A new year provides the opportunity to reflect on the past and set goals for the future. Each year, a central theme emerges in my New Year’s resolution: be present. Show up; assume the best of each other; focus on where you are; remember the dignity of every person.
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.
My colleagues here at the Justice Programs Office (JPO) will cringe when they see this, but I sometimes hear clips from the old TV show “Law & Order” when we talk about the right to counsel. Bear with me, please, but for a long time I thought Miranda warnings and the right to counsel were synonymous. And though I now know that not to be true, when we have these conversations I still can’t help but hear the echo of so many detectives in so many episodes saying, “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.” Law & Order was my grandmother’s favorite show—she loved Lennie Briscoe—and I spent a lot of time watching it with her as a teenager. One of the consequences of hearing law enforcement officers on TV tell every person they arrest that they have the right to an attorney and that one will be provided if need be is that I—and, I suspect, many others—think that’s how the American justice system works. Every person accused of a crime has access to defense counsel.
The Justice Programs Office (JPO), a center in the School of Public Affairs at American University, is delighted to welcome you to our blog. Check back weekly for insights from our staff on criminal justice issues of the day, our Friday roundup of the most relevant news articles from the past week, and updates on the latest happenings in our projects, such as the:
National Drug Court Resource Center, which equips drug court practitioners with a myriad of drug court resources, including evidence-based practices, training and technical assistance, publications, webinars, and a searchable online drug court map.
Right to Counsel National Campaign, a national public awareness campaign to inform and engage policymakers, criminal justice stakeholders, and the public on the importance of meaningfully carrying out the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the effective delivery of public defense services.
The Justice in Government Project, which provide strategic guidance to state and local officials seeking to leverage civil legal aid to achieve their policy and programmatic goals and ensure the maximum benefit from dollars spent on low- and moderate-income people and communities.
Please also consider writing for us. We welcome submissions from our friends and partners about issues related our work. JPO provides research, technical assistance, training, evaluation, and capacity-building services to jurisdictions, organizations, and government agencies throughout the United States and internationally to ensure the systems we rely on for justice are fair, effective, and driven by data. If you would like to be considered for our blog, please email JPOCommunications@american.edu.