ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

June 22, 2012

2012.06.22: RE: Bronx Defenders expanding?

From:  Letwin, Michael
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2012 1:56 PM
To: Wright, Deborah;
Cc: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Bronx Defenders expanding?

Background on Bronx Defenders and the other scab (nonunion) defense contractors.

(*NB: The $160m in cumulative cuts to LAS criminal funding in 2001 totals far more today, as the Bloomberg administration continues to increase funding to such nonunion agencies as Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, et al.)

Union Members Protest Award to Schreibersdorf (April 16, 2008)
“While management at the nonunion contractors has profited, Legal Aid staff and clients have paid the price: deep personnel cuts, sharply-escalating workloads and near-institutional bankruptcy. As the New York Times reported in 2001, Giuliani’s cuts — which by then totaled a cumulative $160 million* — had “hobbled” the Society.”
https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2008/04/16/union-members-protest-award-to-schreibersdorf/

Labor Resolution to Defend Legal Aid (September 10, 2001)
“These new contracts are designed to insulate and/or extend seven existing runaway shops funded out of the $160 million* already cut by this administration from Legal Aid, whose unionized UAW attorneys and 1199 (SEIU) support staff have long championed high-quality legal representation for poor people.”
https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2001/09/10/labor-resolution-to-defend-legal-aid-september-10-2001/

Bronx Defenders Peddle a Myth (February 28, 2000)
“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.”
https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2000/02/28/michael-z-letwin-bronx-defenders-peddle-a-myth-february-28-2000/

History of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys UAW Local 2325 (August 1999)
“This asphyxiation of Legal Aid has seriously weakened vertical continuity and other essential elements of high-quality representation. Staff Attorneys’ ability to resist has been further undermined by the runaway defenders’ willingness to curry favor with the administration by abandoning vertical continuity; participating in arraignment body count contests; pandering to judges, court administration and even district attorneys; replacing seniority with “merit”-based salaries unilaterally set by management; and, in some offices, permitting part-time private practice.”
https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/history-of-the-association-of-legal-aid-attorneys-uaw-local-2325/

October 3, 2011

2011.10.03: Endorsement of Richard Torres and Others

From:  Letwin, Michael
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 4:00 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Endorsement of Richard Torres and Others

Overview

I endorse Richard Torres, a respected Brooklyn CDD member, for the position of Secretary-Treasurer. Like Azalia Torres’ 2007 candidacy for union president,[1] his directly addresses the need to revive our legacy as a grassroots, democratic, socially conscious union.[2]

As discussed below, those principles have, with George’s support, been largely abandoned by the Jim Rogers/Debbie Wright administrations (2003-Present). (Full disclosure: I was ALAA president from 1990-2002, for seven years of which George held his current position.)

Funding and Collective Bargaining

Building on years of previous collective effort, George has led effective lobbying for Legal Aid funds and caseload caps.

However, where we once exposed, condemned and sought to end the Giuliani/Bloomberg scab (nonunion) criminal defense contractors,[3] this administration has essentially acquiesced to their legitimacy, accompanied by period lip-service to the fantasy of unionization. Thus unopposed, these contractors have continued to eat away at our funding, particularly in Brooklyn.

Moreover, a union that once produced frequent, detailed written reports about all issues, including collective bargaining,[4] now avoids accountability by claiming that critical information already known to management “can’t be put in writing” for its own members.[5]

A union that once, in close alliance with 1199 support staff, encouraged members to exercise our power — thereby winning unprecedented contractual gains — has redefined “solidarity” to mean “nothing can be done.”

This is not because “there is no money” (rather, the question is how to spend it) or because the Executive Board doesn’t work hard enough (they do). Rather, it is because this administration has undermined and discouraged grassroots, participatory mobilization — and the essential bargaining leverage that goes with it.

In its place, we now have the top-down, anti-democratic, just-trust-us-we-know-best model that has crippled the U.S. labor movement — and predictably yielded some of the worst givebacks in our union’s history.[6]

Put another way: when was the last time we saw a raise?

Political Action, Solidarity and Social Justice

George has certainly devoted significant attention to political campaigning. As others have pointed out, however, the membership is virtually excluded from deciding which candidates to endorse or positions to take.

Moreover, where our union once stood with other workers and our client communities at the forefront of movements for racial, economic and social justice, it is now institutionally MIA.

Thus, where ALAA was among the most outspoken supporters of striking Transit Workers (2000),[7] our union’s labor solidarity efforts are now, at best, an afterthought.

Where ALAA once helped spearhead citywide protests against the NYPD’s murder of Amadou Diallo (1999) and Patrick Dorismond (2000),[8] it now says nothing about the killing of Sean Bell (2006) or numerous other people of color.

Where ALAA once was outspoken about racism in the criminal justice system,[9] it is now mute about the drug wars, conditions at Rikers Island, or the lynching of Troy Davis and other death row prisoners.

Where ALAA led the post-9/11 defense of civil liberties and immigrants,[10] it is now absent as Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities remain under Islamophobic attack, or as NLG attorney Lynne Stewart was railroaded to prison.

While most unions long ago denounced the war, ours remains the only NYC-area local whose principal officers have — pursuant to campaign promises that elected Jim Rogers — failed to support antiwar resolutions adopted by this UAW region.[11]

And while individual members have sought to fill these voids by speaking out,[12] this administration has — at best — been conspicuously silent about a ten-year long witch-hunt to stifle antiwar and Palestinian rights views at the workplace.

Conclusion

No individual can fix the current state of our union; that is our collective responsibility.

To do so, we need to support candidates with the grassroots energy represented by Richard Torres, by Antonia Codling (CDD-Bx Alt. VP), Femi Disu (Affirmative Action Rep.), Mia Eisner-Grynberg (CDD-Bx VP), Jane Fox (Junior Attorney Rep.), Bahar Mirhosseini (Trustee), and Brittany Moore (Junior Attorney Rep.), and others.

But above all, we need to hold all whoever we elect accountable to our legacy as a democratic, bottom-up union.

Notes

[1] https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2007/05/24/45-brooklyn-cdd-members-for-azalia/

[2] https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/history-of-the-association-of-legal-aid-attorneys-uaw-local-2325/

[3] https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2001/09/10/labor-resolution-to-defend-legal-aid-september-10-2001/

[4] E.g., https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2000/08/01/faq-on-las-criminal-budget-shortfall/

[5] https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2007/08/01/re-why-not-put-the-contract-online/

[6] https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2007/05/16/the-real-issues-in-this-election-michael-letwin/; https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2007/10/29/reasons-to-vote-down-the-contract/

[7] https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/1999/12/23/in-defense-of-free-speech-labor-and-civil-rights-in-new-york-city/

[8] https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2000/03/22/statement-on-police-violence-abuse/; http://michaelletwin.wordpress.com/2000/04/01/2000-04-00-legal-aid-union-defends-protesters-arrested-after-cops-are-acquitted-labor-notes/; http://michaelletwin.wordpress.com/1999/05/01/1999-05-00-labor-joins-protest-over-new-york-police-killing-labor-notes/; http://bobzuss.wordpress.com/2007/05/31/march-22-1999-amadou-diallo-civil-disobedience/

[9] E.g., https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2000/06/16/equal-justice-news/; https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/1994/04/18/michael-letwin-sentencing-angela-thompson-ny-law-journal-april-18-1994/

[10] https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2002/02/21/in-defense-of-civil-liberties/

[11] http://bobzuss.wordpress.com/2007/05/31/september-27-2001-nyc-labor-against-the-war-nyclaw/; https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2003/04/14/alaa-antiwar-vote/

[12] See, e.g.: https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/legal-aid-nyc-union-members-stop-israel%e2%80%99s-massacre-in-gaza-and-end-the-siege-now/; https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2008/04/16/union-members-protest-award-to-schreibersdorf/; https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2007/05/19/sean-bell-and-the-epidemic-of-police-violence-in-new-york-city/; https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2005/12/22/we-have-been-in-the-transit-workers-shoes/

December 3, 2010

2010.12.03: RE: BDS rumors

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Friday, December 03, 2010 12:04 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: RE: BDS rumors

The blacklist list, for those who couldn’t access the site below:

https://alaa2325.wordpress.com/2008/04/16/union-members-protest-award-to-schreibersdorf/

April 16, 2008
Union Members Protest Award to Schreibersdorf

The undersigned one hundred union members at The Legal Aid Society protest the New York State Bar Association’s selection of Lisa Schreibersdorf to receive the Michele S. Maxian Award for Outstanding Public Defense Practitioner (Brooklyn Eagle, Feb. 5, 2008, http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=4&id=18282).

