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The 2018 Florida Bar Criminal Justice Summit: A First Step in Improving Florida’s Criminal Justice System

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The 2018 Florida Bar Criminal Justice Summit: A First Step in Improving Florida’s Criminal Justice System

Imagine state attorneys, public and private defense counsel, policymakers, legislators, and judges meeting in one room to examine key criminal justice issues in Florida that are perplexing, complicated, and sometimes seemingly insurmountable. Now imagine this group reaching consensus on many (not all) issues and leaving the meeting with the motivation and spirit to make a difference in tackling the many issues facing Florida, such as sentencing reform, pretrial release, direct file of juveniles, specialty courts, juvenile sentencing, mental health, conviction integrity, and offender reentry.

Under the leadership of Florida Bar President Michelle R. Suskauer and Steering Committee Chair Hank Coxe,that’s exactly what happened on October 16-17, 2018, in Tampa. The inaugural Florida Bar Criminal Justice Summit was far from a typical Bar meeting or convention. Rather, it was a prototype for those looking for a roadmap for criminal justice innovation in their states.

This unique forum of diverse constituencies started with a Florida Bar survey of state attorneys, public defenders, and other key Florida criminal justice system leaders.Provided with survey results on numerous issues that needed review in Florida, a 15-person steering committee comprised of policymakers, judges, prosecutors, and defense counsel formulated a program that would educate the invited participants to the summit and promote discussion of those issues that need immediate attention in Florida. The members of the steering committee were Judge Michael Andrews (Sixth Circuit), Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), Deborah Brodsky (director, FSU Project on Accountable Justice), Nancy Daniels (public defender (ret.), Second Circuit), Judge David Denkin (Sarasota County), Hank Coxe (Bedell, Dittmar, DeVault, Pillans, & Coxe), R.J. Larizza (state attorney, Seventh Circuit), Martin McDonnell (Law Offices of Martin P. McDonnell), Judge Jon Berkley Morgan (Ninth Circuit), Chelsea Murphy (state director, Right on Crime), Daniel Norby (Executive Office of the Governor), Sal Nuzzo (V.P. of Policy, James Madison Institute), Michelle Suskauer (Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, P.A.), Brian L. Tannebaum (Bast Amron LLP), and Sandy Weinberg (Zuckerman Spaeder LLP).Assisting the process were Florida Bar Executive Director Joshua Doyle and Deputy General Counsel Richard Courtemanche.

Opening Sessions: Day One
Introductory presentations set the tone for the summit, starting with opening remarks by Bar President Suskauer, who emphasized that the purpose was to “find meaningful common-sense criminal justice reform.” Participants laughed when she assured them that she had no intention of locking the doors until a consensus was reached. Next, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady reminded everyone to keep in mind the multifaceted purpose of criminal justice, crime control with due process, and individual liberties for the accused. Steering Committee Chair Coxe then emphasized that summit participants should not surrender their agendas, but rather work to strike a balance. The three introductory presentations set the stage for what was to come.

The keynote speakers focused on data. Presenting first was Dr. Gipsy Escobar, director of research and analytics for Measures for Justice, a Rochester, N.Y.-based organization founded in 2011 “to develop a data-driven set of performance measures to assess and compare the criminal justice process from arrest to post-conviction on a county-by-county basis.”Noting that “we can’t fix what we can’t see,” she explained that data can tell us what works and when and where systems may go wrong unbeknownst to those working in them. Data is a key for finding what areas and patterns need to be reformed.

With a staff of 18 researchers, Measures for Justice collects data that can provide analytics for comparing criminal justice metrics. They collect “information on every person processed throughout the entire criminal justice system,” followed by analysis that focuses on “fair process,” “public safety,” and “fiscal responsibility.”The hope is to compare, share, and act, enabling systemic change. Five states, including Florida, currently participate, with plans for 20 states’ participation by 2020. Measures for Justice has identified significant weaknesses in Florida’s current data collection; for example, the “poor record-keeping practices” of the pretrial diversion program. Florida Senate Bill 1392,which passed in 2018, requires the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) to create a database accessible to the public that can be searched by criteria such as case status, race, ethnicity, citizenship, and sentence. Dr. Escobar explained how the DOC database can improve criminal justice data transparency and described the progress her organization has already made in Florida concerning data structuring and collection. For example, she talked about the use of data fellows to assist with data collection.

