NCFM Profile #2; VP and Adviser Marc E. Angelucci, Improving Men’s Lives the Legal Way
NCFM NOTE: This is the second in a series of profiles of our Advisers, the first being for Julie Brand. We hope to profile one Adviser every 10 to 12 months or as time permits. We are indebted to NCFM Member Michael Sirak for working with our Advisers and writing their profiles, which takes considerable work and excellent reporting skills.
Marc is responsible for me being a member of this organization. Roughly 20 years ago at an NCFM Los Angeles Chapter meeting he dug deep into his pockets and paid my $35 dues. I’ve not repaid him nor will I. He causes me too much work…
Harry Crouch, President
by Michael Sirak
Already as a boy, Marc E. Angelucci disliked those who abused their authority, like certain teachers. His inner fortitude made him prone to push back and stand up for what he thought was right.
The US legal system also intrigued him early on.
Those traits shaped Angelucci’s decisions to become a lawyer and men’s rights activist. He has been a driving force in NCFM for the past two decades, and he is the man responsible for the organization’s biggest legal victories over that period: forcing California domestic violence shelters to provide services to male victims (Woods v. Horton, later Shewry, in 2008) and establishing that male-only military registration is unconstitutional (NFCM v. Selective Service System, 2019).
Angelucci joined NCFM in 1998 while he was a law student, founded the coalition’s Los Angeles chapter in 2001 and ran it to 2008, and has served as NCFM’s vice president for the past decade. He also is one of the coalition’s advisers.
“Law was really my destiny,” said Angelucci in an interview. “I got interested in law when I started fighting traffic tickets as a teenager,” he said. “Even as a kid, I liked watching any kind of legal drama, like old Agatha Christie movies, more than watching sports.”
Among other accomplishments, Angelucci played a leading role in reforming unjust paternity law in California in the early and mid-2000s. Plus, in January 2019, he won a paternity fraud case in California (County of San Diego v. M.V.) that had no legal precedent; this was also the first case with NCFM acting as a legal firm.
Angelucci is now settling into a private law practice he established in 2018. He currently resides in Crestline, Calif., a mountain community east of Los Angeles and north of San Bernardino. But he spends about half the week in Glendale due to work commitments, including teaching a class one night a week at Pasadena City College to students pursuing a paralegal certificate; the class content rotates each semester between family law and workers’ compensation.
He said he’s still finding the right balance between pro bono work for NCFM and litigating outside, for-pay cases on civil rights, family law, and worker’s compensation. He hopes that NCFM’s nascent, all-volunteer legal team gains traction so that it can take on more cases. “I would like for the team to do a lot of appeals and I would like to be the one to handle a lot of them,” he said. “I would like the majority of my practice to be NCFM-type of stuff and most of that being challenging judicial decisions in some way.” The latter type of work is “intense, but I love the intensity,” he said.
Already, Angelucci is carrying a heavy load supporting NCFM. Among the cases is defending Jerry Cox, a ranch owner in Mariposa County, Calif., in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Cox has endured a litany of injustices that began when a miscreant woman named Ashley Harris made false rape and kidnapping accusations against him in November 2015. Those bogus claims unleashed a fury of questionable legal actions and seemingly blatant acts of graft by Mariposa County officials to strip Cox of his land. “The whole thing really smells,” said Angelucci. “It just stinks of corruption. It stinks of a land grab.”
Looking out ahead, Angelucci envisions a follow-on lawsuit to the Woods case since some California domestic violence shelters still are not providing adequate services to men. There’s also continued discrimination against men due to the Violence Against Women Act that NCFM would like to tackle at some point, he said. Further, it appears that California’s version of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) is providing women with free services that men also need, but are not receiving, he said.
Such cases are difficult to litigate, in large part, since the discrimination is not explicit in the law itself—as was the situation with the original Woods lawsuit and the military registration case—but rather resides in the law’s implementation, said Angelucci. “You have got to have a plaintiff who can prove that he was discriminated against specifically,” he said. “Proving it is not as easy as people tend to think. You have to have the evidence” like compelling statistics, he said.
For demanding lawsuits like this to be possible, NCFM seeks private streams of funding to grow and sustain the legal team, said Angelucci. “If we are going to be able to take on what we want to do, we have got to get funding of some kind,” he said. NCFM is considering a crowdfunding approach, at least initially, to generate funds, he said.
