SMU’S DEASON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM CENTER RECEIVES $100K GRANT FROM CHREST FOUNDATION

The Deason Center – October 28, 2020

SMU’S DEASON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM CENTER RECEIVES $100K GRANT FROM CHREST FOUNDATION

Grant will provide general operating funds to support research, including two key projects to expand work in criminal justice reform

DALLAS (SMU) – The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the Chrest Foundation for general operating funds to support prosecution reform research in Dallas County and research the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in rural Texas. Established by Jeff Jensen and Lou Anne King Jensen in 1999, the Chrest Foundation supports the development and adoption of evidence-based policies that are driven by robust data and amplified by advocacy efforts, and is particularly interested in generating and disseminating best practices that can be applied and replicated throughout the country.

“We are very grateful for the Chrest Foundation’s generous support of the Deason Center’s work,” said Dean Jennifer Collins, SMU Dedman School of Law. “This grant will not only help the Center support research into statewide access to counsel in Texas’ criminal cases, but will also promote the study of effective prosecutorial reform policies.”

Specifically, the Deason Center will expand its work in two critical areas:

Local Prosecutorial Reform: After decades of tough-on-crime policies, our criminal justice narrative has shifted to a widely shared view that the current system is untenable, costly, and ineffective. The Deason Center’s partnership with the Dallas District Attorney’s Office explores how new prosecution policies can improve public safety and advance equity in Dallas’ criminal justice system.

The Right to Counsel in Texas’s Small Town, Tribal, and Rural (STAR) Communities: In Texas’ legal deserts – places where attorneys are scarce – the Sixth Amendment’s promise of the right to counsel can be difficult to fulfill. The Deason Center is using quantitative and qualitative methods to determine whether, and to what extent, the establishment of a regional public defender office or a managed assigned counsel program improves access to appointed counsel in criminal cases. At the conclusion of the study, the Center will make concrete recommendations about how to better honor the Sixth Amendment in Texas’ criminal courts.

“The Deason Center brings a stats and stories approach to criminal justice reform. By combining data-driven research with the individual stories of those impacted by the criminal legal system, our Stats and Stories make a compelling case for compassionate criminal justice reform,” said Pamela R. Metzger, Director of the Deason Center. “This funding will significantly expand the Deason Center’s ability to advocate for criminal justice reform in Texas and to develop best practice models for systems across the nation.”

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About The Chrest Foundation

The Chrest Foundation is a private foundation based in Irving, Texas. The Foundation was established by Jeff Jensen and Lou Anne King Jensen in 1999 to share with others some of the financial resources they had been fortunate enough to receive through family related business investments. The word “Chrest” was chosen as the name of the Foundation due to its general meaning of “goodwill.” The Foundation works on the principles of goodwill and friendship in its relations with domestic and international communities.

About the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center

The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law brings a stats and stories approach to criminal justice reform. By collecting, analyzing, and assessing data, the Deason Center identifies criminal justice policy and reform needs. Combining these statistics with the stories of those who live, work and struggle in our criminal justice system, the Deason Center makes a compelling case for smart, compassionate, and sustainable criminal justice reform. The Deason Center helps criminal justice stakeholders develop and implement best practices and supports data-driven criminal justice research that have utility across multiple jurisdictions. Through conferences, symposia, colloquia, roundtables, and working groups, the Deason Center fosters collaborations between scholars, criminal justice researchers and criminal justice stakeholders. The Deason Center also educates SMU students about criminal justice issues and provides students with academic and experiential opportunities to work in criminal justice policy and reform.

About SMU Dedman School of Law

The School of Law at SMU was founded in 1925. It was named Dedman School of Law in 2001 in honor of Dallas benefactors Nancy and Robert H. Dedman, Sr., and their family. SMU Dedman Law enjoys a national and international reputation of distinction. It is among the most competitive law schools in the country for admission, as well as one of the most successful in the placement of its graduates.

NEW DEASON CENTER STAR PUBLICATION, GREENING THE DESERT, IS AVAILABLE NOW

The Deason Center – September 16, 2020

THE DEASON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM CENTER’S NEW STAR PUBLICATION, GREENING THE DESERT, IS AVAILABLE NOW. 

READ GREENING THE DESERT: STRATEGIES & INNOVATIONS TO RECRUIT, TRAIN, AND RETAIN CRIMINAL LAW PRACTITIONERS HERE.

THE DEASON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM CENTER TO HOST AND PUBLISH GREENING THE DESERT, A STAR JUSTICE EVENT AND REPORT, SEPTEMBER 16

The Deason Center – September 8, 2020

THE DEASON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM CENTER TO HOST AND PUBLISH GREENING THE DESERT, A STAR JUSTICE EVENT AND REPORT, SEPTEMBER 16

Free publication and virtual event, Greening the Desert: Strategies and Innovations to Recruit, Train, and Retain Criminal Law Practitioners for STAR Communities

DALLAS (SMU)   SMU Dedman School of Law’s Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center is releasing its new publication, Greening the Desert: Strategies and Innovations to Recruit, Train, and Retain Criminal Law Practitioners for STAR Communities at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 16, 2020.  Coinciding with this publication, the Deason Center is hosting a free webinar at 2:00 p.m. CT on Wednesday, September 16, 2020.

