John Jay College logoI write today to seek your insight—and to share some good news.

In the coming months, I’ll be reporting and writing a story on the collateral effects of criminal convictions. I am interested in the effects not only on individuals, but on their communities.

Statistics tell us that many of us—you and me—may know someone who was caught up in the criminal justice system. Or we may know community leaders who could speak to the impacts that neighborhoods have felt when large numbers of previously incarcerated people return to their communities. Once there, those people may be unable to obtain consistent work or stable housing, given the conviction on their record. What do we do about this?

I’d appreciate hearing from you, now or in the future, for your insights or suggestions on angles to pursue. I’m at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. And my cell is 602-908-6991.

The article and the research/reporting that precedes it are largely made possible by the award of a fellowship, just announced, that I received from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a center at the University of Pennsylvania. As the State Bar has kindly reported:

“State Bar’s Tim Eigo Selected as John Jay/Quattrone Fellow: Tim Eigo, Editor of Arizona Attorney Magazine, has been selected as a John Jay/Quattrone Fellow and will attend the 11th Annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America in New York City. He will be joining 20 other journalists from across the nation as a fellow for a story he pitched on the ‘collateral, downstream effects of prior convictions.’ The John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium is the only national gathering that brings together journalists, legislators, policymakers, scholars and practitioners for candid on-the-record discussions on emerging issues of U.S. criminal justice.”

Quattrone Center on the Fair Administration of Justice logoHere is a link to the conference/fellowship press release, which includes the list of the other 20 journalists.

I am also pleased to report that a friend and great journo was also among those chosen: Kristen Senz is the Editor of the New Hampshire Bar News, and she’s been working on legal aspects of the opioid-use crisis. John Jay will be lucky to count her among the Fellows’ ranks!

So next week, I’ll be in chilly Manhattan to hear from smart people, some of whom may become story subjects and info-providers. I’m looking forward to it.

The conference is titled “Making Room for Justice: Crime, Public Safety & the Choices Ahead for Americans.” The complete program is here.

The Friday portion of the conference will be held in the moot court room of John Jay College.

The Friday portion of the conference will be held in the moot court room of John Jay College.

I previously received a fellowship in 2011, from John Jay/Guggenheim, that allowed me to attend the conference and then write on the topic of criminal-sentencing reform (I told you about it here.). That year and in 2012, I wrote numerous online stories and a cover story in Arizona Attorney Magazine about it. Here is the link to that issue/article (clicking on the image takes you to the story).

As I promised in 2011, I’ll report back after the conference. And I’ll try to keep warm.

 

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John Jay College of Criminal Justice logo 2014In case you missed it, as they say: Reporter Michael Kiefer opened a four-part series yesterday about the prevalence (or its opposite) of prosecutorial misconduct.

That is bound to be a controversial issue, but I’m sure many will read this week’s Arizona Republic coverage closely.

His first piece is here.

That is certainly relevant to my legal audience, even if the topic will rankle some (if you want to see how much, just scroll down past his article to the reader comments beneath. Sheesh!). But besides the article’s substantive value, I also was intrigued by an acknowledgment included with it:

“This series was researched and written as part of a fellowship with The Guggenheim Foundation and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.”

Arizona Attorney Magazine January 2012 cover criminal sentencingHey, I know the John Jay College—because I also had the opportunity to be named a Guggenheim Fellow a few years ago. As such, I traveled to New York for a targeted symposium on crime in America.

As a working writer, it is quite a luxury to have a trip dedicated to learning—especially when your expenses are paid. In an annual conference, the Guggenheim Foundation brings a parade of national experts before a group of 25 or so journalists to help dissect the criminal justice system. (I got to attend another Guggenheim workshop, in Reno, on incarceration and release issues, in 2008).

The repayment you make to that cutting-edge learning is that you commit to coverage of a related topic. My coverage—on criminal sentencing and the political possibilities for change—appeared in the January 2012 Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Kiefer’s a great reporter, and I can picture the Manhattan room he sat in; I wonder if it snowed during his East Coast trip too. I look forward to what he can accomplish this week (with the Gannett machine behind him!). Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org and let me know what you think of the coverage.

Guggenheim acknowledgment

In the January 2012 issue, I thanked the John Jay College and Guggenheim folks for a terrific learning experience.

Jeffrey Toobin at John Jay College

Jeffrey Toobin at John Jay College

Here is some pretty cool news from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU: Jeffrey Toobin will be in Tempe on Thursday for a book signing and reception.

