Every day we are bombarded with news and information on our feeds, social media accounts, on television, and in our email inboxes. It can be hard to decide between all of our obligations what is truly newsworthy and what is just noise. This weekly roundup will pull from across the internet to find the best and most interesting stories about treatment courts, juvenile justice, indigent defense, the right to counsel, and big news in the criminal justice world. Check back every Friday for the latest news roundup.
Civil Legal Aid
Kentucky Governor proposes cuts to civil legal aid – Legal advocates warn that a cut in Governor Matt Bevin’s budget proposal could limit civil legal help to thousands of Kentuckians including the elderly, veterans and domestic violence victims. Tuesday, a State Supreme Court Justice made a plea to lawmakers to find the funds as the remaining members of the Kentucky High Court sat in the audience in support. All 7 of Kentucky’s Supreme Court Justices sat in on Tuesday’s committee hearing. At stake are $750,000 in funding for the Access to Justice Board which is one of the 70 program cuts announced by Governor Matt Bevin. Those fighting for the funding say what’s really at stake goes well beyond dollars, it strikes at the effort to help those less fortunate seeking justice with nowhere else to turn. (WHAS 11 News, KY, 2/6/18).
Drug Treatment Courts
New treatment court therapy aims to keep families intact – Jennifer Buehler and Eddie Thomas regained custody of their son last week, 10 months after Jennifer “was gone” from a drug overdose. A partnership within Montgomery County’s child welfare system hopes a new type of therapy will bring families torn apart by parental drug use back together within months rather than more than a year, lessening the strain on households, the justice system and the community. (Dayton Daily News, OH, 2/10/18).
Northampton County gets state support in fight against opioid abuse – Northampton County’s drug court has received a $130,000 grant to expand programming. The $132,723 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency will cover staff training, client monitoring and needs-based assistance to clients for housing, transportation and sober living activities, according to Stephanie Spencer. She administrates the program for Judge Craig Dally. (Lehigh Valley Live, PA, 2/7/18).
Detroit a model when it comes to solving the opioid epidemic – While Motown was once known as “Murder Capital, U.S.A.” murder in Detroit has been displaced by another scourge: opioids. In Detroit, and other places in Michigan and across the nation, cities are turning to new ways to purse effective criminal justice. Michigan crime rates are dropping as we invest in “smart justice” tools like community policing, reducing barriers to employment for former offenders, and embracing data-driven court and corrections practices. We’re learning that being tough on crime might mean being practical and compassionate with people. (The Hill, DC, 2/7/18)
L.A. County attorneys who represent indigent clients in criminal court protest their new boss – More than 150 deputy public defenders gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Monday to protest what they say is an existential threat to the office: their new boss. The lawyers chanted and wore “RESIST” T-shirts. They held signs reading “CLIENTS FIRST” and “We need a leader who knows Miranda, not HR propaganda.” Since her appointment, Tinkham said, she has held town hall meetings with employees and started to examine internal budget and human resources systems to look for “potential areas of improvement.” Tinkham said she knows that the staff of the public defender’s office cares deeply about protecting the rights of the accused and ensuring a fair and just system. (LA Times, CA, 2/12/18).
Public Defenders Protest New ICE Arrest at Bronx Criminal Court – Attorneys with the Legal Aid Society and Bronx Defenders staged a protest outside of Bronx Criminal Court on Thursday over what they say was another client arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at the state courthouse. Dalporto said ICE’s actions are making it more challenging for attorneys to counsel their clients. “Everyone is terrified to come to court,” she said, noting that attorneys are having to persuade clients that doing so “isn’t a trap.” (New York Law Journal, NY, 2/8/18).
Public Defenders Now Available to Youths 24 Hours a Day – Due to advancements in adolescent brain development, we now understand that juveniles need additional assistance understanding their Miranda rights. Moreover, since youths are vulnerable in interrogation settings, they have higher instances than adults of falsely confessing .Realizing all of this, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 395 into law. The new law provides that barring circumstances of imminent bodily harm or damage to property, youths 15 years and under must have a consultation with an attorney before they can legally waive their Miranda rights and be interrogated. Deputy public defenders are now available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, to consult with youths regarding their Miranda rights. Since Jan. 1, the office has received about 60 calls. (SCVNews, CA, 2/8/18).
