Indigent Defense

  • 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. 

     

  • February 26, 2014

    by ACS Staff

    On Mar. 3, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case that will decide whether Freddie Hall should be on death row.  In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Prof. Marc Tasse argues that Florida’s standard for evaluating intellectual disability in death penalty cases is “unscientific and a breach of Hall’s constitutional protection as mandated in Atkins v. Virginia.” For more on Hall v. Florida, please see analysis by Prof. John H. Blume at ACSblog.
     
    Consumers were victorious Monday when the high court rejected an appeal from washing machine manufacturers in a class-action lawsuit. Writing for Slate, Emily Bazelon explains why the decision is “surprising and good news.” 
     
    Republicans are calling for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers. ReutersDavid Schwartz reports on growing frustration in the Grand Canyon State.
     
    The Supreme Court heard oral argument this week on the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Adam Liptak at The New York Times reviews Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA.
     
    On the second anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death, Charles D. Ellison of The Root reflects on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. 
  • February 25, 2014
     
    The Supreme Court held yesterday that an Alabama death row inmate had “constitutionally deficient” counsel at trial. The Court agreed that Anthony Hinton, who was convicted of two 1985 murders, “is entitled to a new trial if he was prejudiced by his lawyer's deficient performance.” The Equal Justice Initiative reports on the case and includes the per curiam opinion.
     
    The New York Times editorial board calls on the Obama administration to address the lack of due process for federal immigrant detainees who are being held without bond hearings. The paper cites a plethora of cases involving the detention of immigrants without hearings or formal charges—evidence of a broken immigration system.
     
    The United Automobile Workers filed a formal objection with the National Labor Relations Board after Volkswagen workers at a Chattanooga, Tennessee plant decided not to join the UAW. Lydia DePillis at The Washington Post considers the possibility that the UAW “get a do-over in Chattanooga.”
     
    In an article for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin argues why Clarence Thomas’ behavior on the bench is “demeaning the Court.”
     
    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund notes a significant victory for voting rights in Fayette County, Georgia.  
  • February 11, 2014
     
    The American Bar Association Standards Review Committee is considering a recommendation that the ABA no longer prohibit law students from receiving money for internships and externships. Karen Sloan of The National Law Journal has the story.
     
    In their debut article for The Intercept, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald examine the National Security Agency’s controversial role in targeting terror suspects for lethal drone strikes and the effectiveness of geolocating technology.
     
    Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins created the nation's first Conviction Integrity Unit. In an interview with NPR’s Melissa Block, Watkins discusses the 87 overturned convictions in the U.S. in 2013 and what is being done in Dallas County to prevent miscarriages of justice.
     
    With the U.S. Supreme Court returning to session on February 24, the justices could soon rule on whether legislative prayer violates the Establishment Clause. Michael Kirkland at UPI breaks down Town of Greece v. Galloway.
  • January 13, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Kara Hartzler, Attorney, Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.; Member, Board of Directors, ACS San Diego Lawyer Chapter; Recipient of the 2013 ACS David Carliner Public Interest Award

    When I applied for the David Carliner Public Interest Award last year, I didn’t do it because I had a stunning track record of court victories, a list of successful published decisions, or a résumé chock-full of wins. I did it because I am a giant loser.

    In my work as a lawyer at a non-profit immigration rights organization in Arizona, losing was the name of the game. The vast majority of our clients had no way to fight their cases and were merely biding their time before an immigration judge would order them deported. Even the ones who did have a way to fight their cases were usually greeted by an insurmountable trifecta of bad precedent, hostile judges and an agency appellate body with a not-so-subtle agenda. I lost case after case and quickly learned to advise my clients of two things: the law as it was on the books versus the law as it would be applied to them. On any given day, the best I could hope for was a batting average that was a fraction as good as the worst major league baseball player.

    And in my current job as an appellate attorney for the Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc., my win/loss ratio has actually declined, if such a thing is possible. Despite practicing in front of the Ninth Circuit—a court derided by conservatives as a liberal bastion of judicial activism—I have yet to win a single criminal case. It’s a really good thing I went for a JD rather than an MBA because any CEO worth his salt would have tossed me out on the street long ago.

    But somehow that didn’t keep me from being awarded the 2013 ACS David Carliner Public Interest Award. Here’s why: the award wasn’t created for winners. By its nature, progressive social change comes very slowly and is fought like hell by those who oppose it. And those who fight like hell to oppose change are not even as effective in defeating it as those who are indifferent to it—those who refuse to consider a new interpretation of the law simply because they’ve never heard of it before.