Category: General

Over the past decade media coverage of the problems surrounding indigent defense has been increasing. For example, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently suing the state of Utah for failing to uphold that 6th Amendment which now provides opportunities for government provided criminal defense. The ACLU is claiming that Utah fell short of its obligation to provide attorneys to criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire one. While the merits of the case have yet to be properly sorted out, what is true is that public defenders offices are under much needed scrutiny.

With the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Gideon v. Wainwright decision back in 2013 a flurry of articles were published that highlighted some of the injustices in the public defense system that the Gideon verdict created. The Gideon verdict required states to provide defense attorneys, especially for the poor.

In 2013, a New York Times article by Lincoln Caplan on the anniversary of the Gideon decision summarized several of current problems around the United States regarding public defense. The article highlighted the problems with meeting the requirements of Gideon at the state level where 95 percent of America’s criminal trials take place. The best programs in the United States still struggle to meet the high number of cases that require public defenders. Caplan’s article highlights the Miami public defender’s office which handles far above the American Bar Association’s recommendation of 150 cases per year for a attorney. The demand in Miami has reached 500 cases a year, and has far outpaced the funding for indigent defense. The important distinction the author makes in this article is that not only is financing of public defense an issue, but the general attitude towards the poor the system has created. It is an attitude that Caplan and others describe as “contempt.” (more…)

public+defenderSince the landmark Supreme Court decision Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) every state has developed a system of public defense. The decision guaranteed that those accused of felony offenses are entitled to a lawyer under the rights outlined in the 6th Amendment, which include, the right to a jury trial, a public trial, and pertaining to Gideon, “to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” In the wake of the Gideon decision each state was required to develop a system of public defenders to represent those who did not have a legal counsel, and especially those who could not afford a lawyer. Because of low funding for public defense, and the increasing number of cases filling courtrooms, more states are requiring defendants to pay a fee for their assigned defender—whether they are found guilty or not.

An April 2016 New York Times article Fordham University Law professor John Pfaff, highlights more weaknesses in the public defense world and in the odd funding mechanism. Forty-three states now require defendants to pay for a public defender, even though the only reason they have a public defender in the first place is because they cannot afford a lawyer. The Times article highlights the current policy in South Dakota where a defendant is required to pay $92 dollars an hour regardless of the verdict. The result of this policy is that the defendant might have to pay hundreds of dollars a day to be proven innocent for a crime for which he or she was mistakenly arrested.
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As the author of a book titled The Roots of Coincidence, Arthur Koestler would appreciate the coinky dinks of the past week. First, I finished re-reading Koestler’s two nonfiction works of 20th century European madness, Dialogue with Death and Scum of the Earth. One details the author’s imprisonment by Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War and the other covers his incarceration by the French in the first months of World War II – and both are harrowing.

Second, last week I viewed Trumbo, Spartacus, and the Coen brothers’ latest cinematic opus, Hail, Caesar! Trumbois another Hollywood tale of how the Second Red Scare oppressed the creative caste of Tinsel Town, violated their First Amendment rights and ruined lives of people inherently better than you and I because of their entertainment industry connections or something. The title character of Trumbo was resurrected from Red-baiting ignominy by a screenwriting credit on the Stanley Kubrick sword-and-sandal epic Spartacus, which aired last week on Turner Classic Movies. Hail, Caesar! includes a subplot about bumbling communists in the final days of the Hollywood studio system. Oh, and back to Koestler: His first novel was 1939’s The Gladiators, which also told of the Roman slave revolt led by – readers already are way ahead of me here – Spartacus.

It’s been one of those weeks!

Let’s unpack this, shall we? Koestler noted in the 1965 reissue of The Gladiators that (more…)

Ralph Hauenstein -- Paris 1944

Ralph Hauenstein — Paris 1944

The Acton Institute lost a great friend and staunch supporter on Sunday with the passing of Ralph Hauenstein at the age of 103 years. In a truly remarkable life, Hauenstein was by turns a journalist, a war hero, an entrepreneur, and a major philanthropist. I recall interviewing him at a sold out Acton Lecture Series in 2007 about his history-making espionage experiences as General Dwight Eisenhower’s chief of the Intelligence Branch. He had recently published Intelligence Was My Line: Inside Eisenhower’s Other Command, a book authored with Donald Markle. Hauenstein was one of the first Americans to enter Nazi concentration camps and other parts of liberated Europe in 1945. At that Acton lecture, he recounted his horrific firsthand encounter with the Dachau death camp, the crucial codebook he found at the site of a plane crash in Iceland, and various tactics Eisenhower’s intelligence operatives employed to win the war.

