A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

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To All Members of the Criminal Justice Section:

I hope you are all having a stress free and cool summer.  As you all know this year has been dedicated in part to the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright and the right to counsel.   I wanted to update everyone on a recent collaborative effort that highlights these efforts.

You may have heard that Senator Greenleaf has introduced Senate Bill 979 (Click for text of bill) which would establish a resource center to support the work of defenders offices throughout the state and provide recurring high quality continuing education, training and skills development programs geared toward the delivery of client centered quality representation for indigent defendants. The bill is supported by our Chancellor, Kathleen Wilkinson, Phyllis Subin the Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Coalition for Justice, Lou Rulli, the head of Community Legal Services, Ellen Greenlee, the Chief Philadelphia Defender, the Juvenile Law Center, Mark Bookman for the Atlantic Center for Capital representation, as well as various sections of the Bar Association including our section, the DLSC, as well as the Family Law and the Public Interest sections.  Two weeks ago, Sarah Jacobson, the Director of Temple University’s Trial Advocacy Program (and immediate past chair of the public interest section), and I were asked to present a resolution to the Board of Governors seeking their approval which would in turn help the bill gain traction in obtaining sponsors from State Senators as it makes its way to a vote on the Senate floor.  I am pleased to report that the board unanimously approved the resolution.   This effort is but one small example of how what our legal community can do when acting in a united front.

This Fall at the Bench Bar Conference in October, our Section is sponsoring and coordinating two panels which both impact on the Gideon discussion.  There will also be a third panel discussion headed by the Civil Gideon Task Force.   The first panel with be moderated by Marissa Bluestine of the Pennsylvania Innocence project, and will include Everett Gillison from the Mayor’s Office, Chief Defender Ellen Greenlee, and Troy Wilson, Esquire (past Chair of the CJS).  That panel will discuss, from varying perspectives, how close and how far we are from Gideon’s initial promise.  The second panel will be headed by Tom Innes and Byron Cotter and Isla Fruchter of the Defender’s Office on alternatives to sentencing.  Finally, the Civil Gideon Panel headed by Judge Rizzo will investigate the Civil implications of Gideon’s promise.

Click for Gideon article

Finally, to cap off the year’s Gideon events, our section was asked to draft the attached article to be submitted to Philadelphia Lawyer Magazine as part of the on-going Gideon debate.  This is only a draft and still needs to get editorial approval but I have been asked to circulate it to all of you.  Once it is approved, it should be in the December issue alongside a Civil Gideon article counterpart.

Best regards,

James A. Funt, Esquire

Greenblatt Pierce Engle Funt & Flores

Chair, Criminal Justice Section for the Philadelphia Bar Association

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