The Criminal Practice has long recognized that criminal convictions inexorably lead to varied and severe collateral consequences. In recent times, these consequences – spanning areas including immigration, housing, employment, public benefits, education and family law – have grown even more draconian and inflexible. Indeed, this term, the United States Supreme Court held that a lawyer, to be effective, must provide proper advice on the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction because misadvice can have such catastrophic effects. Undoubtedly, in many cases, the consequence of a conviction can be as prejudicial to the client as the conviction itself. The Criminal Practice has been in the vanguard of providing representation that takes account of the full impact of a criminal conviction.
The ability to provide this wide-ranging representation begins with a solid training foundation. As collateral consequences have become more onerous and omnipresent, exhaustive focus on these consequences became a critical component of both initial and continuing Criminal Practice training. Thus, as part of initial training, the Society’s Civil and Juvenile Rights Practice trainers take new attorneys to the Housing, Immigration, and Family Courts and provide concrete guidance on civil law issues that overlap with criminal practice. There are separate sessions on immigration, parole and probation, housing, employment, health, disability, Family Court, sex offender registration and civil commitment, and sealing. During more than fifteen three-hour small group workshops that are part of initial lawyer training, collateral consequences are extensively addressed in a variety of contexts.
More experienced attorneys are also regularly trained to keep apprised of relevant legal developments involving collateral consequences. Ongoing training and exposure to the ever-growing issues with collateral implications is essential. Both legislatively and judicially, the law that determines the consequences of a criminal conviction is in constant flux.
Training of Criminal Practice attorneys is supplemented with access to experts in the Civil Practice available to consult with, team with or provide referrals to attorneys at the Society across a broad array of practice areas. The Society’s Civil Practice is the preeminent legal service provider of immigration-related legal assistance in New York City, with special expertise on the impact of criminal convictions on immigration status. Recognizing the growing intersection between criminal and immigration law and Congress' expansive definition of what constitutes a “conviction” in the immigration context, the Society has, since 2003, assigned experienced criminal/immigration attorney specialists to the Civil Practice’s Immigration Unit to provide regular immigration training, advice and consultation to attorneys in the Criminal Practice. This resource is also available and frequently utilized by non-Legal Aid defense attorneys throughout the City. These specialists devote the vast majority of their time to advising defense attorneys and their clients of the immigration consequences of criminal case dispositions and guiding criminal defense attorneys to find alternative dispositions to maintain an immigrant client's right to remain in the United States, including making motions to set aside unlawful sentences that have excessive immigration consequences. They ride circuit among the Society’s Criminal Practice offices, and are available by telephone at all times to respond to issues that arise in court. The resources of the Civil Practice’s entire Immigration Law Unit staff are available to provide direct legal assistance to criminal defense clients with immigration-related problems. This may involve representing long-term permanent resident clients before the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement in removal proceedings, in challenges to unlawful immigration detention, or in assisting clients to legalize their status. The resources of the Immigration Law Unit are regularly tapped by criminal defense attorneys who do not themselves have the resources or expertise to address these complicated and rapidly changing immigration issues.
The Criminal Practice provides training, leadership, consultation, and other resources not only to its own staff, but also to individuals and organizations throughout the City’s criminal justice system. These contributions are made in a variety of ways: Criminal Practice staff members serve on the Boards and committees of various legal, bar, and criminal justice organizations throughout the City, including the New York State Bar Association, the New York City Bar Association, County Bar Associations, and the New York State Defenders Association; staff members provide direct consultation to many dozens of bar and other organizations in the criminal justice community; and Criminal Practice staff members participate in training and education of the staff of other criminal defense organizations as well as government agency staff, and community-based, city-wide, State-wide and national organizations.
When the Legislature passed the Drug Law Reform Act of 2009, Criminal Practice staff helped train representatives of approximately 30 organizations, primarily drug treatment programs, on the new Judicial Diversion component of the statute. In addition, the Criminal Practice’s forensic social workers, MICA staff, and Adolescent Intervention and Diversion staff provide ongoing assistance to agencies and individuals throughout the City’s criminal justice, health, and social service communities. The forensic social work staff and MICA attorneys provide trainings once or twice a month to groups as diverse as the Queens County Bar Association, the New York University School of Social Work, Brooklyn Law School, the Brooklyn Mental Health Court, the Department of Correction, the Center for Court Innovation, the Bronx Supreme Court, the Urban Justice Center, National Organization of Forensic Social Workers and the New York City Public Library. Topics covered include mitigation, coping with clients suffering from mental health and other disabilities, suicide prevention, understanding and navigating the criminal justice system, re-entry, and traumatic brain injury. The MICA team alone, in the past two years, has provided over 800 consultations to the staff of other organizations and agencies.
The Criminal Practice conducts special training programs that are open to both Criminal Practice staff and the entire indigent defense and criminal justice communities. For example, at the New York University School of Law, the Criminal Practice presented a training symposium on “Preserving An Issue for Appeal” for 150 lawyers from the Society, various District Attorney offices, other defender organizations, court attorneys, and the private bar. The panel, moderated by NYU Law School Professor Randy Hertz, included the Honorable Robert S. Smith, Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals; the Honorable Angela M. Mazzarelli, Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department; the Honorable James A. Yates, Justice of the Supreme Court, New York County; Leonard Joblove, Chief of the Appeals Bureau of the Kings County District Attorney's Office; and Andrew C. Fine, a Senior Supervising Attorney and Director of Court of Appeals Litigation at the Society's Criminal Appeals Bureau. In addition, the Criminal Practice co-sponsored, with John Jay College's Crime Scene Academy, a two-day symposium on crime scene forensics at the Office of the City Medical Examiner. Many 18-b and other defense provider attorneys attended.
The Criminal Practice co-sponsors and provides CLE credit for all of the educational programs of the New York Criminal Bar Association. Examples of recent programs include an update on the recent forensics report by the National Academy of Sciences and “Everything Defense Counsel Needs to Know about DNA.”