On May 7, 2019, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and the Board of Commissioners presented Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Anna Fuller with the 2019 Employee Sustainability Recognition Award.
In her position with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Neighborhood and Strategic Prosecution Unit, DDA Fuller saw a systemic issue that made it increasingly difficult for community members to overcome court-imposed fines and fees. In many circumstances, court fines and fees can add unexpected hardships for individuals attempting to exit the criminal justice system. DDA Fuller helped create Legal Services Day, wherein people with court-imposed fines and fees can participate in community service and/or treatment to have their debts cleared.
As she worked closely with communities in East Multnomah County, DDA Fuller would often hear about the struggles community members faced. One person said if she paid her fines, she wouldn’t be able to pay for groceries for her family. Recognizing the need for an alternative, DDA Fuller worked closely with the local defense bar, circuit court, the judiciary bench, and non-profit organizations to help implement Legal Services Day.
This holistic approach towards restorative justice benefits the individual and eliminates the economic inequalities and disproportionate involvement within the criminal justice system.
Legal Services Day is free and staffed by volunteers from many organizations. DDA Fuller’s commitment to the implementation and continued improvement of Legal Services Day proves she is an innovator who looked outside of traditional prosecution models and found a way to directly help people in their daily lives.
Of the last five Legal Services Days, which have been held from July 1st, 2018 through March 8th, 2019, 579 participants have had 3,764 cases addressed, waiving a total of $2,482,788.24. These are fines that were not being collected, but were keeping individuals from having their driver’s licenses, getting old cases expunged, and thus keeping people from better employment opportunities and housing.
In 2018, the popularity of Legal Services Day spread immensely. Prior to 2019, Legal Services Day did not require pre-registration. Hundreds of community members would attend. This showed the demand for this service. To ensure consistency for all, there is now a pre-registration process for 2019. The program has also expanded its boundaries to North Portland, and it continues to receive support from numerous organizations such as Metropolitan Public Defender Services.
What is nearly impossible to measure is the trust the criminal justice system can gain from having a proactive response to the needs of our shared community. The work of the district attorney’s office can be, at times, reactionary. A crime is committed, the case is screened, and a charging decision is made. The process can feel cold. DDA Fuller attends frequent community events so she can communicate the other effective policies of the district attorney’s office and the County such as the LEAD® program and the Treatment First Program.
The work that DDA Fuller, and others, have put into Legal Services Day promote a stronger and healthier community, and the District Attorney’s Office is proud that DDA Fuller is being recognized by Multnomah County.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Victim Assistance Program, Support Enforcement Division, Multi-Disciplinary Child Abuse Team and Juvenile Unit all received nominations as well for their outstanding efforts at working to improve our community on a daily basis.