The second keynote address also emphasized data. Len Engel, the director of policy and campaigns for the Crime and Justice Institute in Boston, presented a sobering overview of Florida’s prison population and crime trends. He noted that Florida’s DOC had “some of the best data collection and analytic capacity I’ve seen.”

According to Engel, Florida’s imprisonment rate is 23 percent higher than average.Florida’s prison population in 1978 was 21,436; it peaked at over 100,000 in 2010 and remained at 99,974 in 2016.With this increase, DOC funding has doubled in the last 20 years.9

Florida and New York, which are similar in overall population, provide a notable comparison of property crime, violent crime, and general imprisonment rates. Both states have seen their crime rates drop since the late 1980s, yet Florida’s imprisonment rate continued to rise until 2010, while New York saw a “significant and steady” drop in incarceration rates since 2000. Focusing on who Florida is sending to prison, the length of their stays, and the total prison population, Engel explained that although fewer individuals were being sent to prison, the length of their sentences had increased.10 Some in the audience were surprised to learn that Florida’s prisoner population aged 50 or above grew 65 percent in the last decade.11 Equally surprising was Engel’s presentation of research showing that “longer prison stays do not reduce recidivism more than shorter stays.”12 He compared Florida’s data on “drug-free zone enhancements,” “property offenses,” and “mandatory minimum sentences” with that of other states, and concluded with policy takeaways that he hoped will provide future agenda items for Florida’s legislature. Among them, he stressed that alternatives to incarceration should be examined with a focus on whether there is a correlation between the length of a sentence and recidivism. In response to a question, he clarified that the statistics he presented did not focus on racial disparity in sentencing.

Following the data presentation, the summit participants moved to two breakout sessions: sentencing reform and pretrial release. The sessions provided an opportunity to focus on specific concerns and discuss possible recommendations for moving forward.

Pretrial Release
Chelsea Murphy, the Florida state director for the Austin, Texas-based policy group Right on Crime, moderated the Pretrial Release Workshop. Panelists expressed differing views, as did members of their audience. There was a lack of consensus. Some stressed the importance of the presumption of innocence for arrested individuals in the pretrial stage, while others focused on the need to protect the public from future criminal activity.

Rachel Logvin, senior vice president of the Pretrial Justice Institute in Rockville, Md., started with the legal boundaries provided by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Salerno , 481 U.S. 739 (1987).13 She noted that the number of prisoners has exploded since 2000. Additionally, the types of prisoners have also changed, and a far higher percentage of prisoners (two-thirds) since 2000 have been in pretrial detention. The disparate impact on racial minorities was notable, as was the inability of many defendants to pay the amount necessary to secure release. The use of pretrial assessment tools with low- or medium-risk detained individuals was discussed.

Pretrial-related data segued into Third District Court of Appeal Judge Kevin Emas’ reminders about the presumption of innocence and that the purpose of pretrial release is to ensure people show up for court appearances. He posed the question of whether society can do better without adversely affecting court appearance rates and public safety. Judge Emas raised the issue of how implicit bias might affect the bench and identified key questions he suggested the summit report should reflect upon: What is the data we have? Can we collect better data?

Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel of ACLU Florida, reminded listeners that the bedrock principle in the judicial system is a presumption of innocence, as opposed to a system in which people who have not been convicted are simply warehoused. Highlighted here was the difference between those with means and those lacking funds for release. She questioned whether this is “wealth-based detention,” and are we a system that has “poverty-based detention?” She suggested that the effects of drug policy need to be examined when considering the subject of pretrial release.

Tom Palermo, an assistant U.S. attorney in Tampa, noted the difference between the state and federal systems: While state actors operate in a system in which recommendations for bail are made quickly with limited information, there are fewer risks in the federal sphere due to the increased amount of information provided by law enforcement. The need for more and better technology in the state system was a theme that emerged from this presentation and resonated throughout the summit.

The final speaker, Sheriff Mark Hunter of Columbia County, looked at costs, the need to be concerned about revictimizing individuals, and whether the data indicated that the bail system is broken.

