Transcripts of full meetings of the council.

Good morning. I'm Mingo Stroeber. I'm an attorney in Philadelphia. I spent many years as a public defender. I worked for the Family Court in Philadelphia, and I am a sole practitioner here in the City of Philadelphia largely representing indigent people who are accused of crimes, juvenile delinquency acts, and are engaged in the Dependency Court process. I am here to make public comments in support of the legislation 130851, 2, and 130861.

I became involved in this process last year when it was revealed that the City of Philadelphia was planning to float an RFP to change the way in which indigent people were represented by lawyers in Philadelphia in delinquency, dependency, and criminal cases. As you probably know, normally the Public Defenders Office represents poor people who cannot afford lawyers, but in cases of conflict, there's a cadre of lawyers who are private lawyers who accept court appointments and handle the representation of poor people who cannot afford their own lawyers.

The City's plan was very problematic, in the private Bar's view, and eventually we were thrilled to hear that Councilmen O'Brien and Greenlee were holding hearings to look into this matter. The hearings revealed and all of the people who testified at them testified in opposition to the plan that the City proposed, and I believe that these resolutions come out of that experience.

In courthouses all over the land, we see the words "equal justice under the law." The sad reality is that for poor people, people who cannot afford lawyers, it is not often the case that they actually have equal justice under the law. So it's important that in a situation where the City is planning to dramatically change the way in which people who are poor are represented that City Council be involved in overseeing this, especially when very important constitutional rights are implicated.

So these bills go a large measure to support that. There needs to be oversight. City Council should be letting the public know what is going on with respect to this. There are ABA standards and other standards that we need to ensure are incorporated into any contract that the City engages in when it comes to the representation of the most vulnerable of our citizens.

I would encourage City Council, therefore, to support these bills. I should also add that we do have, as I said, a cadre of lawyers who handle these cases. We do a very good job, but I wish that the City would provide more financial support for this kind of very important representation of our most vulnerable.

Thank you so much.

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