Maxian, who died in 2006, was a Legal Aid Society attorney who selflessly dedicated her career to strengthening and improving indigent criminal defense.

Because of her efforts, the NYPD was ordered to arraign criminal defendants within 24 hours of arrest. She frequently testified in support of criminal justice reform. And she tenaciously defended the Society against Rudolph Giuliani, who slashed Legal Aid funding in retaliation for a 1994 strike by the Society’s attorneys (Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325) and support staff (1199SEIU).

Yes, Schreibersdorf too once worked at The Legal Aid Society. Unlike Maxian, however, Schreibersdorf and several other of our former colleagues responded to Giuliani’s attack by setting up a nonunion contractor, Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), which successfully bid for millions of dollars cut from the unionized Society.

In this, she was joined by Appellate Advocates (Second Department), Bronx Defenders, Center for Appellate Litigation (First Department), Queens Law Associates, New York County Defenders Association, and Battiste, Aronowsky & Suchow (Staten Island).

Together, these bidders — most of them by former Legal Aid staff members — played the critical role of legitimizing Giuliani’s destructive union-busting and “competitive bidding” in indigent defense.

Schreibersdorf sought to whitewash her role by claiming that Giuliani’s policies were good for Legal Aid staff and clients: “Brooklyn Defender Services’ entry into the court system has even lightened the load of the Legal Aid Society’s attorneys who . . . are overworked and underpaid . . . [They] are now able to more effectively represent their own clients.”[1]

More candidly, Schreibersdorf admitted, “I don’t have any grudge against Legal Aid . . . [b]ut. . . . [t]he city is making this offer and we’re taking it.”[2]

While management at the nonunion contractors has profited, Legal Aid staff and clients have paid the price: deep personnel cuts, sharply-escalating workloads and near-institutional bankruptcy. As the New York Times reported in 2001, Giuliani’s cuts — which by then totaled a cumulative $160 million — had “hobbled” the Society.[3]

In 2006, a report to Chief Judge Judith Kaye reiterated that finding, and concluded that Giuliani’s competitive bidding policy had predictably fragmented and weakened the entire indigent defense system in New York City. It also reported declining conditions for line staff at the nonunion contractors.[4]

Rather than take any responsibility for helping to bring this about, Schreibersdorf disparages her former colleagues: “I left Legal Aid in the mid nineties. In my opinion, it’s not the same place it was.”[5]

In 2008, Schreibersdorf has added insult to injury by shamelessly trading on her past connection with the Society. But the honor belongs to Legal Aid staff, who — despite these continuing attacks — have sought to defend the quality of indigent representation that Schreibersdorf and her confederates have helped to undermine.

Please forward this letter to all NYSBA officials.

Signers
(In an individual capacity; no organizational endorsement implied)

Michael Letwin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Azalia Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Eric Megett (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Adrian Lesher (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Steve Kliman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Steve Terry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Fred Pratt (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Steve Sindos (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Estajo Koslow (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Margaret McClean (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Steven Plotkin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Gregory C. Williams (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)*
Julie Fry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Daniella Korotzer (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Robyn Lear (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Judith Karpatkin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Noha Arafa (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Ivan Pantoja (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Melissa Kanas (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Marisa Benton (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Femi Disu (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Jeffrey Sugarman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Dana Cohen (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Joshua Scheier (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Steven Levine (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Susan Litt (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Tara Shakur (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Susan O. Morris (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Matthew Caretto (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Laurie Dick (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Jill Waldman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Brian Hutchinson (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Victoria L. Eby (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Andrea Gordon (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Allison Jordan (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Richard Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Bryan Coakley (Criminal Defense-Queens)*
Jacob Rolls (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Raoul Zaltzberg (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Alexander Smith (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Davim Horowitz (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)
Bahar Mirhosseini (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Shannon Stallings (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Daniel Moore (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Kathryn Liverani (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Tasha N. Lloyd (Criminal Defense-Bronx)
Patricia Gil (Civil-Queens)
Margarita Menuar (Civil-Harlem)
Keisha A. Godfrey (Criminal Defense-Queens)
Bahar Ansari (Juvenile Rights-Bronx)
Marla Grossman (Criminal Defense-Queens)*
Emily Kane (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Michael Baldwin (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)
Dale A. Wilker (Prisoners’ Rights Project)*
Sydney O’Hagan (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)
Christina Giardino (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Leigh Latimer (Criminal Defense-Queens)*
Marianne Allegro (Juvenile Rights-Manhattan)*
Carol Hochberg (Juvenile Rights-Queens)*
Melissa Loehr (Criminal Defense-Bronx)
Bridgett Holloman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Justin L. Haines (Civil-Bronx)
Meighan McSherry (Criminal Defense-Bronx)
Kristin Bruan (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Florence Morgan (Criminal Defense-Queens)*
David Affler (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)*
Alison Webster (Criminal Defense-Bronx)*
Albert Wall (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Mary Ross (Criminal Defense-Queens)
Stephanie Kaplan (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)*
Deborah Hill (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)
Elizabeth Felber (Criminal Defense-Bronx)*
Roslyn Morrison (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Laura Boyd (Criminal Appeals)*
Chandra Gomes (Criminal Defense-Queens)*
Todd Smith (Juvenile Rights-Brooklyn)
E. Grace Park (Juvenile Rights-Brooklyn)
Warren Deans (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Michael Taglieri (Criminal Appeals)*
Thomas Johnson (Criminal Defense-Queens)*
Tara Collins (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)
Antoinette Costanzo (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)*
Heidi Bota (Criminal Appeals)
David Ocasio (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Lucy Herschel, (Criminal Defense-Queens)
Rebecca Kurti (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Cory Walker (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Myra Alcarese (Juvenile Rights-Queens)
Norah Bowler (Juvenile Rights-Queens)
John Hirsch (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)
Lori Masco (Juvenile Rights-Brooklyn)
Kerry Elgarten (Criminal Appeals)*
Ruthlyn Belnavis (Juvenile Rights-Manhattan)
Mily Garcia (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
W. Joseph J. Hochberg (Juvenile Rights-Brooklyn)
Terence Davidson (Criminal Defense-Administration)
Joshua Goldfein (Civil-Homeless Rights Project)*
Amelia McGovern (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)*
Richard DiMarco (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)*
Lisa Edwards (Civil-Harlem)*

*1994 strike veteran

——–
Notes

1. Affirm. of Lisa Schreibersdorf (July 16, 1996), Legal Aid Society v. NYC, No. 603291-96 (Sup Ct., NY Co.).

2. Goldstein, 12 Bidders Seek to displace Legal Aid; Proposals to be Screened By City Agency by Jan. 17, NYLJ, January 9, 1996.

