Friday News Roundup: August 3, 2018

Friday News Roundup


A new Canadian study shows chances of dying tripled for those not taking methadone to treat opioid addiction, Florida’s juvenile justice chief steps down, and the Los Angeles County Public Defenders office unionizes. These stories and much more in the latest edition of the Friday News Roundup.

Criminal Justice News

Drug companies want to move Portland’s opioid lawsuit to Ohio – Drug companies are trying to move Portland’s lawsuit over the opioid crisis to a federal court in Ohio – a maneuver lawyers for the city call a stalling tactic. On Friday, the pharmaceutical distributor and two similar companies asked a federal judge in Maine to put the case on hold while a panel of judges considers consolidating it with hundreds of similar suits being heard in Ohio. In its suit, Portland contended that AmerisourceBergen Corp. and others are liable under state law. But the drug company argues that this claim is underpinned by law made in Washington, D.C., and therefore rightfully belongs before a federal judge. (WGME 13, ME, 7/28/18)

Drug Treatment Courts

Chances of dying tripled if convicted offenders didn’t take methadone: study – Convicted offenders who stopped taking methadone to treat an opioid addiction were three times more likely to die from overdose, but their chances of continuing treatment with the drug could have increased dramatically with support for issues like mental illness, housing and employment, a researcher says. The study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, says a total of 1,275 participants died during that time. (The Globe and Mail, British Columbia, 7/31/18)

After 500 sessions, Family Treatment Court still working to keep families together – For more than 10 years, Woodbury County’s Family Treatment Court has held accountable parents like her who are battling substance abuse and facing the loss of their children. On Wednesday, the court conducted its 500th session. An important milestone, yes, but not nearly as important as seeing parents overcome addictions and become responsible moms and dads, those involved in the specialty court said. Since it was established in 2008, Woodbury County Family Treatment Court has served 237 parents and 439 children and saved taxpayers roughly $2.5 million — money not spent on foster care for children, social services, court costs and other expenses. Statistics provided by Iowa’s judicial system show that 1,160 parents and 1,932 children have participated in family courts statewide, and they have saved Iowa taxpayers $10 million. (Sioux City Journal, IA, 7/29/18)

Jackson County Drug Court creates a “Garden of Hope” for the community – Jackson County is feeding people in need through the county’s Garden of Hope. “Well, we plant it and it’s for the community to come pick,” said Heather Strickland, a drug court participant.  It started as a project for Jackson County Drug Court participants, but the garden is now providing to an entire community. Created by the Jackson County Drug Court, the goal of the garden is to provide a hobby for those going through their drug program. (WHNT 19 News, AL, 7/27/18)

Drug Court program in Missouri’s 2nd Judicial Circuit gets 37 percent bump in state funding – The 2nd Judicial Circuit’s Drug Court program will be getting a bump in funding next year. Local officials involved in the program say the additional funding is coming at a good time because of a recent uptick in cases involving opioid addiction. Redington, who works out of Knox County, oversees the circuit’s Drug Court. The program was recently awarded an $81,000 grant for fiscal 2019 from the Missouri Supreme Court and the Office of Supreme Court Administration. The funding is up 37 percent from last year. Redington said the Drug Court program, now in its 15th year, has been effective in helping many local offenders stop using drugs while also keeping them out of prison for drug-related felonies. (Herald-Whig, MO, 7/27/18)

Three become first graduates of Mingo Drug Court – Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Miki Thompson said completing the Drug Court program was no easy task for three graduates who were submitted to more than a year’s worth of counseling, community service and random drug testing. However, all of those steps were easy compared to the hard work the graduates have ahead of them: maintaining their sobriety and not returning to the court system. Mingo County Drug Court celebrated its first graduating class Thursday, issuing certificates to three people who completed the program’s three phases. Thompson recognized the three graduates for their dramatic transformations and for exemplifying the skills needed to graduate the program. (Williamson Daily News, WV, 7/27/18)

Law officials urged to help Hoosiers in opioid crisis – “Ten years ago, if you were a drug addict appearing before me in court you were a junkie who made the conscious decision to pop that pill or stick a needle in your arm,” Nelson acknowledged. But 10 years ago, Nelson’s stepson died from an opioid overdose. On Wednesday, Nelson invited other judges and law enforcement officials to alter their approaches in dealing with people who are ordered into Indiana courts. About 1,000 justice professionals attended Wednesday’s statewide opioid summit sponsored in part by the Indiana Supreme Court and the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA). Attendees were urged to consider options in helping Hoosiers with substance use disorders or mental issues, including medication-assisted treatment. (The Goshen News, IN, 7/25/18)

