Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Stone Catchers Blog

Public defenders have a new source of support and inspiration from the  ACLU of Kansas, The Stone Catchers Blog.  The premier post explains the title:
Near the end of the book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and  Redemption, author and Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson encounters a woman he had often noticed sitting in the courtroom. He asks if she is a relative of his clients.   
She is not, but she has a purpose in the courtroom. Years before, she sat through the trial of the boys who killed her 16-year-old grandson. In the midst of her grief, another woman in the courtroom sat down next to her, wrapping her in a hug. Wordlessly, she leaned on the woman.
About a year later, she started sitting at the courthouse and allowing people to lean on her. “All these young children being sent to prison forever, all this grief and violence,” she said. “I decided I was supposed to be here to catch some of the stones people cast at each other.”
Public defense is challenging, full of grief and violence imposed on our clients and their families by the government. And by "public defense" I don't just mean the attorneys who are full-time public defenders. Public defense includes private attorneys who accept court appointments, often with inadequate compensation. It includes the investigators, paralegals, interns, social workers, data analysts--everyone who contributes to the defense of those who are accused of crime by our government but too poor to afford to hire counsel. That is about 90% of all defendants. The Stone Catchers Blog is a source of strength and wisdom and support for all of us who to do this work of public defense. And it is a platform for public defense, to speak freely and to share ideas. From ACLU of Kansas Executive Director Nadine Johnson, 
At the ACLU of Kansas, we believe the road to change runs through a host of reforms, not the least of which is a reimagined public defense system. This blog – The Stone Catchers – will highlight the stories and ideas of those committed to real, systemic reform in our state. It is a platform for sharing ideas and for uplifting stories, for identifying issues and for offering solutions.
Thanks to the ACLU for launching this project. "We have to be stone catchers."   
-- Melody

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Get to know the new Rule 404(b)

There's a new rule in town worth getting to know. Amendments to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) came into effect on December 1, 2020. The new rule eliminates the need to request notice; obligates the government to articulate the purpose of the evidence noticed; and obligates the government to put its notice in writing. No more can the government claim that you got notice via evidence buried somewhere in a discovery dump. Here are the changes:

Be sure to check out the robust Advisory Committee Notes to the amendment. You can review those and other historical materials here.