2008.04.22: Letter to the Editor (Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=10&id=20070

Letter to the Editor
by Brooklyn Eagle (edit@brooklyneagle.net), published online 04-22-2008

Re: “Lisa Schreibersdorf Receives Public Defense Award” by Elizabeth Stull; published Feb. 5, 2008 and Brooklyn Attorney Leads State Association Of Criminal Defense Lawyers” by Elizabeth Stull; published Feb. 13, 2008.

To the editor:

Legal Aid Union Members Protest NYSBA Defense Award to Lisa Schreibersdorf. The undersigned 100 union members at The Legal Aid Society protest the New York State Bar Association’s selection of Lisa Schreibersdorf to receive the Michele S. Maxian Award for Outstanding Public Defense Practitioner.

Maxian, who died in 2006, was a Legal Aid Society attorney who selflessly dedicated her career to strengthening and improving indigent criminal defense.

Because of her efforts, the NYPD was ordered to arraign criminal defendants within 24 hours of arrest. She frequently testified in support of criminal justice reform. And she tenaciously defended the Society against Rudolph Giuliani, who slashed Legal Aid funding in retaliation for a 1994 strike by the Society’s attorneys (Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325) and support staff (1199SEIU).

Yes, Schreibersdorf too once worked at The Legal Aid Society. Unlike Maxian, however, Schreibersdorf and several other of our former colleagues responded to Giuliani’s attack by setting up a nonunion contractor, Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), which successfully bid for millions of dollars cut from the unionized Society.

In this, she was joined by Appellate Advocates (Second Department), Bronx Defenders, Center for Appellate Litigation (First Department), Queens Law Associates, New York County Defenders Association, and Battiste, Aronowsky & Suchow (Staten Island).

Together, these bidders — most of them by former Legal Aid staff members — played the critical role of legitimizing Giuliani’s destructive union-busting and “competitive bidding” in indigent defense. Schreibersdorf sought to whitewash her role by claiming that Giuliani’s policies were good for Legal Aid staff and clients: “Brooklyn Defender Services’ entry into the court system has even lightened the load of the Legal Aid Society’s attorneys who … are overworked and underpaid … [They] are now able to more effectively represent their own clients.”[1]

More candidly, Schreibersdorf admitted, “I don’t have any grudge against Legal Aid … [b]ut. … [t]he city is making this offer and we’re taking it.”[2]

While management at the nonunion contractors has profited, Legal Aid staff and clients have paid the price: deep personnel cuts, sharply-escalating workloads and near-institutional bankruptcy. As the New York Times reported in 2001, Giuliani’s cuts — which by then totaled a cumulative $160 million — had “hobbled” the Society.[3]

In 2006, a report to Chief Judge Judith Kaye reiterated that finding, and concluded that Giuliani’s competitive bidding policy had predictably fragmented and weakened the entire indigent defense system in New York City. It also reported declining conditions for line staff at the nonunion contractors.[4]

Rather than take any responsibility for helping to bring this about, Schreibersdorf disparages her former colleagues: “I left Legal Aid in the mid nineties. In my opinion, it’s not the same place it was.”[5] In 2008, Schreibersdorf has added insult to injury by shamelessly trading on her past connection with the Society. But the honor belongs to Legal Aid staff, who — despite these continuing attacks — have sought to defend the quality of indigent representation that Schreibersdorf and her confederates have helped to undermine.

Please forward this letter to all NYSBA officials.

Signers: (In an individual capacity; no organizational endorsement implied)

