Last week, ACJP organizers drove up to San Francisco for the 10th Annual Public Defender Justice Summit. The summit coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the Gideon ruling, and as such lent itself to very timely and inspiring discussions. The panels of discussants were pioneering attorneys, film producers, authors, and other stakeholders of the criminal justice system who are invested in bringing more fairness to the courts. The event was organized by Jeff Adachi, the elected San Francisco Public Defender. Continue reading
By Raj Jayadev
This month marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most significant Supreme Court decisions this country’s criminal justice system has ever known – Gideon V. Wainwright. The case, along with later decisions, cemented the 6th amendment right to counsel for anyone, regardless if they have the ability to pay.
But in a quick scan of the media today of monthly magazines to news dailies on the topic, readers will find one unified reflection expressed — half a century after Gideon, we are far from realizing effective representation for all. A sweep of the titles reads like a punch in the gut: “Right to Lawyer Eludes the Poor” (New York Times), “Indigent Clients Suffer as Public Defenders Struggle to Keep Up with Caseloads” (Washington Post), “Serious Problems Persist in Indigent Legal Defense” (Associated Press). There are films and books being released to coincide with the anniversary, which give a fuller and more intimate look into the grinding machinery of a broken court system. And while the unanimity on identifying the problem, even echoed from the US Attorney General to the leading legal scholars of our time, is striking, what stands out the most is what is missing from the discussion – solutions.
Immigration court in San Francisco has two branches — one for those in custody, and ones for those who have been released. For those in custody, they remain shackled, are dressed in ICE jail clothes of green and soft orange shoes, and cannot have any contact with family or friends who are there to support them. Even when their case is up for deliberation, they remain in chains.
Usually, the courtrooms for the detained are deserts. It is the detainee, sometimes with their attorney, against the prosecutor and the judge. But yesterday, for this young man’s court, 16 people filled the courtroom. He had his fierce attorney by his side. And in the seats — family, clergy of various faiths, De-Bug, a San Mateo County District Attorney and a Private Defender who had helped see him through his case, sat to bear witness, to support, and to send a message that there is a community of people who want this young man home.
This is a picture of him and his mother holding each other for a brief moment, after nearly 8 months in ICE custody. This young man is now in his 30’s, but in this moment of embrace, he is the loved child, holding his mother tight in a difficult time. – Photo and Submission Post by Charisse Domingo