Professional Responsibility

I’m in DC for #ABADay.  My focus: funding for the Legal Services Corporation and #sentencingreform.  I’m using the hashtags so that readers can tweet on these issues over the next two days.

No, these issues don’t necessarily involve ethics.  I submit, however, that each issue is one to which lawyers owe a professional responsibility.

First, funding for #LSC.  This morning, Representatives Joe Kennedy III and David Jolly presented a united, bipartisan front on the critical need to fund #LSC. Consider this: Representative Kennedy noted that two years ago Americans spent more money on Halloween costumes for their pets than the federal government spent on funding for #LSC.

That’s shameful.

We talk about “the rule of law” and “access to justice” and “equal justice for all.”  Those phrases mean nothing absent funding.  Yesterday, a Senate sub-committee approved $385 million in funding for #LSC   Good start, but not enough.  The administration and the #ABA ask for $475 million.   Readers: contact the members of your congressional delegation and urge them to support the administration’s FY 2017 reuest of $475 million for #LSC and to join the Access to Civil Legal Services Caucus.

Second, #sentencingreform.  It’s time to embrace bipartisan reform that is smart-on-crime, achieves cost savings, and reduces crime.  No matter your political persuasion, I assume you support cost savings and reduction in crime.  If so, let’s support S.2123 and H.R. 3713.

Thanks to folks like T.J. Donovan, Vermont is ahead of the game on this issue.  The federal system lags behind.  The federal prison population has increased by 800% since 1980, with spending up 1700% over that same time period.  The sentencing reform bills aim to:

  • reduce mandatory minimums for nonviolent, low-level drug offenses;
  • expand judges’ authority to sentence below mandatory minimums in qualified cases; and,
  • address an unsustainable over-reliance on incarceration.

I’ve got to run.  So that’s it for now.  But, if you have the time, tweet today in support of #ABADay, funding for #LSC, and #sentencingreform.

Vermont is fortunate: thank you Senator Leahy and Congressman Welch for leading on these issues.

By the way, today’s speaker on #sentencingreform was GW Law Professor Stephen Saltzburg.  He was my criminal procedure teacher.  I introduced myself after his remarks.  He was kind enough not to utter “wait, YOU passed the bar?!?!”