In 2009, I addressed the Hauenstein Center’s Peter Cook Leadership Fellows at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and started the talk this way:

I need to say right at the outset how honored I am to be participating in an event at the Hauenstein Center because of my very high regard for Ralph Hauenstein. He and his wife have been friends just about as long as I’ve been in Grand Rapids, and I don’t know if you’ve gotten to know him … but always something new pops up…. He is a discreet man, a very modest man. You have to kind of drag out of him these little events, and one of these that I found so fascinating is that he was actually at the Second Vatican Council in 1962 or 1963. I’ve forgotten which session he was at. But we were talking about his remembrances of that, for a Catholic that was the notable event in our lifetime…. So to speak under the banner of this Center is a particular honor, and to speak on this topic is a particular honor.

You can read much more about him at the Hauenstein Center site.

In a story on the MLive news site, Hauenstein summed up his life’s philosophy: “Those who are dedicated, who are courageous, who are visionary; those who hold fast to their ideals; those who don’t lose faith — these are the Americans who make a difference, who live good lives of leadership and service.”

If it’s possible to sum up in a single sentence such an exceptional life — one that spanned more than a century — that was Ralph Hauenstein. Requiescat in pace.

Blog author: sstanley
Thursday, October 29, 2015
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Abraham Kuyper

Abraham Kuyper

A major new series is now available: Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. A website from the series publisher, AbrahamKuyper.com, went live today, where you can learn more about Abraham Kuyper, stay up to date on the latest from the Abraham Kuyper Translation Society, and order English translations of his work.

This series is the capstone project of the work of the Abraham Kuyper Translation Society. Never before available in English, these works will introduce a new audience to the thoughts of one of Christianity’s most thoughtful public theologians. Comprised of 8 key works spread over 12 volumes, this series will be made available in both a high-quality hardback edition and an enhanced electronic Logos edition. Jordan J. Ballor, an Acton Institute research fellow, and Melvin Flikkema, an Acton Institute senior advisor, serve as general editors of the series.

In 2011, a group of Abraham Kuyper scholars and experts met to form an association that has come to be known as the Abraham Kuyper Translation Society. Kuyper College and the Acton Institute, along with other partner institutions and Abraham Kuyper scholars, have taken a special interest in facilitating the translation of Abraham Kuyper’s writings into English. Kuyper’s works hold great potential to build intellectual capacity within the church, providing a compelling and constructive public theology to guide the development of a winsome and constructive social witness and cultural engagement.

In order to celebrate the launch of the series, the following offers are available at AbrahamKuyper.com (prices updated to reflect introductory sale prices),

  • Purchase the print edition of the collection for $349.99.
  • Purchase the Logos edition of the collection for $249.99.
  • Purchase the Logos and print editions of the whole collection bundled together for $449.99.
  • Download digital excerpts from the series for free, including Kuyper’s landmark sermon on the church as institute and organism (“Rooted & Grounded”), two university addresses (“Scholarship”), and his essays on common grace in science and art (“Wisdom & Wonder”).

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pope-rainThere has been no document by a world leader that has received more attention this year than Laudato Si.

Three months have passed since Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment, and yet the media coverage and political commentary on it has hardly waned. Here on the Acton PowerBlog, Bruce Edward Walker has been compiling a daily list of links related to news and commentary on the encyclical. To date he has 62 posts with hundreds of links.

As the Associated Press notes, “The document had a rollout unlike any other.”

The encyclical was introduced at the Vatican by a secular climate scientist and a top Orthodox Christian leader, with simultaneous news conferences by Catholic leaders in many countries and the chiming of church bells for emphasis. Francis underscored the importance of the document by sending it to the world’s bishops with a handwritten note.

Yet despite all the hype and effort, few Catholics in the United States are even aware of the encyclical, much less know the Pope’s views on the environment:
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PowerBlog readers will have noticed a strong, and from my point of view justified, negative reaction here to Elise Hilton’s Aug. 11 post titled, “The Lost Girls of Romania: A Nation of Sex Trafficking.” Commenters referred to the post as offensive and poorly researched. As editor with overall responsibility for the PowerBlog, I want to address the many comments we’ve received that take issue with Hilton’s characterization of Romania and Romanian women.

Before we go any further, I want to note that anyone who writes regularly for publication will invariably make errors of fact and error of analysis. In a long career in journalism and other editorial work, I certainly have made my share. The responsibility of the writer and editor is to be accountable to readers and correct the record when needed.

This post missed the mark. It should not have relied on a single Al Jazeera article to make assertions that in Romania “women and girls have virtually no rights.” What’s more, the sweeping generalization that in Romania if women “are not hidden, they are trafficked” is patently untrue. I’ve been to Bucharest, a beautiful European capital, and this statement does not describe what I saw there. I’ve also been blessed to get to know many Romanian families who worship at my Greek Orthodox parish and have found them to be unfailingly kind, hospitable and productive. Romania is an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian culture, but has significant populations of Roman Catholics and Protestants and small numbers of Muslims. As for the Church, Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel has been unequivocal in his condemnation of human trafficking. The following is from a statement he made in 2009: (more…)