Friday News Roundup: July 13, 2018

Friday News Roundup

President Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court, New review reveals gaps in education opportunities at juvenile justice schools across the United States, and a report by the National Association for Law Placement reveals that median pay for public defenders only modestly rising. These stories and much more in the JPO Friday News Roundup. 

Civil Legal Aid

Many veterans need legal help but can’t afford it | Letter – What do homeless veterans need to get back on their feet? The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs asked them and shared their answers in a new report. The most popular answer from veterans around the country, including here in Louisiana, may surprise you: They need civil legal aid. They asked for lawyers to help resolve court fines, prevent eviction, restore suspended driver’s licenses and handle child support issues. Unfortunately, while civil legal aid programs like SLLS are all over the country, there’s not enough help to go around. A recent study found that 88 percent of low-income veterans received no help at all or inadequate help for their civil legal problems. (, LA, 7/6/18)

Criminal Justice News

Trump Picks Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court – U.S. President Donald Trump chose Brett Kavanaugh, a politically connected conservative judge, for the Supreme Court Monday, setting up a ferocious confirmation battle with Democrats as he seeks to shift the nation’s highest court further to the right. (Associated Press, DC, 7/9/18)

With More Opioid Use, People Are More Likely To Get Caught Up In The Justice System – People addicted to prescription opioids or heroin are far more likely to have run-ins with the law than those who don’t use opioids, according to a study published Friday in JAMA Network Open. The study reveals that only 3 percent of the general population (with no opioid use) reported being recently arrested or on parole or probation — the study’s measure of involvement with the criminal justice system. Any amount of prescription opioid use was correlated with greater involvement. Among people with prescription opioid use disorder, nearly 20 percent had criminal justice involvement. For heroin users, it was 40 percent. (NPR, 7/6/18)

Opioid-sales secrets to be unsealed after USA TODAY NETWORK, Tennessee Coalition for Open Government court battle – The manufacturer of one of the deadliest opioids on the market has dropped its effort to cloak in secrecy what Tennessee’s attorney general says is proof the firm lied about the addictive properties of the drug and actively marketed it to addicts. “The state alleges the defendant failed to comply with the 2007 consent judgment … that required it to take appropriate steps including the cessation of promotion to prescribers whose practices showed red flags for abuse or diversion,” Slatery argued in a motion.  (Knoxville News Sentinel, TN, 7/6/18)

Drug Treatment Courts

Life after drug court: A graduate reflects on months of challenges and victories –  But perhaps her most notable accomplishment of the year has been graduating from the Drug Court program in Twin Falls County in April — and staying clean since then. “We think, when we’re in drug court, ‘Oh my god, this is the hardest program, this is so hard,’” Dubina said. “Really, the lesson is the day you graduate. That’s when the real lesson starts.” Meanwhile, Dubina is one step closer to reaching one of her goals. In the fall, she will enroll at the College of Southern Idaho to begin another long, challenging journey: becoming a counselor to work with women who have gone through sexual or domestic abuse. She also wants to work with people struggling with addiction.  (, ID, 7/10/18)

County officials pleased with success of drug diversion program – At the end of a four-year grant, several local agencies are pleased with their success in a program aimed at providing treatment to those charged with some drug-related crimes. The drug diversion program is a multi-faceted platform developed by agencies including Beaver County Behavioral Heath, the Beaver County Jail and the district attorney’s office. It offers immediate treatment to criminal offenders who are charged with possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia and some nonviolent thefts. The program has an average success rate of about 69 percent, officials said. Kate Lowery, who oversees the county’s drug and alcohol programs, is encouraged by the rate. (The Times, PA, 7/5/18)

Juvenile Justice

Large Gaps in Educational Opportunity Confirmed for Youth in Juvenile Justice Facilities – Under federal and state laws, students attending schools in juvenile justice facilities are entitled to educational opportunities comparable to those they would have if they were attending their neighborhood high schools. Now, a first-of-its-kind review of the available data reveals substantial gaps in such opportunity at juvenile justice schools across the country, particularly in math, science and credit recovery. (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 7/9/18)

Fresno’s Juvenile Justice Campus Has A Pepper Spray Problem, Says Report – The Fresno County Probation Department’s reliance on using pepper spray to control the behavior of kids held at the Juvenile Justice Campus is “dangerous and traumatizing” for youth, according to a report from Disability Rights California, a nonprofit established by federal law to “protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.” The report also found the camp’s “Positive Behavior Modification” program, which rewards kids with privileges and access to programs based on behavior, to be discriminatory toward kids with disabilities and mental health needs. (WitnessLA, CA, 7/6/18)

Tolstoy behind bars: Why U-Va. students are reading Russian literature in a prison – Pritchett was taking a Russian literature class at U-Va. that pairs students from the elite campus with inmates at a juvenile detention center. Together, they tackle works by authors such as Chek­hov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy. Russian literature might seem like an esoteric choice for forging bonds among 19-year-olds. But the questions the stories raise about life and death can be startling, even revelatory. And with everyone involved jolted out of the routine, there’s a vulnerability that fosters connections. The U-Va. class is featured in a documentary and in a forthcoming book about how college courses should be revolutionized. It prompted conversations about how to change juvenile justice, too (The Washington Post, VA, 7/5/18)

Public Defense

Median pay for public service lawyers rises modestly, NALP reports – Salaries for public service lawyers continue to slowly increase, but their pay is still below that of lawyers in private practice, according to a salary survey by the National Association for Law Placement. Entry-level public defenders made a median salary of $58,300, while PDs with 11 to 15 years of experience made $96,400. In 2004, the median amounts were $39,000 and $65,000. The survey was based on responses from nearly 350 organizations, and reflected the salaries of lawyers who primarily practiced law. (ABA Journal, 7/10/18)

Manhattan District Attorney Demands Access to Police Records – The Manhattan district attorney’s office is locked in a battle with the New York Police Department over electronic access to disciplinary records of officers and investigative reports that prosecutors contend they need to catch bad arrests earlier in criminal proceedings. Public defenders have long argued that the earlier prosecutors show evidence to the defense, including evidence about the credibility of police officers and witnesses, the easier it is to weed out bad cases and prevent wrongful prosecutions. Strong cases persuade defendants to plead guilty, while weak ones fall apart before the accused has spent a long time in jail, they contend. (The New York Times, NY, 7/8/18)

Spokane public defenders’ felony caseload may impact indigent defense  – For the last few days in June, low-income defendants charged with FELONY CRIMES in Spokane County were not immediately assigned a public defender. Tom Krzyminski, the director of the Public Defender’s Office, says the decision not to assign felony cases to public defenders was based on concern that the lawyers would exceed the limit on the number of cases they’re legally allowed to handle in a 12-month period. In 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court decided that public defenders can handle no more than 150 felony cases per year. The decision came after lawsuits challenging the quality of public defense in some areas of the state, including Grant County, where in 2010 one lawyer handled about 500 cases per year. (Inlander, WA, 7/5/18)

Ben Marchman is a student associate at the Justice Programs Office.