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February 28, 2000

2000.02.28: Michael Z. Letwin, BRONX DEFENDERS PEDDLE A MYTH (February 28, 2000)

Filed under: 1994 Strike,Indigent Defense,Scabs — nyclaw01 @ 5:37 pm
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2/28/00 Nat’l L.J. A16, (col. 5)
The National Law Journal
Volume 22, Number 27
Monday, February 28, 2000

Podium
Letters

BRONX DEFENDERS PEDDLE A MYTH

Michael Z. Letwin

President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys UAW Local 2325 New York

Bronx defenders promotes the myth that its “holistic advocacy” for indigent criminal defendants transcends the allegedly “limited, staid model of intervention” of the Legal Aid Society (LAS), New York’s primary public defender organization [“The best defense…,” Jan. 31].

For 30 years, however, unionized Legal Aid Society attorneys and support staff have fought for and won the kinds of practice for which Bronx Defenders now seeks to take credit, including collaborative and creative advocacy, drug rehabilitation, pre- and post-pleading memorandums, alternatives to incarceration and job placement.

Unlike Bronx Defenders, however, which the city lavishly funds to handle only 12,500 cases, LAS staff represent an unlimited number of clients—more than 200,000 a year in New York at present—with far lower per-case funding. This reflects the Giuliani administration’s retaliation against the LAS and its unions for a brief 1994 strike. Since that time, city funding for the LAS has been slashed from $79 million to $52 million annually. As a result, reported the Indigent Oversight Panel of the Appellate Division, 1st Department, in 1998, the LAS “is handling too many cases with too little staff and too little support….These conditions have, in large measure, been created by the City’s decision to contract with” Bronx Defenders and six other organizations favored by the administration.

Warm and fuzzy feelings at Bronx Defenders and its siblings give their nonunion staff neither power over legal practice nor protection from employer favoritism, arbitrary discipline and firing. By contrast, collective bargaining at the LAS provides unionized lawyers and support staff with the means to defend and improve workload limits, provide continuity (having the same lawyer throughout a case), a fair and uniform pay scale, influence over hiring and promotion decisions, affirmative action, office space, health and safety protections and many other gains directly related to high-quality representation.

No amount of hype can alter the collaboration of Bronx Defenders with Mayor Giuliani’s assault on indigent criminal defense. Bronx Defenders has chosen to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

2/28/00 NLJ A16, (col. 5)

 

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February 25, 2000

2000.02.25: Not Guilty Verdicts in Diallo Murder

From: MLetwin@HQWEST.WEST [mailto:MLetwin@HQWEST.WEST]
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2000 4:58 PM
To: Everyone at the Legal Aid Society@HQWEST.WEST
Subject: NOT GUILTY VERDICTS IN DIALLO MURDER
Importance: High

The Jury in the death of Amadou Diallo has just announced a verdict of NOT GUILTY for EACH OF THE FOUR OFFICERS charged in his murder.  Rallies in protest will be held TONIGHT, 6 P.M., at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, and 3 p.m. SATURDAY.  Information:  212.353.7825.
e-mail:  pjustice2000@yahoo.com.

Please forward this information to others.

February 16, 2000

2000.02.16: Letter to NYLJ About Bronx Defenders

February 16, 2000
New York Law Journal
By Fax: 212.696.4287

Editor:

Bronx Defenders promotes the myth that its “holistic advocacy” for indigent criminal defendants transcends an allegedly “limited, staid model of intervention” of The Legal Aid Society, New York City’s primary defender (NYLJ, 1-28-00).

For 30 years, however, unionized Legal Aid Society attorneys and support staff have fought for and won the kinds of practice for which Bronx Defenders now seeks to take credit, including collaborative and creative advocacy, drug rehabilitation, pre- and post-pleading memorandums, alternatives to incarceration and job placement.

Unlike Bronx Defenders, however, which the City lavishly funds to handle only 12,500 cases in a “private school” environment, Society staff represents an unlimited number of clients—currently more than 200,000 in New York City each year—with far lower per-case “public school” funding.

This gross discrepancy reflects the Giuliani administration’s deliberate retaliation against the Society and its unions for a brief 1994 strike, since which Legal Aid’s City funding has been slashed from $79 to $52 million. As a result, reported the Indigent Oversight Panel of the Appellate Division, First Department in 1998, the Society “is handling too many cases with too little staff and too little support. . . . These conditions have, in large measure, been created by the City’s decision to contract with [Bronx Defenders and six other Giuliani defense] organizations.”

Meanwhile, warm and fuzzy feelings at Bronx Defenders and its sibling contractors give their nonunion staff neither power over legal practice, nor protection against employer favoritism, arbitrary discipline and firing.

In contrast, collective bargaining at The Legal Aid Society provides unionized lawyers and support staff with the means to defend and improve workload limits, continuity (the same lawyer throughout a case), a fair and uniform pay scale, hiring and promotion decisions, affirmative action, office space, health and safety, and many other gains directly related to high-quality representation.

No amount of public relations hype can alter the collaboration of Bronx Defenders management with Giuliani’s assault on indigent criminal defense. By that complicity, Bronx Defenders has chosen to be part of the problem—not its solution.

