R2C National Consortium Quarterly Webinar (June 2017)

R2C National Consortium Quarterly Webinar (June 2017)

everyone, and welcome to our webinar today. My name is Anna Koozmin and
I’m a program assistant here at the Justice Programs
Office at American University. Before we get started,
I’m going to go over how the webinar will work today. All attendees are
currently muted. If you have a question for
our panelists or for us throughout the
webinar, please submit it using the Q&A panel
located on the right side of the webinar screen. Your questions will
only be seen by me, and hopefully we
will have a chance at the end of all
of the presentations to ask our presenters
some of the questions that have been submitted. If you would like to
make a consortium member update after our panelists
present and after Q&A, please use the chat
function to message us so that Genevieve Citrin Ray
can read your announcement out to everyone on the webinar. If you experience any
technical difficulties during the webinar,
feel free to message us using the Q&A or chat function. At the conclusion
of this webinar, a brief survey will
appear on your screen, and we would appreciate it
if you could fill it out as it helps us improve
our future webinars. And as a final note, this
webinar is being recorded and will be posted to the
Justice Programs Office YouTube channel and website. I’m now going to turn it
over to Genevieve Citrin Ray. GENEVIEVE CITRIN RAY:
Thank you so much, Anna, and thank you all
for joining us today for our quarterly webinar. We’re really excited to kick
off our real talk series. Today will be the first
of them called Real Talk with Former Defenders,
Continuing to Champion the Right to Counsel in
Alternative Rules in Justice. So today I’m really excited
that we have Judge Betty Thomas Moore from Shelby County,
Tennessee and Seema Gajwani from the DC office of
the attorney general and our very own Zoe Root from
the justice program office. And they are all former
public defenders. We will talk about how they
have continued their role as champions of the right to
counsel in different capacities in the justice system. We will hear from
them about what led them to become
public defenders, why they decided
to change careers, and what they currently
do in their role to ensure the right to counsel. Following the
three presentations will be Q&A. As Anna
indicated, please, throughout the presentations,
if you have questions, you can use the chat
function and address it to all panelists. Following that we will
[? have ?] some member updates, which will be led
by April Frazier Camara from the National Legal
Aid and Defender Association. During that time if
you have announcements that you would like to make
please use the chat function and we will make
those announcements at the conclusion of the event. So without further ado,
I’m going to turn it over to Judge Betty Moore. BETTY THOMAS MOORE:
Hello everybody. Thank you so very much
for having me here. Can I have that
first slide please? I am just honored to be invited
to participate in the webinar. Most certainly,
one of the things that is so most dear
and near to my heart is the right to counsel issue. I am here in Memphis,
Shelby County, Tennessee. I am a judge in
General Sessions court. And I have been sitting as a
judge for the past 18 years. I am working on my
third term here. But I come from a public
defender’s background. I worked with the
public defender’s office as an assistant
public defender here in Memphis Shelby County
for about 15 years before I was elected
to the bench in 1998. A little bit about myself,
I am a native Memphian here in Memphis, but I also graduated
from the University of Memphis law school. When I went to law school,
one of my dreams always, even as a child, was to
become a public defender. I always wanted to be a
champion, so to speak, of those people
who didn’t always have access to an attorney
or had their rights protected by a lawyer. And I wanted to be really good
at what I did as an attorney. And I thought being
a public defender, that’s what I want to do. That’s somebody who works for
and fights for the underdog. And so when I went to
law school and as I began to practice in the
public defender’s office I got the feeling
that public defenders didn’t have very good
reputations, whether deserved or not. And my desire was
to make sure that I was one of the best
lawyers handling cases for the public
defenders office. And so I did all kinds
of cases, of course, as public defenders do. And I have to say that here
in Memphis our public defender system is one of the
oldest in the country. And so we have a pretty good
public defenders system. Our public defenders are
assigned to every courtroom that we have. And so our defendants
here have access to a lawyer at just about
every stage of the proceedings because someone is there,
even during arraignment. Now as far as when
they are arrested and prior to being
arraigned, there is no access to an
attorney at that time. But from the stage once they
get to the courthouse doors then they have access to
a public defender. I will also say as in
other jurisdictions we also have in place
where if there’s a conflict with the
public defender’s office then we do appoint private
counsel to represent individuals. And that has expanded
because at one time it was just a little bit
of the public defender and a little bit of appointment. And so when I became
a judge I wanted to extend that
desire of my heart to make sure that the right
to counsel was protected. Can I have the next slide? I love this cartoon. And it speaks to exactly
what I think a lot of judges, not just here in Memphis
in Shelby County, but a lot of judges all
across the country sometimes have felt like
either in the past or sometimes maybe right
now in the present. Right to counsel,
he hates it when lawyers quote the Constitution. And I think that sometimes that
is because our judges don’t want to be told what to do. Maybe our priorities
are not exactly where it needs to be as far
as making sure that defendants that come through our court
system have equal, fair, and access to justice, i.e. an attorney at every
stage of the proceedings. And we read it. We hear about what
happens across the country with attorneys being appointed
with public defender systems. We all know that
many public defender systems are overloaded. Lawyers are underpaid. It’s just not working. Many of you may very well
be aware of the situation where, in Louisiana, a
judge decided that you know what, this is too backed up. The public defenders office
can’t handle all these cases. And the judge decided that he
would dismiss about seven cases of defendants who had
been in jail for so long and had not been
appointed an attorney because the public defender’s
office was overloaded. Didn’t let them out, but
he was making a statement. We’ve got to do