While there’s been notable progress in fighting discrimination against boys and men in the past several decades, resistance remains powerful, gains are piecemeal, and much work lies ahead, said Angelucci. “We’ve got to accept that this is going to be an incremental movement,” he said. “For many years, we all felt, ‘Oh, a big wave is about to come,’” he continued. But it hasn’t. Although “The Red Pill,” Cassie Jaye’s impactful 2016 documentary on the men’s rights movement, was “an absolutely incredible milestone,” it was “still an increment,” he said. (Angelucci is one of several NCFM leaders with notable on-screen time in the film.)
Born in Los Angeles, Angelucci grew up in the city’s Eagle Rock neighborhood, which sits northeast of downtown L.A. between Glendale and Pasadena. “Eagle Rock is often seen as an alternative to busy Beverley Hills and places like that,” he said. “People who grow up there love it.” In his youth, his father was an appraiser for Los Angeles County. His mom was a homemaker, although she did work outside the home at times. He has a brother and a sister. His middle name is Etienne.
He attended public schools growing up said he was a good student as a boy. From around ages 10 to 14, Angelucci was a member of the boy’s gymnastics team at a local YMCA; it won a state meet one of the years he competed, he said. In addition to any gymnastics prowess he possessed, his teammates took notice of him for his standout long locks of hair, dubbing him “Team Hippie,” he said. He drifted from the gymnastics after his parents divorced. “I started hanging out with crowds that weren’t the best and … getting in a little trouble in school,” he said. He also admitted to having “little run-ins with police.”
Angelucci said he turned his life around when he went to junior college. He spent seven years as a part-time student in the paralegal program at Pasadena City College, working odds jobs, such as waiting tables and chauffeuring to support himself. He left the college with a paralegal certificate and two two-year degrees: associate of arts in philosophy and associate of science in legal assisting, paralegal.
From there, Angelucci studied philosophy at University of California, Berkeley. “There, I got real serious about school,” he said. During this time, Angelucci came across Ellis Cose’s book A Man’s World: How Real is Male Privilege—And How High Is Its Price? which opened his eyes to men’s rights issues. “[Cose] was not a men’s right’s advocate himself, but he was recognizing, ‘Look, they have some legitimate issues,’” said Angelucci.
After graduating from Berkeley phi beta kappa in 1996 with a bachelor’s of arts degree in philosophy, Angelucci took a year off to backpack through parts of Europe, including Italy, where he visited family. He then began three years of law school at UCLA. It was there that he became active in men’s rights issues, signing up as an NCFM member in 1998.
“I became an activist when I saw, first of all, things like my criminal law professor only talk about statistics on criminal sentencing disparities by race but not by gender,” he said. Also influencing Angelucci to act was seeing his best friend repeatedly assaulted by his drunk wife in front of their kids and then denied domestic violence services because he is male. That experience became the impetus for the Woods v. Horton lawsuit. More on that later.
While at law school, Angelucci’s then-girlfriend got him a copy of NCFM advisor Warren Farrell’s 1993 book The Myth of Male Power. “I just kept reading it over and over,” he said. “It was really mind-blowing.” Despite his busy schedule, Angelucci made the time to write letters and opinion-editorials on men’s rights issues. “When I would go to the gym and jog, that’s when I came up with ideas,” he said. His pieces appeared in the The Docket, the law school’s then-student newspaper, and in UCLA’s Daily Bruin student newspaper. He also began coordinating with Glenn Sacks, who also was writing on campus on men’s rights issues. “Usually, if he got attacked, I would write a letter to the editor to back him up,” said Angelucci.
He graduated from UCLA with a juris doctor degree in 2000. He joined the California state bar in December of that same year and set out on his legal career.
Learning the Legal Ropes
Angelucci’s first job out of law school was with Mental Health Advocacy Services, a small non-profit organization in Los Angeles that provides free legal services to people with a mental disability. A drawback of this job was that it involved little to no litigation, said Angelucci. “Eventually I felt, I am a lawyer and I don’t even know how to file a lawsuit,” he said. Thus, he left this job after several years.
He then joined an attorney who handled wheelchair access cases under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Here, Angelucci learned to litigate. “It was boot camp,” he said. “I was in court almost every day.” He also gained experience with lawsuits under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act against places discriminating against males, such as nightclubs offering ”ladies’ nights” promotions that charged men, but not women, an entrance fee.
