ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

May 31, 1990

1990.05.31: Law Guardians’ Contract Sparks Heated Battle (NYLJ)

Filed under: Funding,Scabs,Workload — nyclaw01 @ 12:00 am

New York Law Journal, May 31, 1990

LAW GUARDIANS’ CONTRACT SPARKS HEATED BATTLE

Sheryl Nance

AS THE DEADLINE nears for the Office of Court Administration to award a lucrative contract for the law guardian program in the city’s Family Courts, a battle between the two competitors has intensified.

For nearly 30 years, the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division has been the only agency providing law guard-ian services. For the past five years, Lawyers for Children — an office of 10 professionals and four support staff — has handled voluntary foster-care placement cases for OCA. The two are now vying for the law guardian contract worth $17 million annually and Legal Aid is not taking the fight lightly.

Law guardians appear as advocates for minors charged in juvenile delinquency and Persons In Need of Supervision (PINS) proceedings and to represent interests of children in child protective proceedings.

If any portion of the contract is awarded to Lawyers for Children, warned Lenore Gittis, attorney-incharge of the Juvenile Rights Division, there could be serious repercussions for the division’s 211 employees, including possible cuts in the 122 attorneys and staff. One weapon the Division is using in the effort to preserve its law guardian con-tract is the issue of affirmative action.

Demonstration Staged

At a news conference on the steps of City Hall and a demonstration by about 100 attorneys and supporters in front of OCA’s headquarters at 270 Broadway yesterday, the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys and Local 1199, which represents Legal Aid’s support staff, claimed that OCA is violating Section 312 of the Executive Law. The 1988 law requires state contractors to have affirmative action programs for employee hiring and promotion.

Michael Z. Letwin, president of ALAA, said that since Lawyers for Children has no affirmative action plan, the agency was not entitled to renewal by OCA of its contract in the foster-care area for the past two years and is ineli-gible for consideration for the law guardian contract. As part of its collective bargaining agreement, Legal Aid’s Ju-venile Rights Division has had an affirmative action program for many years, union officials said.

Mr. Letwin also criticized the new open bidding process, saying it lends itself to rewarding the lowest bidder instead of the best qualified bidder, potentially leading to a decline in the quality of representation.

Karen Freedman, managing attorney for Lawyers for Children, said OCA had not imposed an affirmative action requirement as part of its foster-care contract. Although her agency has no written affirmative action policy, she said, it has a “commitment that is put into practice.”

Ms. Freedman said that while none of the five attorneys are racial minorities, four of the five social workers are.

Should Lawyers for Children win the law guardian contract, the agency would have to hire 30-40 attorneys and ad-ditional support staff, and develop a recruitment plan including a written commitment to affirmative action, she said.

Matthew T. Crosson, chief administrator of the courts, said that Section 312 does not apply to the judiciary and therefore exempts OCA from compliance.

However, Mr. Crosson said, since fall 1989, OCA contractors for supplies and equipment have been required to ad-here to the law and awardees of the law guardian contract also will have to comply.

May 30, 1990

1990.05.30: Letwin Seech at ALAA JRD-OCA Rally

Filed under: ALAA History,Funding,Scabs — nyclaw01 @ 12:00 am

1990.05.30 Letwin speech at ALAA JRD-OCA Rally — OCR

MICHAEL LETWIN SPEECH, JRD/OCA RALLY 5/30/90

OCA DECISION MUST BE SEEN IN CONTEXT OF BROADER ISSUES CONFRONTING

US: ATTACK ON QUALITY REPRESENTATION FOR INDIGENT CLIENTS, ON

EQUAL PROTECTION AND ON THE UNIONS.

I. QUALITY OF REPRESENTATION: OCA’ S THREAT TO QUALITY

REPRESENTATION IS TO MAKE SURE THAT QUANTITY TAKES

PRECEDENCE OVER QUALITY.

THAT’S WHY IT IS SELLING OUR CHILDREN TO THE

LOWEST BIDDER AND WHY IT WANTS TO KILL JRD.

NO ACCIDENT THAT THE CHILDREN IT HAS CHOSEN TO

SELL IN NEW YORK CITY ARE OVERWHELMINGLY

AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND LATINO, THE SAME CHILDREN

WHO — BECAUSE OF THEIR POWERLESSNESS — ARE

BEING SOLD OUT BY THE WORST EDUCATION,

HOUSING, HEALTH CARE AND IN EVERY OTHER AREA.

BUT THE THREAT IS MUCH BROADER THAN THAT,

BECAUSE AS THE CRACK CRISIS ESCALATES,

GOVERNMENT HAS INCREASED THE PRESSURE ON ALL

DIVISIONS TO SPEEDUP I TO “PRODUCE, II TO

“COOPERATE.”

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BUT ASSEMBLYLINE METHODS LEAD TO ASSEMBLYLINE

JUSTICE. AND IF WE SUCCUMB TO THE

ASSEMBLYLINE OUR CLIENTS WILL BE RIGHT TO

PERCEIVE US AS PART OF AN UNFAIR AND CORRUPT

SYSTEM.

ULTIMATELY, THE ONLY SOLUTION TO THE CRACK

CRISIS AND THE CASELOAD EXPLOSION IT HAS

PRODUCED IS TO PROVIDE JOBS, DRUG TREATEMENT

PROGRAMS ON DEMAND, EDUCATION, AND A DECENT

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QUALITY OF LIFE AND DIGNITY FOR EVERYONE,

INSTEAD OF A FELONY RECORD AND A PRISON CELL.