something to ensure that litigants have
a right to counsel at every stage of
the proceeding. If that doesn’t happen, then
the whole system does not work. But I think that a
part of the problem has to be the public’s
perception, too. We have to let people
understand and know that the system only works
when everybody’s protected, not just victims, not just the
prosecutor’s office is who’s given tons and tons
of money and resources to do what they need to
do, but defendants rights need to be protected. And the public defender
system, attorneys appointed, need to be funded and
financed the same way as the prosecutor’s office. Let me have the
next slide, please. So we already know about what
right to counsel is all about. You have defendants who come in
and the case goes all the way up to the Supreme Court. And so when it goes up
to the Supreme Court, that tells you that somebody
had to be told from a lower level all the way
up that, hey, there needs to be an attorney
appointed to individuals who come through the system. The system needs to not
only look as if it’s fair, but it’s actually
needs to be fair. The Supreme Court
says that no one may be imprisoned for
any level of crime without legal representation
unless the accused has knowingly and intelligently
waived their right. And we already know that
that often does not happen. How can an individual who comes
through the system who does not have the intelligence
or the knowledge or the education and experience
to knowingly and intelligently waive his or her right. Well you know they have
a right to say I don’t want an attorney appointed. I don’t want a public defender. But the bottom line is, is that
it’s the judge’s– it’s our job to ensure that
there is a counsel, that there is an
attorney appointed, and that if a person just has
to insist that he or she is not going to have an
attorney, ensure. Ask all the right questions. Do all the right
things to ensure that not only are their
legal rights protected, but if you don’t want
an attorney, OK fine. But I’m going to make
sure as the judge that you knowingly and you
intelligently, whatever that level may be, waived your
right to have an attorney. But that attorney is going to
be there and available for you. So the sixth amendment
right to legal counsel occurs at every critical state
of a criminal proceeding, including during
the investigation, at hearings, and
during the trial. That doesn’t always happen. It does not happen in
many, many jurisdictions. And so we have to, as judges,
and most of us, I believe, do. We insist on that
as much as we can, recognizing that a public
defender system especially is stretched to the seams. Lack of money, lack of
lawyers, lack of resources, and so it’s our job as judges
to ensure that that happens. Critical stage– and I
[INAUDIBLE] screen went out. Critical stage is any step
during a criminal prosecution whether the accused’s
rights may be affected by the absence
of legal representation. So if we appoint the public
defender or an attorney at the very beginning
then to me you don’t have to worry
about all of that because then you’re covered. You’re covered. And so we judges have to get on
board of this right to counsel. And some of us are,
and some of us aren’t. And so I am so happy to be part
of a program that encourages more judges to get on board. You know, it’s important
to our system of justice. Next screen please, next slide. Funding of counsel. and this
is what I talked about before. Even with a cartoon– if
you cannot afford a lawyer, the trials go a lot faster. You know I like to add a little
humor in it, because sometimes it can be so humorous that
it gets to be ridiculous. Because you have a right to
the assistance of attorney. Most people who come
through the system we already know they
can’t afford lawyers. And we have to
appoint attorneys. We have to pay for
the legal defense. And we have to get
our legislators in every jurisdiction
on board to understand that the monies have to
be provided to ensure that justice is served. And unfortunately,
as you already know, a lot of jurisdictions, funding
for the right to an attorney is the last thing on the list. It may get done, it
may not get done. And so besides
getting those of us who work in the legal
system on board, we must get our
legislators on board to fund attorneys
for individuals who can’t afford a lawyer. Next slide please. So that’s just a summary of
what the right to counsel is. But the one thing that I want
to touch on with this last slide is the third bullet point. Every lawyer has an
obligation to do everything legally permissible to see that
the client’s rights are upheld. Right to counsel doesn’t
mean that you just provide the money and the
body, the attorney to represent an individual. You prove the lawyer who has
not only the legal knowledge and the abilities, but
the heart to do everything that is legally permissible
to ensure his client’s rights. We’ve got to do that. We’ve got to have
not only that desire, but we have to have
that commitment as legal representatives,
whether you are an attorney, whether you are the
judge, whether you are our legislators, to
ensure that this system, that this judicial system, this
system that we have in place survives. And that it doesn’t survive
at the very minimum, that is survives at the
highest level to ensure that all of our systems,
whether you are a victim or you’re a defendant, that
all of our citizens’ rights are protected. And that they are given
every right that’s afforded to them by the Constitution. Thank you. GENEVIEVE CITRIN RAY: Thank
you so much Judge Betty Thomas Moore. It’s really wonderful to
hear how impassioned you are and how you continue
to be a champion of the right to counsel. And I also really appreciate
you highlighting at the end there about how it’s
not just on one of us to push and advocate
for change, but everyone can play a role in ensuring
the right to counsel. So with that I’m going to
turn it over to Seema Gajwani. SEEMA GAJWANI: Hi, thank
you so much for having me. It’s great to be on this
webinar with Judge Moore and with the whole staff. I’m really honored to
be asked, so thank you. I’m going to just speak for
a few minutes about my career trajectory. I currently– my name
is Seema Gajwani. I work at the D.C. Office
of the attorney general. My job title is I’m special
counsel for juvenile justice reform here at the D.C. OAG. And I advise Attorney General
Carl Racine on juvenile justice reform matters. You can go ahead
to the next slide. So I started my legal
career after law school at the D.C. Public
Defender Service, which was an honor for
me and the dream job that I had wanted
for most of my life. At PDC, where I was
for seven years or so, we start for the first year,
representing juveniles. Currently I work at the office
that prosecutes juveniles. But back in 2001 when
I graduated law school and started at the D.C.
