The Public Defender walks the walk

Strolling around the 26th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit at USC, passing an urban choir singing in angelic harmony, Robin Moore stopped at the LA County Public Defender booth.

“I didn’t know for sure what they did,” Moore said. “Are they lawyers?”

After speaking with PD attorney Winnie Young and paralegal Daeterria McLucas, Moore got a quick lesson.

“Thank the Lord my situation isn’t criminal, but if I know anybody with a record, I know where to direct them,” Moore said. “I had heard about Prop 47, but didn’t really know what it was. Prop 47 is for those who have had felonies, I didn’t know that before.”

The 62-year-old Los Angeles resident had attended the event on Sat., Jan. 13, presented by The Empowerment Congress and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday weekend. At the annual event, residents and community leaders converge to address racial and economic disparities in political debates, workshops, entertainment and resource tables.

Although the Public Defender had attended many previous years, this event marked the first offering PD resource tables.

“We’re here to support the work of the Empowerment Congress,” said Assistant Public Defender Candis Glover, who along with Assistant Public Defender Ruben Marquez and attorneys Ericka Wiley and Tiffiny Blacknell stood at a second booth dispensing PD information.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to create awareness in the community with respect to what we do,” Glover said. “To show people that we are committed to our mission and we are here for them.”

Resident Don Lovett, who had visited the booth, said that the Public Defender and other agencies who showed up that day were “walking the walk.”

“Our country is in turmoil. Period,” said Lovett, a community organizer with Justice Not Jails. “It’s easy to talk about racism or people lacking access, but this is a time when you must begin to take steps. To challenge yourself, challenge those around you and no longer be a mouthpiece for what other people are saying. You have to be the watchdog.”

Young and McLucas highly enjoyed talking to people about Public Defender services.

“I was able to connect with organizations who deal directly with the homeless population within Los Angeles County,” said McLucas, part of the new PD mobile homeless outreach team.

Young spoke with people who were gainfully employed for 20-plus years who still had a stigma of shame because of previous mistakes they made in their lives.

“It felt good to be able to assist them and restore confidence back into their lives,” Young said. “Most attendees were very grateful to our office and numerous people made comments that we are the true heroes. It was great hearing that from the community.”