ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

January 8, 2002

2002.01.08: New City Criminal Justice Coordinator (NYLJ)

Filed under: 1994 Strike,Indigent Defense — nyclaw01 @ 12:00 pm

From: MLetwin@HQWEST.WEST [mailto:MLetwin@HQWEST.WEST]
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2002 11:06 AM
To: Everyone At The Legal Aid Society@HQWEST.WEST
Importance: High


Mayor Picks New Justice Coordinator
By Daniel Wise
New York Law Journal
January 8, 2002

Mayor Bloomberg on Monday appointed John Feinblatt, the founder and head of a non-profit group that serves as the Office of Court Administration’s think tank, as his criminal justice coordinator.

Mr. Feinblatt will oversee the city’s criminal justice budget. Currently the city spends about $137 million a year for the defense of the indigent, which is allocated between the Legal Aid Society, 18-B court-appointed lawyers and about 10 other non-profit groups, including seven that were funded for the first time during Mayor Giuliani’s tenure. The Criminal Justice Coordinator’s Office also sets spending priorities for the city’s five District Attorneys’ Offices.

In another appointment of interest to the legal community, Mayor Bloomberg named Patricia Gatling, who held the number three position in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, as the head of the Human Rights Commission.

The Mayor also appointed Mark Page head of the Office of Budget and Management, where he had been deputy director and general counsel. Other officials appointed yesterday were Roberto Velez, who had been Commissioner of Probation, as head of Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, which conducts administrative hearings for all city agencies, and Michael J. Handy, who was re-appointed as director of the Office of Veteran Affairs.

Mr. Feinblatt’s appointment was praised by Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman, who described him as “an out-of-box thinker” who had helped develop some of OCA’s most important initiatives, including the establishment of community courts, drug courts and domestic violence courts.

Mr. Feinblatt stressed yesterday he will continue the Giuliani’s Administration focus on the prosecution of quality-of-life crimes. Mr. Feinblatt also said that he had not had a chance to analyze the details of the Giuliani Administration’s efforts to fund organizations in addition to the Legal Aid Society, but he noted that “the bottom line is, there needs to be a healthy criminal defense bar just as there needs to be a healthy prosecution.”

After graduating from Catholic University School of Law in 1982, Mr. Feinblatt worked for the Legal Aid Society for five years. Then for six years, he was the deputy executive director of an agency, now known as Safe Horizons, which provides social services to victims of domestic violence. After that he became director of the Midtown Community Court, where he remained from 1991 to 1996.

In 1996, Mr. Feinblatt, 50, founded the Center for Court Innovation, which has worked closely with OCA on a number of projects and now has an annual budget of $11 million. The group has multiple private and public funding sources, including $775,000 a year from OCA.

A mental health court part, which is slated to soon open in the Criminal Court in Brooklyn, is the organization’s latest experimental project.

The Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator has a staff of about 50 and an annual personnel budget of $2.8 million. Mr. Feinblatt succeeds Steven M. Fishner, who had worked for 18 years at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and was in charge of administration for that office when he was appointed by former Mayor Giuliani in 1998.

Praise From Hynes
Ms. Gatling, the new head of the Human Rights Commission, also received strong praise yesterday from her former boss, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes. Mr. Hynes said Ms. Gatling had achieved the “highest level of success” in her 12 years in the Brooklyn office, where she was the chief of major narcotics investigations, and had oversight of the office’s initiatives to provide alternatives to imprisonment and aid to convicts after release from prison. She was also in charge of improving the office’s community relations and legal hiring.

Ms. Gatling began her legal career as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn following her graduation from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1982. After three years, she joined the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, and from there went on to prosecute police brutality and corruption cases with Mr. Hynes when he was appointed by former Governor Mario Cuomo as special prosecutor to investigate the New York City criminal justice system.

Ms. Gatling said she intends to apply the law enforcement techniques used in the Brooklyn office to the Human Rights Commission, which was recently criticized by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York for its lack of an aggressive approach.

The commission was “designed as a law enforcement agency and the Mayor wants it to be a law enforcement agency,” she said.

Specifically, she said she would adopt two of the recommendations of the City Bar report by setting up a system for the early assessment by senior staff of discrimination complaints to save the agency’ resources for the most promising cases.

She also pledged to have senior staff quickly review the 4,000-case backlog, which has accumulated under the commission’s first in/first reviewed system. Every effort will be made, she added, to focus the commission’s resources on those cases that will “have the largest impact for the most citizens.”

While the Human Rights Commission has 37 employees in its law enforcement division, it has a total of 124 workers, including personnel assigned to community relations and its HIV prison project. It receives about 1,100 complaints of discrimination a year.

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