Public defender’s service, I started my career
representing youth who were charged with crimes in D.C. Our office, the Public
Defender Service in D.C. For the most part takes
the more serious offenses. So, on the juvenile
side as well as on the adult side
we typically don’t take misdemeanor offenses. As a statutory matter
our authorization enables us to take only the more
serious offenses, so typically felonies and above. After spending about a
year in juvenile court we move up to an adult
caseload that starts out with guns and drugs cases. And then over the
course of my time at PDS I continued to move up and
then handle jury trials. I had a large docket of
title 16 cases, which means I represented the
youth that were being charged as adults in adult
court in jury trials, and then co-counselled a
series of homicide cases before I left. You can go on to the next slide. My– like Judge
Moore, I had always wanted to be a public defender. So when I was in high school,
I did a short internship with a criminal judge
in Miami, Florida, which is where I grew up. And I was just fascinated
by court and by trial and by the whole experience
and immediately decided that I wanted to be a public
defender representing people who were considered the least
worthy in the courtroom setting and also, it seemed, in society. I thought that that was a
critical and important and noble thing to do. The judge that I interned
for had been a prosecutor. And he counseled me to go work
in the Miami State Attorney’s Office as an internship. And so I did that, but
felt even more strongly after that experience that I
wanted to be a public defender. At the Miami State
Attorney’s Office I did glorified
secretarial work. I would help write warrants
and interact with detectives and police officers and
remember feeling just horrified at the way that they would
talk about defendants and even witnesses in crimes. And the tactics that they
would use to try and intimidate people, especially the most
vulnerable people in Miami who were typically people who
had fears of immigration, deportation, and the way
that they would laugh about, frankly, about intimidating
and terrorizing them. So that made me even more
convinced that these are folks who needed protection and,
in our justice system, certainly were going
to be vulnerable. And I wanted to be the one who
was helping represent them. So I continued to work in
various different internships around criminal and
juvenile justice issues. You can go back. You can go another side ahead. I did, however,
when I was at PDS, I did kind of long to
work on more systems levels and impact policy. I think everyone on the
call and anyone who’s worked as a public
defender I think has had those experiences where
you feel like you are working tirelessly to help an
individual and that person’s family and their
community to the extent that representing
them in their case will be supporting
them and their family. But there was this
definite sense that the system was
stacked against them, and that these laws
were unjust even in an environment
like in D.C. Where you had a strong public
defender with a lot of resources and with the support
of investigative staff and an appellate division
that could help you appeal your cases if need be. And even staff that could work
on the other issues facing clients, including
civil and other matters that we’re increasing
the burden on them at a time when they really
needed to focus on their trial. And so I kind of
got involved at PDS in some kind of systemic
issues around eyewitness identification policy and
kind of on my own time did research on those
kind of things, things that were more systemic and
impacted the entire justice system. And at some point I was lucky
to have a job opportunity. A job announcement kind
of passed through my desk. And as a public
defender you’re so busy that oftentimes
those things just seem like impossible tasks. You’ve got trials scheduled, and
you’ve got all this work to do and meetings with clients at
the jail and family members in the community, and
witnesses, and victims. And to sit down and
think about what you would say to
apply for another job seems like an
insurmountable thing. And so I thought about it when
I saw that position description and then promptly
forgot about it. But lucky for me, the person
who had circulated that job announcement who worked at PDS,
it was our wonderful Jen Thomas there, circulated it again
and encouraged folks to apply. And so the second
time around I did. And I did because the
position description working at the public defender– I’m sorry, the Public
Welfare Foundation, was for somebody
to think about how to use philanthropy
and funding streams to help reform the criminal
and juvenile justice system. And they specifically
said that we are looking for somebody who
is willing to talk to advocates and experts and researchers
around the country to learn about the best
way to use funds to bring catalytic change to
these systems, which seemed incredible. And so I applied,
and I got that job, which was again just
miraculous and very exciting, and had this incredible
opportunity there to shape a new program around
juvenile and criminal justice. And for the first
several years I worked on both criminal
and juvenile justice. The program was
really successful. We had an annual budget
of $5 million to spend. And after a few
years they decided to break that up into two
separate programs and increase, more than doubling,
the funds dedicated to criminal and
juvenile justice. And they created a separate
criminal justice program and a separate juvenile
justice program. And I took the criminal
justice program. This was just an incredible
experience for me, because I was just allowed
to explore and learn about how systems
worked and where levers could be pressed
for change and what are we looking for in change. The overall goal of my portfolio
is reducing mass incarceration. And on the criminal
justice side I worked specifically on
sentencing reform, pretrial and bail reform, and ultimately
on prosecution reform. One interesting anecdote is that
when I went to public welfare, having been a public
defender, what I thought would be valuable about
my prior experience as a public defender it
turns out wasn’t as valuable. And there were other
thing was that I found to be more valuable. So one thing that
I thought would be valuable was the experience
of having worked directly with clients and their
families and communities, that that would give me insight
into the work that I was doing. And it certainly did,
but what I learned when I got into the
systems reform field was that a lot of
the players who work in criminal justice and
juvenile justice systems reform have a lot of that experience,
having worked directly with, having been impacted themselves
by criminal justice systems, having family members
or friends who have been directly impacted. And so there wasn’t
a lack of that that I needed to bring
to the conversation. There was plenty of