At the end of this panel of presentations, the moderator reminded the audience of the role of bail bond persons, bond schedules, and the political structure surrounding this aspect of criminal justice reform. Consensus was not reached on whether the bail system was broken, but many expressed the importance of better pretrial transparency, which may be improved with enhanced technology. In the question-and-answer period following the panel, judges in the room noted the lack of information provided to them in making these critical decisions and the frustration felt when a new prosecutor merely asks the court for a reasonable bail. Finally, Bar President Suskauer challenged the participants in the room to think about alliances, such as between judges and sheriffs, that can work together to improve technology and pretrial information and strike the balance between the presumption of pretrial innocence and maintaining safety in society.

Sentencing Reform
The sentencing reform breakout session also had its moments of disagreement. The panel was moderated by Sal Nuzzo of the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee. Although the conversation may have been tense at various points during the discussion, there appeared to be consensus around reform of nonviolent offender sentences and providing more discretion to judges on what are currently mandatory sentences.

Opening speaker Stacy Scott, public defender for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, talked about the disproportionate number of minorities that make up Florida’s prison population.14 She emphasized the need for sentencing neutrality with regard to gender, race, and economic status. Scott also recommended that, to assist in fighting Florida’s opioid crisis, consideration should be given to reinstating a sentencing downward departure for substance abuse. Judge Nelly Khouzam of the Second District Court of Appeal noted how the judiciary has its hands tied when it comes to enhancements and mandatory minimums. She suggested that if these were relaxed, there could still be accountability for judicial discretion by having judges explain their reasoning for departing from the sentencing guidelines. Appellate review would also provide additional oversight.

A politician being labeled “soft on crime” is an overstated barrier to change according to Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park). He said the key issue is the amount of funding going to the Department of Corrections. He recommended focusing on the current infrastructure’s inability to house and support the present prison population. He thinks Florida should consider putting more resources and policy initiatives behind how it handles nonviolent crimes. Bradley suggested that smaller-scale issues could have a more realistic chance of success and offer improvement to the criminal justice system, since a wholesale dismantling of mandatory minimums, habitual felony offender sentences, or prison release reoffender statutes is unlikely.

William Cervone, state attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, questioned some of the statistical data being used. He noted that, with additional funding, improvements could be made, especially in rural areas, such as the expansion of specialty courts. Finally, Engel from the Crime and Justice Institute noted that, in light of the data, those evaluating the Florida criminal justice process need to rethink the way they approach sentencing and crimes in general.

The necessity for improved transparent data collection was also discussed in the context of sentencing reform. The need for funding was a central theme in the audience discussion, along with the recognition that the criminal justice system is not currently a funding priority of the legislature, and that additional ways to improve should be pursued. Specific suggestions for reform were offered, including obtaining funding through a tax credit for businesses that hire nonviolent offenders, reexamining whether parole should be re-established, and review of those offenses that mandate suspension of the offender’s driver’s license.

Day Two: Keynote Speakers
What better way to start the second day of a summit on criminal justice reform in Florida than an inspiring speech by Nina Morrison, senior state attorney of the Innocence Project, who showed how the state of Texas made a positive change following an exoneration in a wrongful conviction case. Her presentation, “How Exonerations Make the American Criminal Justice System Stronger,” told how Michael Morton was exonerated after the prosecutor violated the discovery mandates dictated by Brady v. Maryland , 373 U.S. 83 (1983).15 The prosecutor later was sentenced to jail for his improper conduct, which included these Brady violations. Texas subsequently passed the Michael Morton Act that was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, a law that provides “for broader discovery and removes barriers for accessing any evidence, except for items that would affect the security of a victim or witness.”16

Morrison also spoke about the rise of conviction integrity units and offered a few areas of reform for Florida, including having a change-in-science basis for post-conviction relief and introducing comprehensive mandatory electronic recording of interrogations. Morrison’s comments also served as a prelude to the later summit workshop focused on conviction integrity.

