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January 22, 2024 From the Chair

Strategic Visioning

Tina Luongo

It has truly been a whirlwind since my last message. Our section has been busy, and we are just getting started! In August we launched the Task Force on Strategic Visioning to collect insights from CJS members, staff, and others to refresh our priorities and chart a vision for the next few years. The Task Force is guided by our consultant Lindsay Hoffman, and, wow, are we in full swing! I’ve appreciated the opportunity to hear from so many of you about what you value most in the Criminal Justice Section and what you hope for in the future.

Your feedback paints a clear picture of CJS as being known for its commitment to intellectual rigor, substantive reflection and dialogue, and action.

You referenced recent achievements that were driven by members who saw a need in the criminal justice field and organized to meet it. You pointed to examples like CJS’s efforts to achieve clemency for 1,715 people in 2014–2017 by working with law firms across the country committing thousands of pro bono hours; the Women in Criminal Justice Task Force’s national listening tour to produce the ABA 10 Principles of Gender Equity; the Plea Bargaining Task Force, whose work generated 18 principles to guide plea practices nationally; and the continuous writing of practice standards that have been essential go-to references for the entire field, in areas from Discovery, Monitors and Monitoring, and Mental Health, to standards on Diversion, the Prosecution Function, Defense Function, and, most recently, standards for Dual Jurisdiction Youth. We’ve also heard about the ways that engaging with the Criminal Justice Section has helped you, our members. We’ve heard about how…… the White Collar Crime Institutes have fueled the national/international expansions of your practices and networks.

“This section is enormously valuable to me. It gave me a national platform, enabled me to have a national practice.”

I saw these networking opportunities firsthand at the Tenth Annual London White Collar Institute in October. This conference attracts international experts from government, large and small defense firms, and regulatory agencies from across the globe to discuss critical issues. What inspired me most of all was how the conference supplied attendees with space for relationship-building and business cultivation. I cannot wait to attend the National White Collar Crime Institute in San Francisco on March 6–8, 2024. Last year’s institute gathered over 1,500 experts in this ever-growing area of our profession. If you are thinking about attending, you should!

committee participation has broadened your perspective and your network.

“CJS put me into new spaces and sparked relationships with people I would never have met, broadening my frame. I’ve met mentors and sponsors who’ve helped elevate my career.”

Over the last few months, I have met with committee leaders and attended virtual and in-person committee meetings to hear about the projects and initiatives they are working on. There are some terrific ideas at work and many of our webinars are cultivated by the ideas shared when members come together. I look forward to seeing our committees continue to grow. If you aren’t on a committee, please visit our website for information on how you can become involved. At November’s Fall Institute in DC, we hosted our first in-person CJS Leadership Convening to discuss ways to improve our policy development, from resolution to ABA House of Delegates approval. Look out for upcoming announcements and articles in this magazine about some of those policies.

CJS offers opportunities to apply your leadership skills and intellectual creativity.

“I remember my first meeting on the Standards Task Force: It was enlivening! I was working in a job I didn’t love, but this … THIS was why I became a lawyer!”

There is nothing like being at a CJS meeting when we are talking about policy and policy standards. The strength of the section comes from our diversity and our ability to bring our differing viewpoints, experiences, and perspectives to the table to hash out policy or discuss the need for reform. Our Fall Institute—“Partnering Across the Aisle and Out of the Box: Criminal Justice Advancement Through Litigation and Innovation”—put our strength on display. The day and a half of free CLE brought together public and private defense attorneys, state and federal prosecutors, academic scholars, and esteemed members of the judiciary to share innovative partnership projects, systemic litigation strategies, and policy reforms that are advancing justice and equity. Our opening plenary featured a timely and critical discussion on the removal of public defenders and prosecutors, and the event closed with the plenary that called on all of us to lead courageously towards eradicating racism and oppression in the criminal legal system. Look out for the information on the Spring 2024 conference in San Diego, where we relaunch our popular forensic and technology conference with a focus on advancements like AI, genealogy, and surveillance.

and how CJS has transformed your careers.

“CJS gave me a lot more confidence in my career. Interacting with members of the judiciary, elected DAs, the defense bar, and people from all over the country who know what they’re doing—I felt confident going into the courtroom and pursuing my current role, after sitting in rooms with everyone at CJS.”

Mentorship is a cornerstone of our section. How many of us have been inspired, coached, and sponsored by someone in the section who has taken the time to pave the way? As we look to the future, we are developing plans to embed this critical professional development tool into our membership model. Even now we are intentional in our recognition that the future leaders of CJS either have recently joined or are coming our way out of law school. We want to hear your ideas on this, and if there is someone you know or work with that you think would be a great addition to our section, please introduce them to us..

We’re also hearing about the ways we need to grow and evolve to better serve our Section’s members and deepen our impact on the field. So far, conversations have touched on the need to turn up the dial on member outreach to help ALL members to feel a sense of belonging here, and ways that we can improve our communications to members and the broader criminal justice field.

We’re still gathering feedback and look forward to sharing the results of our November/December Membership Survey soon.

The future of CJS starts with you. We can only be the “unified voice of criminal justice” if this is a place for all of your voices. I want to encourage all members to join a committee, propose a JustPod topic, conduct an online seminar or webinar, publish an article in one of the many fantastic CJS publications, or simply share an idea when you attend our next conference. We are stronger with you and your involvement.

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Tina Luongo

The Legal Aid Society of New York City

Tina Luongo is the Chief Attorney of the Criminal Defense Practice of The Legal Aid Society of New York City and Chair of the Criminal Justice Section for 2023–24.