Kevin Shenkman is a key member of the Coalition of the Fringe vs the white Christian core of this country.
If this Jewish guy loves diversity so much, why doesn’t he live on Martin Luther King Blvd? Why does he live in Malibu? He chooses to live among white people but wants everyone else to suffer from diversity.
Shenkman first came to my attention last week because he was the subject of a meandering profile on the Breitbart website, “the platform for the alt-right,” as its former executive chairman Steve Bannon so memorably described it. I like to read Breitbart to keep an eye on how the far right filters the news.
I got a chuckle out of the original headline, which has since been changed: “Meet the Malibu Lawyer Playing the Race Card — and Making Millions — All Over California.”
With loaded language like that, imagine my surprise when the first paragraph praised Shenkman as “one of the most prolific and successful civil rights lawyers of his generation.”
Of course, this being Breitbart, there was also a line about how some consider Shenkman “a villain, a do-gooder from Malibu who is creating racial divisions where they do not exist.”
Shenkman, a father of four girls, said he didn’t mind the story but was taken aback by some of the anti-Semitic comments from Breitbart readers. “I’m Jewish,” he said, “and there were a number of comments like, ‘Look at his last name, that explains it all.’”
When it comes to civil rights activists, this kind of garbage goes with the territory.
Why is it garbage to notice patterns that Jews in the diaspora tend to side with the Coalition of the Fringe?
Kevin Shenkman: Ending Democracy as We Know It in Southern California?
Kevin Shenkman could be described as one of the most prolific and successful civil rights lawyers of his generation, after almost single-handedly pushing dozens of Southern California communities to change their election systems under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA) over the past few years.
To many in those communities, however, Shenkman is a villain, a do-gooder from Malibu who is creating racial divisions where they do not exist — and making millions in the process.
He is, according to local podcaster Stephen Daniels, “the most hated man in Santa Clarita.” And he is “hated” there — and elsewhere — because he wins.
Shenkman scored his latest victory last Wednesday evening, when the Oceanside City Council voted 3-2 to approve a proposal to move from an at-large system, where every council member is elected by the voters as a whole, to a district system, where voters are only represented directly by one member, from a particular geographic area.
The change was prompted by a March 22 letter from Shenkman, claiming that the city’s at-large system prevented minority groups from winning elections, and warning of a lawsuit to follow.
Residents of Oceanside were shocked, and angry, at the charge. The city has had several Latino council members, including one who has served on the council for the last 16 years. It also recently had an African-American mayor…
Shenkman’s path to law, and voting rights, are rather unconventional. Today, he lives in Malibu, one of the wealthiest communities in the state, whose population is over 90% white. But as he told the Talk of Santa Clarita podcast in January, he grew up in the Detroit area. There, he said, he was a “bad kid,” committing “the occasional little criminal misdemeanor kinda thing, maybe the occasional felony that I never got caught for.” He had “some interaction with the justice system,” and formed a bond with his attorney, who inspired him to pursue a legal career.
Shenkman graduated from Rice University with a B.S. in mechanical engineering (which he describes as “completely useless”), and went to Columbia Law School. He is married, with four daughters. He told Talk of Santa Clarita that if he were still practicing patent law, “I would have shot myself by now,” calling it “mind-numbingly boring.”
Shenkman’s Facebook profile photo is an image of a giant metal fist: the Joe Louis monument in Detroit, Michigan. (His cover photo is the same image: “Fuck your FB rules,” he explains in a comment to a relative.) His timeline features a photograph of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was killed while fighting neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012, who was later acquitted. He is a Democrat, and gave $1375 to the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee in 2014, according to the Federal Elections Commission. He has also contributed to Democrats at the state and local levels, according to the California Secretary of State.
The public record also suggests that Shenkman has had a colorful career as a plaintiff’s attorney, filing class action suits on behalf of consumers — and sometimes acting as the plaintiff himself.
Currently, Shenkman and his law partner are plaintiffs in a class action suit filed last year against AutoZone, claiming that the auto parts dealer had not informed them that it was changing its rewards program so that a $20 credit on purchases over $20 would expire after one year. In 2014, he represented consumers in successful class action claims against restaurant chains that falsely advertised Kobe beef during a period when Japanese beef imports were banned.
In 2011, Shenkman personally filed a consumer class action suit against Chipotle Mexican Grill, claiming that employees had misled him into believing the restaurant’s pinto beans were vegetarian, when they are actually made with bacon. In his lawsuit, he cited his vegetarianism and Jewish faith (though Jewish dietary laws, which require that food be certified kosher by a rabbi, would not have permitted him to eat at Chipotle at all). That case was dismissed in 2015, more than four years later, according to court documents. He also reportedly sued the Chinese fast-food chain Panda Express, claiming it failed to disclose that it adds chicken powder to its vegetarian entrees.
That same year, he was the plaintiff — identified as an “avid runner” in media reports — in class action suits filed against coconut water companies Vita Coco and One World Enterprises, claiming they had exaggerated the hydration benefits of their products. Both cases were dismissed; court documents indicate that he accepted a token settlement of $2,000 in the Vida Coco case as part of a related nationwide class action settlement.