After about five years, wanting a new challenge, Angelucci joined a small firm dealing in construction litigation. He handled complex, multi-party cases there, he said. Since his long-term interests didn’t lay in this type of work, he left after four years, moving to San Diego to practice for the Men’s Legal Center (located adjacent to NCFM’s C Street headquarters). “I thought this might be a way to combine my passion for men’s rights activism with my career,” he said. He learned family law there. (Angelucci remains the centers appellate counsel.)
Leaving the center after several years (He still occasionally supports and does appeals for this firm), Angelucci then went back to Los Angeles and re-joined the construction-litigation firm for a while. He then departed it for a small firm that deals with civil business law. Around 2012, Angelucci made the jump to Hartford Insurance where he worked workman’s compensation cases for six years. The workload there eventually took its toll on his health. That’s when he decided to make the leap into private practice in 2018.
L.A. Chapter President
During Angelucci’s eight-year tenure as NCFM’s Los Angeles chapter president, the chapter was quite active. Members held rallies on topics like father’s rights. Angelucci spoke before public bodies and at local universities, and he penned hundreds of letters and op-ed pieces to newspapers. His letters pushing back against anti-male bias in the media’s coverage of domestic violence appeared worldwide. He also launched a petition campaign to have Barnes & Noble create a men’s rights section in its bookstores, which was covered in a feature article in the Los Angeles Times. Plus, he filed lawsuits, including initiating the Woods case and litigating against businesses that had discriminatory practices.
Angelucci is especially proud of the chapter’s dogged work helping to reform unjust paternity law in California. “We were out-gunned and out-funded, [yet] we got thousands of men off the hook” from paying child support based on false claims of paternity, he recounted. “That is something I think NCFM should be acknowledged for. It is now sort of buried, and a lot of people don’t know about it, even a lot of NCFM people. … At first, we were just one group involved. Towards the end, we were the lead group involved.”
In the early 2000s, paternity fraud received much media attention in Los Angeles, such as the case of Taron James, a Gulf War veteran, who for years had been fighting a default paternity judgement against him for a child that wasn’t his. “There were hundreds, thousands of men who were getting screwed by these incorrect paternity judgements,” said Angelucci. Many were blacks from South Central Los Angeles, prompting the then-California State assemblyman for that area to take on the issue. The L.A. chapter got on board, as did other men’s rights groups. Together, they came up with draft legislation.
California’s powerful feminist block opposed these reforms. It took several years for the sides to hash out compromise legislation, with Angelucci playing a central negotiating role. He also testified before the legislature several times and shepherded caravans of supporters to Sacramento so lawmakers heard their voices, too. During this time, Angelucci began representing James and several other men in their paternity cases, including one homeless man in San Diego.
Angelucci said the revamped law (Assembly Bill No. 252, which took effect in January 2005) didn’t remove all of the injustices, but did significantly improve protections for men in three areas. First, a man now has two years—instead of six months as previously was the case—to challenge a default paternity judgement. Second, a man now has two years from the date a child is born to use DNA to challenge paternity. Third, any man who had been stuck from years past with a bogus paternity judgement had two years from the time the new law took effect to file a motion challenging it, he said.
In August 2010, David Hanschen, then-judge of Texas’s 254th District Court in Dallas, wrote Angelucci, commending him and NCFM for their work fighting unfair paternity law. Angelucci said he’s extremely proud of that acknowledgement.
Woods v. Horton
What Angelucci discovered in the late 1990s when he tried to help his friend and kids get into a domestic violence shelter in the Los Angeles area was alarming. “I was told the only place that would take male victims is all the way out in Lancaster, like an hour out into the desert,” he said. Lancaster is a city in northern Los Angeles County in the western Mojave Desert, next to Palmdale. Thus, in all of Los Angeles County—the most-populous US county, with some 10 million people—only a single shelter helped men: Lancaster’s Valley Oasis facility.
Angelucci investigated the matter further and realized that these shelters denying men were state-funded. Not only did they not take them in, many of them did not offer abused males any type of services, such as legal or psychological counseling, he said. Further, personnel at some of the shelters Angelucci contacted did not even refer him to Valley Oasis.
Eventually, Angelucci met Patricia Overberg, who had run Valley Oasis in the 1990s. Overberg, who died in 2011, was the first director of a domestic violence shelter in the United States known to have helped both men and women. Because of her advocacy for male victims, some shelter officials in L.A. County shunned and bullied her, including refusing to put her comments in the minutes of meetings when she mentioned male victims, said Angelucci. “That angered me,” he said.