3. Fritsch & Rohde, For New York City’s Poor, a Lawyer With 1,600 Clients, N.Y. Times, April 9, 2001, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9900E4DE1E3EF93AA35757C0A9679C8B63&scp=1&sq=%22A+hobbled+Legal+Aid+Society+represented%22&st=nyt <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9900E4DE1E3EF93AA35757C0A9679C8B63&scp=1&sq=%22A+hobbled+Legal+Aid+Society+represented%22&st=nyt.&gt; .

4. Status of Indigent Defense in New York: A Study for Chief Judge Kaye’s Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services, Final Report (The Spangenberg Group, June 16, 2006), at 154, http://www.courts.state.ny.us/ip/indigentdefense-commission/SpangenbergGroupReport.pdf.

5. In the Matter of the New York State Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services (May 12, 2005), at 198, http://www.nycourts.gov/ip/indigentdefense-commission/albany_5-12-05.pdf.

2010.12.03: RE: BDS rumors

Filed under: 1994 Strike,Criminal Justice,Funding,Indigent Defense,Scabs — nyclaw01 @ 9:56 am

From:  Letwin, Michael
Sent: Friday, December 03, 2010 9:56 AM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: RE: BDS rumors

The blacklist [A.] references, with essential background about BDS and other the runaway (non-union), scab (strike-breaker) contractors (Appellate Advocates, Bronx Defenders, Center for Appellate Litigation, Queens Law Associates, New York County Defenders Association) that are being awarded ever greater portions of LAS funding:

http://www.brooklyneagle.com/archive/category.php?category_id=10&id=20070

2010.12.03: NYLJ: City Alters Distribution of Cases for Indigent Criminal Defendants

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Friday, December 03, 2010 9:48 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: NYLJ: City Alters Distribution of Cases for Indigent Criminal Defendants

http://www.law.com/jsp/nylj/PubArticleNY.jsp?id=1202475635623&City_Shakes_Up_Caseloads_for_Public_Defender_Groups

City Alters Distribution of Cases for Indigent Criminal Defendants

Daniel Wise

12-03-2010

The distribution of indigent criminal defense cases among the groups that serve as primary providers in New York City has been significantly altered by the Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator.

Based on figures the office has released to the groups, the Legal Aid Society will be responsible for 20,000 fewer cases, and five of the remaining six groups will receive 54,000 more.

The one group that lost out in the bidding for renewal contracts is Staten Island Defense Services, which for the past 14 years has been the primary defender of indigent cases in Richmond County.

The Staten Island group’s annual caseload of roughly 9,000 will be folded into the Legal Aid contract, Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt said in an interview.

Legal Aid, however, will likely receive an influx of cases that the defender groups are unable to handle due to conflicts.

Mr. Feinblatt said he could not comment on the decision not to award a contract to Staten Island Defenders, saying the decision was “the result of [a] competitive bidding process.”

Paul A. Battiste, a founder of the Staten Island group, said after having provided quality services for more than 13 years, “we put in a proposal and were hopeful we would received a renewal, but we didn’t.”

Mr. Feinblatt said that while the distribution of primary cases has been settled, no decision has been made as to the amount of funding the groups will receive. He said his office plans to complete the contracts as soon as possible but could not commit to a deadline. Five of the six groups have had their existing contracts extended until June 30, 2011.

The groups that serve as primary providers are responsible for picking up the contracted number of cases at arraignment shifts they are assigned to cover. The total number of primary cases to be handled in the next round of contracts is 329,000, an increase of 8 percent above the number handled under existing contracts.

The flashpoint in this year’s bidding process, however, has been the roughly 44,000 conflict cases that have up to now been handled by 1,100 private practitioners in New York City at an annual cost of $47.8 million. The private lawyers are paid from municipal funds under Article 18-B of the County Law.

In February, the city put out for bid the contracts that had been awarded to the seven defender groups since 2002 and extended several times since then. The requests for the first time solicited proposals to handle conflict cases (NYLJ, Feb. 10).

In June, five county bar associations filed a suit, New York County Lawyers’ Association v. Bloomberg, 107216/10, to block the city from soliciting bids from defense groups to handle conflict cases (NYLJ, June 4). Oral argument before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Anil Singh is scheduled for Dec. 15.

Pending Justice Singh’s ruling on the merits of the case, the city has agreed not to award contracts for conflict cases, but it remains free to issue contracts for primary cases.

Conflict Cases for Legal Aid

Legal Aid, however, is in line to receive at least some of the conflict cases that had been assigned to private lawyers. In a brief filed on Monday supporting its application to intervene in the 18-B litigation, Legal Aid disclosed that the city has indicated an intent to assign to it a “significant number” of conflict cases.

In asking to intervene, the Legal Aid brief contended that the organization is being harmed by the delay in awarding conflict contracts.

With the city only permitted to allocate primary cases, Steven Banks, Legal Aid’s attorney-in-chief, warned in an affirmation, Legal Aid will be left “with insufficient funding to maintain its operations and staffing.”

The process “needs to be completed immediate[ly],” Mr. Banks said, so that Legal Aid can “be properly funded” and “avert the staffing reductions and client service cutbacks that the Society will otherwise have to implement immediately.”

According to Mr. Feinblatt, Legal Aid, which handled about 230,000 cases in the fiscal year that ended last June 30, will be required to handle 210,000 cases under its new contract.

Read in conjunction with Mr. Feinblatt’s disclosure on Legal Aid’s caseload, the clear thrust of Mr. Banks’ comments is that the agency needs to receive 20,000 conflict cases to make up for the deficit without hemorrhaging either staff or services.

Robin Steinberg, the executive director of the Bronx Defenders, said she has had no discussions with the city about conflict cases. Similarly, Lisa Schreibersdorf, the executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services, said she did not expect any conflict cases.

Both groups’ caseloads will more than double when the new contracts are awarded. The Bronx Defenders’ caseload will rise to 28,000 from 12,500 and Brooklyn Defender Services to 38,000 from 18,000.

Ms. Schreibersdorf said the Brooklyn group will be able to bring on board attorneys with expertise in immigration and other collateral consequences of convictions. Ms. Steinberg said her group is pleased to be able to offer its services to an “even greater number of people from this desperately underserved community.”

Caseload to Nearly Triple

Another big winner in the competition for city contracts is Neighborhood Defender Services, which has never been funded through the mayor’s executive budget. For the first time, Mr. Feinblatt said, a contract will be offered to the group, which serves Harlem and most of the rest of northern Manhattan and has been funded after annual negotiations between the City Council and the mayor.

Under the new contract, funding for the neighborhood defenders will increase to $4.8 million a year from $3 million and the number of cases it will be responsible for handling will expand to 10,000 from 3,500 a year.

The new contract also will relieve the Legal Aid Society of the open-ended obligation to handle 88 percent of cases calendared on its arraignment shifts, Mr. Feinblatt said. The change will put Legal Aid on the same footing as the other providers who will all be required to handle a set number of cases per year.

Mr. Banks said the change is “an important step to get us out from under a literally limitless obligation to accept cases at a set price which resulted in excessive caseloads for our staff.”

Queens Law Associates will see its caseload increase to 25,000 from 15,000, and New York County Defender Services to take on 18,000 cases from 16,000.

Mr. Battiste, of the Staten Island defender group, said his chief concern is that there be “as seamless a transition as possible with Legal Aid” to avoid disruption of client services.