The luncheon offered a unique interactive training experience, allowing participants to understand the importance of implicit bias in criminal justice reform. Learning to recognize unconscious associations and stereotypes is a key component of implicit bias training. This session opened with an introduction by Immediate Past President of the American Bar Association Hilarie Bass. Judge Bernice B. Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit and Professor Sarah E. Redfield of the University of New Hampshire School of Law provided exercises that made individuals in the room rethink stereotypes and prejudices. The real-world examples provided by the speakers departed from the typical diversity training covered in office programs.

Six workshops were offered throughout the day: direct file of juveniles, specialty courts, juvenile sentencing, mental health, conviction integrity, and offender reentry. These six workshops allowed participants to examine these important areas in a small-group setting. Each session had panelists offering different perspectives with audience participation to consider possible avenues for reform.

Direct File of Juveniles
Professor Paolo Annino, the Glass professor of public interest law at Florida State University’s Public Interest Law Center, moderated the panel on direct file of juveniles. He provided a historical context for the evolution of juvenile removal to adult criminal courts, which served as a backdrop for this panel’s focus on juveniles who are direct filed and, therefore, subject to adult probation, prison, and penalties. The panelists were in two camps: those who would limit or abolish discretionary transfers and those who support discretionary transfers. The heart of the issue, therefore, comes down to whether trial court judges or state attorneys should make the decision to send a child to adult court.

Lily McCarty Gonzalez, of the law firm of McCarty Gonzalez Pavlidis & Whidden, LLC, in Tampa, spoke about the 13th Judicial Circuit’s significant reduction in direct files using methodology from the Miami and Jacksonville areas. Having a select number of prosecutors within the office making the decisions provided a needed consistency in the decision-making process. Collaboration between the Hillsborough public defender’s office and state attorney’s office made sure that fact sheets that included mitigating circumstances were given to the state attorney’s office in a timely manner. An integral component of the reform included the public defender’s office outreach to juveniles and their parents to make them aware of the risks involved in direct file.

Jack Campbell, state attorney of the Second Judicial Circuit, spoke about the internal policies within his own office that allow for a consistent way to handle direct-filed cases. He reviews the decisions made by a committee of attorneys from his office deciding which cases would be recommended for direct file. Advocating for retaining prosecutorial discretion, he noted that prosecutors typically have more information about the case than the judge.

Carlos Martinez, public defender from the 11th Circuit, presented an opposing view, explaining his support for judicial discretion in determining the direct file of juveniles. He noted that California abolished a direct-file statute through the passage of a constitutional amendment. Scott McCoy of The Southern Poverty Law Center provided statistics on the use of direct file and other states’ procedures for determining whether to transfer juveniles to adult court.

Despite the disagreement among the panelists on who should make the decision, there appeared to be some consensus on the need to revisit mandatory direct files, which is currently determined by statute.17 This may be an important area to explore as it removes the ability of both the judiciary and the prosecution to properly assess whether a direct file is needed in an individual child’s case.

Juvenile Sentencing
Immediately following the panel on direct filing of juveniles was a panel on juvenile sentencing moderated by Whitney Untiedt of Miami’s Akerman, LLP. There was significant consensus among the four speakers.

Panelist Brian Berkowitz, of the Department of Juvenile Justice in Tallahassee, opened the program with a brief history of juvenile diversion and civil citation programs. Civil citation programs allow a law enforcement officer to issue a citation that completely avoids the juvenile justice system.18
Sen. Perry Thurston (D-Ft. Lauderdale) talked about the effectiveness of civil citation programs in Broward County. Julianne Holt, public defender for the 13th Judicial Circuit, spoke about the expansion of civil citation programs in Hillsborough County. What started as a single, school-based program became a county-wide program accepted by both the judiciary and law enforcement. Ralph J. Larizza, state attorney for the Seventh Circuit, noted the impediments in getting eligible children to participate in these programs. In Volusia County, his office took over collecting restitution from the Department of Juvenile Justice to increase the number of juveniles eligible to participate in the program. This process allowed them to showcase the benefits of the program. All panelists concurred on the need for consistent implementation of civil citation and diversion programs across Florida. The group also found that a juvenile’s place of residence should not be a factor in whether an eligible offender is able to participate in a successful civil citation program. The statistically proven success of juvenile diversion programs was noted, particularly civil citation programs that avoid the juvenile justice system.19

As with so many of the issues the summit covered, funding was also noted as an important concern. But the panelists provided some cost-effective ways to reduce costs to the criminal justice system. For example, they expressed the need for an individualized approach to juvenile sanctions that deals with juvenile justice proactively as opposed to reactively. Providing services in a community or nonsecure residential setting can reduce costs by lowering recidivism rates.

