Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lawyers Need to Be GALs for Juveniles

I applaud G. Michael Fenner's position taken on lawyers v. non-lawyers acting as Guardians ad Litem for children in juvenile cases.  I believe that it is absolutely necessary for children to be represented by attorneys in these cases, as to take away this right to counsel for children would leave them the only parties unrepresented in these matters.  Parents have attorneys, the Department of Health and Human Services has attorneys, and the State has County Attorneys.

The right to counsel for children involved in juvenile proceedings should be a no-brainer.  And in fact, many states are moving toward a model with lawyer GALs, rather than away from it.  I would hate to see Nebraska moving in the wrong direction by taking away children's right to counsel in these matters.

Thank you to G. Michael Fenner for taking this position, and summarizing it so succinctly.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Prosecutors Reading Inmate/Lawyer E-mails

I just finished reading this article in the New York Times.  It was quite troubling.  It is a hallmark of our law that attorney-client communications are privileged, meaning that they are not subject to review by law enforcement, county attorneys, judges, or others.  I cannot fathom why there would be a distinction between written correspondence sent through the mail and written correspondence sent via the internet.

Certainly I understand (and regularly advise my incarcerated clients) that their communications, whether they be written, telephonic, or otherwise, with others (i.e. not their attorney) are subject to review by the jail, law enforcement, and prosecutors.  In fact, I have seen situations where those very communications lead to new charges for witness tampering, as well as being used as proof for the underlying offense.  And this, from society's prospective, makes sense to ensure that witnesses aren't being tampered with, criminal activities are not ongoing, public safety, etc.

But I do have a problem with inmates being lead to believe that their conversations with their attorneys are private/confidential/privileged, and then those conversations and statements being used against them.  This is just plain wrong, and I believe contrary to our system of law and justice.

Moreover, as the Court recently recognized in the Riley case, how we communicate with each other and interact with our world is changing.  When these types of systems are put in place to facilitate regular and easy contact between incarcerated clients and their attorneys (which I applaud), then they need to be protected just as more antiquated systems for contact (such as the mails).  Otherwise, these systems are entirely useless to attorneys as a means to communicate with incarcerated clients.