Debtor’s Prisons for Kids? The High Cost of Fees and Fines in the Juvenile Justice System.

The Juvenile Law Center (JLC) today released Debtors’ Prison for Kids? The High Cost of Fines and Fees in the Juvenile Justice System, a groundbreaking report on the impact of juvenile court costs on youth and their families. The report was featured in a New York Times article this morning, and includes a companion microsite featuring interactive maps.

State holds first “Reunification Day Celebration” in Berkshire County

On Tuesday, June 28, 2016, for the first time in Berkshire County, local agencies hosted a Reunification Day Celebration to recognize the reunification of families after separation through the child welfare system.  This event was hosted by Berkshire Children & Families, the Department of Children and Families, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services – Children and Family Law Division (CAFL), in collaboration with the Berkshire Juvenile Court and the local bar.

The two hour celebration was held at the Berkshire Children and Families’ Family Resource Center and honored local families for their reunification success.    The Honorable Amy L. Nechtem, Chief Justice of Juvenile Department of the Massachusetts Trial Court, the Honorable Joan M. McMenemy, First Justice of the Berkshire Juvenile Court, Carolyn Burns, CEO & President of Berkshire Children and Families, and Margie Gilberti, Pittsfield DCF Director of Areas addressed the audience.  Brian Litscher, a local CAFL panel attorney, entertained the crowd with an acapella performance of “Somewhere” from West Side Story. The honored families were presented with passes donated by local attractions, and gifts that were generously provided by CAFL.  Arts and crafts and face painting followed the structured portion of the celebration.  A commemorative canvas, donated by CAFL panel attorney, Peter Brewer, was decorated and will be displayed in the Berkshire Juvenile Court.

This event was held in connection with the American Bar Association’s National Reunification Month.  National Reunification Month is celebrated around the country every June to honor the importance of the reunification of children with their families in the child welfare system.  The event was first celebrated in 2010 by the American Bar Association in collaboration with many national agencies.  National Reunification Month celebrates the accomplishments of families who have overcome an array of challenges to safely reunify, recognizes the vital role that community partners play in strengthening families, and is designed to inspire other families in pursuit of successful reunification.

Reunification Day Celebration 2

Another Huge Loss in the Indigent Defense Community

10/6/11 3:40:14 PM -- Boston, Massachusetts Portrait of BU Law Professor Robert Spangenberg  Photo by Vernon Doucette for Boston University Photography

Bob Spangenberg – taken in 2011 when he joined the faculty at Boston University Law School

Sad news as another giant from the indigent defense world has passed away.  Robert (Bob) Spangenberg, who spent a lifetime working to improve access to counsel for the poor in criminal and civil cases died late last month at age 83.

In the 1960’s, as an advisor to the Lyndon Johnson administration, Bob was instrumental in the creation of the Office of Legal Services, the precursor of the Legal Services Corporation.  Having helped establish the largest national civil legal aid funder, Bob turned his attention to Boston, where he helped found the organization now known as Greater Boston Legal Services.  Before settling in the Commonwealth, Bob was called back to Washington to serve as Special Assistant to the first Director of the National Legal Services Program.

Bob returned to Boston to become the Executive Director of the Boston Bar Association’s Action Plan for Legal Services.  During his tenure, The Action Plan conducted in-depth research into the legal needs of the Commonwealth’s indigents. The Action Plan’s findings helped prompt the 1983 legislation which created the Committee for Public Counsel Services.  Bob served as a CPCS board member from its inception until 1995 and remained a strong supporter in the years after.

In 1985, Bob formed The Spangenberg Group (TSG).  For a quarter of a century TSG conducted research and provided technical assistance to civil and criminal legal systems around the United States and throughout the world.  During this period Bob testified before Congress and numerous state legislatures, leading to positive change in the delivery of legal services in many jurisdictions.  TSG’s work contributed to a critical rate increase for CPCS private assigned counsel.   Bob and TSG provided key information and expertise to CPCS in the Lavallee (Nathaniel Lavallee, et al. vs. The Justices of the Springfield District Court, 442 Mass. 228 (2004)) and the Arianna  (Arianna S., et al. v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, et al., SJ-2004-0282 (filed June 28, 2004)) cases.  As result of Lavallee and Arianna, the state legislature enacted hourly rate increases in criminal, juvenile and child welfare cases, and instigated the creation of the first CPCS District Court staff offices.

In 2009, Bob received the Champion of Indigent Defense award for outstanding efforts in making positive changes to indigent defense systems from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  The National Legal Aid and Defender Association Reginald Heber Smith award, as well as the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense Robert O. Dawson award were presented to Bob in 2008.  In addition, Bob was the recipient of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (SCLAID) Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bob was extremely generous with his time and expertise, always willing to answer a call for advice.  He maintained a keen interest in CPCS, often calling to check in on the never-ending battle for increased funding, or to get more details about a story he had seen in the press.

Bob Spangenberg will be sorely missed.  His work benefitted scores of individuals.   Although still inadequate, because of Bob the services available to indigent defendants and civil legal aid clients in the Commonwealth are significantly better than those provided in most other parts of the country.