He also said he has begun contacting other defender groups, urging them to hire his 15 lawyers and 13 support staff who will be losing their jobs.

“The staff is very experienced, capable, well trained and familiar with processes in Staten Island,” he said.

@|Daniel Wise can be contacted at dwise@alm.com.

The heads of two of the groups that received the largest increase in primary cases both said they do not expect to receive conflict cases.

March 19, 2010

2010.03.19: RE: RFP news

From:  Letwin, Michael
Sent: Friday, March 19, 2010 9:50 AM
To: Martin, Margaret; CRIMINAL BKLYN ATTYS ALL
Subject: RE: RFP news

Just in case anyone thinks that the scab (non-union RFP) groups aren’t our enemies, that $24.7 million the city pays them comes out of our funding. And that’s without any additional LAS funds they may get in this current RFP process.

_____________________________________________

From:  [M.]
Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2010 9:46 AM
To: CRIMINAL BKLYN ATTYS ALL
Subject: RFP news

Lawyers Weigh in on Plan to Shift Conflict Cases to Group Providers

Daniel Wise

New York Law Journal

March 11, 2010

Deputy Criminal Justice Coordinator Shari Hyman faced close, sometimes hostile, questioning at a City Council budget hearing yesterday over a plan to move the handling of conflict cases from private criminal defense lawyers to groups like the Legal Aid Society.

More than 50 private lawyers, whose work for indigent criminal defendants would be sharply curtailed under the city’s plan, attended the hearing conducted by the City Council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Committee.

The lawyers made clear their sentiments with waves of applause when panelists asked Ms. Hyman pointed questions, and groans of dismay at her responses.

Elizabeth Crowley, the head of the committee, started the questioning by asking Ms. Hyman what comparative data her agency had concerning the cost and effectiveness of private lawyers as opposed to institutional providers.

Ms. Hyman reported that the average per case cost for institutional providers is $306 compared to $873 for private lawyers working under the 18-B program.

The audience burst into applause when Ms. Crowley, D-Queens, followed up with a question suggesting that the 18-B lawyers’ costs were higher because they took many more cases to trial and spent more time on them.

Ms. Hyman defended the new plan, saying it would bring “sunlight” to the 14 percent of the criminal caseload not handled by legal services groups.

John Feinblatt, the city’s criminal justice coordinator, said in an interview that the city “is not interested in taking business from anybody,” but instead is “open to hearing all ideas and proposals” to carry out its responsibility for developing the “best system possible” for the representation of indigent criminal defendants.

Councilman Daniel Halloran, R-Queens, who is an 18-B lawyer, challenged Ms. Hyman for being unable to affirmatively state how many of the cases handled by 18-B lawyers are conflicts as opposed to cases surrendered by Legal Aid “willy nilly” to 18-B lawyers when the group’s clients asked for “a real lawyer.”

Mr. Halloran cited data, which his staff identified as coming from the Office of Court Administration, showing that 18-B lawyers are 17 times more likely to take a case to trial than Legal Aid lawyers.

Ms. Hyman’s lack of a direct answer to Mr. Halloran’s question, “Don’t you need statistics to evaluate whether tax dollars are being spent wisely?” drew audible groans from the audience.

Mr. Halloran told Steven Banks, attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society who also testified, that he supported Legal Aid and recognized that it handled too many cases, according to a spokesperson for Legal Aid.

Mr. Banks, in statement to the Law Journal, said that “out of 240,000 cases that we handle each year, we are relieved from 14,000 cases when clients retain counsel or conflicts develop, including approximately 3,000 cases which are reassigned to 18-B lawyers.”

“While there has been a great deal of focus on the status of 18-B,” Mr. Banks noted, “our concern is ensuring that the Legal Aid Society continues its role as the primary defender in New York City because of our ability to provide greater resources and support for clients than others.”

New Approach

Last month, the Criminal Justice Coordinator’s Office issued a request for proposals (RFP) from legal services organizations to handle conflict cases. Conflicts, which most commonly arise in multi-defendant cases, are now handled by private lawyers who have been certified under the 18-B program (NYLJ, Feb. 10).

The move to institutional providers would eliminate most of the work handled by 18-B lawyers. Private lawyers would continue to represent defendants in homicide cases, and get assignments in cases with more than two defendants.

Under the 18-B program, which is named for Article 18-B of the County Law, private lawyers are paid $75 an hour.

There are 1,109 attorneys certified by Appellate Division panels in the First and Second departments to represent indigent defendants at the trial level.

According to data maintained by the OCA, the city paid 18-B attorneys $47.8 million in calendar year 2008 for handling indigent defendants’ trial-level criminal cases.

In the RFP, city officials estimate there were some 34,300 conflict cases, most of them handled by 18-B lawyers, in the fiscal year that ended last June 30.

The RFP states that $8.7 million is available to fund contracts for groups to handle conflict cases.

All Contracts Up for Grabs

The RFP also opens to bidding contracts that have been awarded to the Legal Aid Society and five other groups to staff arraignment parts since 1994. The last time those contracts were opened for competition was in 2002.

The groups are responsible for completing any case they initially handle at arraignment.

In fiscal year 2009, according to the RFP, Legal Aid and the other groups handled more than 90 percent of the cases that passed through the arraignment parts.

Applications from groups interested in handling conflict cases are due on Monday. None of the groups that pick up their cases at arraignment have publicly declared their intention to expand their contracts to include conflict cases, though it is quite likely that several will do so.

In the current fiscal year (FY 2010), the Legal Aid Society received $79.1 million to represent indigent defendants at the trial level.

The five other groups received a total of $24.7 million for FY 2010, according to city data: NY County Defenders, $6.3 million; Brooklyn Defender Services, $5.8 million; Bronx Defenders, $4.9 million; Queens Law Associates, $4.9 million; and Battiste, Aronowsky & Suchow Inc., $2.8 million.

The RFP specifies that in order to qualify to handle conflict cases, a group must cover arraignment shifts, and are required to represent all defendants arraigned during those shifts except for cases exposing them to a conflict of interest.

In the four largest boroughs, Legal Aid handles 76 arraignment shifts per week and lawyers from the other four groups operating in those boroughs handle 16.

To the extent new groups receive contracts to handle conflict cases their current funding will have to be increased so they can accommodate the additional cases. The question will be whether the cost of increased funding will exceed the $75 per hour rate now paid to 18-B lawyers.

In a separate development yesterday, the OCA issued a new rule that could drive up the costs of groups representing indigent defendants. (See accompanying article.)

@|Daniel Wise can be reached at dwise@alm.com.

November 17, 2009

2009.11.17: RE: Extern Grievance

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 2:30 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

No, the problem is that once again:

1. The Executive Board violated ALAA’s bylaws, which state that, barring an emergency, decisions must be made by the Joint Council or the membership (see attached).

2. Union headquarters failed to report and seek membership input prior to any decision.

Whatever one’s opinion on the externs, that anti-democratic process is a recipe for disempowering the membership. As a result, leadership is not accountable to the members, and has no leverage with management.

_____________________________________________

From:  [S.]
Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 2:11 PM
To: MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

Here is our overall problem.  The negotiations after the fact were done – this was approved by the Executive Board and anyone from the Executive Board who was present at that meeting.  Many people were shocked to hear about this because they were not present at the meeting, despite being members of the Executive Board.  Membership was not made aware of this because their representatives on the Executive Board (myself included) – failed to share this information with their offices and groups.

This issue, for this year, has been dealt with.  Certain people may not like the results, but to essentially attempt a referendum on the E-boards vote and actions, in the guise of a “grievance” benefits no one.

