Editor’s Note: The following letter is in response to an opinion piece by Law Tribune columnist and appellate attorney Dan Krisch, who authored a recent column defending the transfer of “Jane Doe,” a transgender teen, from the custody of the state Department of Children and Families to an adult prison.
To The Editor:
As one of Jane Doe’s attorneys, even I have found it difficult to keep up with the media coverage. Her plight has received national attention and rightfully so. Transferring a juvenile from the custody of a child welfare agency to an adult prison should result in public outcry.
Even to those not versed in the concept of constitutional due process, it appears blatantly unfair to send a child to prison without being convicted of a criminal offense or being warned of such a consequence when entering a juvenile plea.
Although I did expect to see her case mentioned in the Law Tribune, I was surprised to see it appear in “Dan K.’s Inferno.” I don’t know attorney Krisch personally, but I have observed him argue before the Supreme Court. No doubt, he is a smart lawyer and I would happily accept his critique of my appellate brief. I seriously question however his decision to venture into an arena to which he has little or no knowledge.
Juvenile defenders are often seen as the bottom of the legal food chain but those who practice this specialty do so with a passion that is unrivaled. We do not appreciate it when “real lawyers” weigh in on what happens behind the closed doors of juvenile court. Kirsch’s practice focuses on appellate and civil litigation and I doubt he has ever appeared on behalf of a juvenile accused of delinquent conduct. Furthermore, he has never met Jane Doe or reviewed her records; he did not attend any of the court proceedings or review the transcripts or court filings. It appears that his Inferno is fueled by limited and inaccurate information that leads him (and few others) to support this legal debacle put in motion by Department of Chilfen and Families Commissioner Joette Katz, supported by Connecticut Juvenile Training School Superintendent William Rosenbeck and approved by Judge Burton Kaplan.
If Krisch had sat in the courtroom and had observed what had transpired during the proceedings, I am fairly confident that he be joining those of us who feel that what has occurred to Doe constitutes a grievous miscarriage of justice. Krisch claims that it is better that DCF acted and transferred Doe to prison, even if that action was wrong, because it has created an opportunity to craft a long-term solution for Doe. I would have been happy to craft such a solution and see my client in an appropriate facility where she could address the severe trauma she has experienced and prevent the further victimization she is now suffering as she sits in the psychiatric unit at York Prison.
Maybe Krisch would feel differently if Doe was his niece. It is easy to opine on the lives of others when they mean no more to you than fodder for an op-ed.•
James J. Connolly
Director of Juvenile Post Conviction
Office of the Chief Public Defender.