In 2017, I was pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree at American University and needed a job. When I entered the university’s administration staff recruiting program, I did not have much in mind beyond editing Excel spreadsheets. However, when an email told me that the Justice Programs Office (JPO) was hiring, I was excited to interview for a center within the School of Public Affairs, where I earned my undergraduate degree. I have always had a passion for public policy and working for the Justice Programs Office turned out to be an excellent complement to my studies. I’d like to share some of my favorite memories from working here. Continue reading “A Culture of Community and Dignity”
The Right to Counsel at the Police Precinct: The West Bank Paving the Way
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.
Continue reading “The Right to Counsel at the Police Precinct: The West Bank Paving the Way”
In Re Gault – Progress or Regression
“The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” – Unknown
As I walked into my first (and only!) law class in grad school, there was a quote written on the whiteboard. Our professor looked at us and asked, “How does this apply to our case today?” The case in question was “In re Gault,” the landmark US Supreme Court case which established the right to counsel for juveniles in delinquency cases in 1967. That may have been my only law class, but I continue to grapple with the issues raised by this case through my work training and providing technical assistance to juvenile drug treatment courts. In the 51 years since Gault, we’ve come a long way to ensure justice for youth, but there are still steps we need to take, especially when it comes to the right to counsel.
Working in Criminal Justice as an International Affairs Student: Understanding the Challenges at Home
I’ve been working for a little over a year as a student associate at the Justice Programs Office (JPO). Most of my time is taken up by being graduate student at American University’s School of International Service but being a student associate at JPO has been a very rewarding part-time job. As an international affairs student, the daily legal issues I study are very different from those most students who focus on domestic government study. During our studies, we international affairs students observe whether a country adheres to the rule of law or we compare the philosophical underpinnings that countries use in designing legal or governmental systems. Rarely do we take a deep look at the American legal system or the American criminal justice system. My time here at JPO has built on my personal thoughts about the American criminal justice system and brought them into sharper focus.
Continue reading “Working in Criminal Justice as an International Affairs Student: Understanding the Challenges at Home”
Heard but Rarely Seen
My role at the Justice Programs Office (JPO) is to be heard but rarely seen. I am not asked to go to conferences and present on the constitutional right to counsel. I am certainly not going out into the field to provide training and technical assistance to adult and juvenile treatment courts. But you have probably seen my Friday News Roundup or read my social media posts. I liken my role at JPO to a spotlight. I use my writing abilities and communications knowledge to shine a light on the fantastic work that JPO does and on the talented people that work here.
Let’s Talk about the Constitution
Do you remember where you learned about the guarantees of our Constitution? Was it in sixth grade civics class like it was for me? My daughter Claire, who is 11, is going into sixth grade this fall, and I’m curious about whether or not she’s going to be taught about the Constitution and, specifically, about the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel. Continue reading “Let’s Talk about the Constitution”
“… You have the right to an attorney…”
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.
Healing While Defending Right to Counsel
For those who work in the treatment court field, how often is a public defender part of your drug treatment court team? If your answer is “sometimes,” “not often,” or “not at all,” please continue to read. If your answer is “always,” kudos to you; please share this blog post and your stories with us.
Drug treatment courts use a specialized model for people facing criminal drug charges who live with serious substance use and mental health disorders. Drug court teams, which comprise members of the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, mental health, social services, and treatment communities, work together to help addicted offenders get into long-term recovery. As part of the drug treatment court team, public defenders participate in the team meetings and often provides input in his/her client’s treatment plan.
5 Striking Tweets that Honor #GideonAt55
March 18, 2018 marked the 55th anniversary of the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright case. This seminal Supreme Court decision ruled that the accused have right to counsel in all criminal cases if they cannot afford one, even on the state level. We asked partner organizations and those on social media to share with us how this decision has shaped the state of public defense 55 years later using the hashtag #GideonAt55.
Compiled here are some of the most moving or informative posts shared during this important month. These posts not only remind us to think back to the important day in 1963 when the right to counsel was assured for millions of Americans but to think and act in ways that make Gideon’s promise a reality.
Gideon: Looking Back, Leaping Forward
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.