_____________________________________________

From:  [T.]
Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 1:59 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

Would it matter to the rest of you if the remedy sought by the grievance called for making these externs INTERNS, instead of outright expulsion?  By far, the majority of the Brooklyn contingent would glady welcome these folk assisting us in dealing with our actual cases.  For all of us.  Demanding a remedy of removal is no different than the remedies we ordinarily argue for in court…we shoot for the moon, with the idea of negotiating something more realistic.  In fairness, union leadership asked for externs to be treated as interns and was shot down.  Of course, “asking” management to play nice may not always work.  Sometimes, we have to demand such relief because the opposing side wronged us in some material way.  Here, what management did (or didn’t do) cannot reasonably be seen as some innocent mistake.  Management has worked with the union in the civil dept for quite some time when it came to the issue of bringing in firm folk.  How could they not think the same ought to apply in CDD?  The implication is clear….they purposely avoided mentioning CDD externs because they knew of the potential fallout.

In any event, demanding that management include us in future hiring of CDD externs is not a sufficient remedy since we thereby implicitly concede the existence of EXTERNS (as opposed to INTERNS in CDD) going forward.  Later, we can no longer debate IF they should come, but (at best) how many? What borough? What division?  To that end, while management may have vowed to include us in such future discussions, it’s unclear  what parameters will be used to select externs in the future.  Does LAS (union and management) decide who joins us, or is the organization available to any associate who wishes to join us?  Do we (LAS) get to decide what division they are assigned to?   It sounds like the firms (and/or associates) made ALL decisions this last go around.  Perhaps, the fight of making them interns is completely untenable, but maybe we at least get to make the selection process more stringent than it was.  Finally, this is not the type of discussion that any of us are taking lightly, so it makes sense to me that it is at least discussed and voted up by a larger body such as the Joint Council.

All this ranting is making me thirsty.  If anyone asks, I’m in AP-7.

_____________________________________________

From:  [C.]
Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 1:03 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

Thank you, [E.].

Incidentally, [E.’s] discussion reflects the seriousness, thoughtfulness and intelligence with which ALAA leadership including delegates — and so many members, too — deal with the difficult issues of working at The Legal Aid Society.

_____________________________________________

From:  [E.]
Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 11:59 AM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

I think the one thing we can all agree on is that management was wrong in failing to notify the Union about the externs and in failing to sit down with us in advance to negotiate the terms under which they would work at CDD. That was the unanimous sentiment of the Executive Board and that is why the EB voted to demand that management negotiate with our leaders. That negotiation has already taken place and resulted, among other things, in management acquiescing to Brooklyn CDD not getting any externs. But, if the point of this proposed grievance is to protest management’s failure to sit down in advance, then it is purely symbolic. The clock cannot be turned back and the only remedy would be for management to agree to participate in the very negotiation that has already taken place. So, this grievance must be about something else.

And that something else better be really important. Because it is readily apparent that this proposed grievance, regardless of its intent, is threatening to undermine union solidarity by opening a rift between our Civil Division colleagues and those in the Criminal Practice. Management had no choice (and frankly, neither did our Union), in allowing the externs to work at CDD. To have said no would have been to risk the good will of the major law firms whose financial contributions are the lifeblood of the Civil Division. Civil is already reeling from government funding cutbacks and the potential loss of a large pot of money that had been generated by IOLA. The last thing our Civil Division brothers and sisters need is for the major law firms to reduce their contributions to Legal Aid as a result of the controversy over the extern program.

So, what’s the great principle at stake here? Time and again, at the EB and in emails,  I have heard the charge that the extern program constitutes union-busting. Well, union-busting is certainly a bad thing. Those of us who were around for the 1994 strike experienced it first-hand when Giuliani threatened to blacklist us and have us all fired if we didn’t return to work immediately. And our union continues to suffer from the existence of the non-union alternate providers that Giuliani set up in the aftermath of the strike. Granted, not every instance of union-busting is as blatant as what Giuliani did. But, how do 8 temporary externs in a 435 lawyer office threaten to undermine our union or diminish its power? They certainly don’t change the balance of power with Legal Aid management. I have no doubt that management has already come to regret its failure to notify ALAA in advance about the externs. Nor is it remotely conceivable that the extern program could constitute a blueprint that management can use in the future to undermine our union. And, as far as I can tell, the externs do nothing to threaten our funding from the City. The City couldn’t care less about the externs. CAB has had a volunteer program in existence for the past quarter century, in which law firm volunteers handle individual criminal appeals. Not once has the City ever suggested that CAB funding could be cut because we were benefiting from free labor from the law firms. The argument that it could happen with CDD funding would be especially ludicrous in light of the case cap legislation, which will kick in in 2010 and likely result in the hiring of scores, possibly hundreds, of new attorneys.

I’m not suggesting that the extern program is wonderful. I am suggesting that it’s time to accept it and to move on. The proposed Brooklyn CDD grievance is at odds with the decision taken by the Executive Board and can only be approved of by the Joint Council, our Union’s highest governing authority. I certainly hope the JC votes tonight not to endorse the Brooklyn grievance. It’s time to recognize, on balance, the extern issue for the molehill that it is and to send our Brooklyn CDD colleagues off in search of other mountains.

_____________________________________________

From:  [B.]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 7:32 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

I am a delegate in Brooklyn so I will speak for myself.  There was a majority vote in support of the grievance.  I am not personally opposed to the externs.

What is amazing to me is that this is even a debate.  This is clearly an issue that effects all of our jobs, and goes directly to our rights and abilities to negotiate with management over issues like this.  This is not about free help; its about management making serious staffing decisions without our input.

This is NOT about trying to hurt Civil, or destroy any relationship with the big firms that support LAS.  It’s not about any personal issues with externs.  Again, this is about how management makes decisions without our input.

I take issue with any attorney who thinks that we would be so petty.  Yes, we do not have externs in Brooklyn.  We made that choice, knowing it would be unpopular.  I personally voted for the grievance because I felt it was important to protect all of our rights and jobs.

Having different opinions in this union does make it stronger entity, but what will ultimately weaken us is this continued divisiveness over email.  I’m sorry if people just want us to move on and forget it about, but that is neither strategic nor smart when considering the long-term health and strength of our union.

(This message was approved by my officemate [G.]).

Sincerely,

_____________________________________________

From:  [S.]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 5:35 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

So are you representing that over 1/2 of Brooklyn CDD supports this grievance?  There was a vote?  Did more than 1/2 of Brooklyn CDD say they didn’t wish to have externs working in Brooklyn?

_____________________________________________

From:  [M.]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 5:32 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

Wow, we think alike – I was thinking that Queens isnt filing the grievance, so I don’t see the us of your email.

_____________________________________________

From:  [A.]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 1:58 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

Brooklyn doesn’t even have any externs, so I do not see the use for this grievance.

_____________________________________________

From:  [S.]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 1:58 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

Just two quick questions – (1) is a grievance the appropriate remedy? (2)  Were externs even contemplated at the time we were certified in 1969?

_____________________________________________

From:  Fry, Julie
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 1:06 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Extern Grievance

The  members of Brooklyn CDD have voted to file a grievance regarding the hiring of the so-called “externs” to work as staff attorneys in the Criminal Defense Practice.  We would appreciate support form other boroughs and practices as well.  We have asked that this grievance be put on the agenda of tomorrow night’s JC meeting.  Below is the grievance we plan to file.  Please review it before tomorrow’s meeting.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Julie Fry, VP Brooklyn CDD

Danielle Feman, VP Brooklyn CDD

Dear Mr. Banks:

On behalf of the Society’s criminal defense attorneys in Brooklyn, we hereby grieve placement of non-employee attorneys (“externs”) in the Criminal Defense Practice.