The panelists also advocated, as important components for success, increased communication and collaboration among stakeholders. Holt told the group how cases were reduced from 7,000 to 2,500 when her office started providing the child with the office contact number. This allowed for questions to be answered and for there to be a method of direct contact. State Attorney Ralph Larizza noted that a way to monitor detentions was needed, since juveniles can be detained for only a limited period of time. In this regard, Holt stated that parents need to be made aware of the options available for their children. A more transparent and collaborative process would offer a more consistent and effective approach.

Specialty Courts
Florida is home to the first problem-solving court with its establishment of a drug court in Miami-Dade County in 1989. A workshop, moderated by Judge Brian Davis of the U.S. Middle District of Florida, looked at Florida’s specialty courts with the aims of considering whether they can be expanded and identifying potential reforms that could enhance these courts.

Judge Reginald Whitehead of the Ninth Circuit discussed the drug courts of Orange and Osceola counties, which “utilize a multidisciplinary team approach to treat eligible and appropriate drug-addicted people involved in the criminal justice system.”20 Using a holistic approach involving teams of social workers, health-care navigators, and others, these courts currently serve approximately 215 and 150 clients, respectively.

Capacity and funding were the key issues highlighted by Public Defender Kathleen Smith from the 20th Circuit’s mental health courts. Judge Augustus Aikens of Leon County discussed the role of the Veteran’s Treatment Court and how it provides a pretrial diversion program to offenders who had “an appropriate discharge status and qualifying program offense.”21 He said that in Leon County, they had looked at other treatment courts and the training those courts had obtained. Finally, Andrew Warren, state attorney from the 13th Circuit, spoke about a specialized juvenile court that focuses on long-term consequences with an aim of preventing a juvenile record from hanging over a child for the rest of his or her life.

A theme throughout the workshop was the lack of available funding to support the required services for a specialty court.22
Some participants spoke about receiving grants and then facing the question of what happens when the grant funding expires. Rural and less populated areas had additional constraints in finding appropriate resources and personnel to handle the responsibilities of their courts. All seemed to agree that there was a need to educate legislators on the benefits of specialty courts and how they could ultimately reduce costs.

Mental Health
Mental-health issues permeate the criminal justice system, especially in pretrial detention in jails and in sentences served in prisons. In a workshop panel moderated by Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen of the UF College of Medicine in Jacksonville, the group explored the drastic growth in the number of Florida prisoners with mental disabilities. A common theme, again, was lack of funding.

Judge Melanie May, of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, noted that Florida ranks 44th nationally in access to health care.23 She provided statistics about the under-resourced system and the dramatic increases in demand for mental-health treatment services in Florida. Many in the audience were surprised to hear that, in Florida, the police use the Baker Act Law24 more than they arrest individuals for robbery, burglary, and grand theft combined. However, the successes of the 11th Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project were also noted, including a decline in the number of inmates. The point was made that it is important to have best practices for handling matters regarding mental-health issues.

Tara Wildes, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, also described how the criminal justice system is failing to address mental illness. She noted that Florida’s criminal justice system needs training, like crisis intervention and mental-health training, for law enforcement. The key, she said, is early intervention and getting the right people in the room to assist. She discussed partnering with nonprofits and community-based programs.

Public Defender Robert Dillinger of the Sixth Circuit also came prepared with statistics that emphasized Florida’s poor funding for mental health. Clients would sometimes wait six to eight months for an initial hearing. He described how children were being “Baker Acted” and the collateral consequences of their carrying this label later in life. Chief Assistant State Attorney Don Horn of the 11th Circuit spoke about the use of a grand jury to issue a report, “Shifting the Focus on Treating Mental Illness: A Common ‘Cents’ Approach.”25 This report offered transparency on the costs involved in the criminal justice system. The panel also discussed the potential for drastically reducing recidivism rates through a jail diversion program.

