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John Oliver on our underfunded defender system

The Citizen Updates: Letter to Trump, Girls Run, Oxymoron Public Defenders

We follow up on some of 2016’s most talked-about stories

The Citizen Updates: Letter to Trump, Girls Run, Oxymoron Public Defenders

We follow up on some of 2016’s most talked-about stories

Dear President-Elect Trump

Local entrepreneur and state championship high school basketball coach Seth Berger urges the Donald to bridge the nation’s racial divide—as only he can

By Seth Berger

“The irony, Mr. Trump, is that your election represents the best chance our nation has ever had to come together across racial and ethnic lines. Someone from the left could never have attacked bigotry, because their voice would not have resonated as loudly with the people who never supported them in the first place. You alone are the best fit for the job, for this job, in 2016. Only someone openly supported by the KKK, David Duke, and other white supremacists can condemn and defeat bigotry and intolerance.

Mr. Trump, you and I share some things in common. I’m a born and bred New Yorker; I too attended the Wharton School of Business; and I also have had business successes and failures, albeit on a much, much smaller scale than you. We are both highly competitive, and our undying belief in ourselves has probably helped each of us out-kick our coverage.

I did not vote for you, but I placed a small wager on you to win months ago. I knew that your understanding of branding and marketing, and your indefatigable drive, would bring you close to the White House. And I knew that the angry white men who hated watching for eight years as a black man took charge of our nation would seal the deal.

Today is a new day, and I am rooting for you to be the best President we have ever had. I want you to change our nation and our country. I want to vote for you in four years and want you to overwhelmingly win the popular vote, carrying majorities across racial lines like none before you. But your campaign slogans instill both fear and hope in what you may bring for our nation.”

UPDATE: After this story ran in November, Berger went on WURD to talk about race relations in the age of Trump, and the story was picked up by

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Berger says the feedback was overwhelming, particularly from one demographic group: “I heard from many white Republicans who said, ‘You’re onto something, my man,'” he says. “One friend of mine, who would never vote for a Democrat, texted me: ‘I don’t agree with all you said, but I agree with most of it.'” To Berger and Christelle, his African-American wife, such interactions—a type of escape from our own echo chambers—is what progress is all about.

Girls Run The World

Girls On The Run uses running to teach girls confidence, leadership and good health

By Melanie Bavaria

Girls On the Run Philadelphia

“Every Tuesday afternoon and every Saturday morning, rain or shine, a group of girls gathers at Beckett Life Center in North Philly for something both totally simple and totally deep: Running. For some, it’s because they have always wanted to run track; others say it’s because the girls and coaches offer encouragement, when they normally are the victim of bullying. With Girls on the Run, they get both—the exercise of running and the exercise of building life skills.

GOTR is a nation-wide program that uses running to teach 8-13 year old girls how to tackle issues like peer pressure, healthy eating, body image, positivity, bullying, and other issues that girls face every day. It was founded in 1996 in North Carolina and since then has served over 1 million girls nationally through branches in more than 200 locations across the United States and Canada. GOTR Philadelphia started in 2012 and there are now 24 teams serving 300 girls at various schools and community centers throughout the city.”

UPDATE: Since this story ran in April, GOTR held its end of year 5k, a celebration of all the girls’ training, at Memorial Hall. This year, GOTR launched again, in 21 sites, and has served in total 500 girls. The end of semester 5k was held at the Navy Yard in early December.


A State Supreme Court ruling may just be the most important criminal justice reform you haven’t heard of

By David A. Love

pennsylvania public defender, kuren v luzerne county

“For the first time, a court in Pennsylvania found that the clients of public defenders have a right to sue counties for failing to adequately fund their public defender offices.

In Kuren v. Luzerne County, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said: “We recognize for the first time in Pennsylvania a prospective cause of action enabling indigent criminal defendants to prove that the level of funding provided by a county to operate a public defender’s office has left that office incapable of complying with Gideon, creating the likelihood of a systematic, widespread constructive denial of counsel in contravention of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This may be the most important criminal justice reform case you haven’t heard of. “The right to an attorney, even if you are poor, is a bedrock of our justice system,” says Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, who represented [some of] the plaintiffs in the case. “Being charged with a crime can have lifelong consequences. Those consequences are multiplied for poor people, who typically rely on underfunded, overworked public defenders to protect their rights.” “

UPDATE: Since this story ran in October, in New York, a bill that would have the state pay the bill for indigent defense—rather than counties, which pay at varying levels—has passed both houses of the legislature and awaits Gov. Cuomo’s signature. Meanwhile, in recent sessions, Pennsylvania Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, a Republican from Bucks County,  has introduced a bill to establish a state-funded center to provide resources and training to public defenders and other attorneys involved in indigent defense. The center would either be affiliated with a law school or exist as an independent agency.

Header photo: Protests against the election of Donald Trump. By Lorie Shaull, via Flickr.

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