Like their urban counterparts, small, tribal, and rural (STAR) communities deserve fair, compassionate criminal justice systems. But there are few government, non-profit, or educational institutions that focus on the unique challenges that these communities face. STAR challenges of geographic isolation and under-resourced local systems are exacerbated by the lack of experienced criminal law practitioners who can serve these communities. The Deason Center is the only university research center in the nation that focuses its attention on STAR criminal justice systems.

In its Greening the Desert webinar and publication, the Deason Center brings a criminal justice lens to the phenomenon of legal deserts in STAR communities—vast areas with few, if any, practicing attorneys. The publication and webinar will address the distinctive challenges that STAR justice systems face in recruiting and retaining expert criminal law practitioners, and describe strategies and programs designed to address these issues.

The webinar will host leading practitioners and experts who will offer their insights on the creative initiatives that some STAR communities are using to address their legal deserts. The webinar will feature as panelists:

  • Kristen M. Kochekian, Associate at Gillette Law Office, PC, and Rural Attorney Recruitment Program Participant, South Dakota State Bar;
  • Lisa R. Pruitt, Martin Luther King Jr., Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law; and,
  • Ryan Anthony Reid, Attorney Manager, Superior Region, Wisconsin Public Defenders Office.

Professor Pamela Metzger, Director of the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center, will moderate the discussion.

 

WHAT:              “Greening the Desert: Strategies to Recruit, Train, and Retain Criminal Law Practitioners for STAR Communities” hosted by SMU Dedman School of Law’s Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center.

WHEN:              Wednesday, September 16, 2020, at 2:00 PM CT.

WHERE:            Free virtual event, but registration is required to attend.

To learn more about the event or to attend, please click here.

DETAILS:         Free webinar exploring how STAR (small, tribal, and rural) communities can recruit, train, and retain criminal law practitioners. The webinar coincides with the release of the Deason Center’s new publication, Greening the Desert: Strategies and Innovations to Recruit, Train, and Retain Criminal Law Practitioners for STAR Communities. If you’re interested in receiving the Deason Center’s Greening the Desert publication, let us know by completing the form here.

MEDIA:             For related interviews and to confirm attendance/publication details, contact Lynn Dempsey at ldempsey@smu.edu or 214-768-8617.

 

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The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law brings a stats and stories approach to criminal justice reform. By collecting, analyzing, and assessing data, the Deason Center identifies criminal justice policy and reform needs. Combining these statistics with the stories of those who live, work and struggle in our criminal justice system, the Deason Center makes a compelling case for smart, compassionate, and sustainable criminal justice reform. The Deason Center helps criminal justice stakeholders develop and implement best practices and supports data-driven criminal justice research that have utility across multiple jurisdictions. Through conferences, symposia, colloquia, roundtables, and working groups, the Deason Center fosters collaborations between scholars, criminal justice researchers and criminal justice stakeholders. The Deason Center also educates SMU students about criminal justice issues and provides students with academic and experiential opportunities to work in criminal justice policy and reform.

The School of Law at SMU was founded in 1925. It was named Dedman School of Law in 2001 in honor of Dallas benefactors Nancy and Robert H. Dedman, Sr., and their family. SMU Dedman Law enjoys a national and international reputation of distinction. It is among the most competitive law schools in the country for admission, as well as one of the most successful in the placement of its graduates.

SMU’S DEASON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM CENTER RECEIVES $26K GRANT FROM TEXAS BAR FOUNDATION

The Deason Center – May 18, 2020

SMU’s Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center Receives $26K Grant from Texas Bar Foundation
Grant will fund research to improve access to counsel for impoverished defendants in rural Texas.

DALLAS (SMU) – The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law was awarded a $26,890 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation to fund research to improve access to counsel for impoverished defendants in rural Texas. Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $21 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably-funded bar foundation.

“We are grateful for the Texas Bar Foundation’s generous support of the Deason Center’s work,” said Jennifer Collins, Dean of SMU Dedman School of Law. “This grant will not only encourage and promote legal assistance to poor and disadvantaged people, but it will strengthen the administration of justice and produce important legal research.”

Currently, only 37 of Texas’ 254 counties use a local or regional public defender office to provide the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Three counties use ‘Managed Assigned Counsel’ (“MAC”) programs, which oversee and manage the assigned counsel system. Texas’ remaining 214 counties rely exclusively on the appointment of individual attorneys. Research shows that rural counties in Texas often have few lawyers – 90% of Texas attorneys are located in the state’s ten largest metropolitan areas, while 45 counties have fewer than four lawyers and six rural counties have no registered attorneys at all.

