You Be the Judge

Judge (insert your last name here), John Doe pleaded guilty last week to breaking into his neighbor’s car and is ready for sentencing.  Judge, what is your sentence?  If you decided to place Mr. Doe on probation or sentenced him to anything less than life imprisonment, then your community is now faced with the same challenges that every community faces on a daily basis.

Regardless of what you believe about sentencing, most individuals who commit crimes will either be placed on probation or released at some point after their imprisonment.  So Judge, how do you best protect the community?  How do you hold Mr. Doe accountable and give him a second chance?  How do you ensure that he has a real opportunity to succeed so that there are no more victims?  How do you wisely spend the limited tax dollars available?  Before we try to answer these extremely complicated, nuanced questions, let’s take a step back and look at the problem from a bird’s eye view.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 4,650,900 adults, or 1 in 53 adults, under community supervision at the end of 2015.1  Additionally, 67.8% of released prisoners in 2005 from 30 states were arrested for a new crime within 3 years and 76.6% were arrested within 5 years.2  If you are like me, then you think that these figures are unacceptable and that it is our responsibility to do everything within our power to prepare those under community supervision for the challenges ahead.  If we do nothing and keep the status quo, there will be new victims, the ugly cycle of recidivism will continue, our budgets will soar out of control, and the rehabilitation of those under community supervision likely will not occur.

While I do not have all of the answers, I suggest that we reimagine the criminal justice system and consider operating like other social service industries.  Take for example the health care industry.  Why not look there for possible solutions and consider using the technologies doctors and dentists use on a daily basis to run their practices in the criminal justice system?

Assume for a moment that you have a cold and that you schedule an appointment with the doctor next Wednesday.  What are the chances that you are going to show up for that appointment?  Very high, because shortly after you hung up the phone, you probably received a calendaring notification from the doctor’s office that you placed on your smartphone.  You also probably received a text and/or email the day before to remind you of the appointment.  Now assume that after your visit with the doctor, you were referred to a specialist.  Your information would likely be transmitted electronically to the specialist so that your arrival the next week would be expected and documented.  The use of technology in the healthcare model has drastically improved the coordination of services necessary for all of us to get healthy.  And your health is a benefit to you, your family and our community as a whole.  So what would the criminal justice system look like if we followed this health care model and utilized similar technologies?  I hope to answer this question soon.

Over the past few years, we have been working with our criminal justice partners and various technology companies to develop a fully integrated case management system with a complimentary communications platform to improve the likelihood of success.  When I place a probationer under one of our Smart Supervision programs, his/her personal information is electronically transferred from the Clerk of Court into a case management system. The Smart Probationer is then assessed by a licensed professional to determine his/her individual needs.  The Smart Probationer is then required to place an “app” on his/her smartphone, which provides the probationer with easy access to important information, including a calendar, phone numbers, group class schedules, and a geomap that plots services available throughout the community.  All of this information is web-based so that the Smart Probationer can access this critical information even if something goes wrong with his/her smartphone.

We also built a website, which contains a careers page for potential employers and a legal aid page for lawyers willing to volunteer to handle any of the collateral consequences a Smart Probationer may face.  Further, we have implemented a communications platform that allows the Smart Supervision Team, which includes the Judge, Prosecutor, Defense Attorney, Probation Officer(s), Social Workers(s), Counselor(s), Minute Clerk and other law enforcement, to communicate with one another in real time so that we can be more responsive to the needs of the individual, hopefully before it is too late.  This Smart Supervision model promotes efficiency and helps eliminate error.  We also hope to soon place the Smart Probationers within this smartphone ecosystem (with the proper permissions, of course) and implement a videoconferencing platform.

While the proposition of eliminating crime in its totality is impossible, the Smart Supervision Programs aim to change the existing model and use technology to improve public safety and drastically reduce recidivism.

Hon. Scott U. Schlegel
District Court Judge, Division “D”
24th Judicial District Court
200 Derbigny Street, Suite 5400
Gretna, Louisiana  70053
Phone:  504-364-3876
Fax:  504-364-3418


Introducing the ABA Center for Innovation Blog

By Dean Andrew Perlman, Chair, ABA Center for Innovation

As the chair of the ABA Center for Innovation, I am delighted to announce the launch of the Center’s new blog.  This blog will offer a place for the Center’s council members, staff, special advisors, and other guests to share their thoughts on the changing nature of legal services delivery.  If you have content that you would like to contribute, please contact the Center’s managing director, Janet Jackson.  With appropriate permission, you are welcome to republish content that has appeared elsewhere.

We hope you will enjoy reading this blog and sharing your thoughts with us.

Just Debt: Reimagining Fines and Fees in America – Moderated by Van Jones

You won’t want to miss a special Thursday evening program brought to you by the ABA Center for Innovation and the National Conference of Bar Presidents, featuring CNN Commentator Van Jones. While many now know the damaging effects—job loss, housing loss, license suspensions, and even imprisonment—fines and fees can have, Just Debt? Reimagining Fines & Fees in America focuses on the critical question: How can we create a more just and reliable system? This program will tackle tough questions about and explore opportunities for fines and fees innovation, justice system funding, and procedural improvements. This is sure to be one of the highlights of the ABA Annual Meeting.