His new book is titled The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure to meet Toobin and hear him address a gathering at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. He is an impressive thinker, and I always jump to his article when I spy one in a new New Yorker.

Here is more information from the law school:

CNN senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin, one of the nation’s top experts on politics, media and the law, will sign copies of his newest book at an event, hosted by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, on Thursday, May 9, in Tempe. Toobin’s appearance is the 2013 Willard H. Pedrick Society Event, named for the founding dean of the College of Law.

Jeffrey Toobin book The OathThe book-signing is at 4:30 p.m., followed by a reception at 5:30 p.m. in the Abbey Room at the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel, 60 E. Fifth St.  Earlier in the afternoon, Toobin will deliver the keynote address at the College of Law’s convocation at Gammage Auditorium on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Toobin’s book, The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, is a sequel to his best-seller, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. The Oath is a gripping insider’s account of the momentous ideological war between the John Roberts Supreme Court and the Obama administration.

Toobin, a staff writer for The New Yorker, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, and is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ticket prices for the event, which include a copy of The Oath, are $50 for general audiences, $30 for Pedrick Society members and $20 for students. To obtain tickets, visit here.

For more information, email law.development@asu.edu or call (480) 965-3096. (And click image below for larger version of flier.)

Jeffrey Toobin_flier for ASU Law School

Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb

Two seemingly unrelated stories came across my desk this week. But in their own ways, they demonstrate modern-day challenges faced by the courts — and by anyone who finds their legal matter brought before a judge.

The first story comes from Alabama. There, faced with severe budget cuts, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, Sue Bell Cobb, has ordered a reduction in the number of days for trial. She also authorized the closure of all courts one day per week.

“The Chief Justice said years of underfunding are catching up. She predicted defendants will sit in jail longer while waiting for trial, people with civil suits and divorce cases will wait much longer to have them heard by a judge, and the courts’ ability to generate fines and fees to help fund state government will decline.”

In what may be the quotation of the year, Cobb said, “The courts are not a nicety. They are a necessity.”

I had the pleasure of meeting Chief Justice Cobb back in January, when I attended a criminal justice conference in New York. She spoke eloquently about the challenges facing state courts. Little did attendees know that Alabama would provide a graphic example of how bad things are getting.

Today’s open letter by the American Bar Association President stresses the difficulties. Stephen Zack recommends enactment of legislation that would provide a new funding source for courts:

“The answer is to leverage an existing program in the Department of Treasury to collect long-overdue court-ordered fines, restitution and other financial obligations from federal tax refunds. The National Center for State Courts estimates that there’s an accumulated total of $15 billion in such fees. Courts and crime victims do not have the resources to collect on those avoiding their responsibilities. This program would offer a practical, fair way to secure those funds.”

More on that as the story develops.

The second story was a Q&A with a law professor on the topic of “life without parole: the new death penalty.”

Read the complete conversation with Virginia Law Professor Josh Bowers.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice logo 2014This morning I posted some photos from a recent phenomenal criminal justice conference. It was held in New York City (and I mentioned it here and here).

The conference was aimed at members of the media who cover law and policy. The idea of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Guggenheim Foundation was to bring great sources to us, all in one place. Great idea.

Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker writer and CNN analyst, Jan. 31, 2011

Some of the highlights from the two-day event:

  • A keynote by Judge Jonathan Lippman, New York State’s Chief Judge
  • A panel moderated by Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker writer and CNN Analyst, which included ACLU President Susan Herman and Hon. Sue Bell Cobb, the Alabama Chief Justice
  • Panelists on challenges faced by the courts, which included Judge Robert Russell, whose visit to the State Bar of Arizona we covered before (here and here)
  • Speakers on criminal justice trends
  • Reports from the nation’s prisons
  • Special presentations on gun violence and cybercrime

Susan N. Herman, ACLU President

As part of my invitation to attend and be named a John Jay/Guggenheim Fellow, I committed to write a story on some element covered by the conference. A brief story on an Arizona criminal sentencing debate appears in our April issue (available in hard copy now and online April 1). A longer story on sentencing will appear in an upcoming issue.

More photos are available on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Learning comes in all shapes and sizes. But some of the best is paired with good food, good drink, and great conversation.

This past week, I got to travel to the wintry East for a conference on criminal justice. I wrote before about how I managed to be named a Fellow, which garnered an all-expense-paid learning opportunity. Thank you to the Guggenheim Foundation and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice!

I’ll report later more about the conference and its roster of noteworthy speakers. For our Friday Change of Venue Day, though, I write about the conference’s kickoff session.

