Friday News Roundup: October 5, 2018

Friday News Roundup

The Kavanaugh nomination draws closer to a vote, the Surgeon General releases an opioid statistics report, and California passes more laws for juvenile justice. Check out these stories and more in this week’s news roundup. 

Criminal Justice

Kavanaugh moves closer to Senate confirmation as GOP argues FBI report exonerates the judge – Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh moved closer to confirmation as the Senate prepared for a key vote Friday, with Republicans arguing that an FBI report on sexual misconduct allegations exonerated the judge. Satisfying Flake and Collins, as well as a third Republican, Lisa Murkowski, would be more than enough to confirm Kavanaugh in a 51-49 Republican-controlled Senate. The senator from Alaska, facing pressure from Native Americans in her state, has not said how she will vote. (Washington Post, DC, October 4, 2018)

Is 8 Enough? The Consequences Of The Supreme Court Starting 1 Justice Short – As the fight over the Brett Kavanaugh nomination continues to reverberate throughout the country, the shorthanded Supreme Court began its new term Monday. Republicans had hoped to seat nominee Brett Kavanaugh in time for the start of the term, but that, of course, did not happen. The difference this time is that the eight-justice court is evenly split between conservative and liberal justices, with little wiggle room in many closely contested cases. In 2016, Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who sometimes voted with the court’s liberals, was still there.

Justices Weigh Case of Condemned Inmate Who Cannot Recall His Crime – In an unusually philosophical argument on the nature and consequences of human memory, the Supreme Court struggled on Tuesday to decide whether the Constitution allows Alabama to execute an inmate who cannot recall the 1985 murder that sent him to death row. (NY Times, NY, October 2, 2018)

Justice Department Sues to Stop California Net Neutrality Law – The Justice Department on Sunday sued California to stop the state’s new law that would guarantee full and equal access to the internet, a principle known as net neutrality, in the latest legal fight between the state and the Trump administration. The suit was filed shortly after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the net neutrality bill. The law is one of the strongest efforts in the nation to restore internet access rules since they were rolled back by the Federal Communications Commission last year. (New York Times, CA September 30, 2018)

Opioid News

Surgeon General Releases Updated Opioids Report – Overdose deaths in 2017 increased by almost 10 percent compared with 2016, killing more than 70,000 Americans, according to preliminary data from the CDC.( Nearly 48,000 of those cases were opioid overdose deaths, with the sharpest increase seen in deaths related to the synthetic opioid fentanyl. (American Academy of Family Physicians, October 2, 2018)

Why opioid dependence varies so dramatically across U.S. states – The opioid crisis is a national health emergency, but some states are hit harder than others. California, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Kentucky and Florida suffer the most from opioid abuse, according to Fair Health, a New York-based nonprofit market research firm that analyzed 26 billion privately-billed medical and dental insurance claims from 2002 until 2017. “Using that database, the national heat map represents opioid abuse and dependence [insurance] claim lines as a percentage of total medical claim lines by state in 2017,” the researchers said. (Market Watch, NY, October 2, 2018)

Drug Treatment Courts

Drug Court/Personal Frontiers Separation Comes In Midst Of Heavy Need – Personal Frontiers announced last month it would be ending its contract with Adult Treatment Courts. The move highlights ongoing struggles treatment providers face as they try to address addiction problems in the community with few resources and high demands. (County 17, WY, October 3, 2018)

Nebraska to get $1.3M from Justice Department to fight opioid crisis – The Department of Justice has awarded Nebraska more than $1.3 million in grant money to combat the opioid crisis. It comes as part of $320 million the Justice Department awarded nationally to help those most directly impacted by the crisis, including crime victims, children, families and first responders. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the money will go to prevention, treatment and enforcement.  (News-Pressnow, NB, October 4, 2018)

Juvenile Justice

California Shifts Approach To Juvenile Justice With New Laws – Newly signed Senate Bill 1391 stops the practice of trying kids 15 and under in adult court, even for murder charges. Another new law sets a minimum age for prosecution. Kids age 12 and under will now be excluded from juvenile court, except in the case of serious crimes under Senate Bill 439. (CBS, CA, October 4, 2018)

Juvenile Justice Reauthorization Again On Brink of Passage, or Collapse – A final push to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) before the midterm elections has passed through the House of Representatives and has now moved to the Senate for an attempt at unanimous consent this week. JJDPA, a 44-year-old law that trades federal grants for compliance with basic juvenile justice standards, has not been reauthorized since 2002. The House and Senate both passed bills in 2017 to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), with the idea of conferencing out the differences. (The Chronicle of Social Change, October 2, 2018)

The Kids are Leaving Rikers. Is it Really a New Day for Juvenile Justice in NYC? – By Monday, all of the 16- and 17-year-olds currently detained on Rikers Island are set to be moved to the Horizon Juvenile Facility, a secure detention center designed for juveniles in the Bronx. It’s a big step and a pillar of the implementation of the state’s Raise the Age Law, which makes New York a state where juveniles are not treated as adults in the criminal justice system and brings it into line with every other state in the country besides North Carolina. Today is the deadline the state set for the move. (, October 1, 2018)

Veterans Treatment Courts

Missouri, Illinois to receive millions in Justice Department anti-opioid grants – The Illinois Department of Human Services is set to receive $750,000 out of money earmarked to “strengthen” prescription drug monitoring programs. And the veterans treatment court in Madison County will receive $502,058, the department said. (NeighborNewsOnline, MO, October 2, 2018)

Veterans Treatment Court Receives $550K Grant – The Washington County DA’s Office is excited to announce that the United States Department of Justice has awarded a $550,000 grant to support the Washington County Veterans Treatment Court (VTC). In May, 2018, the Washington County DA’s proudly announced the formation of the Washington County Veterans Treatment Court. (Hillsboro Patch, OR, October 2, 2018)

Public Defense

Wrongful Murder Conviction Points To Problems With Public Defense In PA – Weimer, a single mom of three young girls, couldn’t afford the $50,000 it would have cost her to hire a private attorney. So she turned instead to her only other option for counsel, the Fayette County Office of the Public Defender. As Weimer later learned, defendants in Pennsylvania who take that option often have the odds stacked against them. (WESA, NPR, PA, October 3, 2018)

With no benefits and less pay than prosecutors, entry-level public defenders want a raise – Public defenders, the lawyers hired by the county government to aid those who cannot afford legal representation, showed up at the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting on September 11th to demand better pay and benefits. They are not only overworked, but at entry-level jobs, they do not have health insurance and are paid 20 percent less than government lawyers hired to prosecute crimes. The disparity in salary and benefits raises questions about fairness and justice. (Richmond Confidential, CA, 2018)