Anthony J. Benedetti
Chief Counsel
Committee for Public Counsel Services
44 Bromfield Street
Boston, MA 02108

 

Recognition Well-Deserved – Atty. Anne Goldbach Receives the 2016 MACDL Clarence Gideon Award

Anne GoldbachOn June 14, 2016, the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL) presented our colleague, Atty. Anne C. Goldbach, with the Clarence Gideon Award, an honor not awarded every year, but presented to only those worthy to be recognized as champions of the noblest principle that all persons shall stand equal before the law.   Continue reading

Massachusetts Has Lost An Indigent Defense Giant

Schaefer #2Gerry Schaefer surrounded by old colleagues at the CPCS 25th Anniversary Party in 2009.

Attorney Gerry Schaefer, former head of the Massachusetts Defender Committee (MDC), passed away earlier this month at his home in Easthampton, MA.  Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Gerry, I’ve heard many heartfelt and remarkable stories from long time and former defenders.  They speak of him fondly as they have relayed their stories of what he meant to indigent defense in Massachusetts.  I believe the last time Gerry was seen by many was in July 2009 at the Committee for Public Counsel Services 25th Anniversary celebration held at the John Adams Courthouse at which he made a rare appearance. Continue reading

Honoring the Best in Indigent Defense

On May 24, 2016, at the John Adams Courthouse, CPCS honored exemplary attorneys – both public and private – social workers, investigators, and professional administrative staff who dedicate their careers to overcoming injustice and championing the cause of zealous representation and effective assistance of counsel.

In describing this year’s event, CPCS Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti said, “This year we recognized ten outstanding individuals who have made and continue to make extraordinary contributions to indigent defense. Not all of the honorees are attorneys because the best, most effective representation happens when attorneys, investigators, social workers, and other support staff expend a united effort on behalf of our clients. Zealous advocacy is only attainable through the best efforts of a team, a team made up of a variety of individuals.” Continue reading

Massachusetts Touted as a National Leader in Juvenile Defense Standards

When Stateline reporter Rebecca Beitisch interviewed lawyers around the country about juvenile defense standards juvenile justice advocates and defenders pointed to the Committee for Public Counsel Services as a leader in juvenile defense for the standards placed on lawyers, the training required of them and the approach taken with kids.  Here is a link to the article States Push Tougher Standards for Juvenile Public Defenders.

Trial Courts Issue Sentencing Best Practices Reports

 

Trial Court Establishes Best Practice Principles in Criminal Sentencing* 

BOSTON, MA — The Massachusetts Trial Court today announced that the four Trial Court departments with criminal jurisdiction have issued comprehensive criminal sentencing reports, including best practice principles to assist judges in developing individualized, evidence-based sentences that are intended to improve offenders’ chances of success upon release, reduce recidivism, and better secure public safety.

“In response to the commitment made by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants in his first State of the Judiciary address, I am pleased to report that the Trial Court has completed a thorough set of reports outlining principles to provide consistent, informed guidance to judges in determining sentences that are best suited to the adjudication of individual cases,” said Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey.

The Sentencing Best Practice principles state that sentences should be proportionate to the gravity of the offense, the harm done to crime victims, and the role of the offender.  A sentence should be no more severe than necessary to achieve its purposes and special conditions of probation should be narrowly tailored to the needs of the defendant, the public, and the victim, because an excessive number of special conditions may increase rather than decrease the likelihood of recidivism. The principles also encourage judges to inform defendants at the time of sentencing that the court will consider early termination of their probation or lift some conditions if they fully comply.

The Boston Municipal, District, Juvenile and Superior Court Departments formed Sentencing Best Practices Committees comprised of judges, probation officers, prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement representatives, members representing local bar associations, and members of the Sentencing Commission to recommend sentencing practices that are informed by research-based risk factors. Each departmental committee developed a set of principles to help guide judges in exercising sentencing discretion, where the criminal statutes allow such discretion, as well as a set of tools to assist judges in implementing those sentencing best practices. In addition, the Massachusetts Probation Service is developing a searchable database of the programs and service providers available to probation departments by geographical region and by program type, so that judges may know what programs are available based on the particular needs of the defendant, such as drug treatment, mental health treatment, or batterers programs.

“This is a major milestone in our ongoing commitment to craft appropriate sentences,” said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants. “I thank the four Sentencing Best Practice Committees for their diligence and thoughtfulness in producing this tremendous body of work, which will help judges to set sentences that not only fit the crime but also fit the offender, and in so doing reduce the likelihood of recidivism.”

The comprehensive sentencing materials include:

  • Sentencing Best Practice Reports that detail the sentencing principles and recommendations of each departmental working group, and identify its members.
  • Sentencing Bench Book that serves as an easily useable reference guide for judges on statutes and legal issues that relate to sentencing.
  • a Memorandum on Best Practices in Sentencing Utilizing Social Science Data & Research that identifies the offender and social science factors that may affect recidivism rates, and the incentives and sanctions that have proven effective (and ineffective) in reducing recidivism, so that judges may apply the applicable social science research to their sentencing decisions.

*Press Release from:  ‘PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE, SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT

Click here for all Reports and here for the Juvenile Court Report