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 pulls 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.
Criminal Justice News
Maryland Close To Passing Criminal Justice Reform – By reforming occupational licensing, Maryland has an opportunity to lower the barriers to work faced by those with criminal records —an estimated 1.5 million Marylanders, given that one in three American adults has a criminal record. To promote second chances, HB 1597, sponsored by Delegate Charles Sydnor (D), expands and updates the state’s workforce protections. The bill does this by ensuring that licensing restrictions on those with non-violent, non-sexual criminal records do not pose a permanent ban on work. HB 1597 overwhelmingly passed the House of Delegates on March 19 and now set for a floor vote in the Senate. (Forbes, MD, 4/5/18).
Another tribe suing drug companies: Creeks say opioid crisis ‘threatens the very existence’ of some tribes – The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is suing some of the largest players in the pharmaceutical and health care industries, accusing them of “fueling (the) opioid crisis.” The tribe announced in a Wednesday news release that it has filed a lawsuit against several opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies that it believes have “failed to prevent the flow of illicit opioids into the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.” Richard Fields, one of the attorneys representing the tribe, noted that the addiction rate among Native Americans is 64 percent higher than the national average. (Tulsa World, OK, 4/5/18).
Drug Treatment Courts
New family treatment court aims at helping children by addressing parents’ drug addiction – For many neglected children placed in foster care, a parent’s drug or alcohol addiction is a key factor leading to their being taken from their homes. Those families will now have another way to work toward bringing their children home as Kenosha County launches a Family Drug Treatment Court. The new court will follow the example of existing treatment courts in the county for people in the criminal justice system, adding new substance abuse treatment programming for parents who have had their children taken into foster care. (Kenosha News, WI, 4/9/18).
Gov. Walker to sign bills addressing opioid crisis – Governor Scott Walker plans to sign two bills into law aimed at opioid abuse prevention. The first bill, Assembly Bill 906, includes creating grant programs related to drug trafficking, evidence-based substance abuse prevention, juvenile and family treatment courts, and drug treatment for inmates of county jails. (WSAW-TV, WI, 4/8/18).
Umatilla County OKs provider for new drug court – Community Counseling Solutions will be the new treatment provider for Umatilla County’s rebooted drug court. The county’s Community Justice Department oversaw drug court until funding ran out last year. Under a new plan, local state courts and the public safety coordinating council will operate a treatment court starting in July. Community Justice director Dale Primmer asked commissioners at their meeting Wednesday morning in Pendleton to allow Community Counseling Solutions to provide the treatment. (East Oregonian, OR, 4/4/18).
Bay pines hosts ‘stand down for homeless veterans’ – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System will host a Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday (April 14). A Stand Down Court will also be available. The court will provide an opportunity for veterans to speak with legal experts from the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court, Pinellas County Clerk of Courts, a public defender and others to discuss outstanding legal issues. In some cases, the court may be able to reduce or dismiss fines or legal fees for veterans with outstanding active misdemeanor warrants and other legal obligations. Last year, nearly 500 veterans attended the Stand Down. About 180 of those veterans were helped by the court and more than $340,000 in fines and legal fees were dismissed. (Tampa Bay Reporter, FL, 4/10/18).
Public Defenders Stage Walkouts to Protest ICE Courthouse Arrests – For the third weekday in a row, public defenders Tuesday staged a walkout from a New York City courthouse to protest the presence of federal immigration authorities who came to arrest immigrants who showed up for court appearances. Dozens of attorneys from the Legal Aid Society and Queens Law Associates took to the street on Tuesday outside of Queens Criminal Court after attorneys spotted numerous ICE agents walking the halls of the courthouse. (New York Law Journal, NY, 4/10/18).
County targets indigent defense funding inequity, other priorities for state Legislature – The cost for McLennan County to provide public defenders has been on the rise for years. At the same time, state money for the indigent defense program has been on the decline, pinching the county budget. McLennan County commissioners are pushing state legislators to take a more equitable share of costs under the Texas Fair Defense Act, one of five state legislative priorities the county is pushing ahead of the 86th regular legislative session that will start in January. (Waco Tribune-Herald, TX, 4/7/18).
Louisiana efforts to free wrongfully convicted may lose money under House bill – Louisiana public defenders said a bill moving through the state Legislature threatens to shut down efforts to exonerate people who were sent to prison for a wrongful conviction. It would also take money away from other efforts to appeal convictions of people who can’t afford their own attorneys and whose cases are too expensive for local public defenders to handle. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, requires the Louisiana Public Defender Board to automatically send 70 percent of its funding to local public defenders’ offices every year. The extra 5 percent in the new legislation would amount to about $1.7 million, according to Jay Dixon, the state public defender. (The Times-Picayune, LA, 4/5/18).
Frustrated And Broke, Washington Counties Consider Suing State – After years of pleading with the state Legislature for more state funding, Washington’s 39 counties could decide this year whether to file a lawsuit against the state over unfunded mandates. Specifically, the counties point to costs associated with paying for public defenders, public health and elections. The counties association says Washington ranks near the bottom nationally in terms of state funding for indigent defense. However, the state does pay for the full cost for appellate level public defense. (KUOW 94.9, WA, 4/5/18).
A Twin Falls man says his public defender failed him. Now he hopes reforms will help others like him. – Today, he’s out of prison. Though he ultimately got the outcome he was hoping for, the years-long legal battle left him feeling failed by the state’s public defense system. Scott Macklin isn’t alone in that feeling. A growing body of research on Idaho’s overworked and underfunded public defenders has led to consensus across the board — from defendants to politicians to the public defenders themselves — that the system needs to change. How to bring about that change is a much harder question. (magicvalley.com, ID, 4/5/18).