Friday News Roundup: June 15, 2018

Friday News Roundup


Major pharmacies attempt to remove themselves from the nationwide opioid lawsuit, a package of bills in Michigan seek to raise the age and improve juvenile justice services, and a lawsuit against Louisiana’s public defense system seeks class-action status. All of these stories and much more in the latest edition of the Friday News Roundup. 

Criminal Justice News

Rothfus’ latest opioid bill to increase grant funding by nearly $230 million annually – U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus introduced legislation last week to reauthorize an opioid-abuse grant program and increase its annual funding by nearly $230 million. Rothfus, R-12, Sewickley, is sponsoring the Reauthorizing and Extending Grants for Recovery from Opioid Use Programs (REGROUP) Act, which would reauthorize the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Grant Program administered by the U.S. Department of Justice through 2023. (The Times, PA, 6/12/18).

Blame The Criminals, Pharmacies Facing Opioid Lawsuits Say – Large pharmacy chains are asking why they are being sued – instead of the criminals who pushed drugs to addicts – by hundreds of cities and counties over the opioid crisis. Walmart, Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS recently made their argument to have the claims against them dismissed by an Ohio federal judge overseeing the nationwide multi-district litigation proceeding. Plaintiff counties and cities, as well as other entities, are seeking to recover from manufacturers and distributors the costs associated with the opioid crisis. (Forbes, NY, 6/7/18).

Drug Treatment Courts

Senate passes legislation helping opioid addicts – SB 922, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr., R-Cambria, said the proposed legislation is a measure that the General Assembly is moving forward quickly in order to address the growing opioid epidemic. The bill creates a court assessment for the non-narcotic medication substance use disorder treatment program, which encourages the use of FDA-approved non-narcotic medication paired with comprehensive substance use disorder treatment programs. (Altoona Mirror, PA, 6/10/18).

County votes to continue drug court program – The Dodge County Board of Supervisors voted on Wednesday to approve an interlocal agreement between the county and the state probation office, continuing the county’s use of the District Six drug court program. The agreement, which is essentially the same as its been since the program’s origin, is valid from July 1 to June 30, 2022. The Dodge County Adult Drug Court has served 60 participants in both 2016 and 2017, according to numbers provided by Drug Court Coordinator Sarah Gorsett and Chief Probation Officer Patty Lyon during Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. (Fremont Tribune, NE, 6/6/18).

Clark County drug court gets $2.1 million grant – Today, the court, a voluntary reunification program for parents who have temporarily lost custody of their children, has capacity for around 25 participants — and it’s full. But a recent grant will allow the program to expand to around seven times that, helping heal more families rift by addiction. On May 25, the court was awarded a $2.1 million grant over five years by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to a news release. Once in place around September, it will allow the new Bridge to Success project to bloom, growing from one employee now, to four. (News and Tribune, IN, 6/5/18).

Juvenile Justice

Probation officer says public awareness important for juvenile drug court – In fact, that’s been the biggest challenge for Elston — making sure other people in the court system are aware that Kanawha County as a juvenile drug court program, which is one of 15 such courts in West Virginia that provide kids between 10 and 17 years old a structured program to prevent youthful mistakes from becoming lifelong bad habits. “I made people aware that we exist, and that’s been a big thing,” Elston said. “A lot of people in circuit court didn’t even know there was a juvenile drug program in Kanawha County.” It’s the nature of juvenile proceedings that made it difficult for other people to know about it, Elston said. Juvenile proceedings, by law, are private. (Charleston Gazette-Mail, WV, 6/10/18).

Changes come to Lauderdale County Youth Court – When Judge Veldore (Young) Graham succeeded Frank Coleman, who retired in October, as the senior judge over the Lauderdale County Youth Court and County Court, she saw an opportunity to reshape the court from the top down to better serve the children of Lauderdale County. Graham said the youth court judges have reorganized the budget and staff, adding another position in the courtroom for a total of three attorneys, each representing a different party for each case. Other changes include incorporating more services, such as NFusionX and other youth-focused programs, from outside of the court system. (The Meridian Star, MS, 6/9/18).

