A 6-3 decision from the US Supreme Court ruled that a Louisiana court could not accept a lawyer’s admission of guilt over his client’s objections, drug courts remain divided on the best path to treating addiction, and a local group sends lawyers to help juveniles in jail navigate the legal system. All these stories and much more below in the latest edition of the JPO News Roundup.
Criminal Justice News
Supreme Court rules for defendant in capital murder plea case – On Monday, a divided Supreme Court said a court in a Louisiana murder case couldn’t accept a lawyer’s admission of his own client’s guilt over his client’s objections. McCoy was accused of killing three people in 2008 in a dispute with his then-wife and he was arrested after fleeing to Idaho. McCoy clashed with public defenders, briefly represented himself, and then hired an attorney, Larry English, to argue his case. During trial, English introduced a defense that conceded McCoy’s role in the killings as a tactic to avoid the death penalty, by stressing McCoy’s mental condition. Under testimony, McCoy insisted he wasn’t guilty and he was the victim of a conspiracy. In the 6-3 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the trial court should not have accepted English’s concession of guilt for his client. (Constitution Daily, DC, 5/14/18).
Judge overseeing opioid suits seeks steps to address crisis – The federal judge overseeing more than 600 lawsuits filed by government entities collectively seeking billions of dollars to address the nation’s opioid crisis said Thursday he will continue to push for solutions to the problem while lawyers continue their settlement talks. Polster wants to forge a deal on business practices and funding to reverse the crisis. Francis McGovern, a Duke University law professor appointed as a special master to help oversee negotiations, said both sides have been “cooperatively addressing all the issues” during settlement talks while seeking ways “to achieve a resolution.” McGovern said a meeting has been scheduled for July to seek solutions outside the context of litigation. (ABC News, OH, 5/10/18).
Three Nebraska tribes join Ponca in opioid lawsuit – Three Nebraska tribes have joined the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska in attempting to hold the pharmaceutical industry responsible for the opioid problem in the U.S. The Winnebago, Omaha and Santee Sioux Tribes filed suit Tuesday against Walgreens, CVS, Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and others. “These claims arise out of the wrongful acts of the defendants … to manufacture, sell, distribute, divert or allow diversion, and otherwise flood the United States, including Indian Country, with dangerous, addictive drugs falsely represented as safe,” the suit says. (Omaha World-Herald, NE, 5/9/18).
Drug Treatment Courts
Drug courts divided on approaches to addiction recovery – The opioid epidemic has created two camps in the addiction recovery world, and some of the nation’s 1,500-plus drug courts are choosing sides. The sometimes-competing approaches are 12-step drug abstinence programs like Narcotics Anonymous and medication-assisted treatment using methadone or buprenorphine (often known by the brand name Suboxone). Addiction experts say each approach can work for some people and that a combination also can be effective. Nationally, an increasing number of drug courts are welcoming the medications, according to Chris Deutsch, director of communications for the National Drug Court Institute, which trains professionals involved in the special tribunals. Medication “is a big issue right now with treatment courts, particularly as the opioid epidemic obviously is raging,” Mr. Deutsch said. (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PA, 5/14/18).
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown recognizes Tuscarawas County drug courts – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown recognized the successes of local drug courts recently in a speech on the floor of the Senate. He said the programs enhance treatment, increase collaboration in the community, and save taxpayers money. Brown urged his colleagues in Congress to come together in a bipartisan way to support and expand these types of programs. Brown recently introduced legislation with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va/, the Collectively Achieving Recovery and Employment (CARE) Act, that would help bring together addiction treatment and workforce training efforts to better help communities fight addiction, cut down on repeat offenses, and help participants get jobs. (Times – Reporter, OH, 5/10/18).
Group to Send Lawyers to Help Incarcerated Teens – Young men in custody at a youth correctional facility in southern Illinois may soon have private attorneys to represent them in court after officials said they were concerned about their legal representation. ProPublica Illinois reported in October that youths at Harrisburg were being sentenced to lengthy terms in adult prisons for shoving, punching or spitting at guards — incidents that had typically been handled with discipline at the facility. We need to make sure that our young people have the appropriate representation and these cases have really illustrated that,” said Elizabeth Clarke, president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that advocates for reform in the juvenile justice system. (ProPublica Illinois, IL, 5/14/18).
17-Year-Olds Will No Longer Be Tried As Adults In Missouri If Governor Signs Bill – Missouri would join a majority of U.S. states in raising the age someone can be tried as an adult in court to 18 under a bill passed by the legislature this session. Currently, 17- year- olds are considered adults. The measure, which the Senate passed Thursday, raises the age to 18, except for egregious crimes like first-degree murder. Missouri is one of only five states that had yet to raise the age limit. The bill sponsor, GOP Sen. Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau, said the change allows teenagers to finish high school and reduce the chance that he or she would commit another crime in the future. (KCUR 89.3, MO, 5/12/18).
Juvenile-justice ideas honed for state legislators – Advocates responsible for overhauling the state’s juvenile-justice system will focus on changing how children are sentenced, incarcerated and supported by community programs in a legislative proposal for 2019. Arkansas still locks up more children than most states, when accounting for population, according to recent data. The trend is costly, with expenses running up to $87,000 per child in a year, using 2017 state records — roughly $238 a day. And because the state’s court system is not standardized, the way children are punished for similar types of crimes depends on where they live and which judge they see. (ArkansasOnline, AR, 5/11/18).