Offender Reentry
Moderated by Carey Haughwout, public defender for the 15th Circuit, this panel looked at the complex issues facing offenders when they return to their families and communities. Although much of the summit focused on data, this panel centered on access to education and vocational training, as well as assistance with employment and housing, to increase the likelihood of success for individuals released from incarceration. According to the panel, the obstacles to their reintegration into the community can be insurmountable.

John Koufos, national reentry director for Right on Crime, described some of the impediments that inmates face upon reentry. Whether they are overcoming alcoholism or struggling to pay accrued fines and fees, pathways to success are needed. Koufos recounted how he designed the New Jersey Reentry Program — and more recently the Safe Streets Second Chances Program — to assist former inmates in making their transition. Operation New Hope and Ready4Work are other examples of reentry programs, and Kevin Gay, of Ready4Work, described those programs. For example, Operation New Hope provides “training, support, and skills to help you get a job after being incarcerated.”26 He noted that assessment tools are needed to assist those released from incarceration in finding services that would improve their chances for success.

Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Jenkins, retired from the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Florida, spoke about her experiences working with the Middle District’s Reentry Court, a specialty court that allows selected candidates the option of participation. The program takes approximately one year to complete with the incentive of a year of supervised release removed upon successful completion.

Tena Pate, of Tena Pate and Associates, offered her insight from her association with the parole board. She discussed her creation of the Gadsden Reentry Center, a pilot program that works with incarcerated inmates to prepare them for reentry. Current programs often do not provide sufficient time for proper reentry preparation, and lack of funding often precludes additional programming. The final speaker, Sen. Darryl Rouson (R-St. Petersburg) noted how many offenders return to criminal activity and that reentry programs are critical to assuring reduced recidivism.

Conviction Integrity
Brian Tannebaum, of Bast Amron LLP in Miami, served as the moderator for the conviction integrity panel, a forum for discussing how best to achieve conviction accuracy in Florida. Conviction integrity units are relatively new in Florida with a unit up and running in the Fourth Circuit and new ones just starting in the Ninth and 13th circuits. The audience listened closely as Melissa Nelson, state attorney from the Fourth Circuit, spoke about the conviction integrity unit in her office and how they secured funding.

A key issue addressed by several speakers related to procedural barriers in examining innocence cases. Seth Miller, of Florida’s Innocence Project, noted how conviction integrity often involves “reactive” work, but that it is also important to be “proactive” to prevent wrongful convictions from happening in the first place. Professor Barry Scheck’s work on creating a conviction integrity program was referenced.27 Where innocence projects once focused exclusively on using DNA to exonerate the wrongfully convicted, today they are looking beyond DNA into areas such as bad science and jailhouse snitches. Miller said it is important that procedural barriers not be allowed to prevent examination of innocence matters. Maria DeLiberato, of the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel in Temple Terrace, also had on her “wish list” the reduction of procedural impediments, such as access to DNA testing. She further noted the need for better communication between defense counsel and prosecutors.

Lawyer and author Reggie Garcia of Tallahassee offered two important changes needed in the parole and clemency areas. New facts or science not previously available should be allowed in a conviction review. Garcia also advocated for funding to address the backlog of pending clemency cases. He offered the story of an incarcerated individual serving a life sentence, despite his brother’s confession, and the challenges faced by his pro bono counsel in having the conviction and sentence reviewed.

The individual discussions that followed this panel perhaps planted some seeds for change. Prosecutors made connections with other participants to obtain more information about establishing conviction integrity units. Prosecutors and defense counsel were asking questions of each other to learn how best to address procedural stumbling blocks. The goal of communication between different constituencies in the criminal justice system was being achieved.

Next Steps
This two-day summit concluded with a general discussion involving Bar President Suskauer, Steering Committee Chair Coxe, and Sen. Jeff Brandes. Brandes encouraged the Bar to become involved in the criminal justice conversation. He noted that the criminal justice system needs a clear vision and a champion. Much of what was heard was echoed throughout the day — funding, funding, funding. But Brandes also spoke about the need to look at sentencing reform along with some common-sense criminal justice reform. A word he repeated several times was “diversion.” Perhaps this is one of the priorities that should be considered in any “next-step” plans.

