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American Judges Association Conference

The American Judges Association (AJA) is holding its mid-year Conference in Arlington, VA from April 27-30, 2017. On Friday April 28 from 9:00 — 10:15am, there will be a panel titled: "First Shot at Justice: The Power of Legal Representation at the First Appearance." Over six out of ten people in jail are awaiting trial, and nine out of ten are there because they haven't posted bail. We know that when people are held in jail pretrial, they are four times more likely to get a jail sentence and three times more likely to go to prison. Our courts are focused on case resolution, yet in order to have legitimate and fair resolutions, people charged with crimes, no matter the severity, must have counsel from the very beginning of the case. A study by the Baltimore City Lawyers at Bail Project showed that a person charged with a misdemeanor or non-violent crime who has access to counsel at the first appearance is two and a half times more likely to be released when than those without counsel.

Moderated by Kim Ball, the Director of the Justice Programs Office at American University, this panel will feature Brian MacKenzie, former judge for the 52nd District Court in Michigan; George Grasso, Supervising Judge of Bronx County Criminal Court; and Jo-Ann Wallace, President and CEO of National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA). The session will explore the importance of the right to counsel at the first appearance in reducing mass incarceration, its financial toll, and its collateral consequences on the accused. The panelists will compare systems that provide legal representation at the first appearance to systems that don't, and highlight research and data from the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office implementing early appointment of counsel through the Smart Defense program.

Check out AJA's website at for more updates on this converence!