Sixth Amendment Disparities in Delaware Criminal Courts, Part Three



Part Three of The Sixth Amendment Center’s recent report discusses issues of accountability in Delaware’s Criminal Court, which greatly impact minority communities because people of color are involved in the system at a much higher rate than non-minorities.  Delaware’s system does not have dedicated training and supervision for the lawyers representing indigent defendants.  As a result, the defendants do not have adequate representation or advocacy from their public defense attorneys.  For example, oftentimes public defenders only investigate their most serious cases.  Also, the norm in the Delaware Criminal Court is for public defenders to enter guilty pleas for their clients, even though they only meet the vast majority of the clients minutes before the hearing begins.

Those inefficient standards could be addressed by implementing a system of accountability.  That system would need to assess the both the individual attorneys’ practices, as well as the effects of the overall system.  Delaware currently has no monitoring system in place to identify areas of need.  In fact, this report performs the function that the Delaware Criminal Court needs to implement internally when it comes to identifying gaps in the system, overall deficiencies, and overarching problems preventing public defenders from efficiently representing their clients.

The report presents the following overall recommendations:

  • Implement effective ethical screening to promote a cohesiveness among the various areas within the public defense system
  • Making it so that children in Family Court are not allowed to waive their right to counsel
  • Establishing a systematic effort to appoint counsel to indigent defendants as soon as possible and to put in place a system of vertical representation
  • Require standards of adequate representation for clients by training attorneys and monitoring the system’s progress on an ongoing basis


Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School



California Reduces Number of Out of School Suspensions for White and Nonwhite Students



A new study by the UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies finds that between 2011 and 2013, the number of out of school suspensions (OSS) has gone down for all students in California. The rate of reduction in these suspensions was nearly 3 in 100 fewer suspensions over the two-year period, with Black students having the greatest reduction (between 11 and nearly 22 in 100 fewer suspensions).  Latinos had between 5 and 12 in 100 fewer suspensions.  The data collected for this study seems to indicate that California school districts have made progress in relying less on out-of-school suspensions as a disciplinary tool.  The data also shows that disparities in racial disciplinary exclusion are narrowing because minority student groups are seeing the highest reduction rates in OSS.  If these trends continue, more students will have access to education without the interference of behavior management issues.

Although it may be too soon to tell what the long-term trend in reduction of out of school suspensions will be, the following California districts made the greatest reduction in OSS over the two year study period:

  • Greenfield Union had just over 15 in 100 fewer suspensions
  • Rialto Unified had just over 11 in 100 fewer suspensions
  • Central Unified had just over 9 in 10 fewer suspensions

To contrast, the following districts had the lowest reduction in OSS:

  • Los Angeles Unified had 1.66 in 100 fewer suspensions
  • Long Beach Unified had 1.66 in 100 fewer suspensions
  • Fontana Unified had 2.75 in 100 fewer suspensions

The report suggests that school districts with the least gains should learn from districts with the greatest gains to determine ways to reduce their OSS even further.

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School


New report estimates the effect of ACA on 14 large and diverse US cities

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is estimated to provide increased federal funding to all states, but the amount is heavily influenced by the extent of Medicaid expansion and enrollment in federal marketplaces. States that decide not to expand Medicaid will forgo additional federal funds and need to address the needs of their uninsured populations.  Additionally, the ACA will reduce Medicare reimbursement as well as disproportionate hospital share payments. This will pose challenges for areas that serve the uninsured across a wide region. 


The Urban Institute recently released a report on the ACA’s effect on 14 large and diverse cities. The following cities expanded Medicaid: Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Columbus,  Phoenix, Denver, and Detroit. In these seven cities: 

  • the percentage of uninsured could decrease by 57% on average by 2016
  • enrollment into Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) will increase 38.5% 
  • a large percentage of those remaining uninsured are undocumented (41.4% in Houston, 28.4% in Charlotte, and 35.2% in Miami)

The following cities did not expand Medicaid: Charlotte, Houston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Memphis, Atlanta, and Miami. In these seven cities: 

  • the percentage of uninsured could decrease by 30% on average by 2016 (27% less than the average estimated decline among the seven Medicaid expansion cities).
  • enrollment into Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) will increase 10.7% (27.8% less than expansion cities) 
  • a large percentage of those remaining uninsured are undocumented (41.4% in Houston, 28.4% in Charlotte, and 35.2% in Miami)

The ACA will impact each city differently based on income, race/ethnicity, and immigration status. For example, approximately 80% of the uninsured population in Miami is Latino while more than 75% of the uninsured in Detroit are Black. Policymakers and researchers will need to observe how ACA will impact each area and address issues as it relates to each different population. 

Joanne Chan, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, Harvard School of Public Health

New study shows Massachusetts health reform did not reduce barriers to heart related procedures


In a new article published in American Heart Association’s journal “Circulation“, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Howard University of Medicine examined hospital claims data and found that Massachusetts health insurance expansion did not have impact whether an individual aged 21 – 64 received coronary treatments by ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status. Data for more than 44,937 discharges related to heart disease was analyzed, with 82% categorized as White, 4.1% black, 4.8% Hispanic, 1.3% Asian, and 7.8% patients with missing or other race/ethnicity.