that, and in many ways more authentic and
credible than my experience having only represented
individuals in the justice system. What was really valuable,
I think in retrospect, was the experience of having
been a public defender. Because as a public defender
representing an individual who is charged with a crime,
what became very clear was the instinct to
win and to figure out how to win in whatever
way that you could. And before a jury
you have to convince people who may have very
different world views. You would have to
convince people who have preconceived biases and
stereotypes that your client is worthy and valuable. And in front of a
judge in negotiating with prosecutors
or on mitigation or in plea
negotiations, you have to figure out a way to appeal
to them– all of them– in a way to win for your client. And the goal was to win
to the extent possible what your client wanted
to get out of the system and to get out of their case. And I think that that was a
very acute focus that stayed with me doing policy reform. And what I found sometimes
in the policy reform field were people who were very
focused on the principles and being right and
getting the perfect outcome and even compromising on
some potential wins early on with the goal of
being proven right and getting the perfect win. But I knew that as
a public defender my client, who I
stood next to, who is facing terrible sentencing
laws needed immediate relief. And I think that that
was one of the driving things about my work there. And it made me very, very action
oriented and less ideological, I think, than maybe
some other folks mostly because I would always
think about my clients and how they didn’t care
if we won on principle. And they didn’t care if we
got 100% of what we wanted. Getting relief was the
most important thing for them and their families
and that kind of guided me. You can go to the next slide. So what I work on in the
office of the attorney general right now is
juvenile justice reform. And I recognized when I was
looking to leave the Public Welfare Foundation and
I saw the opportunity to work for a newly elected,
or actually at the time somebody who was campaigning
to be the attorney general, our office handles all of
the juvenile prosecutions for the district and a small
subset of criminal prosecutions for Washington DC. The attorney general himself
has never been a prosecutor. He has a background
where he had also worked at the Public Defender
Service for a short time and is a very
progressive person. And I knew that he
was really committed to progressive reform, because
that’s how he campaigned. He talked a lot about the
school to prison pipeline and juvenile justice reform. And I believed in him
and his political courage to take on these issues. I also recognized, having
again worked in systems reform at the Public
Welfare Foundation, having funded lots of efforts
to change sentencing laws and to work around advocacy
and do all sorts of reforms, that at the end of the
day, if you can’t change the prosecution function there’s
always going to be an end run around reforms that will allow
prosecutors and sometimes judges to sentence people
the way that they want to. And that just became
enormously clear to me over my time working on
systems level policy, that the most powerful
entity in the justice system, the one that
for the most part drives mass
incarceration and that’s also arguably the least
transparent as a prosecution function. And I thought a lot about how
to affect that and change that. And we funded– we
started a program to– a part of our portfolio to
impact prosecutorial culture and to elevate some of the
newly elected urban prosecutors and think differently about the
way that they see their roles and what it means to be
accountable to communities, certainly urban communities,
as a prosecutor. And so in this job I felt
like I had an opportunity to think about how to actually
implement that and see if we could try
and move a system and innovate and be a model for
a different type of prosecutor. And that’s what I get to do
every day, which is fantastic. I feel incredibly
lucky in this position. One thing I remember
somebody saying to me, a friend of mine
who was another funder, he had worked for Kamala Harris,
the district attorney of San Francisco, for many years. And he was a high level
advisor to her at some point. And he said to me, Seema,
we would hire good people to be prosecutors. We hired civil rights minded
folks; we trained them well. He would talk to me about
their training program. But he said, you
know, after years of working as a prosecutor,
they would change. And they would become
punitive and tough on crime. And it doesn’t matter
who they were before. And so I’ve thought a lot about
that while at Public Welfare and a lot in my
current job about how do you change the culture
of a prosecutor’s office to be respectful of
procedural rights, of indigent defense defendants,
to recognize the community’s systemic barriers
that they face. And so that’s part of
what we’re doing here. And, in fact, one
of the many things that we’re trying to
work on is, in addition to the programmatic
stuff, is culture change. And so we’ve done a lot of
training for our prosecutors on implicit bias, and
adolescent brain development, and trauma-informed care. And one of the things
we hope to start soon, and this is through
our restorative justice program which we’re
also building here, is a way that prosecutors
can spend time regularly in schools in the district
listening to students talk about their lives
and talk about violence and how it affects them. And interestingly,
just this morning we had a group of 15
or 20 students come from a public high school in DC
to talk about some policy stuff that they were working
on at a project. And one of their
teachers asked if they could come in and talk to us. And what we did was
we created a circle. And we asked them about violence
and how it impacts them, and risk, and consequences,
and the things that they experience,
and how they try to defuse violent situations
or walk away from situations that can be violent. And we did a lot of letting
them talk to each other and talk amongst
themselves in the circle. And it was fascinating. And they were incredible
when they were clear that this was a
safe space and they were allowed to be honest
about these things. And what we hope to do
is expose our prosecutors to that kind of environment
pretty regularly so that they can kind of see what
kids deal with in their lives, understand a background and an
environment of school and life that is very different from
the backgrounds of most of our prosecutors, and also
see thoughtful, productive, successful, and kind young
men and women in a setting outside of the
justice system where they can talk
about the struggles that they’re going through. So anyway that’s
one of the things that we’re trying to
do around changing culture of prosecution. On the programmatic
side, we’ve done a lot about changing
our policies on discovery, and [? Brady, ?]
