Just Debt? Reimagining Fines & Fees in America

featuring CNN Commentator Van Jones

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

Metropolitan Ballroom West, 2nd Floor

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.


Opening Remarks:

Andrew Perlman

Chair, ABA Center for Innovation and Dean, Suffolk University Law School






Prelude Session:

Joanna Weiss
Joanna is an experienced attorney and project manager who joined the Foundation after a varied career in New York City government, where she held legal, operational, and policy positions. Joanna worked in the Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator improving efficiency, transparency, and fairness in administrative courts.

She also served as the chief program officer for the city’s Business Integrity Commission and oversaw the implementation of the city’s first agency-wide cloud-based data management system. Prior to that, she worked in the Office of the Mayor as the executive director of the New Business Acceleration Team, a group dedicated to simplifying and accelerating the process of opening a new business in New York City.

Joanna began her career in the New York City Law Department and served as a senior counsel representing the city in 9/11-related litigation and policy decisions. She holds a J.D. from the George Washington University Law School, an M.A. from the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, and a B.A. in political science from Bryn Mawr College.

Nicole Austin-Hillery
Nicole Austin-Hillery is the first Director and Counsel of The Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C. office which she opened in March 2008. In her role, Ms. Austin-Hillery has overseen the growth and development of the Brennan Center’s advocacy and policy development work in Washington. Ms. Austin-Hillery is the organization’s chief liaison to Congress and the Administration. Her day to day work includes oversight of the Washington office operations and staff, serving as the chief advocate for the Brennan Center on a host of justice and democracy issues and coordinating coalition work with other civil rights, social justice and democracy organizations in Washington. Priority issue areas of Ms. Austin-Hillery’s portfolio include voting rights, racial and criminal justice advocacy and reform, indigent defense and vote restoration for those who have lost the right to vote. She also supports work in the Money and Politics issue area on a limited basis. Ms. Austin-Hillery provides both strategic and advocacy counsel ranging from legislative analysis to policy development. She serves as both a media spokesperson and frequent presenter on Brennan Center issues. Ms. Austin-Hillery has written opinion pieces for several publications including Roll Call, The Root, CNN.Com and BillMoyers.Com and has been a contributing writer to several advocacy publications. Notably, she recently authored a chapter in the American Bar Association’s 2016 volume of America Votes entitled “Voter ID as a Form of Voter Suppression.” She has testified before state and local legislative bodies as well as submitted testimony for Congressional hearings and serves as a frequent speaker on a host of public interest issues.

Hilarie Bass
As Co-President of international law firm Greenberg Traurig and a prolific trial attorney with a highly successful 30-plus year career,
Hilarie Bass is one of the most recognized women attorneys in the United States. Hilarie is currently President-Elect of the American
Bar Association, the world’s largest voluntary professional organization with more than 400,000 members. At Greenberg
Traurig, she helps chart the course for the multi- practice firm with approximately 2,000 attorneys across 38 offices worldwide. She
currently serves on the firm’s Executive Committee and previously served an eight-year term as national chair of its 600-member
litigation department. Hilarie is also the founder and former chair of Greenberg Traurig’s Women’s Initiative.



Chief Justice Maureen O’Conner
In 2010, Ohio elected her Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the first female to lead the judicial branch of Ohio government. In her first term as Chief, she worked to help voters become informed about judicial candidates, ensure that the courts were accessible to all, promoted diversity in the legal profession and judiciary, and created task forces to examine Ohio’s grand jury system and use of the death penalty.

In 2016, Ohio re-elected her Chief Justice for a second – and final – six year term. She continues to work on many initiatives, including two issues of great importance: addressing Ohio’s opiate/heroin epidemic, and as co-chair of the National Task Force on Fees, Fines and Bail Practices, addressing the impact that court fines and bail practices have on economically disadvantaged communities. Chief Justice O’Connor is also President of the Conference of Chief Justices.


Jeffery P. Robinson
Jeff Robinson is a Deputy Legal Director and the Director of the Trone Center for Justice and Equality, which houses the ACLU’s work on criminal and racial justice and reform issues. Since graduating from Harvard Law School in 1981, Jeff has three decades of experience working on these issues. For seven years, he represented indigent clients in state court at The Defender Association and then in federal court at the Federal Public Defender’s Office, both in Seattle. In 1988, Jeff began a 27 year private practice at the Seattle firm of Schroeter, Goldmark & Bender where he represented a broad range of clients in local, state, and federal courts on charges ranging from shoplifting to securities fraud and first degree murder. He has tried over 200 criminal cases to verdict and has tried more than a dozen civil cases representing plaintiffs suing corporate and government entities. Jeff was one of the original members of the John Adams Project, which enabled him to work on the behalf of one of five men held at Guantanamo Bay charged with carrying out the 9-11 attacks.

In addition to being a nationally recognized trial attorney, Jeff is also a respected teacher of trial advocacy. He is a faculty member of the National Criminal Defense College in Macon, Georgia, and has lectured on trial skills all over the United States. He has also spoken nationally to diverse audiences on the role of race in the criminal justice system. He is past President of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a life member and past member of the board of directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Jeff is also an elected fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Karol Mason

Over the course of her long career, John Jay College President Karol V. Mason has been a legal pioneer and an exceptional voice for equality, fairness, and criminal justice reform. She was a leader in the Obama Administration on juvenile justice issues, bail reform and re-entry for individuals leaving prison, and in her distinguished career at Alston & Bird LLP, she was the first African American woman elected as chair of the management committee at any major national firm.

As United States Assistant Attorney General and head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, Mason oversaw an annual budget of $4 billion to support an array of state and local criminal justice agencies, juvenile justice programs, and services for crime victims, and oversaw the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, among a wide range of other efforts.  She led the Department of Justice’s work to address the issue of community trust in the justice system through a variety of programs including the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, a partnership with John Jay College and other academic institutions across the country designed to address bias in the criminal justice system.

Previously, Mason served as Deputy Associate Attorney General from 2009 to 2012.  She led the Office of Justice Programs from June 2013 to January 2017 after being nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  Mason spent almost three decades at Alston & Bird, LLP, where she chaired the Public Finance Group. She was also a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina from 2001 to 2009 and Vice Chair of that Board from 2007 to 2009. Mason received an A.B. in Mathematics from the University of North Carolina, and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.


Closing Remarks:

Jonathan Cole
President, National Conference of Bar Presidents (NCBP)






Lead Sponsors:
ABA Center for Innovation
National Conference of Bar Presidents

ABA Center for Racial and Ethnic Diversity
ABA Criminal Justice Section
ABA Judicial Division
ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice
ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants
ABA Fund for Justice and Education