Redefining public defense.

The Bronx Defenders Criminal Defense

Criminal Justice Matters on CUNY TV: Equal Justice for All? Life After Gideon

The right to a lawyer, regardless of whether you can afford it, has been a cornerstone of American justice for 50 years, ever since a landmark US Supreme Court ruling in 1963. But thousands of Americans–and New Yorkers—still can’t exercise that right. New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman discusses what our courts and politicians…

HuffPost Live: Alejandro Fernandez talks Stop-And-Frisk

Gbenga Akinnagbe from ‘The Wire’ joins HuffPost Live to talk about his recent court victory, challenging stop & frisk policies and intolerance for free speech. Hosted by: Alicia Menendez Guests: Gbenga Akinnagbe @GbengaAkinnagbe (New York, NY) Actor Matt Sledge @MGSledge (New York , NY) HuffPost National Reporter Alejandro Fernandez @BronxDefenders (New York, NY) Staff Attorney…

New York Times: In South Bronx, Legal Aid and Shoulders to Lean On

A sprawling, sunny room beckons invitingly with black couches and bright accent pillows for relaxing, bookshelves with novels to borrow for an hour or a week, a pair of children’s tables, outlets for recharging cellphones and free coffee. This is the newest hub for justice in the South Bronx: a public defenders’ office that looks…

Reuters: Bronx man cannot be retried after mistrial

A Bronx man cannot be retried for selling drugs after his first case ended in a mistrial because the judge failed to consider less severe alternatives, a state appeals court ruled Thursday. The Appellate Division, First Department, found that double jeopardy precluded a second prosecution against Jamal Morris, who sought a writ prohibiting the Bronx…

A Plaintiff Reflects on Judge Scheindlin’s Clean Halls decision

On Tuesday, January 8th, Judge Shira Scheindlin in the Southern District Court of New York granted a preliminary injunction against the NYPD in our federal class action lawsuit, Ligon v. City of New York. The injunction has since been temporarily stayed pending appeal, but it was nevertheless a huge victory for our litigation team, clients,…

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…