As stated in the Certification of Representation issued by the New York State Labor Relations Board on December 30, 1969, the Staff Attorney bargaining unit includes all non-supervisory attorneys and law graduates working at the Society. ALAA Collective Bargaining Agreement, § 1.1.1.

Terms and conditions of employment for Staff Attorneys, including various aspects of hiring, are governed by the CBA negotiated between The Legal Aid Society and the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325. Nonetheless, without the union’s knowledge or agreement, management now accepted law firm “externs” to do beginning unit work in our division.

These externs were not chosen through the normal union-management selection process. They are paid by their law firms at a much higher rate than Staff Attorneys, and are otherwise not being treated according to ALAA’s CBA. They are not eligible to be union members or receive union representation.

Therefore, we seek immediate removal of all externs from the Society’s Criminal Defense Practice. Please let us know as soon as possible when we can meet with you to discuss these issues.

Sincerely,

Julie Fry, VP Brooklyn CDD

Danielle Feman, VP Brooklyn CDD

November 5, 2009

2009.11.05: RE: Please Read [Externship]

From: Morris, Susan
Sent: Thursday, November 05, 2009 9:37 AM
To: Wright, Deborah; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Please Read

Aside from substantive problems with the externship agreement (the fact that it is union-busting),

the process here is entirely undemocratic:

1. The membership hasn’t even seen this proposed agreement.

2. This should be decided by the JC, not the EB. See bylaws:

–Article V, § 1: The (J)C will be the highest authority in the union after the membership.

–Article VI, § 1: The EB will be empowered to represent the union between meetings of the union when urgent business requires prompt and decisive action.  (Emphasis mine.)

This is not “urgent” business … apparently it has been in “process” for many months, and only *after* an “agreement” was reached (the externs are already here!) was it even brought out to the EB/ALAA.

The memo from Steve Banks is CONFIRMING the agreement!


From: Wright, Deborah
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2009 1:47 PM
Subject: Please Read

As you can see below, I have forwarded the final draft agreement between LAS and ALAA regarding the extern

and rotator programs in CDD.  Earlier this week, management conceded to the last demands of the CDD VPs.

This issue will be placed on the [Susan Morris] (EB)]  agenda for discussion and vote.


From: Banks, Steve
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2009 8:33 PM
To: Wright, Deborah; Albro, George
Cc: James, Seymour
Subject: Externs

As a follow up to our prior discussions and our meeting with the Bronx Criminal Defense staff on October 16, this is to confirm the following:

In the Criminal Defense Practice, law firm externs are not replacing existing staff attorney positions.  For the current fiscal year, we are staffing up to the 435 level for staff attorneys that is authorized in our City contract, taking into account attorneys who are on leave or going on leave and are returning to staff during the fiscal year.  In order to do so, we have hired a new class of 15 staff attorneys who will be allocated among the four Criminal Defense offices irrespective of the number of externs deployed in these offices.  Beginning next Fall, we anticipate increasing substantially the number of Criminal Defense staff attorneys as part of the State case cap law implementation process.  The law firm deferral programs that have resulted in this externship program in the Criminal Defense area are, in part, time-limited responses to major changes that are occurring in the law firms which provide annual support to the Civil Practice.  This law firm support is the lifeblood of the Civil Practice, particularly in light of the projected dramatic drop in Civil IOLA funding beginning in 2010.  The Society’s current comprehensive extern program in all three practice areas is an important component of the Society’s relationship with these firms and is consistent with the Society’s long-standing externship programs with law firms.

In order to appropriately operate the externship program in the Criminal Defense area, the following are key elements of the program: Because of the need to manage the implementation of expanded Criminal Defense staffing as part of the case cap process, we do not anticipate expanding the number of externs in the current program in the Criminal Defense offices.  The current program involves eight full-time externs participating in 12-month externships.  We will seek ALAA’s input before expanding this program, at which point we understand that ALAA is reserving any rights it has with respect to this program.  We will also include staff attorneys in the selection process for 12-month Criminal Defense externs.  Each of the eight current externs have had at least some level of relevant advocacy experience as law students and affirmatively chose to work in the Criminal Practice over other Society Practice areas.  While our preference is to allocate two externs to each of the four Criminal Defense offices, based on the input that we have received, we are allocating three externs to the Queens office, three to the Manhattan office, and two to the Bronx office.  Although these externs are not employees of the Society, they will be subject to all of the Society’s policies, such as the rules with respect to new attorney training, professional conduct, time off, and shift assignments.  They have been advised of the Society’s policies at an orientation session.  They will not be on the ALAA e-mail group and those who have been added erroneously have been removed.  The caseloads of the externs will be monitored closely and each case in which they are involved will be recorded in our case management system as assigned to the extern and a supervising attorney, which will require some reprogramming.  These externs will cease to be assigned new cases in June in order to provide a substantial period to work down their caseload before their externships conclude in October.  If necessary to accomplish this aim in individual cases, new case assignments may cease earlier.  During the balance of the Summer and the early Fall, the externs will also be available to cover arraignment assignments for permanent staff.  Any cases that cannot be resolved at the end of these 12-month externships will be handled by supervisors or staff attorneys depending on the nature of the cases, all of which will be misdemeanors.  The externs may seek permanent staff attorney positions through the normal hiring process for positions that will be available at the conclusion of their 12-month externships; if they seek permanent employment at the Legal Aid Society, there will be no special hiring process for the externs other than the normal hiring process.

In addition to 12-month externships, the Society has also operated externship programs involving law firm associates who spend varying amounts of time in rotations in offices.  In the Criminal Defense area, the Society has just expanded a well-publicized program that has operated for a year in Manhattan to the Bronx.  For the new Bronx program, the Society has reopened the process for selecting mentors to make sure that all staff attorneys interested in being mentors have an opportunity to be considered by the office managers who select the mentors.  As in the Manhattan rotational program, in the Bronx program the law firm associates receive prior training and are assigned to mentors.  These rotating externs will work on the mentor’s caseload and handle cases only with the mentor’s oversight.  Any cases on which externs work will remain assigned to the mentor although for reporting purposes the rotating extern’s name will also be listed in the case management system.  When these rotating externships conclude, the mentors will continue to work on the cases.  As with all rotating extern programs that the Society has operated over the years with the law firms which support the Civil Practice, the Society has no role in selecting law firm associates to be rotating externs but the Society reserves the right to terminate any rotating externship placement based on performance.  Because of the need to manage the implementation of expanded Criminal Defense staffing as part of the case cap process, we do not anticipate expanding beyond these two current rotational programs in the Manhattan and Bronx Criminal Defense offices.  We will seek ALAA’s input before expanding this program to other Criminal Defense trial offices, at which point we understand that ALAA is reserving any rights it has with respect to this program.

Finally, as we have said previously in the Law Journal, while we greatly appreciate the contributions that externs have made to the Society over the years, externship programs are no substitute for permanent staff even in difficult economic times.  Our successful efforts to establish case caps for the Juvenile Rights Practice and now for Criminal Defense and our current efforts to secure a bailout of the IOLA Fund to maintain the crucial legal assistance which Civil staff provides are all aimed at obtaining sufficient resources to have a permanent staff with proper caseloads.  The Society has no plans to institutionalize one-year rotations of externs in our offices before law firm associates begin work at their firms.  In fact, we have spoken against such a broad-based program which would not provide the experienced and stable staffing that our clients need.

