News Roundup

Former law dean Norman Lefstein dies at age 82

Norman Lefstein, a former dean of Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law, died Thursday at age 82. Lefstein has been described as one of the giants in the legal profession and the architect of the modern indigent defense reform movement. He was a former chair of the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section, its Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and its Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants. He was also a reporter for the second edition of the ABA Criminal Justice Standards relating to the prosecution function, the defense function, providing defense services and guilty pleas. (IU McKinney School of Law, Public Defenders blog, the City-County Observer)

Man who got a life sentence for stealing $50 wins release

An Alabama judge has ordered the release of inmate Alvin Kennard, who served more than 35 years in prison for stealing $50 from a bakery. Kennard was sentenced under a three-strikes law. The state has since changed the law to give judges more discretion in sentencing. (The Washington Post, AL.com)

Houston judges admonished for bail practices

Eleven current and former judges in Harris County, Texas, have been admonished for barring personal release bonds in their courts. Texas’ State Commission on Judicial Conduct said the judges violated an agreement to reform bail practices to favor pretrial, personal recognizance bonds in low-risk cases. Three of the 11 judges are still on the bench. (Law360)

New lawyer’s first clients are El Chapo and Jeffrey Epstein

A recent law grad who responded to a job ad for a Spanish-speaking paralegal got the job. Mariel Colón Miró was surprised to learn that she had been hired to work on the case of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera. When she passed the bar, Guzman asked her to stay on the case as a lawyer. Colón Miró impressed another defense lawyer so much that he hired her to work on Jeffrey Epstein’s case before his death. (New York Magazine)

Paralegal accused of defrauding immigrants

A California paralegal has been charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for allegedly pocketing payments for legal services and filing fees from clients of various immigration law firms. Tanya Garcia, 40, of Whittier, allegedly instructed clients to leave the “pay to” line blank on money orders and checks, then wrote in her own name. Prosecutors allege that Garcia took about $181,000 in all. (Law360, press release)