and diversion, and off ramps, and various different manners. Our boss, the attorney
general, waged an effort to address the shackling
of youth in court. And that was successful. And we continue to monitor
that because there’s slippage sometimes. The last thing that
we’re working on is real violence
reduction and prevention efforts in the community. You can go to the next slide. And that’s in part because
when we go into communities and when we talk to victims and
offenders and their families through our restorative justice
conferences, what becomes very clear is that they’re
appreciative of systems reform, they’re appreciative of
diversion opportunities, but the impact of violence
in their communities is dramatic and is of
utmost concern to them. And what I found– what I felt like
when I was working at Public Welfare on a
lot of the systems reform work was that you can
change sentencing laws, you can try and
change culture, you can change a lot of different
aspects of the system, but if crime goes up, that stuff
becomes very, very vulnerable. And there are
strategies and tools that are deeply empowering to
communities to address violence within communities using
individuals who’ve come back from prison, using individuals
who’ve been through the justice system to help cultivate
positive interactions between people, diffuse
systems, prevent retaliation. And we believe, and my
boss, the attorney general, believes that if public
safety is an issue that he is charged with then violence
prevention is certainly on the table. And so we are
building out a program to address violence
prevention in communities. Because we believe that that
is also an important aspect to justice reform and protecting
reforms that we can make. And the last slide– so I’ll just end by saying
that I still wince sometimes when I tell people that I work
at the prosecutor’s office. And I feel that
everything I do is really in large part guided
by my experience working at the Public
Defenders Service and working with
clients directly. And I still find that, certainly
through our restorative justice program, that my favorite
part of my job every week is when I get to work with
youth and their families and in those conferences. And I think that’s because that
was my favorite part of being a public defender. So thank you. GENEVIEVE CITRIN RAY:
Thank you so much, Seema, for sharing your story
with us and giving us this very full perspective
that started out as a public defender and then
fighting for system reform and then going all the
way through to system implementation. It’s really great to
see people like you now trying to push through
some of those reformed that you helped cultivate. And last but certainly
not least, I’m going to turn it over to Zoe
Root from the Justice Programs office to talk about
her experience. Zoe. ZOE ROOT: Thank you, Genevieve. Well first let me just
say that I am so honored to be able to share the
virtual floor so to speak on this webinar with both Seema
and Judge Moore, two incredibly fierce women lawyers
who I deeply admire. So my name is Zoe Root. I am senior policy counsel
here at the Justice Programs Office at American University. Before I took on this
role, I’ve worked as a public defender at the
Bronx Defenders for five years. So why did I want to
be a public defender? Well so I, like both
Seema and Judge Moore, I always knew I wanted
to be a public defender. I grew up in New York
City with a father who was a public defender. And I learned at
a very young age that the criminal justice
system is a place where– it’s a deeply dysfunctional
place where very bad things happen to very good people. And I was sort of raised
with the mentality that it was my
job to do whatever I could to change that. So after college I went on to
work at an organization called CASES, which is the Center
for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services
in New York City. It’s an alternative to
incarceration for juveniles who are facing the
potential of detention because they’ve been charged
with felony offenses. And in that role I
was able to advocate for youth in both Supreme
Court and Family Court to be released from
jail or detention and sent to the the
CASES program instead. And in that role I was able to
see not only the dysfunction of the criminal justice
system first hand, but also the incredible
difference that community programs can make. And I knew based on
that role that I wanted to go to law school so that
I could fight for my clients in all phases of
the criminal case, not just to get
them into a program. So from CASES I went on
to go to Northeastern Law School in Boston. And Northeastern is a
public interest focused law school that
provides the opportunity to do one full year
of internships, or as they’re called at
Northeastern, co-ops. So I got to co-op at a
variety of places focused on the criminal justice system,
including the Bronx Defenders which was my dream job office. And after going
to Northeaster, I was fortunate enough to go on
to work at the Bronx Defenders. The Bronx Defenders is
a public defender office in the South Bronx. And it uses a holistic model. And so what does that mean? That means that at
the Bronx Defenders they recognize
that each client is a full person with
a variety of needs resulting from their involvement
in the criminal justice system. And often you’ll hear those
other needs referred to as collateral consequences. At Bronx Defenders
we thought of them as anything but collateral. So in addition to having
a criminal attorney, all of my clients were
entitled to a social worker, to an investigator, to
a family court attorney, to a civil attorney to
represent them in housing court, and an immigration attorney
to help them navigate the many systems in which
they were entrenched as a result of their involvement
in the criminal justice system. And the Bronx Defenders was
an amazing place to work. And the work was really hard. But it was also
incredibly rewarding. It’s an incredible
privilege to be able to hold space
with a person on one of the worst days of their
lives and to hear their story. And it is an awesome
responsibility to then communicate their
humanness to players in the system that
are programmed to perceive and treat that
person as less than human. So why did I leave? Good question– it
was really hard. Throughout the time I was
at the Bronx Defenders, I got to work as
a staff attorney, a supervising
attorney, and and as the director of the prosecution
conviction [INAUDIBLE] project, which is dedicated to helping
victims of sex trafficking vacate convictions
from their record. And while at the
Bronx Defenders I represented thousands of
