wolfe, Director
  • Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director
  • Carl Messineo, Treasurer

Heidi Boghosian is identified on the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) 2012 Form 990 as that organization’s Executive Director with an annual salary of $199,770.

Carol Sobel, a Los Angeles member of the NLG, received, on November 13, 2010, a Champion of Freedom Award at a special session of the National Council on Socialism held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.  Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark presented the awards to “radical lawyers and longtime leaders in the struggle for justice and equality against imperialism.”  Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and Carl Messineo also received the Champion of Freedom Award that night.

Zachary Wolfe, also a lawyer, is an Assistant Professor at George Washington University. His self-introduction website states that, “In my scholarly research, I am particularly interested in the relationships among law, protest, and considered social discourse.” He states that he is the “Chair of the Amicus Committee of the National Lawyers Guild.”

It seems the boundary between PCJF and the National Lawyers Guild is, also, a bit blurred.

Conclusion: The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, the Party for Socialism & Liberation, along with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund stand behind the A.N.S.W.E.R.Coalition signs on the streets of Ferguson. To varying degrees, they share a common, socialist, political ideology.

If the Grand Jury votes to no-bill Officer Wilson, there are likely to be street protests in Ferguson and elsewhere across America. Should that happen, the three interrelated organizations behind the ANSWERCoalition.org signs in Ferguson are likely to play a role.

Lee Cary was, during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, a U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent in Vietnam, and while stateside, conducted background investigations for security clearances.

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