Friday News Roundup: June 29, 2018

Friday News Roundup

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announces plan to retire on July 31, Juvenile justice reforms in Connecticut are making an impact, and a study of New York bail by FiveThirtyEight shows that it may all depend on who your judge is. These stories and much more in the latest edition of the Friday News Roundup.

Criminal Justice News

Justice Kennedy, U.S. Supreme Court’s pivotal vote, to retire – Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said on Wednesday he plans to retire after three decades as a pivotal vote on the highest U.S. judicial body, giving President Donald Trump an opportunity to make the court more firmly conservative. The conservative Kennedy, who turns 82 in July and is the second-oldest justice on the nine-member court, has become one of the most consequential American jurists since joining the court in 1988 as an appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan. He proved instrumental in advancing gay rights, buttressing abortion rights and erasing political spending limits. His retirement takes effect on July 31, the court said. (Reuters, D.C., 6/27/18).

She Was Ordered To Stay Drug-Free While On Probation. Is It Constitutional? – If addiction is a disease, should a relapse send you back to jail? A first-in-the-nation court case could decide. “Massachusetts’ highest court soon takes up a controversial case that raises provocative questions about the criminal justice system and addiction. The case asks if it’s constitutional to require someone on probation to remain drug-free. (WBUR, MA, 6/25/18).

A Dissident Emerges In Pennsylvania’s Opioid Litigation, Claims Its Case Has Been Highjacked – The fight for control of Pennsylvania’s opioid litigation is not over, as Lehigh County is unhappy that its case has been grouped in with more than 30 others and that lawyers it previously rejected have been tasked with overseeing the proceedings. On June 14, Lehigh County – through private lawyers it hired to represent it – filed a notice of appeal of Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Charles Burr’s order that named three firms to the coveted position of co-lead counsel. What’s happening in Delaware County has stolen Lehigh’s ability choose its own lawyers, the county is arguing. (Forbes, PA, 6/21/18).

Drug Treatment Courts

Critics Say Staten Island DA’s Diversion Program for Opioid Addicts, a Model for NYC, Is Falling Short – The Staten Island district attorney’s groundbreaking diversionary program for opioid addicts is falling short in terms of combating the opioid epidemic because it excludes defendants with certain prior convictions, say drug law reform advocates and public defenders. But because it excludes defendants with felonies on their records, for every one defendant referred to the program, two are barred from entry, said Melissa Moore, deputy state director of the New York office for the Drug Policy Alliance. (The New York Law Journal, NY, 6/25/18).

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice System gets financial boost from lawmakers – In Louisiana, a 17-year-old can be routed through the adult criminal justice system when arrested.  That could soon change since lawmakers identified $4 million to support the state’s juvenile justice system. Landry says the $4 million will come from money saved through budget cuts, forecasted revenue and not having to pay for as many inmates. He explains that under the state’s Justice Reinvestment Act sentences of certain state inmates are being reduced or recalculated. For the first year, 17 and younger non-violent offenders will be addressed.  In the following years, Raise the Age Act will apply to all offenders of that age group. (KLFY 10, LA, 6/26/18).

Juvenile justice reforms making impact in Connecticut – The state’s efforts to keep juveniles out of the criminal justice system appear to be having a long-term positive effect, a University of New Haven lecturer said Monday during the Connecticut State Forum on Public Safety.  Speaking from a room within the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science, Senior Lecturer Bill Carbone said the committee quickly set three goals to achieve by June 30 this year: increase diversion, or the use of specialized programs in place of formal imprisonment, by 20 percent; decrease recidivism, or the act of reoffending, by 10 percent, and decrease incarceration by 30 percent. With five days left until the deadline, the state should hit two of those three goals, he said. (The Day, CT, 6/25/18).

Juvenile detention faces money crunch under Louisiana state budget plans – Any version of the Louisiana budget that is likely to be approved by Gov. John Bel Edwards and the state Legislature over the next few days will complicate how the state handles an influx of 17-year-olds into its juvenile justice system in 2019. Neither the House nor the Senate’s budget proposals, however, include money to help the state’s Office of Juvenile Justice pay the increased cost for the hundreds of 17-year-olds expected to come under that agency’s supervision after March. (, LA, 6/24/18).