Michael Letwin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Azalia Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Eric Megett (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Adrian Lesher (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Steve Kliman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Steve Terry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Fred Pratt (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Steve Sindos (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Estajo Koslow (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Margaret McClean (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn)* Steven Plotkin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)* Gregory C. Williams (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn)* Julie Fry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Daniella Korotzer (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Robyn Lear (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Judith Karpatkin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Noha Arafa (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Ivan Pantoja (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Melissa Kanas (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Marisa Benton (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Femi Disu (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Jeffrey Sugarman (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Dana Cohen (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Joshua Scheier (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Steven Levine (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Susan Litt (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Tara Shakur (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Susan O. Morris (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Matthew Caretto (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Laurie Dick (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Jill Waldman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Brian Hutchinson (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Victoria L. Eby (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Andrea Gordon (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Allison Jordan (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Richard Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Bryan Coakley (Criminal Defense-Queens)* Jacob Rolls (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Raoul Zaltzberg (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Alexander Smith (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Davim Horowitz (Crim. Defense-Manhattan) Bahar Mirhosseini (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Shannon Stallings (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Daniel Moore (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Kathryn Liverani (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Tasha N. Lloyd (Criminal Defense-Bronx) Patricia Gil (Civil-Queens) Margarita Menuar (Civil-Harlem) Keisha A. Godfrey (Criminal Defense-Queens) Bahar Ansari (Juvenile Rights-Bronx) Marla Grossman (Criminal Defense-Queens)* Emily Kane (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Michael Baldwin (Crim. Defense-Manhattan) Dale A. Wilker (Prisoners’ Rights Project)* Sydney O’Hagan (Crim. Defense-Manhattan) Christina Giardino (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Leigh Latimer (Criminal Defense-Queens) Marianne Allegro (Juv. Rights-Manhattan)* Carol Hochberg (Juvenile Rights-Manhattan)* Melissa Loehr (Criminal Defense-Bronx) Bridgett Holloman (Crim. Defense-Brooklyn) Justin L. Haines (Civil-Bronx) Meighan McSherry (Criminal Defense-Bronx) Kristin Bruan (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Florence Morgan (Criminal Defense-Queens)* David Affler (Criminal Defense-Manhattan)* Alison Webster (Criminal Defense-Bronx)* Albert Wall (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Mary Ross (Criminal Defense-Queens) Stephanie Kaplan (Crim. Defense-Manhattan)* Deborah Hill (Criminal Defense-Manhattan) Elizabeth Felber (Criminal Defense-Bronx)* Roslyn Morrison (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Laura Boyd (Criminal Appeals)* Chandra Gomes (Criminal Defense-Queens)* Todd Smith (Juvenile Rights-Brooklyn) E. Grace Park (Juvenile Rights-Brooklyn) Warren Deans (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Michael Taglieri (Criminal Appeals)* Thomas Johnson (Criminal Defense-Queens)* Tara Collins (Criminal Defense-Manhattan) Antoinette Costanzo (Crim. Defense-Manhattan)* Heidi Bota (Criminal Appeals) David Ocasio (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Lucy Herschel, (Criminal Defense-Queens) Rebecca Kurti (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Cory Walker (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) Myra Alcarese (Juvenile Rights-Queens) Norah Bowler (Juvenile Rights-Queens) John Hirsch (Criminal Defense-Manhattan) Lori Masco (Juvenile Rights-Brooklyn) Kerry Elgarten (Criminal Appeals)* Ruthlyn Belnavis (Juvenile Rights-Manhattan) Mily Garcia (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn) W. Joseph Hochberg (Juv. Rights-Brooklyn) Terence Davidson (Criminal Defense-Admin.) Joshua Goldfein (Civil-Homeless Rights)* Amelia McGovern (Crim. Defense-Manhattan)* Richard DiMarco (Crim. Defense-Manhattan)* Lisa Edwards (Civil-Harlem)*

*1994 strike veteran

Notes

1. Affirm. of Lisa Schreibersdorf (July 16, 1996), Legal Aid Society v. NYC, No. 603291-96 (Sup Ct., NY Co.).

2. Goldstein, 12 Bidders Seek to displace Legal Aid; Proposals to be Screened By City Agency by Jan. 17, NYLJ, January 9, 1996.

3. Fritsch & Rohde, For New York City’s Poor, a Lawyer With 1,600 Clients, N.Y. Times, April 9, 2001.

4. Status of Indigent Defense in New York: A Study for Chief Judge Kaye’s Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services, Final Report (The Spangenberg Group, June 16, 2006), at 154.

5. In the Matter of the New York State Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services (May 12, 2005), at 198.

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