Defender of the Public Good

“If you are doing something that you do not enjoy, why are you doing it?”

Why are we doing it? It would seem that it’s an acquired taste ~

When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts.

They willingly traded everything they owned. . . . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features. . . . They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane. . . . They would make fine servants. . . . With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.

Zinn, Howard (2010-01-14). A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present (p. 1).

Devotion to Duty

Yvonne Smith Segars’, a veteran of the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender since 1985, was sworn into office as New Jersey Public Defender on September 25, 2002. She was nominated to the post while serving as First Assistant Deputy in the agency’s Essex Adult Regional Office, the largest region in the agency. Governor Chris Christie has saw fit to ask that this public servant cease and desist from being that servant of the public good and go somewhere else. It is the Gov.’s position that this person, that has been doing this job for so long, needs to move on.

What prompted the Governor to express such disdain for this person’s past efforts?

Yvonne Smith Segars’ struck down the mandatory sentencing law that had been implemented that seemed to only harm those who were living in the inner city. The “mandatory sentencing” of criminals found with drugs within One Thousand feet of a school, was deemed a law that was “disparate” and that the lawmakers who wrote and planned it’s implementation wanted it that way, it would seem.  The sentencing guidelines was set up so that anyone who possessed drugs in any quantity within a school zone,; which was more than likely to happen in an urban area., were to be scheduled for mandatory imprisonment. The chances of it happening in rural and suburban area was pretty much slim to none. The “Stop and Frisk” policy in New York and elsewhere has the same disparate and callous objective – to ensnare those who are in the inner cities, simply because they are “Black” or Hispanic. I am sure some may have a problem with this type of thinking, but let’s examine it for a minute. Move public defender to Judiciary |

  1. Lawmakers have the task of presenting ideas that are in the best interests of their constituency, right?
  2. What was the intent of a law in place since 1987, that one arrested on a drug offense that occurred within 1,000 feet of a school are to be incurr mandatory minimum sentences of one to three years?
  3. Is that law a just law?

Critics had argued for years that the law had a disproportionate impact on minority inner city residents and that it unnecessarily filled the state’s prisons with low-level drug offenders who could be better served by drug treatment. The state spent countless millions last year to imprison drug offenders. How better could that money have been spent?  One of the major critics of this long standing ruling by the high court was Yvonne Smith Segars. The devotion to duty she has for her work and for the best interests of the state was exhibited when she, along with many other legislators moved to have this law repealed. Truly their desire to make sure that this law was no longer hurting “just the inner city” folks and “just the inner city” alone was and is a move in the right direction.

“With a 46-30 vote Thursday, the New Jersey Assembly gave final approval to a bill that will end mandatory minimum sentences for some “drug free zone” drug offenses. The bill passed the Senate in December. Outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has said he will sign the bill into law. When that happens, New Jersey will become the first state to roll back a mandatory minimum school zone law.” ~

upon her giving up her post she would do all that was necessary to make the transition seamless. The question still arises why the newly elected Governor needed to have this servant of the poor out of that position? What is it about Segars desire to have a law on the books that is just and not effecting only one segment of society and not all, that caused Governor Christie to not want her there any longer?

Newly Appointed

Joseph Krakora was sworn in as Public Defender on June 28, 2011. He joined the Office of the Public Defender in 1986 and has held numerous positions in the agency since that time. He served as an Assistant Public Defender and Director of Capital and Special Litigation from 2002 until 2010…


Charles Seay

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