IN THE MEANTIME, HOWEVER, LET IT BE KNOWN THAT

OUR UNIONS HAVE WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT AGAINST

THE OCA’S OF THIS WORLD.

ALSO LET THERE BE NO CONFUSION ABOUT THE FACT

THAT OCA WANTS TO KILL JRD FOR PRECISELY THESE

REASONS.

II. GIVEN OCA’S LACK OF CONCERN FOR QUALITY REPRESENTATION,

AND ITS ABJECT UNION-BUSTING, THERE IS NOTHING SURPRISING

ABOUT THE FACT THAT IT IS IN DEFIANT VIOLATION OF LEGAL

REQUIREMENT THAT ALL CONTRACTING AGENCIES HAVE IN PLACE

AN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PLAN FOR HIRING AND PROMOTION.

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THIS RESISTANCE TO AFFIRMATIVE ACTION HAS EARNED OCA A

HIGHLY CRITICAL REPORT BY THE JUDICIAL COMMISSION ON

MINORITIES — APPOINTED BY WACHTLER — WHICH FOUND THAT

“THE PAST AND PRESENT EMPLOYMENT PATTERNS OF THE COURT

SYSTEM SUGGEST RACIAL AND ETHNIC EXCLUSION” WHICH

CONTRIBUTES TO “THE PERCEPTION THAT THE NEW YORK STATE

COURT SYSTEM DISCRIMINATES ON THE BASIS OF RACE.”

III. LET NO ONE THINK, HOWEVER, THAT ANY OF OUR CRITICISM OF

OCA REFLECTS SATISFACTION WITH THE RECORD OF LEGAL AID

MANAGEMENT. ALL TOO OFTEN, LEGAL AID MANAGEMENT IS

HAPPY TO COMPLY WITH SACRIFICES OF QUALITY, TO TELL US

THAT THERE IS NO CHOICE: QUOTA IN CAB; ARRAIGNMENT

SPEEDUP IN CDD, CASELOADS IN BRONX CIVIL, OR IN OTHER

AREAS SUCH AS A REFUSAL TO SUPPORT THIRD TIME BAR

RETAKERS.

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BUT OUR UNIONS HAVE ALWAYS FOUGHT MANAGEMENT TO SECURE

AN ADEQUATE QUALITY OF REPRESENTATION FOR OUR CLIENTS:

*STRUCK FOR AND WON

VERTICAL REPRESENTATION

AND CONTINUITY IN 1970S.

*FILED OFFICE-WIDE CASE LOAD

GRIEVANCES IN CDD AND DIVISION-WIDE

IN JRD: WON LIMIT ON LOAD, WHERE

NECESSARY WITHDRAWL FROM

ARRAIGNMENT/INTAKE.

2. WE HAVE ALWAYS STOOD FOR THE PRINCIPLE THAT AFFIRMATIVE

ACTION IS THE BUSINESS OF EVERY UNION AND EVERY UNION

MEMBER, FOR THE FAILURE TO HIRE, PROMOTE AND RESPECT

PEOPLE OF COLOR AT THE SOCIETY DEPRIVES US OF THE

ABILITIES OF MINORITY ATTORNEYS 1 PITTS UNION MEMBERS

… AGAINST EACH OTHER, AND REINFORCES THE WIDELY-HELD VIEW

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THAT WE ARE SIMPLY PART AND PARCEL OF A JUDICIAL SYSTEM

THAT IS CHARACTERIZED BY RACIAL INJUSTICE.

LET MANAGEMENT BE ON NOTICE THAT ALL OF THESE AND OTHER ISSUES —

SUCH HEALTH & SAFETY, DECENT WAGES, A MEANINGFUL LAYOFFS CLAUSE

AND GAY AND LESBIAN RIGHTS — WILL BE A CENTRAL ISSUE IN THIS

YEAR’S CONTRACT BARGAINING.

III. MANAGEMENT HAS ALSO ENGAGED IN UNION-BUSTING, E.G., 1982

STRIKE AND SINCE THAT TIME.

WE MUST ALSO RECOGNIZE, HOWEVER, THAT FOR ALL THE

PROBLEMS AT LEGAL AID, WE HAVE WON VICTORIES IN QUALITY

OF REPRESENTATION, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, AND AGAINST UNION

BUSTING PRECISELY BECAUSE UNION MEMBERS HAVE FOUGHT TO

ACHIEVE THEM, THAT WITHOUT OUR UNIONS, WE WOULD BE

HELPLESS TO FIGHT FOR FURTHER JUSTICE IN THIS, OR ANY

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STRUGGLE.

III. FINALLY, WHATEVER HAPPENS WITH THE OCA CONTRACT, WE

SHOULD REMEMBER THE IMPORTANT LESSONS WHICH THIS BATTLE –

– INCLUDING JRD 6 — HAS FOR BARGAINING. THAT

1. POWER (OCA/LAS) RESPONDS ONLY TO POWER.

2. UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL: ESPECIALLY

RE 1199/ALAA, BUT ALSO MORE BROADLY:

LSSA/LEGAL DIVISION, NCBL, CITY UNIONS: DC

37, IBT 237.

3. UNION IS ALL OF US.

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