Friday News Roundup: February 23, 2018

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, public defense, the right to counsel, and big news in the criminal justice world. Check back every Friday for the latest news roundup.

Drug Treatment Courts

Sonoma County to cut testing program tied to special drug court – Gold is more than just a color to the 161 people in Sonoma County’s drug court. It is the signal for new addicts in the program to report to a squat gray building on Santa Rosa’s Neotomas Avenue and submit to random drug testing. But the screening that has formed the cornerstone of the rehabilitative court could soon be coming to an end because the county is getting less money than anticipated from federal sources. (The Press Democrat, CA, 2/19/18).

Will County Problem Solving Courts receive generous contribution – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announces that a $50,000 contribution from a generous anonymous donor has led to the formation of a not-for-profit organization that will supplement services, training, and equipment for Will County’s Problem Solving Courts, which are on the frontline in battling the opioid epidemic. Hart was instrumental in securing the contribution from the anonymous donor, who is a friend and former business leader who lost a family member to a heroin overdose. (The Enterprise, IL, 2/19/18).

Steven Tyler Surprises Drug Court Graduates With Commencement Speech – Graduates of the Maui Drug Court’s 62nd program got a special treat when legendary rocker Steven Tyler came to their courtroom to offer some advice from his own experiences. “My name’s Steven,” he introduced himself. “I’m an alcoholic and a recovering drug addict.” While most people know Tyler for his music, it’s not his proudest achievement. “That’s nothing compared to being sober,” he said. “That’s nothing compared to having my kids love me.” (The Fix, 2/19/18).

Gov. Wolf adds drug court funding to proposed budget – Governor Wolf’s proposed 2018-19 budget includes $2 million put towards funding drug courts throughout Pennsylvania. In addition to the creation of new drug courts, this funding will expand and enhance existing courts. This will be done in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). PCCD will also fund the expansion of support services and opioid treatment services for drug court participants. (PA Home Page, PA, 2/14/18).

Public Defense

Rural Missouri County Going to Privatized Public Defenders –  A rural Missouri county is moving to a privatized system for public defenders, a system that some advocates would like to see become more common. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that starting March 1, people charged with crimes in Texas County who cannot afford an attorney will get private lawyers. The state will foot the bill because the Missouri State Public Defender agency has decided to privatize the southern Missouri county, which has about 26,000 residents. About 15 percent of the state public defender system’s budget already goes to contracts with private attorneys. But fewer than half of Missouri’s counties have lawyers available to accept contracts. (U.S. News and World Report, MO, 2/20/18).

In Baltimore, public trust erodes amid police scandal – Confidence in Baltimore’s sworn protectors has badly deteriorated in recent years, but it may be hitting rock bottom after admissions that corrupt police detectives on an out-of-control unit resold looted narcotics, conducted home invasions and falsified evidence. Public defenders and Mosby herself say thousands of cases touched by corrupt Baltimore police are likely tainted. Some 125 cases have been dropped so far. Many residents fear some hardened criminals will end up getting released. (The Spokesman Review, WA, 2/17/18).

“Crisis” at public defender’s office delays justice, costs taxpayers – Public defenders in Fresno County are refusing to take the most serious cases coming through the courts, leaving taxpayers to pick up an extra bill to defend accused criminals. Action News acquired a letter sent by the head public defender, Elizabeth Diaz, to the county and the courts in December, announcing her intention to reject a lot of the most serious cases. But the county is also facing a lawsuit from the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming public defenders here are impossibly overburdened, with some of them assigned to handle 1000 felonies a year — way more than the 150 recommended by state guidelines. (ABC 30 Fresno, CA, 2/17/18).

Washu Expert: Supreme Court to Decide if Lawyer Can Override Client’s Wishes – The U.S. Supreme Court will decide this term whether a defense lawyer may admit a client’s guilt against the client’s wishes…. The court is hearing the case of McCoy v. Louisiana, in which Larry English, the trial lawyer of Louisiana death-row inmate Robert McCoy, said the evidence against McCoy was overwhelming and the only way to keep McCoy off death row was to admit his guilt and beg for leniency. In the end, the strategy failed, and a jury sentenced McCoy to death. If McCoy wins in the Supreme Court, he could get a new trial. The question before the court is whether it is unconstitutional for defense counsel to concede an accused’s guilt over the accused’s express objection. (News Wise, 2/14/18).

Idaho public defenders need 40 hours for some cases. They often only get 4. – The state’s public defenders spend a fraction of the time they need to provide proper representation to poor people caught in the criminal justice system, according to a draft study by the Idaho Public Defense Commission. On misdemeanor cases, public defenders reported their workload on average only allows them to spend a little more than two hours, but said they should be spending about 18 hours. The separate panel of private attorneys estimated misdemeanor cases should take 22 hours each. (Idaho Statesman, ID, 2/13/18).

Juvenile Justice

Locked up: Legislation seek changes to juvenile justice – Alabama lawmakers this session will consider an overhaul of the state’s juvenile justice system, which advocates contend locks up too many kids for low-level offenses. The bill, which seeks an emphasis on intervention and to limit which juvenile offenders get sent to lock-up or moved to adult court, is expected to get a joint hearing by the House and Senate judiciary committees later this month. (The Seattle Times, WA, 2/19/18).

Juvenile Justice Advocates Try Valentine Candygrams to Push Reauthorization – Advocates for reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) took to the halls of House and Senate office buildings to hand-deliver Valentine’s Day gifts with a political message. JJDPA is more than a decade overdue for reauthorization. For the first time in that delay, both chambers have passed legislation that gets it done. The bills vary in one significant way that has prevented the move toward a conference committee to produce a single piece of legislation, which presumably, President Donald Trump would sign. (The Chronicle of Social Change, CA, 2/14/18).

Local Restorative Justice Could Be Best Kind of Diversion for Youth – The traditional correctional model of juvenile justice is punitive and adversarial. Youth are removed from their neighborhoods, sometimes for minor infractions; the community is not involved in the decisions, and badly needed resources are wasted on a failed approach. What if those funds were reinvested in the youth, their family and the community while using restorative justice practices to effect real transformation? (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 2/14/18).

Veterans Treatment Courts

Federal funds pitched for vet treatment – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, co-chair of the Congressional Post 9/11 Veterans Caucus, announced support Tuesday for bipartisan legislation to authorize federal funding for veteran treatment courts in Hawaii and across the United States. The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act (H.R. 4345) would provide federal grants to state, local, and tribal governments to establish new veteran treatment courts and maintain current programs, like the Big Island Veterans Treatment Court, according to a press release from Gabbard’s office. More than 15,000 veterans nationwide have received support through veteran treatment courts. (West Hawaii Today, HI, 2/13/18).

Benjamin Marchman is a student assistant in the Justice Programs Office.