February 10, 2009

2009.02.10: RE: ADA T. – any info @ unethical conduct?

Filed under: 1994 Strike,ALAA History,Criminal Justice,Funding,Key Documents,Scabs — nyclaw01 @ 11:29 am

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 11:29 AM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: RE: ADA [T.] – any info @ unethical conduct?

This isn’t about past grudges or who was here during the 1994 strike.

It’s just Union 101: Runaway shops are a dire threat to any union — whether or not you have friends who work there. These particular runaways are a past, current and future threat to our unions, our jobs, our compensation and our unique collective ability, as unionized defenders, to fight for our clients.

For those who are unaware of how these facts have played out, please see the February 5, 2008 open letter from one hundred union members, posted at: http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=10&id=20070

Today more than ever, the scab defense contractors should not be legitimized or accepted, but abolished.

——————————————————————————–
From: Morris, Susan
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:40 AM
To: 111-CDD
Subject: RE: ADA [T.] – any info @ unethical conduct?
I am hardly suggesting that we only approach those who work at the scab offices with a 10-foot pole.

We should not have them in our offices because it creates a chilling effec[T.]

We are not able to speak freely when they are around, and there are things in our own offices to which they should not be privy. Of course, this is an office which shares emails with judges so internal loyalty is obviously not something highly regarded by many of the folks here – which hurts our work and hurts our clients. (The very existence of alternate providers does damage to our clients.) For those who don’t value loyalty, I suppose having them in our offices is “no big deal.”

As for drinking at their parties – again this is a money issue. They have the money that should be going to a fully-funded legal aid society, and they spend it freely on “holiday booze” – something that any office with the responsibility for indigent defense should be ashamed to do.

As Azalia said, we have limited resources and we fight for the use of those resources daily – YES DAILY (ask Debbie Wright).

Let’s consider what’s best for our clients by remembering that we are a union shop and it is the power of the union attorneys and staff members that gets anything done around here. Flip answers and sarcastic responses do not further the fight for righteous and zealous representation.

So let’s think two or three times before we consider what is and isn’t appropriate in regard to the union-busting shops.

_____________________________________________

From: J.
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2009 5:55 PM
To:  111-CDD
Subject: RE: ADA [T.] – any info @ unethical conduct?

BDS, QLA, Bronx Defenders, and NY Defenders (or whatever their name is) were created by Giuliani to intimidate LAS in general and ALAA in particular. Giuliani diverted funds that would have otherwise gone to LAS, over to the alternate defenders. The purpose of these organizations is to hold a sword over the neck of LAS – to show us that the work could always be taken away from us if we do not march in step.

Yes, these organizations help the disadvantaged. But we do it better, don’t we? Don’t we have more resources? We are a fully integrated poverty-law provider. We can work in conjunction with our colleagues in civil, in PRDU, special lit, et al to provide optimal service to people who are disenfranchised. We have the ability & resources to make the system move – for instance, the writ taken a few weeks ago when the system was backed up. The talent and commitment of the people in this organization is spectacular. Wouldn’t the disadvantaged benefit more – as a whole – if the funds that are now going to BDS/QLA/Bx Def/NY Def were restored to the LAS budget?

I have nothing against the individuals who work for those organizations. I do have something against the organizations themselves. I think we all should.

_____________________________________________
From: Torres, Azalia
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2009 5:09 PM
To: 111-CDD
Subject: RE: ADA [T.]  – any info @ unethical conduct?

With all due respect, and I do mean that, your email misses the point of [M.’s] email. It is still mocking a point of principle when it comes to respecting what the experience of the creation of the scab groups did to your colleagues and continues to do to LAS. You always have the “free will” to do as you please re any scab group. However, we are a union and hopefully we can stand together in not facilitating anything for the structures created to make our lives miserable. If you feel so strongly about BDS’s need to have info, then do whatever you want as an individual. Don’t do it through our mutual resources or systems.

_____________________________________________
From: M.
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2009 5:01 PM
To: 111-CDD
Subject: RE: ADA [T.] – any info @ unethical conduct?

I have to preface this e-mail just by saying that I’ve only been at Legal Aid for 2 years, I obviously wasn’t here when the strike went down and the scab organizations grew up, I understand that obviously there are a lot of people in the office who were here and obviously having been here and actually having experienced the strike have much better informed opinions about it and are more passionate about it than I am. But I got into this business to represent poor people (primarily people of color) who are charged with crimes. I think it’s totally antithetical to that objective when we refuse to allow someone else who represents those same people to use any of our resources, particularly when both the marginal cost to LAS and relative benefit to BDS in terms of improving their bargaining position is nil (which under these circumstances I think it is).
That said, it’s my understanding that BDS’s softball team is a travesty. If there’s a good forum to go out and yell at everyone who works there and let them know they’re a bunch of scabs, their children are ugly, and they can’t parallel park well then that’s probably i[T.] And I went to BDS’s holiday party. It was fun. There was a bunch of free booze there and I got to see Judge Nadelson do the electric slide. I also went to our holiday party. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with going to the BDS holiday party as long as you attend ours. And as far as them attending our acquittal parties goes, as long as whoever is buying the booze is OK with that then hey, go ahead and invite whoever you wan[T.] And if anyone is ever sponsoring an acquittal party and someone from BDS shows up and you’re offended by that then just tell Richard Torres and he’ll happilly remove them.

_____________________________________________
From: M.
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2009 4:42 PM
To: 111-CDD
Subject: RE: ADA [T.]  – any info @ unethical conduct?

I hope that you are not saying that since you were in junior high when this terrible, devastating occurrence took place, it’s not worth thinking about now.

There are many of us who were at LAS when Lisa and others bid for our work when Rudy Giuliani, of all people, asked for bids for our cases. It really isn’t possible to give you an accurate picture of what that did to this organization and to all of us who remained here, but it truly was devastating in its effects. We are still clawing our way back from that awful place.

For those of you who weren’t there, there is no expectation for you to understand the situation in the same way that we do. But, on the other hand, isn’t it obvious that BDS is our main competitor for money from the City? They are the reason that our contract has such a heavy emphasis on arraignment numbers along with monetary penalties if we don’t fulfill our obligations. It’s an outrage.

That’s all I have to say–for now.

_____________________________________________
From: A.
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2009 4:18 PM
To: 111-CDD
Subject: RE: ADA [T.]  – any info @ unethical conduct?

Let’s not forget that our we are trying to maintain bad DA notes (by we I mean B.) – just a reminder that this information is helpful in general and be sure to share that info with B. at leas[T.] Regardless of whether you were here for the strike of 1990-something. I was in junior high. Also seems unlikely that we’ll put BDS out of business by refusing to drink their holiday alcohol (we’ll sure show them!) or by keeping this DA information to ourselves. A.
_____________________________________________
From: B.
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2009 3:37 PM
To: 111-CDD
Subject: ADA [T.] – any info @ unethical conduct?

If you have any information you can share please email Sydney Peck ASAP at BDS at: speck@bds.org

Apparently there are some recent issues that have arisen regarding unethical conduct, and they are seeking to collect additional experiences.

Thanks!

Sincerely,

B.

April 22, 2008

2008.04.22: Brooklyn Eagle Publishes Union Members’ Protest Letter

http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=10&id=20070

Letter to the Editor

by Brooklyn Eagle (edit@brooklyneagle.net), published online 04-22-2008

Re: “Lisa Schreibersdorf Receives Public Defense Award” by Elizabeth Stull; published Feb. 5, 2008 and Brooklyn Attorney Leads State Association Of Criminal Defense Lawyers” by Elizabeth Stull; published Feb. 13, 2008.