clients charged with everything from hopping the turnstiles
to attempted murder. And for almost all
of the clients, I witnessed the ways
in which the pernicious and systemic racism,
and classism, and sexism, and homophobia
were inextricably tied to their involvement
in the criminal justice system in the first place. And just as Seema
discussed as well, this is a really hard thing
to see on case after case. And it’s a hard forum
to work on these issues when you’re in the
courtroom every day. Because oftentimes a discussion
of the systemic issues that brought your client into
the system in the first place are not a welcome topic of
conversation in the courtroom. And often those conversations
would get shut down. And I felt very
motivated and dedicated to figuring out a way to address
those systemic inequalities that are deeply entrenched
within the system. And that’s why I feel so lucky
to have gone on from the Bronx Defenders to the
Justice Programs Office here in Washington DC. The Justice Programs
Office is a center at the School of Public Affairs
at American University that’s focused on criminal justice
innovation, and research, and reform, and policy. And here at JPO we
are getting to grapple with many of the issues
that, as a public defender in the courtroom
every day, I did not have the agency to address
and grapple with the way I wanted to. And through the right to
counsel campaign we are– I have the opportunity to get
to work on raising awareness about the ways that clients’
sixth amendment rights are not being honored the way they
should across the country. So I’ve had the
incredible opportunity to get an understanding of what
is going on in public defense all over the country, not
just in New York City. And through our
campaign we are working to ensure that all
stakeholders in the system, like Judge Moore, like Seema
Gajwani, that all players are equally dedicated to upholding
the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel, because in fact
it’s everybody’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel. It’s not just the people
who happen to get arrested. Another great thing about
working on the right to counsel national campaign is that
it’s an opportunity for me to be an advocate for
public defenders, which is a community I still
feel very close to. And I’m able to advocate
for them behind the scenes and work to have them be a
part of the National Criminal justice reform
conversation, which is a conversation that public
defenders are often left out of. And it’s an
opportunity to tackle the systemic
problems that affect the way that public
defenders are able to do their jobs
the way they want to, such as the heavy caseloads
that Judge Moore alluded to, or the criminal court backlogs
that still plague jurisdictions like the Bronx. So that is some of
what I’m working on now and the ways in which
I’m still incredibly lucky to be working to ensure the right
to counsel through my role as senior policy counsel at
the Justice Programs Office. Thank you. GENEVIEVE CITRIN RAY: Great,
thank you so much, Zoe. And thank you for highlighting
the importance of including and elevating the
public defender’s voice in national criminal
justice conversations. As we’ve seen criminal justice
reform efforts have really started to take a national– taken on a national light, and
oftentimes those conversations leave out the
voices of defenders. And so we love
having you on board and to bring that with us. So at this time, we’re going
to un-mute all of the panelists so that they can
answer questions. If you have any
questions, please feel free to type them
in to the Q&A section and direct them
to all panelists. And we will get those
asked and answered. So I’m going to start
with one question that we’ve received,
which is how can young people
or other people who have not worked as public
defenders get involved. Do people need to first go
through a public defense office or be a public
defender before they can be an effective advocate
for systemic reform? And Seema, let’s start
with you on that one. SEEMA GAJWANI: Sure. No I don’t think that folks need
to work at a public defender’s office in order to be
an effective advocate. I do, however,
believe that it is important to work
with communities that have been directly affected
by the justice system in order to be an advocate on criminal
justice or juvenile justice reform. I think that’s pretty critical. I do also think that it would
be really valuable for policy and systems reform
people to have both the experience working
directly with communities affected by the justice
system and also perhaps in a legislative
environment or in a not only legislative but an
executive environment, with executive government
or in financing of government programs. I think that there are a
number of real important skills that people can bring from
different aspects of government to work in systems reform. But again I think
that at the very base you need to have direct
experience working for some time with
those affected. GENEVIEVE CITRIN
RAY: Things you. And Judge Moore, Zoe,
does anybody else want to add to that? BETTY THOMAS MOORE: I’ll just
add a little something to it. I agree with everything
that Seema said. But I also think that you have
to have a strong commitment to making a change,
because oftentimes whenever you get involved in
an issue that may not be a popular issue, like
ensuring that folks have a right to counsel,
for instance, you’re going to end up getting
a lot of push back at times. And so sometimes it
can be discouraging when you’re starting out
trying to be involved in more community activities, trying to
prepare yourself with education and experience to
be the best that you can be as far as advocating. And so you’ve got to have
that commitment, because you can’t fall by the wayside. Because in this
business we need people who can stay in the
trenches no matter what. GENEVIEVE CITRIN RAY: Yes,
great, thank you so much. ZOE ROOT: Yeah. And– this is Zoe– I’ll just add that
I don’t think you need to work in a
public defender’s office in order to make change. In fact, quite the opposite. We need this change to
be coming from all sides. And we need all hands on deck. And the change cannot just be
coming from within the public defender’s office. We need smart, dedicated,
passionate, justice-minded folks in every field of
criminal justice reform so we can make change in a
holistic way from all sides. GENEVIEVE CITRIN
RAY: Great, thanks. And that actually leads quite
nicely into the next question that we’ve received,
which is how do you all personally advocate
for the right to counsel among your colleagues who may
not see themselves as playing a central role in