Angelucci said Overberg one day told him: “‘We need a civil rights lawsuit, Marc.’” Ultimately, he gathered a small group of plaintiffs, including David Woods, who had endured years of violent physical attacks from his wife. He then filed the Woods v. Horton lawsuit in 2005.
Angelucci thought he had a strong case. The language in the California law at the time referred only to domestic violence services for women, so the statutes themselves expressly discriminated against men, he said. Since California law places a higher level of scrutiny on equal protection under the law when it comes to sexual discrimination than does federal law, the merit of the lawsuit seemed straightforward, he said.
The landmark victory ultimately came on appeal in October 2008 after a trial court earlier had denied Angelucci’s petition. The appeal court’s ruling forced California to extend the statutory benefits of domestic violence services to men. Angelucci said he felt elation for months after the verdict. “We got [media] calls all the way from Scotland,” he said. “I got tons and tons of emails thanking me. They poured in from all over the world.”
Improvements did occur across the state. For example, the shelter named in the lawsuit, Sacramento County’s WEAVE, “changed dramatically after the case,” said Angelucci. “They even had one of our experts come to train their staff, [and] they created a group session for men.”
But, at some shelters—in LA County, for example—there has been sustained passive resistance in the years since the ruling to embracing male victims, said Angelucci, prompting him to say, “I think we need another Woods case.” Indeed, some shelters appear to be applying the loosest interpretation possible of the court ruling, he said. Since the ruling did not mandate that men have to have access to identical services, some shelters apparently are still providing only vouchers for men to stay in hotels as opposed to housing them on-site, he said. Others apparently think referring men out to Valley Oasis qualifies as providing services to men, he said.
“I think we have a pretty good argument that that is not what [the ruling] meant,” said Angelucci. “If it would be sufficient just to send the guy to the next place an hour away, the courts would have said so. Basically, that would mean that the Woods case has no teeth at all.”
NCFM v. Selective Service System
When Angelucci won the lawsuit against the Selective Service System in February 2019, the victory was huge, but was—and still remains—incomplete. That’s because the federal judge made only a declaratory ruling that the current male-only military registration process is unconstitutional. He did not grant an injunction directing the government to cease the practice.
Thus, the discrimination endures: American males who turn 18 must continue to register. Young women face no such requirement. Failure of young men to register is a felony; the federal government may deny them federal student loans and grants, federal jobs, and federal job training. The mainstream media has overlooked these points, instead framing the issue only on the question of whether women should have to register, said Angelucci.
Congress chartered the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service to explore the feasibility of maintaining the Selective Service System in its current form, amending it, or abolishing it. It also is examining other forms of national service for young Americans. The commission’s final report with recommendations is due in March 2020.
Angelucci said he believes the judge denied injunctive relief to give Congress and the Trump Administration time to take in the commission’s recommendations and implement changes. “Even if the judge hasn’t ordered them to do anything, the judge has told them that [the current law] is unconstitutional,” he said. So, now something does have to change … eventually.
Nonetheless, since the US Constitution’s equal protection clause should not be put on hold for any Americans, as is now the case for young men, Angelucci in March 2019 filed a motion asking the judge to reconsider an injunction. In April 2019, the judge ruled, denying the motion.
The Selective Service System appealed the decision that it is unconstitutional to require only men to register, and a federal appeals court still needs to rule on the Selective Service System’s April 2019 appeal of the original ruling. There also is a federal lawsuit underway in New Jersey seeking an injunction to end male-only registration.
San Diego County v. M.V.
Angelucci said he was eager to take on the Marcos Valdez appellate case. “It’s everything I love: it’s appellate, it’s paternity fraud, it’s a guy who can’t afford it, a very sincere guy, and not only that, it is one [case] that we were likely to win because the lower court judge was in our favor,” he said. Plus, it was intriguing because there was no other lawsuit “similar on point in the case law,” he noted.
Valdez thought the child born in 1999 was his, but the mother misled him. When a DNA test Valdez had done in 2000 confirmed that he was not the father and he confronted the mother, she agreed to contact county authorities to stop collecting child support from Valdez, which the county did do. But the mother never filed a motion, as she told Valdez she would, to overturn the judgement that had established him as the legal father.