In particular:

  • For Black and Latino populations, there was no difference in likelihood to receive coronary revascularization (an important procedure that restores blood flow through the heart, such as bypass) 1-year post-health reform (30% and 16%, respectively). These communities were also less likely than the White population to receive this procedure. In this study, Asians (29%) were more likely to receive this procedure compared to Whites post-health reform, which conflicts with previous literature.
  • Patients residing in areas that had a higher proportion of high school graduates were more likely to receive coronary revascularizations pre- and post-reform.

These findings are important, especially in the midst of Affordable Care Act implementation, as this study provided early evidence that insurance expansion did not reduce barriers in receiving procedures like coronary revascularization. Furthermore, this study provided further evidence that insurance expansion alone does not eliminate health disparities as it relates to race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The authors recommend interventions to focus more on subgroups and for continued efforts to address disparities shaped by social determinants of health.

Joanne Chan, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, Harvard School of Public Health

African-American women making strides in entrepreneurship


A new report by the Center for American Progress has shown that women of color are a major driving force in the United States economy by virtue of entrepreneurship. Women of color own about one-third of all women-owned firms in the U.S. Between 1997 and 2013, the number of female-owned firms and businesses in the U.S. grew by 59%, African-American women-owned businesses grew by 258%, the highest of any racial group. This increase in entrepreneurship has been attributed to inequalities and challenges faced by women of color in the traditional workplace. Some of these challenges include limited access to mentors, exclusion from elite networks, and gender wage gap. In 2012, African American women made 64 percent of their white male counterparts’ wages, compared to Latino women (53%), Asian women (87%), and White women (78%).

While there has been major growth and success experienced by African American women in entrepreneurship, challenges still remain. Almost half of all African American women business owners reported facing challenges in trying to obtain business financing. Research has shown that women are less likely to receive loans compared to their male counterparts. Also, minority-owned businesses encounter difficulties in receiving loans from financial institutions, compared to white-owned business. This puts African American women business owners in an extremely difficult and daunting predicament with being both a woman and a racial minority. Reducing prejudices and inequalities, especially in the financial sector, will help foster a successful and fruitful environment for African American women in the entrepreneurship sector.

Adedotun Ogunbajo, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health


Sixth Amendment Disparities in Delaware Criminal Courts, Part Two




Revisiting The Sixth Amendment Center’s recent report on the disparities in access to counsel in Delaware criminal courts, part two of the publication examines the issue further.  This part examines the systemic problems that prevent those defendants who obtain public defenders from receiving satisfactory representation. The negative implications for communities of color are great because minorities are involved in the criminal justice system at a much higher rate than whites.

 Delaware’s “horizontal” system of defendant representation violates Principle Seven of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System. The ABA recommends “vertical” representation where a client is represented by the same attorney without interruption until the case is completed.  But in Delaware, one attorney handles one part of the defendant’s case who then passes it on to a different attorney to handle the next part of the case, and so on with multiple attorneys working on various parts of one defendant’s case.  In this system, the defendant does not have an attorney working on his behalf with in-depth knowledge of the defendant’s case.  

 The report explains that public defenders are overloaded with cases on which they have little time to properly work.  A public defender’s caseload exceeds national caseload standards.  In two Delaware counties, for example, a public defender in family court’s work can equal three full-time attorneys’ work.  Public Defenders in other Delaware courts are just as overwhelmed with cases. The report provides the following statistics for one public defender, whose situation is typical for public defenders:

  • 0% of his clients appear at his office before their trial date
  • 25% of his clients call his office before their trial dates
  • 75% of his clients will meet with him 5 minutes before their cases are heard in court
  • 60% of his clients’ cases are dismissed as a result of the victim’s failure to appear 


Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School

Climate Change Makes Some Americans More Sick than Others


The White House has published a new report that evaluates the effects of climate change on Americans’ health.  A significant contributor to climate change is carbon pollution, which is resulting in the following negative effects, among others:

  • Increasing ground-level ozone
  • Rising particle pollution
  • More instances of extreme heat
  • Higher rates of infectious diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus
  • Increased concentrations of pollen
  • More frequent heavy rainfall and flooding

Not all Americans are impacted equally by the negative effects of climate change.  Communities where pre-existing conditions are prevalent have increased risk of being harmed by climate change.  For example, communities with higher rates of diabetes, obesity and asthma tend to have more occurrences of climate change-related health problems.  This is seen by the fact that African-American children are likely to be hospitalized for asthma at a rate twice as high as white children, with many occurrences ending in death for African-American children.  Comparatively, the chances of dying from asthma are 40 percent greater for Latino children than they are for white children.

Proposed solutions to the problem of carbon pollution-impacted climate change are to continue to implement changes such as the EPA’s restrictions on power plant emissions, which will result in healthier communities.  Some of the health benefits include fewer heart, asthma, and heat attacks.  Also, improvements will be seen in school attendance rates by children who normally miss school because of poor health due to poor air quality.


Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School