ensuring this right and who more see
it as, you know, I’m just part of the system. And this is not my issue, it’s
the system’s fault. Judge, let’s start with you. BETTY THOMAS MOORE:
You know, one of the things that I mentioned
in my early presentation, and I had the
little cartoon where it dealt with the
Constitution and the Judge bonking the lawyer on the head. You know, as judges,
we kind of feel like we’re in our
own little world because we’re in our
own little courtroom. And so we make our own little
decisions based on the law however it’s applied. And so having meetings
on a regular basis to talk about the
issues of the day, of course that doesn’t work,
and it’s not going to happen. But what I am happy
about is the fact that we’ve got this
system in place right now where the
organizations are getting together
and then advocating for judges, especially, to be
more informed, more involved. That gives me the
opportunity when I speak, when I
attend these sessions, when I am a part of it, where I
receive information that I can disseminate to my colleagues. And not saying you’ve
got to do this, and you’ve got to do
that, they already know what they’ve got to do. And hopefully most,
if not all of them, are making a really
strong effort and are committed to
doing the right thing within the guidelines
of the law, within the guidelines
of the Constitution. So I had an opportunity
with the last conference that I attended to get the
before that was prepared, Americans’ Views
on Public Defenders and the Right to Counsel. And the right to counsel
national campaign did a report. And so, Zoe, you
actually sent to me about 50 copies that I was
able to disseminate to some of the judges, especially
those in this county, but some of the
judges in the state and say here, this
is information that you need to look
at, you need to consider. And so I think that when we
present to our colleagues as judges information
that’s out there, get feedback from judges–
because I got feedback from many, many of the judges
who received it and said thank you for this
information, I did not know that
this was out there. It tweaks our conscience to
let us know that if you’re not doing this, if you’re
not concerned about this, if you’re not
committed to this– because sometimes when
we get on the bench, we’re on the bench for years. And then we get stale. And so when you get
something like this, when you know that things
like this are out there, then I’m hoping and praying that
it reignites our desire that we had when we started out
as public defenders, way back when we
were in law school and we had this strong desire
to just really fight, fight, fight. And we get stale when
we’re on the bench. So I think that as judges,
we need a little fire put up under us sometimes. And I think that
this is something that really jump starts us
to do what we need to do. GENEVIEVE CITRIN RAY:
Great, thank you so much. Seema, do you have
anything to add about how you can talk to prosecutors? SEEMA GAJWANI: You know I’m–
we’re lucky because we had strong leadership at the very
top of our organization between attorney general Racine and an
incredible deputy of our public safety division, Tamar Meekins
who recently passed away on President’s Day, which has
been a devastating loss for us. But both of them were
absolutely committed to ensuring procedural justice for
respondents and defendants in Superior Court
in our jurisdiction. And so when you’ve got strong
political will at the top it’s not hard to impress
upon prosecutors that this is of utmost importance. I don’t– most places don’t
have that opportunity. And I would just say that
there is an effort that is kind of bubbling, up I think
it’s called sentinel events, but there is an effort
to look at systems failures in the
justice system and then go back and identify where
protections or checks could have been put in place to
address those failures so that the failure didn’t happen. And that can be used
in the justice system or on wrongful conviction. I think the typical use
of that model of reform is in the health care industry
or the aviation industry. So where there is a disaster
in aviation, they look back and they see all the ways
where there was failure and try and figure out how
to prevent that failure. And similarly around
a wrongful conviction in different
prosecutor’s offices they’re now starting to look
at where the failure occurred, and no doubt a lack of
zealous representation or strained resources
for public defenders contribute to an important
failure in our system where if that was
not the case there would be a more robust check
on injustices that could result in a wrongful conviction. GENEVIEVE CITRIN RAY:
Great, thank you so much. So at this time we’re going
to turn it over to April, but if anybody has any
other questions, please feel free to send them
in the Q&A section and send them to all attendees. And we will get
to those questions at the conclusion
of the webinar. So without further ado, April. APRIL FRAZIER CAMARA: Hi,
good afternoon, everyone. This is April Frazier Camara,
director of Defender Legal Services from the National Legal
Aid and Defender Association. So I’m really excited I
get a chance to update the group on right to counsel
national campaign updates from the field. We’re really excited
to hear from people in between our quarterly
webinars about what is taking place in their
particular jurisdiction. So we encourage you
all to reach out to myself or Genevieve
and Zoe and others at AU and update us from
time to time if you have some really exciting
work or challenges taking place in your jurisdiction. So we’re going to get
started, and after I provide the update we will
also open it up to attendees to give
announcements and share anything that we did not cover. So we wanted to share,
recently the National Legal Aid and Defender
association, we partnered with the Association of
Prosecuting Attorneys to host a joint
event that really focused on the importance
of collaboration. And you can see on
your screen the agenda from that event that took
place on April 10th and 11th here in Washington DC. And I was really excited to
hear from Seema from the DC office of the attorney
general, because I think she was able
to demonstrate from her presentation
how important the role of progressive prosecutors
are in really achieving the right to counsel in
criminal justice reform. And this event was a great
event where we pulled together prosecutors and defenders from
four different jurisdictions to talk about collaboration
and specifically how they were working together
to advance pretrial reforms. And I wanted to share
this with the group because I think as
