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

Watch “Poverty, Violence, and the Developing Mind”

From the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior @ MGH: An increasing number of children are at risk for exposure to severe violence and dangerous living conditions. During this panel event, experts wrestled with the following question: What are the implications of trauma exposure and toxic stress for healthy brain development? Click here to watch the webinar.

Supporting an Open Data Standards Approach for MassCourt Data*


The following is an open reply to the Massachusetts Trial Court’s call for comments regarding its Proposed Uniform Rules on Public Access to Court Records. It is the joint comment of multiple organizations and individuals. CPCS is a signatory, and this post is meant to provide some context explaining why. For a complete list of signatories, visit http://ma-court-comment.github.io/


Given that the adoption of a common data standard for the Massachusetts legal community offers the promise of increased efficiency, lower information sharing costs, and improved access to courts, we propose that the Massachusetts Trial Courts adopt a set of data standards to facilitate sharing information between the Trial Courts and other stakeholders, and that all data deemed publicly available be made accessible in a machine readable format consistent via an application programming interface (API) overseen by the courts. This would supersede the need for the Courts to create multiple, disparate portals for various stakeholders, as described in Rule 5. It would also simplify the procedures described in Rule 3 as the use cases envisioned could be conducted over the API.



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Girls in the Juvenile Justice system are often victims of family violence, report finds.

“Girls in the criminal justice system report far higher rates of in-home sexual abuse and are detained for minor offenses more often than boys, in what becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of imprisonment.”  Girls in Juvenile Detention are often the Victims of Family Abuse, Report finds , here is the link to the report discussed in this article  Gender Injustice.