Latino lawyer, advocate awarded prestigious prize for work in juvenile justice – On Wednesday night, Frankie Guzman, an attorney, advocate, and mentor, will be one of three recipients of the prestigious Leadership Award from the Juvenile Law Center. Guzman is currently a juvenile justice attorney at the National Center for Youth Law. Throughout his career, he has worked in the state of California to end mandatory life without parole for juveniles, ensure protection of Miranda rights for minors ages 15 and below, and introduction and eventual passage of a ballot initiative which abolished direct file procedures for youth, a loophole which allowed minors to be prosecuted as adults without a judge’s input. (AL DÍA, CA, 5/9/18).
A long-haul defense lawyer makes do with Wisconsin’s lowest-in-nation pay – Matthew Kirkpatrick represents criminal defendants who can’t afford their own attorney, traveling the reaches of northwestern Wisconsin as a kind of long-haul lawyer. Last year he took on cases for the State Public Defender in 19 rural counties, putting more than 46,000 miles on his 2012 Dodge Durango, sometimes driving 350 miles round-trip for a single case. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will — again — consider a petition to raise the $40 rate. More than 100 lawyers, judges, officials and organizations have submitted comments heavily supporting the change, which will be discussed at a morning public hearing before the justices. (Journal Sentinel, WI, 5/11/18).
Public defender’s office sees caseload drop with new law – An official with the Montana public defender’s office says a new state law has helped reduce his agency’s total caseload by 5 percent. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the Office of the State Public Defender has seen a 10 percent decrease in municipal and justice court cases, and a 1 percent increase in district court cases. Lawmakers passed a package of bills last year that reorganized the agency, eliminated jail time for numerous misdemeanors and aimed to cut recidivism rates. (The Seattle Times, WA, 5/10/18).
St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office Refuses to Follow the Law, Public Defender Charges – For years, the public defender’s office in St. Louis chafed at working with St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce. The city’s top prosecutor “systematically” withheld critical information about witnesses in criminal cases, the office charged, particularly their addresses. It got so bad, the public defenders got a court order compelling Joyce’s office to change its policies to release that information, as Missouri Supreme Court rules require. Fox’s 45-page petition outlines numerous cases in which the Circuit Attorney’s Office has failed to turn over basic discovery to defense attorneys. Defendants are stuck in jail (including the city’s notoriously hellish Medium Security Institution, also known as the Workhouse) for months while their public defenders must litigate even the most basic pieces of information that would allow them to investigate the charges against them. (Riverfront Times, MO, 5/10/18).
Kalamazoo County retools plans for public defenders office after grant denied – Kalamazoo County leaders want to create a Public Criminal Defense Office and they are brainstorming about how to do it after the state recently shot down the county’s original plans for the office because it was too costly. Fuller and several county leaders are coming up with new plans to still create the office with ideas that could help lower expense needs in the new proposal. Fuller and county leaders he’s working with are confident this new plan will be approved. They have until May 21 to get the proposal to the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission. (WWMT.com, MI, 5/8/18).
Innocent Michiganders are going to prison; they’re leading the charge to make it stop – Loren Khogali, Sacks’ recent successor at the commission, found hers interning with her civil rights attorney aunt, battling the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit on behalf of defendants who couldn’t afford their own attorney, and serving on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. The Indigent Defense Commission is Michigan’s response to a 2008 report that said the state is among the country’s worst at providing poor people their constitutional right to a fair fight in court. The commission is tasked with toughening standards — and securing state money — to improve the state’s system. (Lansing State Journal, MI, 5/8/18).
Veterans Treatment Court
Incarcerated Vets Getting Vital Services In Allegheny Co. Jail’s Veterans’ Pod – Pod 2-F may look like any other pod at the Allegheny County Jail, but it’s very different. This pod is known as the Veterans’ Pod, where a vast majority of the inmates are military vets. By being placed in Pod 2-F, they get access to veterans’ services that could help get their lives back on track. The Veterans’ Pod is an extension of Veterans Court, which was started back in 2009. It takes a combination of agencies and effort to make it all work, but it allows the system to give something back to the men and women who have made personal sacrifices for the country. (CBS Pittsburgh, PA, 5/14/18).
New Jersey’s Statewide Veterans Diversion Program – Our nation does a good job of treating soldiers’ physical wounds, but we are terrible at treating their psychological scars. In response to this crisis, many jurisdictions throughout the country have established Veterans Treatment Courts and our State has established a Veterans Diversion Program (VDP). In New Jersey, after Dec. 1, 2017, veterans arrested for certain crimes can be diverted from the criminal justice system for appropriate case management and mental health services. Veterans charged with non-violent, petty, disorderly and disorderly person offenses, or crimes of the fourth and third degree, are now eligible to participate in the diversion program, if they have a mental illness or condition related to the charge(s). (New Jersey Law Journal, NJ, 5/14/18).
Veteran mentors power Stark County Honor Court – Honor Court is a specialized treatment court for veterans and active duty service members who have been charged with felony offenses in Stark County Common Pleas Court. The court recently marked its 25th graduation ceremony for veterans who successfully completed the program. The specialized court relies on community resources and supporters as well as volunteer mentors who can relate to fellow veterans while bonding through the shared experience of having served their country. Mentors support honor court participants in a variety of ways, including meeting with them for 30 minutes to an hour prior to court sessions. Mentors help identify support needs as well as monitoring progress. Trust is also developed, especially if a participant is hesitant to trust those affiliated with the court system. (CantonRep.com, OH, 5/7/18).