Monday, March 11, 2013 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — A man exonerated for murder, a documentary filmmaker, a mother who desperately tried to get help for her mentally ill son and a veteran journalist will join city leaders and experts in public safety, health and the law for a day of frank and provocative discussion at the Public Defender’s 2013 Justice Summit on March 19 at San Francisco Main Library.
The summit, GIDEON AT 50: THE ROAD TO EQUAL JUSTICE will be held in the library’s Koret Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free, but seating is limited. All attendees must register at sfpublicdefender.org.
The Justice Summit is the premier criminal justice conference on the West Coast. This year’s event marks the 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark Supreme Court decision that guaranteed public defenders to poor people accused of crimes. Journalist Karen Houppert, author of Chasing Gideon: The Elusive Quest for Poor People’s Justice, will be the keynote speaker.
The day’s panels focus on the state of criminal justice for the poor, whether constitutional rights can coexist with forced treatment such as the Chronic Inebriate Court and Laura’s Law and reform of the commercial bail system.
“We have gathered an incredibly diverse and talented group of people to ask some of the toughest, most important questions,” said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “What steps must we take to realize our promise of justice for all? How can we care for the welfare of people suffering from mental illness or alcoholism while still respecting their rights? Does the bail system unfairly punish the poor?”
The first panel of the day, The Elusive Quest for Poor People’s Justice, is moderated by Adachi and features Houppert; filmmaker Dawn Porter, director of the Sundance Award winning documentary Gideon’s Army; Maurice Caldwell, who was released after serving more than 20 years for a San Francisco murder he did not commit; Linda Starr, co-founder of the Northern California Innocence Project, which helped exonerate Caldwell; James Brosnahan, senior partner at Morrison-Foerster, who will discuss the poor’s right to counsel in civil cases; and Jonathan Rapping, founder of Gideon’s Promise, an organization dedicated to improving indigent defense.
The second morning panel, Forced Treatment and Constitutional Rights, moderated by San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz, features San Francisco Chief of Police Greg Suhr; Candy DeWitt, who became an advocate of Laura’s Law after finding it impossible to get treatment for her mentally ill son; Deni McLagan, who administers San Diego’s successful Serial Inebriate Program; Kara Chien, manager of the Public Defender’s Mental Health Unit; Dr. David Kan, substance abuse expert; and Dr. Gary Tsai, psychiatrist.
The final panel of the day, The Price of Liberty: Reforming the Bail System, moderated by Public Defender Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez, includes San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi; Barry Pearlstein, past president of the California Bail Agents Association; Catherine McCracken, director of policy and development for the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice; Will Leong, CEO, San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project; and Jonathan Simon, professor of law, UC Berkeley.
The Justice Summit is co-sponsored by Keker & Van Nest, the Bar Association of San Francisco, Farella, Braun & Martel, and Morrison & Foerster LLP.
To register to attend this free event and for information on additional speakers, please go to sfpublicdefender.org.