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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Collaboration in Arizona to Enhance Rights Enforcement

September 29, 2016

  • Front row: Colleen Clase, Allie Bones, Beckie Miller, Victoria Ames, and Michael Bailey Chief Deputy at the Office of the Arizona Attorney General. Back row, from L to R: Randy Udelman, Steve Twist, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Keith Perkins.

September marks one year of operation for an amazing collaborative effort in Arizona.  The Victims’ Rights Enforcement Project is an innovative partnership of six organizations working to secure enforcement of victims’ legal rights through pro bono legal and social services to crime victims.  We spoke with Colleen Clase, Senior Attorney at Arizona Voice for Crime Victims, about the project and its impact.

How did this project get started?

In 2014, the Arizona Legislature passed HB 2625 which established the Victims’ Rights Enforcement Fund.  Funded by a $2 assessment on criminal offenses and civil traffic violations, the Fund supports grants for pro-bono legal services and social services for Arizona crime victims.  The vision of the legislation creating the fund was to ensure that Arizona victims have meaningful rights by increasing legal representation across the state and ultimately expanding and advancing victims’ rights in Arizona. 

In 2015, through a competitive process, AVCV applied to the Department of Public Safety and was awarded funding to be the lead agency on a one-year grant under this program.  That grant was successfully wrapped up on September 30th, and AVCV has applied for a continuation grant for the upcoming year.

What is unique about this project?

The collaboration in the project is tremendous.  AVCV and project partners confer with attorneys throughout Arizona and across the country to learn from their experiences while still protecting victim privacy.  This collaborative allows service providers to come together to be proactive and prevent victims’ right violations when possible or when violations do occur to offer more help to more victims.  Partners work to enforce the rights protected in Arizona’s Bill of Rights and to fight for rights including the right to refuse discovery, and to have a speedy resolution of their case.

Partner organizations meet monthly to discuss cases and emerging issues, to identify victims’ rights issues that need attention, and, when necessary, work together to litigate and set precedent.

Who is part of the project?

AVCV is the lead agency that works with four subgranted project partners that provide direct legal representation and/or social services support to crime victims; these partners are:

In addition to these on-the-ground partners, the National Crime Victim Law Institute serves as a fifth subgrantee partner, providing technical assistance to the project in the form of legal research, writing and strategic advice to the other partners.  The project has also benefitted from expert victims’ rights training from Law Professor Paul Cassell of the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. 

How has this project changed victims’ lives?

In just one year the project has had tremendous impact including:

  • Providing more help to more victims across Arizona;
  • Working together as a team to write an Amicus Curiae brief in a case before United States Supreme Court regarding child victims and limiting a pro se defendant’s right to personally cross- examine them;
  • Increasing referrals of victims in need of assistance from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the Maricopa County’s District Attorney’s Office;
  • Increasing capacity of the field by subgranting to partner agencies to allow them to hire attorneys to represent victims; and
  • Conducting outreach to law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices to train victim advocates about the pro bono services now available to victims.

NCVLI is excited to be a part of this cutting project that is working to increase availability of expert legal services for crime victims.  This effort should not end in Arizona, our team can provide the same specialized assistance in any jurisdiction.  Fill out our technical assistance request to start now.