Juvenile Justice

Florida juvenile justice chief stepping down after tenure marked by tragedy, questions – Christina K. Daly, the Florida agency head hailed by Gov. Rick Scott as “a national leader in reform of a comprehensive juvenile justice system,” is stepping down. Daly oversaw the state Department of Juvenile Justice as it dramatically expanded its effort to divert non-violent youth away from brick-and-mortar facilities and into treatment and community services. She has been praised within the industry for improving the agency’s ability to measure performance and bring evidence-based practices into wider use. But Daly also oversaw a tumultuous period in which youth workers were accused of turning detainees into goons who were rewarded with vending machine honey buns and other treats. (The Miami Herald, FL, 7/31/18)

State, counties prepare for overhaul of juvenile justice – The focus of the state’s juvenile justice system is about to shift from punishment to rehabilitation as state and county officials scramble to prepare for the “Raise the Age” law enacted last year. What state officials describe as a “legacy” reform will change the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old in two steps. Starting Oct. 1, 16-year-olds charged with offenses will no longer be treated by the criminal justice system as adults. One year later, 17-year-olds will be treated as minors rather than adults. To facilitate the law’s implementation, the state Department of Correctional Services and Community Supervision has designed the Hudson Correctional Facility in Columbia County, the Adirondack Correctional Facility in Essex County and the former Groveland Annex in Livingston County — now called Sonyea — as adolescent offender detention centers. (The Daily Star, NY, 7/27/18).

County considers being lead entity for juvenile diversion program – The community-based Juvenile Services Aid Program, located at the Nebraska Crime Commission in Lincoln, provides funding to Nebraska counties for programs to divert youths from the juvenile justice system, and reduce the population of juveniles in detention. The funds are available through an application process. Funding requests are decided by a juvenile services community team and the county board of commissioners. On Friday morning, three representatives from the Juvenile Services Division in Lincoln were on hand at the Chase County Courthouse to discuss the Juvenile Diversion Program and explain the responsibilities of becoming the lead county managing funds for a six-county area. (The Imperial Republican, NE, 7/27/18)

Public Defense

Los Angeles Public Defenders Unionize – Yesterday the Los Angeles Public Defenders’ Union was formally recognized by the Los Angeles County Employee Relations Committee. This paves the way for collective bargaining for the attorneys who represent defendants who would otherwise be deprived of counsel. The union was organized as a local of Council 36 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). “This is a very significant event. The LA County Public Defenders will now have a voice in County politics,” added Daniel Curry, a union lawyer with Schwartz Steinsapir, “The Union can advocate for improved working conditions for the attorneys, for more resources to serve their indigent clients, or even for broader reform of the criminal justice system in Los Angeles.” (KNOCK LA, CA, 7/31/18)

Consultant says Nevada public defender system needs oversight – The commission studying Nevada’s public defender system was told on Friday the state needs an independent Indigent Defense Commission to ensure the rights of defendants without much money are protected. He said an independent commission could set standards, including for maximum caseloads, and would be required to ensure the lawyers have the proper skills, support and training as well as the time needed to handle each of their cases. Carroll said he and his staff are now writing the final report they’ll present to the commission next month but there are some significant problems in particularly rural Nevada counties. (Nevada Appeal, NV, 7/27/18)

Spokane County public defenders stopped assigning cases for the second straight month – 
For the second time in two months, Spokane County Public Defender Tom Krzyminski has stopped assigning felony cases to attorneys in his office.  Again pointing to the swelling number of felony charges filed by prosecutors, Krzyminski says he’s trying to prevent his lawyers from exceeding the number of cases they’re legally allowed to handle in a 12-month period. He says it’s difficult to know what the full impact will be, other than the fact that client interviews and any potential investigation by the defense will be delayed by several days. (Inlander, WA, 7/27/18)

More funding for public defenders, push for clemency among measures to be pursued to stem mass incarceration in Missouri – Measures expected to be pursued to stem the number of people behind bars in Missouri include pushes for granting more clemency petitions, defending a law that limits the amount of money municipalities can take in from fines, and better funding public defenders. Merideth said his focus would include getting more funding for public defenders, and McCreery said she’d work on helping some elderly female inmates get paroled. She also said leaders should look at what other states were doing, including a program in New York City in which defendants receive a text message, instead of confusing letters, reminding them of upcoming court dates. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, MO, 7/27/18)

Veterans Treatment Courts

Funding woes hit Veterans Court – Veterans Treatment Court held its first, and possibly last, graduation ceremony at Goodwill Industries on Wednesday, July 18. The voluntary 12-month court supervised program is for veterans dealing with substance use or mental health issues. It’s funded by an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, but that funding will run out by the end of the month. Funding to keep the court going is being held up by a lawsuit over the Trump administration trying to deny Byrne grants to state or local governments that it considers to be Sanctuary Cities or States that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Until the legal dispute is settled, all funds for the program are on hold. Byrne grants are used for law enforcement, courts, corrections, drug treatment and mental health programs nationwide. (The Winston-Salem Chronicle, NC, 7/26/18)