Redefining public defense.

The Bronx Defenders Criminal Defense

Kumar Rao in Huffington Post’s The Blog: “The War on Drugs: A Shake-down, Not a Fair Shake for the Middle Class”

In the wake of President Obama’s re-election and the fervor around “fiscal cliff” negotiations, issues related to middle class empowerment and fairness are rightfully at the center of our national policy agenda. Decisions related to tax burden allocations and spending priorities are being made that have the potential to affect the middle class for a…

The Village Voice: Bail is Busted: How Jail Really Works

Lauren DiGioia’s face was stony and impassive beneath bright blue hair as she was brought into a courtroom in handcuffs on March 18. At 2:30 the previous afternoon, DiGioia, 27, had become the first person arrested by the New York City Police Department during Occupy Wall Street’s six-month anniversary at Zuccotti Park. DiGioia was taken…

The Guardian: New York police officers defy order to cut marijuana arrests

Police officers in New York are “manufacturing” criminal offenses by forcing people with small amounts of marijuana to reveal their drugs, according to a survey by public defenders. Nearly half of New Yorkers picked up for small amounts of marijuana possession in recent months were not displaying the drug before they were stopped, the study…

The Bronx Defenders Legal Director Marika Meis successfully argues in New York Court of Appeals that courts must set alternatives to cash bail

The New York Court of Appeals today ruled in favor of Bronx Defenders client, Sean McManus, in a decision that will have widespread impact on the state criminal court system, particularly for the indigent. The decision recognizes that the statutory bail scheme in New York was created to provide flexible bail alternatives for those accused of crimes…

New York Times: Letter in response to “The Jury’s Duty When the Law Is Unfair”

To the Editor: What is hidden behind the heated philosophical debate that jury nullification generates are the real people and communities affected by prosecutorial and police policies. Paul Butler properly notes the disgraceful number of marijuana possession prosecutions in New York City. But what we need to be equally aware of is that drug prosecutions…

New York Times: Looking at the Whole Defendant

Even before she graduated from Stanford Law School in 2010, Michelle Parris knew she wanted to help people with psychiatric disabilities and take a holistic approach to defense law. She designed a project with that in mind and received a two-year Equal Justice Works fellowship and an assignment at the Bronx Defenders. Still in the…

Crain’s New York Business – Report: City pays big price for minor crimes

New York City could save tens of millions of dollars a year if it did not incarcerate thousands of defendants charged with minor crimes — like hopping a turnstile, smoking marijuana in public or trespassing — before their trials, according to a new report by advocacy group Human Rights Watch. In 2008 alone, the city…

New York Times: N.Y.C. Misdemeanor Defendants Lack Bail Money

Thousands of people arrested on low-level crimes in New York City spend days languishing in jail, not because they have been found guilty but because they are too poor to post bail, according to a report to be released on Friday. The report, which examines the bail conditions for people charged with nonfelonies like smoking…

Public Benefits and Child Support Arrears

By McGregor Smyth. Individuals who are released from prison or jail and who need financial assistance until they are able to get on their feet are likely to apply for aid both from Safety Net Assistance (“SNA”), the New York State public assistance program for adults who do not share a household with children, and…

Holistic is Not a Bad Word: A Criminal Defense Attorney’s Guide to Using Invisible Punishments as an Advocacy Strategy

By McGregor Smyth. The legal disabilities and social exclusion resulting from any adverse encounter with the criminal justice system erect nearly insurmountable barriers for criminal defendants, people with criminal records, those returning to their communities after incarceration, and their families. Recent scholarship has highlighted the draconian effects of these invisible punishments and has argued that…

Bridging the Gap: A Practical Guide to Civil-Defender Collaboration

By McGregor Smyth. Vicky G. received a Section 8 Existing Housing Voucher for ten years. The prosecutor and local public housing authority now allege that over a six-year period she failed to report that her boyfriend was living in the apartment and that she underreported her income. She is charged with grand larceny and filing…

Cultural Revolution: Papers from the Executive Session on Public Defense

By Robin Steinberg and David Feige. Public defenders everywhere are beginning to reassess the most fundamental questions of what it means to provide effective representation for clients. Frustrated by the limitations traditionally imposed by government funders who seek to satisfy minimal constitutional requirements, public defenders are asking themselves if there is more they can do…