Will “Raise the Age” Legislation Get Movement in Michigan? – Seventeen-year-olds in Michigan can’t vote, can’t serve in the military or buy a pack of cigarettes. Yet under current law they can be treated as a criminal. Proposed legislation at the statehouse would raise the age of juvenile-court jurisdiction to 18, which would align Michigan with standard national practice. A package of bills in the House Committee on Law and Justice would not only raise the age but also establish other reforms including funding to ensure 17-year-olds can access services in the juvenile-justice system, prohibit placement of kids younger than 18 in adult jails and prisons, and require public monitoring and oversight of youths who entered the adult system for an offense committed prior to turning 18. (Public News Service, MI, 6/6/18).

Howard Co. juvenile court receives high-profile nod – The Howard Circuit Court Juvenile Court received recognition recently for programs in place to reduce the number of local kids in detention, specifically a “catch and release” program that keeps low-risk juveniles out of detention facilities. The recognition came from Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David, and while it was a verbal nod only, Juvenile Referee Erik May said it’s a sign that the county is doing something right within the juvenile system. “It’s about getting kids out of detention and ensuring that only the right population is in there, as far as those who pose a danger to the community,” said May. (Kokomo Tribune, IN, 6/5/18).

Public Defense

‘The system is broken’: Class-action status sought for suit challenging state public defense system – A lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s public defense system should be deemed a class action because tens of thousands of poor people accused of crimes are at risk in the troubled system that lacks money and oversight, a Baton Rouge state judge was told Tuesday. The lawsuit, filed in February 2017 in East Baton Rouge Parish by a group of nonprofit and private law firms, seeks a court-appointed monitor to oversee the state’s public defense system. (The Advocate, LA, 6/12/18).

Tulsa County operates unconstitutional, ‘wealth-based detention scheme,’ federal lawsuit claims – Tulsa County’s monetary bail system is unconstitutional because it indefinitely holds poor people behind bars despite a presumption of innocence and inflicts “devastating consequences,” claims a lawsuit seeking class-action status. A national and local civil rights group jointly filed the petition late Wednesday afternoon in Tulsa federal court on behalf of four Tulsa plaintiffs recently booked into the county jail. The 34-page lawsuit describes a “wealth-based detention scheme” in which poverty-stricken people “bear the weight of this systemic illegal detention.” The “disproportionate incarceration” of minorities and the “unusually high rates of incarceration” for women in part derive from Tulsa County’s monetary payment system for release, it alleges. (Tulsa World, OK, 6/6/18).

Arrestees not getting speedy access to counsel in Chicago – It’s been more than two years since Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force issued its report documenting racial bias in policing in Chicago and its corrosive effect on police-community relations. Lots has happened since then, but on one of the report’s simplest recommendations: ensuring access to counsel for people who have been arrested, there’s been virtually no progress. But Eliza Solowiej, executive director of First Defense, reports that no real increase in calls from arrestees has followed.  Last year, only 1.5 percent of the 84,000 individuals arrested in Chicago were represented by attorneys in the crucial hours after arrest, while they may be interrogated, before they are charged, she said. (The Chicago Reporter, IL, 6/7/18).

DeSoto judge: D.A., public defender financing agreement unconstitutional – An agreement that would call for the DeSoto Parish district attorney to provide funding to help the financially strapped public defender is unconstitutional, a DeSoto district judge said. The decision by District Judge Amy Burford McCartney continues a legal standoff where private attorneys are being appointed to represent new defendants who cannot afford a lawyer. The public defender is not being assigned new cases until the matter is resolved. The case appears headed to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Similar funding agreements are in place between prosecutors and public defenders in other parishes. (KTBS 3, LA, 6/6/18).

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