To the editor:

Legal Aid Union Members Protest NYSBA Defense Award to Lisa Schreibersdorf. The undersigned 100 union members at The Legal Aid Society protest the New York State Bar Association’s selection of Lisa Schreibersdorf to receive the Michele S. Maxian Award for Outstanding Public Defense Practitioner.

Maxian, who died in 2006, was a Legal Aid Society attorney who selflessly dedicated her career to strengthening and improving indigent criminal defense.

Because of her efforts, the NYPD was ordered to arraign criminal defendants within 24 hours of arrest. She frequently testified in support of criminal justice reform. And she tenaciously defended the Society against Rudolph Giuliani, who slashed Legal Aid funding in retaliation for a 1994 strike by the Society’s attorneys (Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325) and support staff (1199SEIU).

Yes, Schreibersdorf too once worked at The Legal Aid Society. Unlike Maxian, however, Schreibersdorf and several other of our former colleagues responded to Giuliani’s attack by setting up a nonunion contractor, Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), which successfully bid for millions of dollars cut from the unionized Society.

In this, she was joined by Appellate Advocates (Second Department), Bronx Defenders, Center for Appellate Litigation (First Department), Queens Law Associates, New York County Defenders Association, and Battiste, Aronowsky & Suchow (Staten Island).

Together, these bidders — most of them by former Legal Aid staff members — played the critical role of legitimizing Giuliani’s destructive union-busting and “competitive bidding” in indigent defense. Schreibersdorf sought to whitewash her role by claiming that Giuliani’s policies were good for Legal Aid staff and clients: “Brooklyn Defender Services’ entry into the court system has even lightened the load of the Legal Aid Society’s attorneys who … are overworked and underpaid … [They] are now able to more effectively represent their own clients.”[1]

More candidly, Schreibersdorf admitted, “I don’t have any grudge against Legal Aid … [b]ut. … [t]he city is making this offer and we’re taking it.”[2]

While management at the nonunion contractors has profited, Legal Aid staff and clients have paid the price: deep personnel cuts, sharply-escalating workloads and near-institutional bankruptcy. As the New York Times reported in 2001, Giuliani’s cuts — which by then totaled a cumulative $160 million — had “hobbled” the Society.[3]

In 2006, a report to Chief Judge Judith Kaye reiterated that finding, and concluded that Giuliani’s competitive bidding policy had predictably fragmented and weakened the entire indigent defense system in New York City. It also reported declining conditions for line staff at the nonunion contractors.[4]

Rather than take any responsibility for helping to bring this about, Schreibersdorf disparages her former colleagues: “I left Legal Aid in the mid nineties. In my opinion, it’s not the same place it was.”[5] In 2008, Schreibersdorf has added insult to injury by shamelessly trading on her past connection with the Society. But the honor belongs to Legal Aid staff, who — despite these continuing attacks — have sought to defend the quality of indigent representation that Schreibersdorf and her confederates have helped to undermine.

Please forward this letter to all NYSBA officials.

Signers: (In an individual capacity; no organizational endorsement implied)

Michael Letwin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Azalia Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Eric Megett (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Adrian Lesher (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Steve Kliman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Steve Terry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Fred Pratt (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Steve Sindos (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Estajo Koslow (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Margaret McClean (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn)* Steven Plotkin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Gregory C. Williams (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn)* Julie Fry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Daniella Korotzer (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Robyn Lear (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Judith Karpatkin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Noha Arafa (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Ivan Pantoja (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Melissa Kanas (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Marisa Benton (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Femi Disu (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Jeffrey Sugarman (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Dana Cohen (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Joshua Scheier (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Steven Levine (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Susan Litt (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Tara Shakur (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Susan O. Morris (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Matthew Caretto (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Laurie Dick (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Jill Waldman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Brian Hutchinson (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Victoria L. Eby (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Andrea Gordon (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Allison Jordan (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Richard Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Bryan Coakley (Criminal Defense-Queens)* Jacob Rolls (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Raoul Zaltzberg (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Alexander Smith (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Davim Horowitz (Crim. Defense-Manhattan) Bahar Mirhosseini (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Shannon Stallings (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Daniel Moore (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Kathryn Liverani (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Tasha N. Lloyd (Criminal Defense-Bronx) Patricia Gil (Civil-Queens) Margarita Menuar (Civil-Harlem) Keisha A. Godfrey (Criminal Defense-Queens) Bahar Ansari (Juvenile Rights-Bronx) Marla Grossman (Criminal Defense-Queens)* Emily Kane (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Michael Baldwin (Crim. Defense-Manhattan) Dale A. Wilker (Prisoners’ Rights Project)* Sydney O’Hagan (Crim. Defense-Manhattan) Christina Giardino (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Leigh Latimer (Criminal Defense-Queens) Marianne Allegro (Juv. Rights-Manhattan)* Carol Hochberg (Juvenile Rights-Manhattan)* Melissa Loehr (Criminal Defense-Bronx) Bridgett Holloman (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Justin L. Haines (Civil-Bronx) Meighan McSherry (Criminal Defense-Bronx) Kristin Bruan (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Florence Morgan (Criminal Defense-Queens)* David Affler (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)* Alison Webster (Criminal Defense-Bronx)* Albert Wall (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Mary Ross (Criminal Defense-Queens) Stephanie Kaplan (Crim. Defense-Manhattan)* Deborah Hill (Criminal Defense-Manhattan) Elizabeth Felber (Criminal Defense-Bronx)* Roslyn Morrison (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Laura Boyd (Criminal Appeals)* Chandra Gomes (Criminal Defense-Queens)* Todd Smith (Juvenile Rights-Brooklyn) E. Grace Park (Juvenile Rights-Brooklyn) Warren Deans (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Michael Taglieri (Criminal Appeals)* Thomas Johnson (Criminal Defense-Queens)* Tara Collins (Criminal Defense-Manhattan) Antoinette Costanzo (Crim. Defense-Manhattan)* Heidi Bota (Criminal Appeals) David Ocasio (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Lucy Herschel, (Criminal Defense-Queens) Rebecca Kurti (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Cory Walker (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Myra Alcarese (Juvenile Rights-Queens) Norah Bowler (Juvenile Rights-Queens) John Hirsch (Criminal Defense-Manhattan) Lori Masco (Juvenile Rights-Brooklyn) Kerry Elgarten (Criminal Appeals)* Ruthlyn Belnavis (Juvenile Rights-Manhattan) Mily Garcia (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) W. Joseph Hochberg (Juv. Rights-Brooklyn) Terence Davidson (Criminal Defense-Admin.) Joshua Goldfein (Civil-Homeless Rights)* Amelia McGovern (Crim. Defense-Manhattan)* Richard DiMarco (Crim. Defense-Manhattan)* Lisa Edwards (Civil-Harlem)*

*1994 strike veteran

Notes 1. Affirm. of Lisa Schreibersdorf (July 16, 1996), Legal Aid Society v. NYC, No. 603291-96 (Sup Ct., NY Co.).

2. Goldstein, 12 Bidders Seek to displace Legal Aid; Proposals to be Screened By City Agency by Jan. 17, NYLJ, January 9, 1996.

3. Fritsch & Rohde, For New York City’s Poor, a Lawyer With 1,600 Clients, N.Y. Times, April 9, 2001. 4. Status of Indigent Defense in New York: A Study for Chief Judge Kaye’s Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services, Final Report (The Spangenberg Group, June 16, 2006), at 154.

5. In the Matter of the New York State Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services (May 12, 2005), at 198.

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