Attorney Honored For Improving Public Defense Representation of Immigrants

Joanne Macri is the First Woman to Receive the Wilfred R. O'Connor Award

ALBANY, NY (07/26/2016)(readMedia)-- For helping ensure that immigration consequences to clients are not ignored in public defense cases across the state, attorney Joanne Macri received the Wilfred R. O'Connor Award on Monday, July 25, 2016, during the Annual Conference of the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA).

The adversities inherent in criminal or family law proceedings multiply for immigrants, who may face threats to their ability to remain in the country. The work that lawyers must do when representing immigrant clients in such cases also multiplies. And when those lawyers are public defenders, the difficulties often multiply again due to lack of resources and time for learning and addressing potential immigration consequences. Failing to attend to those consequences is to ignore the greatest needs of many clients who are foreign nationals.

Macri, currently Director of Regional Initiatives for the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services (ILS), has done much to assure that immigrants' needs are met. She has handled or assisted in individual criminal and family law cases; taught law students and lawyers both substantive law and ways to get help; engaged in drafting standards for representation of immigrant clients; and worked for systemic change through community organizing, education events, and advocacy campaigns to preserve the rights of immigrants. Macri has observed the problems facing lawyers and their foreign national clients in many different parts of the state, having taught at SUNY Buffalo Law School and practiced law there; served as the Director of NYSDA's Immigrant Defense Project (now an independent organization) in New York City; and then led the Criminal Defense Immigration Project, part of NYSDA's Backup Center, until 2013, when she joined the ILS office in Albany. She continues to travel to public defense offices across the state as she spearheads the implementation of six statewide Regional Immigration Assistance Centers funded by ILS grants designed to make assistance for immigrant clients available statewide.

"As a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) presenter at events sponsored by NYSDA and others, as a coach at NYSDA's model, week-long Basic Trial Skills Program, and in many other ways, Joanne inspires and educates lawyers to give the best possible representation to people who were born in other countries," said Edward J. Nowak, President of NYSDA's Board of Directors, who presented the award. Macri's CLE sessions consistently receive high evaluations; one emblematic comment read: "It was great to have a speaker so passionate and knowledgeable about the subject matter." Macri's passion for justice underlies the work recognized by the recent award.

The Wilfred R. O'Connor award is presented to a lawyer who has been in practice fifteen or more years, practices in the area of public defense, and exemplifies the client-centered sense of justice, persistence, and compassion that characterized O'Connor, a founding member and long-time President of NYSDA. Macri is the first woman to receive the award.