Bronx Lawyer Honored for Determination, Compassion, and Sense of Justice

Director of the Fundamental Fairness Project Lauded for Reform Efforts

ALBANY, NY (07/26/2016)(readMedia)-- Scott Levy, who worked for The Bronx Defenders as an investigative intern and then as an investigator before obtaining his Harvard Law degree and rejoining the organization as a lawyer, received the Kevin M. Andersen Memorial Award on Monday during the 2016 Annual Conference of the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA).

"In the span of just eight years as an attorney, Scott has made incredible contributions to his clients and to the field of indigent defense by developing creative public policy advocacy and impact litigation strategies informed by individual representation," wrote Robin Steinberg in her nominating letter.

Steinberg, Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders, noted that Levy had launched the Marijuana Arrest Project (MAP) in 2011; from interviews with and representation of over 500 clients, Levy showed that in 40 percent of the cases, police lacked legal cause for arrest or improperly charged clients with misdemeanors rather than non-criminal violations. The data revealed by MAP raised policy concerns; it showed the ineffectiveness of an internal order by the Police Commissioner in September 2011 reminding police to make proper marijuana arrests, as noted in media coverage including a WNYC News item.

Levy, who has represented hundreds of clients, is now the Director of The Bronx Defenders Fundamental Fairness Project, an extension of MAP that examines and seeks to ameliorate "the ways in which the process has become the punishment for huge numbers of people caught in the web of the criminal justice system ...." According to Steinberg, Levy "has been instrumental in leading The Bronx Defenders' work" in a recently-filed class-action lawsuit. Trowbridge et al. v Cuomo et al., and the serious Bronx court delays it challenges, received media coverage, including from the New York Times, in May when the suit was filed.

In addition to his work at The Bronx Defenders, Levy has served as a coach in NYSDA's Defender Institute Basic Trial Skills Program, helping other lawyers improve their effectiveness through client-centered representation. In law school Levy participated in clinics and criminal justice student groups as well as working as a legal intern with notable organizations including the Southern Center for Human Rights and the Legal Aid Board of Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Kevin M. Andersen Memorial Award was created by the Genesee County Public Defenders Office; it is awarded to an attorney who has been in practice less than fifteen years, practices in the area of indigent defense, and exemplifies the sense of justice, determination, and compassion that were the hallmarks of its namesake.