When you think of the West Bank, your first thought is likely not the right to counsel. Some people are surprised to hear that Palestine has a self-sufficient legal system at all, let alone a constitutionally-mandated right to an attorney for all criminally accused. Ensuring access to legal representation is critical to protecting due process, human rights, and justice, especially in historically tumultuous places like the West Bank. Institutionalizing constitutional protections as the Palestinian legal system develops and changes will ensure that best practices are embedded into its very foundation.
This March, the Right to Counsel National Campaign (R2C) has embraced the 55th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright as an opportunity to reflect on what quality public defense looks like, the impact it has on individual clients’ lives, and the work that needs to be done to fully realize the intent of the Gideon decision.
“No touching!” the corrections officer yelled at me, pointing at my outstretched hand as I sat down in the attorney interview room across from my client Raphael. “Oh right, sorry!” I snatched my hand away quickly. In my first year as a public defender, I had a hard time “un-learning” my natural instincts about how human interaction should work. On this occasion, I was meeting with Raphael at Rikers Island to interview him for a letter I was writing to the judge about why she should give Raphael a shorter jail sentence for his heroin possession case than the DA was recommending. Continue reading “Revolutionary Empathy”
Last month, I traveled with my staff to lead a three-day site visit in a Missouri district located about two hours northeast of Kansas City. Driving past acres of amber waves of grains, I was drawn to the rural landscape. I was delighted by murals dotting the town of Chillicothe, immortalizing their claim as “The Home of Sliced Bread,” and I marveled at Linn County’s turn-of-the-century courthouse. As an outsider in a community that was so different from my own, I couldn’t help but reflect on the vast and rich diversity of our country.