Rejected grant was a missed opportunity for Monroe County – Monroe County officials don’t often turn down grants, especially big ones. So when the county rejected a $2.6 million state grant for the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office to expand its representation of parents facing child neglect or abuse allegations, some members of the local legal and social-services communities were understandably confused. The Public Defender’s Office never received a detailed explanation of why the county was turning down the grant, some grant supporters say; it was just told that the county’s Department of Human Services had objections. (Rochester City Newspaper, NY, 2/7/18).
The Latest: Snyder Seeks $46M to Improve Indigent Defense – One of the largest funding increases included in Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal would go toward improving court-provided legal defense for poor people accused of crimes. Snyder said Wednesday the $46 million in proposed spending is needed to comply with a law he signed more than four years ago. He told legislators that if people are accused of crimes and don’t have money to hire a lawyer, “they should have a reasonable defense.” (U.S. News and World Report, MI, 2/7/18).
After Greene County sheriff sued over jail, legislator wants law changed – After a Missouri public defender claimed the Greene County Jail is illegally housing inmates, a state lawmaker wants to change the law in question. The lawsuit points to state law saying criminal defendants and people accused of violating probation — which is technically a civil matter — are not allowed to be housed together. The bill proposed by Ken Wilson, R-Smithville, would add the following sentence to the bill: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the housing of persons on probation or parole with offenders or persons being held on criminal charges.” (Springfield News-Leader, MO, 2/6/18).
One-of-a-kind program expands hours to help at-risk juveniles – The Harbor Center, which helps at-risk youth, will be open 24-hours a day. Its services are geared towards keeping kids out of the juvenile justice system. On Saturday, Feb. 10, at 6 a.m., The Harbor Center will open and never close again. He says, the new location and extended hours give families accessibility to an array of services any time they need it, under one roof. “So, by allowing them to come to The Harbor, kids have an opportunity to divert from juvenile courts thus unclogging the juvenile justice system from unnecessary kids and families for very minor charges,” Lemos said. (CBS 8 Las Vegas, NV, 2/9/18).
GOP Congressman Confident Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act will Pass – Congress will pass long-awaited juvenile justice reforms this legislative year, a key Republican representative believes. “I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes,” Jason Lewis, R-Minnesota, said in an interview here last week. “I think we’re getting close. I’m confident we will, because we need to.” The Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act hasn’t been reauthorized in two decades. (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 2/8/18).
Mullin bill would allow pretrial appeals in juvenile cases – Prosecutors argue that a juvenile justice bill moving through the General Assembly would allow more oversight of judges’ pretrial decisions in cases involving murder or rape, but defense attorneys are worried that it could keep children detained for longer than they should be. The bill, proposed by Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, would allow prosecutors to appeal if a judge decides to throw out evidence in serious juvenile cases before they go to trial. One of Jankowski’s concerns with this bill is how long children would be detained while the appeals process plays out. (Daily Press, VA, 2/6/18).
Jailed youth in Kane County get a chance ‘to help others’ – Inside the gym of the St. Charles detention facility, a couple dozen incarcerated youth, decked out in hair nets and Latex gloves, were taking a break from their regular routine to prepare, box and package crates of food for Feed Our Starving Children. This was a first — but hopefully not a last — pairing for this nonprofit that provides nourishment for hungry kids worldwide and the county’s youth detention center, where officials recognize the importance of teaching troubled youth critical life lessons, including team building, empathy and a sense of purpose. (Chicago Tribune, IL, 2/6/18).
Veterans Treatment Courts
Veterans treatment court funding bill moving forward – Funding for Big Island Veterans Treatment Court is making headway in the state Legislature. House Bill 1965 seeks $105,912 to continue the program by allowing the Judiciary to convert a temporary social worker position into a permanent position and establish an additional full-time social worker in fiscal year 2018-19. Veterans treatment courts offer a second chance for veterans charged with a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony. Those selected for the program have all served in the U.S. Armed Forces and have experienced difficulties acclimating back into society, according to the Judiciary’s website. (West Hawaii Today, HI, 2/11/18).
Dulé Hill: Veterans treatment courts save lives and communities – Recently, my fellow “West Wing” cast member Melissa Fitzgerald took me to court. Now, I couldn’t help but think going to court is usually a negative thing, but this was different. Melissa and I were attending a veterans treatment court graduation in the Philadelphia courtroom of Judge Patrick Dugan. As we mark the 10th anniversary of these life-saving programs, and we commit to reducing the pain and suffering caused by the opioid crisis, we must double down on programs proven to work. Programs like veterans treatment courts. (CNN, NY, 2/7/18).
Benjamin Marchman is a student assistant in the Justice Programs Office.