Public Defense

Feds Must Allow Lawyers Access To Immigration Detainees In Oregon, Judge Rules – A federal judge in Portland ruled Monday that lawyers must be allowed access to 121 immigration detainees being held at the federal prison in Sheridan. In court Monday, the plaintiffs argued the federal government was blocking the detainees’ constitutional rights to counsel. Attorneys have said that immigration detainees at the federal prison have asked to meet with lawyers, but lawyers have been turned away from the prison, repeatedly. (OPB, OR, 6/25/18)

Law governing public defenders sees its first challenge – Two cases now before Missouri appeals courts – with concerns about public defender caseloads at the center of each – are the first to challenge a 2013 law enacted in an effort to block public defender offices from refusing new cases. (Missouri Lawyers Weekly, MO, 6/25/18).

Problems getting detainees to court on time magnified under ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration crackdown – Jose Dominguez-Vasquez was stopped in a vehicle east of Tecate by a Border Patrol agent at 4:13 p.m. on a recent Friday. He admitted he was not in the country legally, having just crossed the border. He was arrested and spent the weekend locked up. When it came time for his scheduled appearance before a San Diego federal judge on Monday, he wasn’t in court. By the end of the day, public defenders had filed 18 writs of habeas corpus, demanding their clients be presented in court or be released. The crackdown has put pressure on the federal justice system along the Southwest border as law enforcement, detentions and courts have tried to adjust to the ballooning caseload. (The San Diego Union-Tribune, CA, 6/24/18).

Are incarcerated individuals receiving quality representation? It depends, San Antonio panelists say – Dozens gathered Thursday evening at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus for a town hall meeting exploring the systematic inequities in the Bexar County criminal justice system. The panelists agreed that Bexar County has made great strides in recent years to address these issues through specialty courts — such as felony drug court, mental health court, misdemeanor DWI court and veterans court — that provide incarcerated individuals with education and recovery programs, rather than lengthy jail or prison sentences. The group disagreed, though, when discussing the quality of legal representation available in Bexar County. (San Antonio Express-News, TX, 6/21/18).

You’ve Been Arrested. Will You Get Bail? Can You Pay It? It May All Depend On Your Judge. – In New York City, when clients of The Legal Aid Society who were charged with a misdemeanor in 2017 entered their initial arraignment, they had anywhere between a 2 and 26 percent chance of the judge setting a cash bail, depending on which judge was randomly assigned to oversee the court that day. For felonies, the range was even wider: anywhere between 30 and 69 percent. Those not assigned bail are likely to be released without having to pay, which means getting arrested on the wrong day can have a major consequence: You are more than twice as likely to have to pay your way to freedom. Can’t find the money? You’re stuck in jail. (FiveThirtyEight, 6/19/18).

Veterans Treatment Court

York County raising money to open veteran-specific recovery home – Working under the premise that veterans hold each other accountable, York County is helping to launch a recovery home specifically for local vets. Terry Gendron, director of the county’s Department of Veteran Affairs, is leading the charge to raise the money necessary to open the facility by Nov. 11, which is Veteran’s Day. Gendron, who suffered through addiction himself, said the department has noticed a gap in housing available for veterans going through treatment, going through the court system or just coming out of jail. “This could change lives for the better,” he said of the home, which will initially house four to six male veterans. (York Dispatch, PA, 6/26/18).

 In Suffolk County, a court that understands the needs of veterans – The Suffolk County Veterans Court, which was set up in 2010 to handle criminal cases involving military veterans, has gotten even more veteran friendly, observers say, thanks to the recent hiring of prosecutors, public defenders and even a presiding judge who all have been in the military. Also on hand are green-jacketed members of the advocacy group Vietnam Veterans of America who serve as court-sanctioned mentors, advising defendants on everything from what to expect of judicial proceedings to what they should wear when they appear in court. (Newsday, NY, 6/24/18).