By Nicole Foster
People with mental-health disorders and substance-abuse disorders are overrepresented in the criminal-justice system. A recent study by the Vera Institute shows that 14.5% of incarcerated men and 31% of incarcerated women have a serious mental illness, compared with only 5% of the general population. This data illustrates the need for more lawyers with the skills, training, and resources to effectively represent indigent criminal defendants with mental-health disorders.
During this summer’s annual Summer Pro Bono and Public Interest Forum, the Criminal Law & Death Penalty panel will introduce public-interest careers and pro bono opportunities in these often gut-wrenching fields of law. The panel will be moderated by Gwen Washington, a lawyer in the Mental Health Division with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Gwen is an experienced trial lawyer who has litigated every aspect of civil-commitment cases before the D.C. Superior Court’s Commission on Mental Health; she has developed legal strategies for clients facing commitment under the Ervin Act, which provides for the temporary, involuntary hospitalization of certain people with mental illness.
Gwen will moderate the following panelists:
Bridgette Stumpf (NVRDC)
A nationally recognized expert on victims’ rights, Bridgette Stumpf is Executive Director of Network for Victim Recovery of DC, which helps victims of all types of crimes, including sexual assault, intimate-partner violence, and stalking. She has developed NVRDC’s Pro Bono Program, through which trained volunteers represent local crime victims.
Laura Rose (DC Public Defender Service)
Laura Rose is a Mental Health Specialist with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. She has handled involuntary civil-commitment cases in the District for 27 years.
Phil Horton (Arnold & Porter)
A retired partner at Arnold & Porter, Phil Horton is the former head of the firm’s pro bono program and has handled countless pro bono cases, including four death penalty cases. Phil is a member of our board of directors, a past chair and current member of the board of trustees of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, and a member of the ABA’s Military Pro Bono Project Advisory Board.
Emily Gault-Olson (ABA)
Emily Gault-Olson is the Director & Chief Counsel of the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project. As part of her practice, she works with matches interested lawyers with pro bono death-penalty cases. She also oversees the Project’s systemic reform efforts and serves as a national expert on the ABA Guidelines for the Appointment & Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases.
Terry Keeney (U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia)
Terry Keeney has been an Assistant United States Attorney for more than 30 years. The former chief of the Homicide Division, Terry is the prosecutor for Drug Court, which oversees sanction and incentive-based treatment for people with substance abuse disorders requiring at least intensive outpatient treatment.
We hope you will attend the Summer Forum on Wednesday, June 13, from noon to 2:30 at Georgetown Law. The event includes lunch, a keynote presentation by ACLU legal director David Cole, and the opportunity to attend one of six breakout panels, including the criminal law panel. There’s still time to register.
Nicole Foster is a member of the Washington Council of Lawyers Communications Committee.