“Rural counties in Texas are legal deserts,” said Dr. Andrew Davies, Director of Research at the Deason Center. “With so few lawyers, it can be challenging to locate appointed counsel to provide eligible criminal defendants with their constitutional right to counsel.”  Preliminary research by Dr. Davies has demonstrated that in urban Texas counties, 39% of misdemeanor defendants were represented by appointed counsel. In contrast, just 25% of misdemeanor defendants in rural counties received the assistance of appointed counsel.

Through the funding of this project, the Deason Center will:

  • look at changes in rates of appointment of counsel within counties over time, and assess whether use of a MAC or a defender office caused those rates to change;
  • conduct a qualitative investigation of how rural areas provide counsel to indigent defendants; and
  • interview justice-system officials in strategically selected counties, asking them about challenges they face in supplying indigent defense services.

“Research indicates rural counties may be able to do something about this injustice,” said Pamela R. Metzger, Director of the Deason Center. “The funding of this project will significantly expand upon Dr. Davies’ statistical work and the Deason Center’s commitment to access to justice for all.”

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The School of Law at SMU was founded in 1925.  It was named Dedman School of Law in 2001 in honor of Dallas benefactors Nancy and Robert H. Dedman, Sr., and their family.  SMU Dedman Law enjoys a national and international reputation of distinction.  It is among the most competitive law schools in the country for admission, as well as one of the most successful in the placement of its graduates.

The Texas Bar Foundation solicits charitable contributions and provides funding to enhance the rule of law and the system of justice in Texas, especially for programs that relate to the administration of justice; ethics in the legal profession; legal assistance for the needy; the encouragement of legal research, publications and forums; and the education of the public.

AS COVID-19 HITS JAILS AND PRISONS, TEXAS INMATES CALL FOR ACTION

Dallas Observer – April 28, 2020

As COVID-19 Hits Jails and Prisons, Texas Inmates Call for Action

Professor Metzger warns against taking a “business as usual” approach to law enforcement during the pandemic. She explains her opposition to Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order banning the release of those accused or convicted of an offense that involves violence or a threat of violence. In her words, “an arrest should not be a death sentence.” Yet, Gov. Abbott’s order ties the hands of local officials and presents a threat to public health and safety.  READ MORE

LISTEN AS DR. ANDREW DAVIES DISCUSSES STAR INDIGENT DEFENSE: GIDEON IN THE DESERT

Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center – May 5, 2020

Listen as the Deason Center’s Director of Research, Dr. Andrew Davies, discusses his article, Gideon in the Desert: An Empirical Study of Providing Counsel to Criminal Defendants in Rural Places on the Ipse Dixit podcast.

Dr. Andrew Davies, Director of Research, describes his recent research into differences in access to appointed counsel in rural and urban areas. As he identifies the characteristics of rural counties that provide assigned counsel at higher rates, Dr. Davies explains his conclusions and places them in a constitutional context. LISTEN HERE

U.S. FIFTH CIRCUIT DENIES ABSOLUTE IMMUNITY TO DISTRICT ATTORNEYS WHO ISSUE FAKE SUBPOENAS

Bloomberg – April 21, 2020

The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court ruling denying absolute immunity to district attorneys who issue fake subpoenas. Professor Pamela Metzger, Director of the Deason Center, was one of several law professors who submitted an amicus brief arguing that the New Orleans District Attorney’s Offices should face legal consequences for engaging in the abusive and unlawful practice of “serving” crime victims with fabricated subpoenas.


PROFESSOR METZGER JOINS PROMINENT ADVOCATES IN A LETTER URGING GOV. GREG ABBOTT TO RESCIND EO-13

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – April 21, 2020

Deason Center’s Director, Professor Metzger, joined the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Due Process Institute, and other prominent advocates in a letter urging Gov. Greg Abbott  to rescind EO-13 and restore constitutional protections to people who are incarcerated during the Covid-19 pandemic.


LISTEN AS PROFESSOR METZGER MODERATES AN EXPERT DISCUSSION ON COVID-19: LESSONS FROM PAST DISASTERS

Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center – April 10, 2020

Listen as Professor Metzger moderates an expert discussion on Covid-19: Lessons from Past Disasters, Hurricane Katrina & More.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, the criminal justice system faced similar challenges in the past.  LISTEN HERE

ACLU OF LOUISIANA SOUNDS ALARM OVER EXECUTIVE ORDER CURBING DUE PROCESS

ACLU of Louisiana – March 18, 2020

Is COVID-19 the new Katrina? Professor Pamela R. Metzger of the Deason Center joins the ACLU of LA in warning of post-Katrina-like breakdown of the legal system with wrongly accused stuck in legal limbo

Professor Metzger of the Deason CJRC and the ACLU of LA expressed grave concerns about measures contained in Governor John Bel Edwards’ executive order that would suspend legal deadlines for district attorneys to file charges against people who are held in jail.

In a letter to the governor and the Louisiana Supreme Court, the organization asserted the move presents a “grave threat to fundamental civil rights” that would undermine public health and leave thousands of presumably innocent Louisianans to languish in jail in legal limbo. READ MORE