The 2018 Florida Criminal Justice Summit was without doubt an impressive first step in recognizing existing challenges and identifying the issues. For those looking for immediate relief, it is unlikely to happen. But for those seeking systemic change in the future, with some immediate small steps, there is now a designated path for proceeding. The Summit Steering Committee will continue to meet and consider specific recommendations. In the next few months a summit report will be drafted and next steps explored. Although there is an overwhelming amount of work to be accomplished, it is important to recognize that the first step has already been taken — getting all sides to meet and discuss some key challenges and comprehensively examine criminal justice in Florida so that reform can become a reality.


1 Past president of The Florida Bar, 2006-2007.

2 The Florida Bar, Results of the Florida Bar Criminal Justice Summit Planning Survey (Oct. 2017).

3 Many of the individuals were selected as representative of constituencies like the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges (Andrews), Florida Conference of County Judges (Denkin), Florida Bar Criminal Procedure Rules Committee (Morgan), Florida Senate (Brandes), Florida Public Defender Association (Daniels), Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association (Larizza), Florida Bar Criminal Justice Section (McDonnell), Governor’s Office (Nordby), Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (Tannebaum), The Florida Bar (Suskauer), and ABA Criminal Justice Section (Weinberg).

4 Measures for Justice, Background, .

5 Gipsy Escobar, keynote address at The Florida Bar Criminal Justice Summit, Measuring Justice, One County at a Time at 2 (Oct. 16, 2018).

6 S.B. 1392, available at .

7 Len Engel, keynote address at The Florida Bar Criminal Justice Summit, Florida’s Prison Landscape: Trends and Outlook at 7 (Oct. 16, 2018).

8 Id. at 5.

9 Id. at 6 (noting the increase from 1.3 billion in 1995-96 to 2.3 billion in 2015-16).

10 Id. at 12-18.

11 Id. at 25.

12 Id. at 31.

13 Upholding the Bail Reform Act’s regulatory function and finding that it did not violate the due process clause.

14 The Sentencing Project, State-by-State Data, Florida, .

15 Holding a violation of due process when the government withholds material evidence favorable to the defendant.

16 S.B. 1611 (Tex. 2013); see also Press Release, Officer of the Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Perry Signs Senate Bill 1611, The Michael Morton Act (May 16, 2013), available at .

17 Fla. Stat. §985.557(2); see also Office of Program Policy Analysis and Gov’t Accountability, Direct File of Children to Adult Court is Decreasing; Better Needed to Assess Sanctions , Report No. 17-06 (March 2017), available at (noting that the percentage of children transferred by mandatory transfer “has increased over the last five years of data” and that 30.8 percent of children transferred in 2015-2016 were mandatory transfers).

18 Rawan Bitar, Are Civil Citations Part of the Answer to Juvenile Justice Reform?, Fla. B. News, Nov. 15, 2018, available at .

19 See Florida Department of Juvenile Justice 2016-17 Civil Citation Comprehensive Accountability Report, available at .

20 Drug Court, Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, .

21 Veteran’s Court, Leon County, .

22 Gary Blankenship , Specialty Courts Work, Fla. B. News, Nov. 15, 2018.

23 See Mental Health America, Inc., The State of Mental Health in America 2018 13, available at .

24 Fla. Stat. §394.451-394.47891.

25 See Miami-Dade County Grand Jury, Shifting the Focus on Treating Mental Illness: A Common “Cents” Approach , Final Report Fall Term 2007 (Aug. 11, 2008), available at

26 See Operation New Hope,

27 See Barry Scheck, Professional and Conviction Integrity Programs: Why We Need Them, Why They Will Work, and Models for Creating Them , 31
Cardozo L. Rev. 2215 (2010).


Photo of Ellen Podgor ELLEN S. PODGOR is the Gary R. Trombley Family White Collar Crime Research Professor and professor of law, Stetson University College of Law. The author thanks law students Jacob Barrett and Mary T. Samarkos for their incredible assistance throughout the summit. The author also thanks Dean Kristen Adams and Stetson University College of Law for allowing this author the time to participate and work on this important initiative.