Thursday, August 10, 2017
5:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Sheraton New York
Times Square

Metropolitan Ballroom West, 2nd Floor


For more information.

Call for Submissions – Clearinghouse on Innovation

The ABA Center for Innovation seeks to find and catalog the myriad innovations occurring in the legal world.  By learning and sharing what innovations are occurring, we can prevent duplication of effort and connect like minded individuals. It will also help lawyers to learn about the possibilities available to them to expand and improve their practice.

But to do this, we need your help!

We have an online submission form for the public to tell us about innovations that they are seeing in the legal world.  Self nominations are okay and encouraged!

ABA Annual Spotlight Program – Call for proposals

The ABA Center for Innovation is accepting proposals for its Spotlight event at the ABA Annual Meeting in New York City on August 12, 2017. The Center will select 10 speakers, who will each deliver a crisp, high-level, 8-minute TED-style talk to an elite audience about a legal innovation. Applicants may submit any legal innovation, including those that are civil or criminal, technological or process-driven, individual or systemic, implemented or in the planning stages.

Please submit by May 15, 2017 a short (500 words or less) description of your legal innovation to Descriptions should include the following:

  • Your name and your organization’s name
  • The problem your innovation seeks to address
  • How your innovation addresses the problem
  • What your innovation’s impact will be
  • Obstacles you’ve overcome

Optional: You may include a link to your website or a short (maximum 90 seconds) video about your legal innovation.

The ABA Center for Innovation will evaluate proposals using the following criteria:

  • The problem’s severity and complexity
  • The solution’s effectiveness and efficiency
  • Creativity
  • Replicability
  • Speaker diversity

Innovations can relate to any part of the legal industry, including but not limited to corporate legal departments, legal services organizations, legal education, bar associations, law firms, and courts.

Cisco Supports Tech Effort to Help Hate Crime Victims

From Mark Chandler, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Cisco and member of the Center for Innovation’s Governing Council:

Recently I had the chance to see how smart technology, applied to vexing social problems, can help provide solutions and build a better world. Working with the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation (ABA), we’re deeply engaged in an effort to create a better path for those who believe they’ve been victimized by a hate crime to find out whether a crime has been committed, what rights they have, and where to get help.

One of the reasons that after 20 years at Cisco I’m still excited to jump out of bed and start work every day is because we have a community and culture that is inclusive and protects and defends those who elsewhere in society may be marginalized or victimized. We’ve always emphasized the importance of celebrating difference and zero tolerance toward those who would undermine that culture. Those aspirations, while largely fulfilled in my company, are often more challenging in the society at large. Some subcultures even encourage words and actions that are designed to intimidate and spread fear, so that others are denied to chance to live in peace and freedom in our society.

For historical reasons, our legal community has built up a set of rules and practices that make it too hard for ordinary folks to vindicate their legal rights. Organizations as diverse as the FBI and UC Berkeley have done a great job at providing online information resources to help hate crimes victims learn what to do. The information tends to be specialized, however,or not directly actionable.

The ABA has seen that victims are frequently discouraged from taking action because of the multiple steps required. People are used to using clean, highly designed apps in their daily lives and the Center for Innovation’s working group sought to develop a clearly organized and user-friendly website application to determine if a hate crime had been committed, what resources are available and what next steps a victim could take with law enforcement and within the judicial system.

The ABA’s “design sprint” convened lawyers, scholars, designers, and coders for a daylong working session at Suffolk University in Boston, whose Dean, Andrew Perlman, leads the ABA Center for Innovation. The challenge was to develop a website application that gives those who think they have been victims of hate crimes the information and resources they need.

Cisco was a sponsor of the event and I was proud be there and witness first-hand the incredible challenges we can tackle by working together. At Cisco we’ve always believed in the power of the networking technology we invent and build to break down barriers to information. We strive to deploy that technology to empower the disempowered to build bridges.

We applaud the foresight of the ABA for establishing its Center for Innovation and tackling tough issues like this one.

ABA Center for Innovation Investment Grows

ABA President Linda Klein today announced the great fundraising success of the new ABA Center for Innovation. To date, $576,000 has been raised to support the work of the Center and its programs.

Commitments include:

1. Northwestern Pritzker School of Law has agreed to sponsor a Next Gen Fellow ($75,000) at the ABA Center for Innovation to support the work of a recent Northwestern graduate who seeks to pursue a legal innovation.

2. The State of North Carolina, in partnership with the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts and the North Carolina Bar Association, has agreed to sponsor an Innovation Fellow ($40,000) at the ABA Center for Innovation to help North Carolina develop its own Center for Innovation in accordance with the recommendations of the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice. The NCCALJ was created in September of 2015 by Chief Justice Mark Martin.

3. The Section of Criminal Justice has committed to fund $100K this year and $100,000 in each of the two following years for a total of $300,000 to support the ABA Center for Innovation, in accordance with the Center’s business plan, and will have a Fellow in each of the three years of sponsorship.

4. American University Washington School of Law has committed to sponsor a Next Gen Fellow ($75,000) at the Center for Innovation to support the work of a Washington College of Law graduate who wants to pursue a legal services innovation.

5. Suffolk University Law School will sponsor a NextGen Fellow ($75,000) to support the work of a graduate who wants to pursue a legal services innovation.