Archive March 2017

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Hennepin County PDO's Expungement Project

We are very lucky to have five law students who have volunteered their time to work on these expungements for this semester. They meet with clients, explain the procedure, collect the information, and file the expungements. Occasionally, we will have a client with an extraordinary amount of dismissed cases. 

Hennepin County PDO's Expungement Project

As a young man I was convicted of a few misdemeanor crimes.  I still clearly remember being denied housing opportunities and retail positions due to my criminal record.  I can recall the feelings of helplessness and powerlessness those denials evoked, particularly the housing denials.  

Arlington County's New Fast Track to Criminal Records for the Poor: Skip the Attorney

Arlington’s new policy will send us down a slippery slope towards the same scenario for poor people:  no lawyers for indigent persons charged with personal-use marijuana possession cases where the court or prosecutor exclude jail time as a sentencing option.  But doesn’t the Constitution require that counsel be appointed to poor people charged with criminal offenses?  

How One "Ordinary Inmate" Changed Legal History

But the story does not end there. Some states, like North Carolina, resisted the Court’s ruling.  It took North Carolina seven years to fully comply with the Court’s ruling Mr. Gideon had fought so hard to accomplish.  When North Carolina finally gave in, the Public Defender office you’re currently sitting in, here in Guilford County, was the first in the state, founded in 1970.

On Gideon Anniversary, NAPD Releases Foundational Principles

This document sets forth Foundational Principles adopted by NAPD, which we recommend to our members and other persons and organizations interested in advancing the cause of equal justice for accused persons.  The principles are organized in three sections: (1) the structure and organization of public defense services; (2) the quality of public defense services; and the (3) treatment of accused persons in criminal and juvenile justice systems. 

Montgomery County (PA) Goes Big for Public Defense Week

This week our office celebrated National Public Defense Week in commemoration of the 54th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright.

Washington Governor Declares March 18, 2017 Public Defense Day

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jay Inslee, Governor of the state of Washington, do hereby declare March 18, 2017 as Public Defense Day in Washington, and I encourage all people in our state to join me in this special observance.

48 Years Ago...

Yep—it was that long ago.  I had graduated from college in 1969, and after some difficult times wondering whether I would be drafted before I was called up for VISTA, I left for Montevideo, Minnesota, where I was a VISTA “planner.”  It was an amazing year, both there and in Owatonna, Minnesota.  I lived on $180 a month, organized a buying cooperative of poor farmers, and learned more than I ever dreamed.  I learned a great deal about myself, living alone in a cabin outside Dodge Center.  I learned about poor people—their resilience, their creativity, the struggles they have.  I learned that I was one dental bill away from being poor.  And I learned that I wanted to be a “poverty lawyer.”

Celebrating Public Defenders and Support Staff

This week, providers of indigent defense across the country are celebrating the important contributions public defenders and support staff make in protecting the rights of the accused. 

Right and Just to Raise the Age of Criminal Accountability

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposes to finally raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York state, no longer treating all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. This change is long overdue. New York state would be the 49th state to raise the age of criminal responsibility above 16 — in front of only North Carolina.

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On March 18, 2017 - the 54th anniversary of the Gideon v. Wainright decision - NAPD published its Foundational Principleswhich are recommended to NAPD members and other persons and organizations interested in advancing the cause of equal justice for accused persons.  


On March 2, 2017, NAPD released its Statement on Reducing Demand For Public Defense: Alternatives to Traditional Prosecution Can Reduce Defender Workload, Save Money, and Reduce RecidivismThere are more than 2 million people in jail and prison in the United States. This is a four-fold increase since 1980. This increase and the racial disproportionality among incarcerated people has led to alliances across the political spectrum to address the impact on people and on budgets.  As the new Coalition for Public Safety has put it, “Our country has an ‘overcriminalization’ problem and an ‘overincarceration’ problem — and it’s getting worse." NAPD authored this statement because there is a great opportunity to make transformative changes that can improve justice and save money.  A variety of organizations representing a wide spectrum of political views have joined together to end the systematic problem of overcriminalization and narrow the net of incarceration by reforming criminal codes.