Fast forward about 15 years and the mother decides she is entitled to some $85,000 in arrears from Valdez, who now has a wife and three kids of his own to support, because technically he still is the legally recognized father. The county filed a motion to collect that money from him.
When the trial judge realized that the county had not been collecting child support from Valdez for all those years, the judge ruled that Valdez would not have to pay any arrears, but would have to pay child support until the child turned 18. The judge found that the mother had “unclean hands” by not acting in good faith or conscience by seeking to set judicial machinery in motion to get the arrears. When the mother appealed the case in 2017, that’s when Valdez, who could not afford and appellate attorney, came to NCFM for support, and Angelucci took the case pro bono on behalf of NCFM. Angelucci, Valdez and NCFM were elated when the appellate court in January 2019 affirmed the trial court’s decision.
Years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which grew out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, made Angelucci an honoree on the Wall of Tolerance at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala. Angelucci said he doesn’t know why exactly SPLC honored him in this way. “I think it was my work on mental health law, but it also could be some of the work I did as a UCLA law student,” he said, noting that he co-founded the law school’s Disability Law Society and the Environmental Affairs Committee during that time.
Whatever the case, the Montgomery-based SPLC has deviated from its roots and become highly partisan and politically charged. Much to Angelucci’s anger, it now falsely attacks NCFM for being among men’s rights group purportedly supporting male supremacy and subjugation of women. “I see how horrible that organization has become, how despicable they are in calling everybody names that they don’t like, that they disagree with,” explained Angelucci. “I have contacted them and told them I am one of the recipients of your Wall of Tolerance, I am one of your honorees; this is disgusting.” He said NCFM is mulling a lawsuit against SPLC.
Man of Many Interests
In the free time Angelucci is able to carve out of his busy schedule, he enjoys traveling and backpacking. “Every year, I go somewhere I have never been and I try to do at least one backpack trip somewhere I have not been,” he said. In addition to his time in Western Europe, Angelucci has already visited Cuba, Colombia, all over Mexico, the Philippines, South Korea, Costa Rica, and Vietnam. He is planning trips to Cypruss, Ukraine and Russia.
He also is fond of attending concerts (e.g., blues, ’80s rock), seeing movies (especially thrillers and mob films), fitness activities (including playing tennis with his brother … who normally beats him), and dancing (except to techno music). He knows ballroom, Latin, and hula dance, and has performed at several nonprofit events and weddings.
For history buffs, Angelucci’s paternal grandfather, Orfeo Angelucci, became famous in the 1950s for claiming he had been in contact with extraterrestrials. Among the elder Angelucci’s writings on this was the 1955 book The Secret of the Saucers. “He was a very interesting man … and I really learned a lot from him as a kid, said the younger Angelucci. “I’m a skeptic, but I still enjoyed the stories growing up.”
Action, Not ‘Yacktion’
While Angelucci is committed to NCFM for the long haul, he’s upfront that he does not aspire to become its president, chiefly because he wants to concentrate on practicing law. The heavy administrative load of being president—which he already experienced when he ran the L.A. chapter—coupled with litigation, “would wear me out,” he said.
Angelucci credited Crouch, whom he recruited to NCFM, for his work and dedication as president, noting that he has been “transformational” for the coalition. Angelucci also thanked all who help the organization, and he encouraged others to get involved. That can mean donating funds, writing letters to the editor of a local newspaper, or even forming an NCFM chapter, he said. “We have too many talkers and not enough doers. That’s one of the problems with the movement,” said Angelucci. “Action, not ‘yacktion.’ I would like that to be NCFM’s slogan,” he said.
There’s plenty to do, and, in some ways, men’s rights advocacy remains a frontier, with new, difficult ground still to break. For example, with permissive laws sanctioning late-term abortions recently enacted in states like New York and Virginia, it’s not implausible to think there will come the day when a father will step forward to save the life of a baby born viable after a botched abortion. “I would absolutely love to have that case,” said Angelucci. “It’s going to be an area of battle, an unsettled area of law.”
Angelucci is speaking on Aug. 17, 2019, at the International Conference on Men’s Issues in Chicago. “I really look forward to that,” he said. He plans to discuss NCFM’s legal team and provide updates on ongoing cases and potential lawsuits on the horizon. He will follow Crouch’s talk. NCFM board members Tim Goldich and J. Steven Svoboda are slated to speak there the previous day. END