we talk about how to realize some of the
goals behind the right to counsel campaign, one
important strategy is to definitely bring to
the table law enforcement and think creatively about
how we can collaborate and partner with
them around core values that we all
share in common, around improving the integrity
of our criminal justice system and really making
sure that we all have a fair and more just system. So we can go to the next slide. Also we– I’m sure many of
you have heard the update from Harris County Texas. We are really excited to report
that the Texas indigent defense commission was actually
appropriated over $66 million to focus on state wide public
defense reform efforts. And this has been a
long fight within Texas. And really a lot of hard
work has gone into it. And many of you on the call and
who work on a national level know about the right
to counsel reforms that really have been taking place in
Texas for nearly a decade now. So this was a huge win on the
part of the Texas indigent defense commission. So the $66 million
has been appropriated. And now it is at the governor’s
desk waiting to be signed. But our colleagues
and consortium members from Harris County
definitely wanted to share this really
great news with the group about the substantial
funding that they were able to leverage
for FY 18 and 19. So here this is more information
from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission. And it really shows how,
over a period of time, how the funding
resources have increased. I’m not sure if you
can see the image, but they tracked the
defense expenditures in the million dollar
category from 2001 to 2016. And so they have been able
to see a growth from 2001 from $91 million to the proposed
budget of over $300 million for 2017. In 2016 they were
appropriated $247 million for statewide public defense. We can go to the next slide. And this is just
more information about Harris County. Specifically, and
hopefully we will be able to have them
on our next webinar where they can answer
specific questions. But if you can see
see here, there was a lot of effort made to be
creative in requesting funding, re-allocating court
costs, in order to generate income to
support the right to counsel. And I think that is
an important point that we wanted to share
with the community, because as we advocate
for more resources we have to think about
exactly sources that can fund the right to counsel work. And I think Harris County
has done a great job, or the State of Texas
has done a great job in looking at different
streams of revenue to support the right to counsel. Next slide. This is a map that was also
provided to us from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission. But it’s one that we wanted
to share with the group, because I think it’s
a very interesting one to look at the landscape of
indigent defense funding. The red states actually
indicate states who are fully state funded. And then you see color
variations between white, blue, gray, and purple where
there’s different, diverse, state funding and local
funding to fund the systems. So we hope that this
could be helpful to others in other jurisdictions who are
looking at funding sources. And it really gives you a
really great national overview of how indigent defense
systems are currently funded. OK, next slide. All right, New York State– this was another major
victory for indigent defense. In the state’s
2017-2018 budget they were able to pass a bill to
establish standards for Public Defender Services and
obligate the state to reimburse those costs
of meeting the standards. And also a $250
million amount was given to bring New York County
indigent defense systems up to standard. And as many of you
all know we often hear about practice in New York
City but the state of New York has very stark
different realities. A public defense systems
in the New York City area that are well
funded, well resourced, but a lot of the counties
in New York State really are struggling. And we see some of the greatest
abuses of, as they say, constructive denial
of right to counsel. So this was a major victory
for the state of New York. And we wanted to
share that information with the consortium. Next slide. So those are the
updates from the field. And specifically
the updates that you saw in our presentation are
from members who attended our last annual convening. And we receive updates from
those people in the field that’s– different advancements is taking
place in their local community. But we also want
to invite you all to share with us any updates
that you want us to feature on upcoming quarterly webinars. So Genevieve, I think
if you would like me to, we can open the floor
up to announcements. If people have any
questions about the updates from the field I’ll be happy
to answer those as well. But this is also
opportunity for people to give updates from their
jurisdiction or ask questions. So feel free to send your
questions in by email and we’ll be happy to
read those and respond. GENEVIEVE CITRIN RAY: Great,
thank you so much, April. And again at this
time I just want to encourage people if they
have any other announcements that they would like to share
with all of us all on the call, please do so by typing
it into the Q&A section on the right-hand
side of your screen. And also if anybody has any
other questions for April or for any of our
other panelists, please feel free to share
them at this time as well. I’m just going to pause for
a minute in case somebody is typing, although at
this time it doesn’t look like there is anything out. I just want to reiterate
what Judge Betty Moore said at one point about the
report American Views on Public Defense and
the Right to Counsel. It’s a really report that we
released with our partners at Belden Russonello
Strategists. And it highlights what
the public’s current level of knowledge is surrounding
public defense and the right to counsel and shares
some ways that– effective messages
that communicated the importance of
ensuring this right. And you can access that by
going to our website, which is rtcnationalcampaign.org And so, with that,
since there are no other updates at
this time, thank you all so much for listening
in on this webinar. And thank you again to
all of our panelists. It was really great to hear
so many different perspectives and to hear the
trajectories of all of you, your career paths and
how you continue to fight and champion the
right to counsel. And we’re so happy
to have all of you as part of our Right to
Counsel National Consortium. So with that, have a
wonderful rest of your day. Thank you all so much.

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