Given that the invitees were 26 journalists, it was a stroke of genius to host the first event in a bar.

Pardon me. I meant to say “public house.”

Kennedy’s Restaurant has been on West 57th Street for a generation or more. And that is where we gathered on Sunday evening, Jan. 31. We met for the first time and chatted about stories and story ideas. It was a wonderful event. But none of us knew it would be historic.

What we found out that night was that Kennedy’s was shutting its doors after last call—perhaps forever. Spiraling values in New York City real estate (even in a down economy) had led to a landlord–tenant conflict that could not be resolved. So the restaurant owners made the difficult decision to close up shop rather than pay a suddenly spiking rent.

Our event had been scheduled far in advance. But due to the oddity of circumstances, our kickoff was held alongside people enjoying and reveling in an evening that would signal the end of an era.

Not a bad analogy for journalism, come to think of it.

I took a few poor cell-phone pictures of the great old establishment (see below).

After I got home, I read more about the then-closed Kennedy’s. I was pleased to see it had been mentioned in 2010 by Esquire Magazine. As they described it in their “What Men Eat” offering:

The best Irish pubs in America do not look correct. They don’t look Hibernian or Celtic or some corporate idea of Hibernian or Celtic. They look only vaguely “Irish.” Take Kennedy’s, the closest decent bar to Esquire’s offices. Its stuff on the walls is actual stuff. Its patina is actually aged. The amiability of its bartenders seems genuine enough. And its fish-and-chips tastes and looks like exactly what you’re imagining right now. Exactly. It’s an American–Irish pub that is not trying too hard to be a pub. It just is one.

327 West 57th Street; 212-759-4242

Click here for more on Kennedy’s via Esquire.com (it is number 18 in the slideshow)

Have a great weekend, pub or no pub. And here are the photos.

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Last week, I mentioned in passing that this spring I would be working on a story about criminal sentencing and sentencing reform. I also alluded to what had spurred me to the topic at this time.

Well, that kick in the pants came in the form of an upcoming conference to be held in New York City this coming week. And I am honored to have been invited.

The invite came to me from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (and its Center on Media, Crime and Justice) and the Guggenheim Foundation. They were offering some fellowships (read “all-expenses paid”) to attend the conference. But they asked applicants to write a story pitch that had some connection to the conference topics.

The conference is titled “Law & Disorder: Facing the Legal and Economic Challenges to American Criminal Justice.” The complete program is here.

Given the depth of the conference topic, developing a story idea that complemented it was not the challenge. The hard part was narrowing to a story pitch that would tie to interests of Arizona Attorney Magazine’s readers. The topic had to be timely and relevant.

Thank you to my great Editorial Board, who offered a slew of story ideas, any one of which would be newsworthy. Ultimately, I submitted a pitch on the topic “Courts at the Crossroads of Sentencing Debates.” It relates to the conversation and controversy over “evidence-based sentencing.”

The reviewers must have liked what they read, because I was invited. I now am officially a Guggenheim Fellow – or a “Guggfella,” as a colleague has already dubbed me.

The City University of New York (where the John Jay College is housed) kindly sent out a press release about the event and the fellowships. As it begins:

New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman will lead a prestigious group of speakers, including three senior judges and three district attorneys from around the country,  for discussions on the evolving role of the courts in the U.S. justice system at the Sixth Annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City on Monday, Jan. 31st and Tuesday Feb 1st, 2011.

Judge Lippman will deliver the keynote speech on Jan 31st on the conference theme: “Law & Disorder: Facing the Legal and Economic Challenges to American Criminal Justice”

The Harry F. Guggenheim Symposium is the only national gathering which brings together journalists, legislators, policymakers, scholars and practitioners for candid on-the-record discussions on emerging issues of U.S. criminal justice.  Panel topics this year include: the courts and civil liberties, court overcrowding, gun violence, the impact of the midterm elections on criminal justice, the crisis in family courts, and the use of new technology in crime-fighting and its implication for privacy rights.

Twenty-Six U.S. journalists from print, online and broadcast outlets have been awarded fellowships to attend the conference. The unique fellowships, organized by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ), are aimed at encouraging and promoting top-quality journalism on criminal justice.

The Fellows were selected from a wide pool of applicants based on editors’ recommendations and on investigative reporting projects currently underway or in the planning stage related to the topics explored at the 2011 conference.

Here is a link to the complete release, including the names of all the 26 new Fellows.

I’ll report back after the conference. And I’ll try to keep warm.