Indigent defense

  • September 3, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Nancy Lopez, Executive Director, Washington Council of Lawyers

    Recently, we have been hit by a series of anniversaries that are significant to the legal community: just over 50 years since Gideon v. Wainwright established the right to counsel in criminal cases; 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson founded the war on poverty; 50 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act; 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed into law; and 40 years since the President Richard M. Nixon created the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). 

    The LSC has made great strides in providing high quality legal assistance to persons in need who cannot afford a lawyer. However, as funding for LSC fluctuates from year to year, and as the demand for free legal services varies depending on the state of the economy, it becomes clear that LSC-funded legal services are not sufficient to meet the demand for free legal services from those in need.

  • June 11, 2014
     
    On Tuesday, Judge Rolf M. Treu of the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that teacher tenure laws violated students’ civil rights. Lawyers for the teacher’s union asserted that the decision placed blame solely on teachers without considering the grave effects of economic inequalities and public school funding on student performance. Jennifer Medina at The New York Times reports on the decision that may lead to big changes throughout America’s classrooms.
     
    Microsoft is fighting another warrant from federal prosecutors forcing the company to hand over a customer’s email.  The case marks the “first time a corporation has challenged a domestic search warrant seeking digital information overseas.” Steve Lohr of The New York Times has the story.
     
    Indigent prisoners who wish to file claims without paying fees may do so in forma pauperis (IFP). At CAC’s Text and History Blog, Brianna Gorod notes why the “three strikes” provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which limits the number of times a prisoner can be eligible for IFP status, is unconstitutional. 
     
    On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that children waiting for immigration visas with their families must go to the back of the line when they turn 21 years-old. Lawrence Hurley at Reuters analyzes Scialabba v. de Osorio.
  • June 6, 2014

    by Nicholas Alexiou

    The rickety nature of the American indigent defense system is on display in The Guardian as Ed Pilkington reports on the judicial system in Cordele, Ga. ACS Georgia Lawyer Chapter Board of Advisors member Sara Totonchi is quoted.

    In The Washington Post, Mark Berman reports on the appeal of Ohio death row inmate Romell Broom, whom the state attempted to execute in 2009, but abandoned that effort after being unable to find a suitable vein to administer the lethal injection. The Ohio Supreme Court will determine whether another attempted execution would constitute double jeopardy as well as cruel and unusual punishment.

    Norm Ornstein argues for Supreme Court term limits in The Atlantic.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a trial court decision on Thursday to certify a class of inmates in the Arizona prison system who allege that their Eight Amendment rights have been violated reports Bob Ortega at the Arizona Republic.

  • April 15, 2014
    At The Daily BeastGeoffrey R. Stone—former ACS Board Chair and current Co-Chair of the Board of Advisors for the ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter as well as Co-Faculty Advisor for the University of Chicago Law School ACS Student Chapterexplains why “the press isn’t free if it has fear of prosecution for leaks” and why “it’s time to give reporters the same type of privilege attorneys and doctors have.”
     
    A growing trend of private probation companies is influencing our court and prison systems. Implemented now in ten states, these companies provide an inexpensive means for courts to ensure that fines are paid. However, in what is referred to as the “debtor’s prison,” many of today’s poor are being jailed because they can’t afford to pay their fines. PBS NewsHour reports on this controversial phenomenon which is proving how “without funds to pay fines, minor incidents can mean jail time.” 
     
    Calls for an investigation into the leak of a classified Senate report on torture to McClatchy newspapers continue. The leak came after Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) accused the Central Intelligence Agency of illegally searching her committee’s computers. Adam Serwer at MSNBC  has the story.
     
    Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic explains why President Obama is right to speak out on voter suppression, “but he needs to preach to someone other than the converted.”
     
    At Roll Call’s Hawkings Here, David Hawking discusses Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus and whether lying in political campaigns is unconstitutional. 
  • March 6, 2014
    The Senate has blocked President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile to be Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. Adegbile, who was a prominent lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has faced criticism for overseeing an appeals process for a convicted murderer while at the LDF. NPR’s Carrie Johnson comments on why the president’s nominee is facing criticism for “one controversial episode in his long career.”
     
    The D.C. Council passed a bill Tuesday that would decriminalize private possession and smoking of marijuana. As anticipation grows surrounding Mayor Vincent Gray’s signing of the bill, Aaron C. Davis of The Washington Post describes how the law is developing into a civil rights issue.
     
    New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has cancelled plans for three new charter schools. Al Baker and Javier C. Hernández of The New York Times discuss the mayor’s unyielding support for public education in the face of a growing  “charter school empire.”
     
    Ryan Goodman at Just Security reports on the Obama administration’s lethal operation against a U.S. citizen in Pakistan for “production and distribution of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).”
     
    A study conducted by Rachel West and Michael Reich at the Center for American Progress reveals that “a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage [would] reduce SNAP enrollment.”
     
    At The Root, Jenée Desmond-Harris notes how the 2015 White House budget report highlights civil rights, the reduction of racial disparities and access to higher education.