Sincerely,

Michael Z. Letwin, Esq., President
Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325

February 10, 2000

2000.02.10: Standing Rules for ALAA Meetings

Filed under: ALAA History,Key Documents,Union Democracy and Structure — nyclaw01 @ 1:21 pm
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Standing Rules for ALAA Meetings
February 10, 2000

The Underlying Democratic Principle.

The recent dramatic growth of ALAA representatives has the potential to significantly increase democratic participation in our union.  Below is a summary of some of the rules provided for in new union Bylaws, including Robert’s Rules of Order (RRO),[1] designed to promote that potential in an atmosphere of mutual respect:

The application of parliamentary law is the best method yet devised to enable assemblies of any size, with due regard for every member’s opinion, to arrive at the general will on the maximum number of questions of varying complexity in a minimum time and under all kinds of internal climate ranging from total harmony to hardened or impassioned division of opinion.  (Emphasis added).  RRO, xliv.

Attendance

1.         Representatives Are Responsible For Attending Meetings.  ALAA members will be heard only if their elected their elected representatives attend union meetings.  Please plan your calendar accordingly, and notify ALAA HQ in the event of an unavoidable, conflicting commitment.   Note that “grounds for removal [of union representatives] from office will include . . . three consecutive, unexcused absences from an EB or DC meeting by any of its members.”  ALAA By-Laws, Article IX, § 2.

2.         Committee Meetings (Other Than the DC) Are Limited to Their Members.  “[B]oard or committee meetings are customarily held in executive session.  In the latter case, members of the organization who are not members of the board or committee, and sometimes nonmembers, may be invited to attend, perhaps to give a report, but they are not entitled to attend.”  RRO § 9 (95). “During actual deliberations of the committee, only committee members have the right to be present.”  RRO § 49 (291).

Conduct of Meetings.

1.   Agenda Items Should Be Submitted in Advance.  To provide maximum notice, ALAA headquarters should be notified in advance of additional agenda items/motions.  RRO § 10 (118-121).

2.       Speakers Must Be Recognized.  “Before a member in an assembly can make a motion to speak in debate—the parliamentary name given to any form of discussion of the merits of a motion—he must obtain the floor; that is, he must be recognized by the chair as having the exclusive right to be heard at that time . . .”  RRO § 3 (28-31).

3.       Those Who Haven’t Spoken Yet Go Next.  “No one is entitled to the floor a second time in debate on the same motion on the same day as long as any other member who has not spoken on this motion desires the floor.”  RRO § 3 (28-31).

4.       Speakers Must Observe Time Limits.  “Without the permission of the assembly, no one can speak longer than permitted by the rules of the body . . . “  RRO § 4 (42).

5.       Speakers Must Be Relevant.  “In debate a member’s remarks must be germane to the question before the assembly—that is, his statements must have bearing on whether the pending motion should be adopted.”  RRO § 42 (386-387).

6.       Personal Attacks Are Not Permitted.  “When a question is pending, a member can condemn the nature or likely consequences of the proposed measure in strong terms, but he must avoid personalities, and under no circumstances can he attack or question the motives of another member.  The measure, not the member, is the subject of debate. . . .The moment the chair hears such words as ‘fraud,’ ‘liar,’ or ‘lie’ used about a member in debate, he must act immediately and decisively to correct the matter and prevent its repetition.”  RRO § 42 (387).

7.       Members Must Not Disrupt the Assembly.  “During debate, during remarks by the presiding officer to the assembly, and during voting, no member should be permitted to disturb the assembly by whispering, walking across the floor, or in any other way.  The key words here are disturb the assembly.”  RRO § 42 (389).

8.       Rule Violators Are Subject to Discipline.  “If . . . a member repeatedly questions the motives of other members whom he mentions by name, or persists in speaking on completely irrelevant matters in debate—the chair normally should first warn the member; but without or without such warning, the chair or any other member can ‘call the member to order’. . . . In cases of obstinate or grave breach of order by a member, the chair can, after repeated warnings, ‘name’ the offender, which amounts to preferring charges . . . Although the chair has no authority to impose a penalty or to order the offender removed from the hall, the assembly has that power. . . . If the member obeys . . . the matter can be dropped or not, as the assembly chooses. . . . If the assembly orders an offending member to leave the hall during a meeting . . . and he refuses to do so . . . . the chair should take necessary measures to see that the order is enforced.”  RRO § 60 (640-643).

9.       The Body May Overrule the Chair.  “Although the presiding officer has the responsibility of enforcing the rules, any member who believes he has noticed a case where the chair is failing to do so can, at any time the breach occurs, call attention to it by making a Point of Order; the effect is to require the chair to make a ruling on the question involved. . . . [A]ny two members, by moving and seconding an Appeal immediately after the chair has made such a ruling, can require him to submit the matter to a vote of the assembly.”  RRO § 6 (70-71).  See also §§ 23-24.

10.     The Body May Suspend the Rules.  “When an assembly wishes to do something that it cannot do without violating one or more of its regular rules, it can adopt a motion to Suspend the Rules interfering with the proposed action . . .”  RRO § 25 (259).


[1]“Robert’s Rules of Order will apply in all situations not covered by the International Union Constitution or these bylaws.”  ALAA By-Laws, Article XIII.  Although inappropriately used by RRO, the masculine pronouns “he” and “his” are deemed applicable to both genders.  Numbers in parentheses refer to RRO page numbers.

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