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ArchCity Defenders at St. Lucas UCC

Monday, February 6


 

 

ArchCity Defenders

HEARD OF THEM??

Meet Thomas Harvey,
co-founder of ArchCity Defenders.

He will introduce Arch City, 
discuss how they began,
their successes and
their plans for the future. 

St Lucas UCC
11725 Denny Road
314-843-2100

Monday, February 6, 7:00 pm

Mark your calendar
Come, listen and join the discussion!

ENGAGE!

ArchCity Defenders (ACD) is a 501(c)3 non-profit civil rights law firm providing holistic legal advocacy and combating the criminalization of poverty and state violence against poor people and people of color.  ACD uses direct services, impact litigation, and policy and media advocacy as its primary tools to promote justice, protect civil and human rights, and bring about systemic change on behalf of the poor and communities of color directly impacted by the abuses of the legal system.

See ArchCity Defenders web site

Download ArchCity flier to post. Thank you!

Event sponsored by
St Lucas Social Justice Committee

 

Report on the February 6 presentation
by Donovan Larson

Wendy Werner of ACD board of directors presented an overview of their work to 25 attendees. Wendy told us that ACD began as a project of two newly graduated SLU law school students. They modeled themselves after a similar NYC group called the Bronx Defenders. They are supported by several philanthropic and religious groups, as well as several law firms.


ACD saw that no legal help was available to poor and homeless people regarding criminal contests.
The Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (an independent and non-profit group) provides what support they can to low-income people with civil issues. The Public Defender’s office (a State agency) provides criminal advice to poor people charged with serious crimes (to qualify, must earn minimum wage, own no car, work 25 hours / week or less). Missouri is 49th in public defender funding. Thank you Mississippi.


So ACD began to provide advice on tenant issues, traffic arrests, child support and abuse issues. They found that many problems originated from one initial problem that could not be resolved due to poverty, such as failing to pay a traffic fine. Often their help included connecting clients with other agencies that could help solve parallel problems. For example, an outstanding arrest warrant for an unpaid traffic fine kept a lease from being signed or being hired for a job.


ACD also organized law students to sit in on court sessions in many municipalities to witness how rules unnecessarily punished the poor. They documented their findings, and released their report several days after the Michael Brown shooting. Among other facts, it stated that municipal courts in Saint Louis collected over two times the fines and fees that were collected by STL City and STL County courts combined.
The report drew the attention of the US Attorney General’s office and the State Legislature. To date, the State has passed one new law related to the report; it limits the amount of city revenue that can be drawn from court fines.


A problem with funding the ACD is that many funding organizations want to spend money to create changes in the court system, while ACD also wants to continue to serve the poor and homeless by representing their individual cases. The recent Ferguson settlement of $4.7 million will help ACD increase staff and thus their outreach.


Upcoming concerns are that the US Justice Department may pull back its support of court reform. Going forward, ACD will spend more resources on housing issues, since that provides the best return on investment. ACD will also begin encouraging new lawyers to spend their first two years of practice at ACD as a service to the community.