ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

August 2, 1999

1999.08.02: Letwin Affidavit, Legal Aid Society v. City of New York (SDNY)

Filed under: 1994 Strike,ALAA History,Funding,Indigent Defense,Key Documents,Scabs — nyclaw01 @ 12:00 am

13 (Letwin Affidavit 8.99) — OCR





-against-                                                                             96-CV-5141 (SHS)


) ss.:

MICHAEL Z. LETWIN, an attorney duly admitted to practice before this Court as well as the courts of the State of New York, duly sworn, hereby deposes and says:

  1. Since 1990, I have been President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325 (AFL-CIO)(“ALAA”), prior to which I was ALAA vice-president and a union delegate. I have practiced law as a criminal defense attorney, have for many years written and spoken publicly about the criminal justice system, and have recently authored a detailed history of labor relations at The Legal Aid Society (“Legal Aid” or “the Society”) from 1968 to the present.
  2. This Affidavit responds to mischaracterizations made by Defendants regarding ALAA and unionized indigent defense.
  3. In her Affidavit of July 15, 1999, Lynn Fahey misleadingly cites a recent union bulletin for the erroneous proposition that The Legal Aid Society will suffer no harm as a result of the instant RFP awards (Fahey Aff., at 2-3). In fact, the union statement that “reduced funding for Legal Aid will not require layoffs or affect compensation increases” related not to the instant RFP awards, but rather to the overall rate of funding in the new city budget. Report on New Giuliani Administration Attacks on Legal Aid Society Criminal Funding, (ALAA and 1199, June 24, 1999), at 1 (Fahey Aff., Exh. L, attached hereto as Exh. A).
  4. Moreover, the union bulletin unequivocally reiterated the harm resulting from the fact that “runaway [nonunion] defenders [have been] established by Giuliani to fragment and weaken aggressive indigent defense and to break the Legal Aid unions,” id, and that the new awards would have the effect of making it more difficult for the Society to clear the backlog of cases by aggravating “pressure on divisions already suffering from the cumulative impact of Giuliani attacks.” Id., at 1-2.
  5. More fundamentally misleading, however—and key to understanding the antiunion animus that underlies the entire program of Giuliani administration RFPs for indigent criminal representation—is Defendant contractors’ celebration of a piecework-like management style under which attorneys’ “raises are geared to qualitative and quantitative performance,” (Fahey Aff., at 10), while, by comparison, “[r]aises at [the unionized] Legal Aid are geared purely to longevity, not to productivity or any other merit assessment.” Id., at 11.
  6. Contrary to Defendants’ assertions, unionization of The Legal Aid Society has, more than any other development, lifted, rather than undermined, the quality of indigent criminal representation in New York City. Since 1969, ALAA has negotiated essential and widely-praised reforms in a system long criticized throughout the legal profession for mindless “productivity” that sacrificed quality on the altar of quantity. These include reasonable workload limits, continuity of representation, and a uniform, seniority-based salary scale typical at most private law firms. As is now acknowledged in regard to workplaces generally, unionization at Legal Aid has alleviated burnout, promoted morale and collegiality, and dramatically improved staff-management relations, particularly since restructuring that has occurred since 1994.
  7. Thus, at Legal Aid’s Criminal Appeals Bureau (CAB), ALAA and the Society now collaborate to balance both productivity and high professional standards. Where appropriate, ALAA’s Staff Attorney members—notwithstanding Defendants’ ceaseless assaults—have collectively determined that CAB workload should be increased.
  8. This fruitful labor-management relationship stands in sharp contrast to that which Defendant contractors’—in their previous incarnation as Legal Aid Society managers—had sought to impose on CAB in the years prior to 1995. That regime generated bulging caseloads, unfair firings (particularly in regard to attorneys of color), and constant discord—all of which undermined both quality and productivity. Indeed, the authoritarian management philosophy endorsed by Defendants, in combination with the Giuliani administration’s unlawful interference, bears direct responsibility for the 1994 strike.
  9. It is precisely the Giuliani administration’s deep hostility to the Society’s newly-collaborative labor relations, to the strike that preceded it, and to the substantive reforms brought about by unionization, that has continually and explicitly motivated its policy of indigent defense RFPs.   For example, documents provided in discovery reveal that as early as October 5, 1994—the very day that the Mayor illegally coerced ALAA and 1199 members to end their strike and return to work—the Giuliani administration was already secretly scheming to attack the ALAA contract’s provision for a uniform salary scale, continuity of representation and workload safeguards.   Memo of October 5, 1994 from Martin Murphy to Katherine Lapp (attached hereto as Exh. B). From the beginning, therefore, the administration’s assault on the union was synonymous with its assault on high-quality representation.
  10. Sharing this antiunion animus, Defendant contractors trade on their professional reputations to win contract awards under which attorneys, without union protection inherent in uniform salary and job security, have absolutely no right to object when quality is trampled by the criminal justice assembly-line. This program, therefore, is not only illegal; it fails to serve either economic efficiency or indigent criminal defendants.


                                   MICHAEL Z. LETWIN

Sworn to me this 2d day of August 1999



Notary Public

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