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JEG Remarks
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JEG remarks

 

Shortly after Jonathan passed, my wife Karen said to me how unfair it was that Jonathan didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy his retirement.  But, the truth is, besides his family, Jonathan’s greatest joy in life was his work.

Jonathan dedicated nearly all his professional life to the Defenders Association. His name became synonymous with NYSDA.

Working with past NYSDA presidents, Bill O’Connor and Ed Nowak, Jonathan tirelessly advocated for quality representation; he made hundreds of speeches, wrote op-ed pieces, made TV and radio appearances and he knocked endlessly on the doors of legislators.

Early on, Jonathan assembled a group of smart and dedicated staff committed to client-centered representation to provide support services to defenders and their clients and he convinced New York State to fund NYSDA’s Public Defense Backup Center.  Over the years, Jonathan worked to significantly expand the services provided by the Backup Center.

When Manny Vargas was searching for a home to write his immigration manual, Jonathan established the Criminal Defense Immigration Project, the early pre cursor to today's Immigrant Defense Project.

Jonathan also started and institutionalized NYSDA’s statewide basic trial skills training program, training more than a thousand defenders across the state.

Working with Gary Horton and Dee Miller, Jonathan established the NYSDA Veteran’s Defense Program to help defense lawyers better represent returning vets and military clients who became entangled in the criminal justice and family court systems.

With the late Jay Coleman, he created the Prisoner Pre-entry Mentoring Project, preparing individuals heading to prison to survive and thrive.

Jonathan was a longtime advocate of restorative justice and made it an important part of his and NYSDA’s work.

And he created NYSDA's Client Advisory Board because he was adamant that the client community should have a voice in the representation that they would receive.

And, as we all know, Jonathan worked creatively, passionately and tirelessly on ending the death penalty both in New York State and nationally.  Capital litigators across the country constantly sought out Jonathan to help them brainstorm strategy and ideas.  Jonathan always had ideas, lots of ideas.  

Jonathan guided NYSDA for nearly 40 years and built it into the strong, respected, client-centered organization it is today.   And, for most of those four decades, I had the honor and privilege of not only working side by side with Jonathan but also of being his friend.   

While to many, Jonathan and I appeared to be complete opposites-- he was the perennial optimist and I was the realist, he thought outside the box--like really outside the box—and I thought more along the lines of the box—but we somehow made it work all those years because we shared the same fundamental core belief that people who could not afford their own legal representation should be afforded the same treatment as those that could.

Bill Leahy, Director of the ILS Office, rightly described Jonathan as a fallen hero. He was a hero, and he leaves a great justice legacy, for which we, and for which all those whose lives were made better because of Jonathan’s work, are eternally grateful.   

While Jonathan will be greatly missed, we can honor his memory and legacy by continuing the good work and good fight to which he dedicated his life.

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