Scott Hechinger Profile picture
Civil rights attorney. Longtime public defender. Dad. Executive Director, Zealous: Fighting to topple the imbalance of power & voice in justice policy & media.
Oct 6, 2018 5 tweets 3 min read
WATCH @chrislhayes speak truth to the Kavanaugh hypocrisy. “Every day 1000s are run thru American criminal courts. Disproportionately poor & non-white. The presumption of their guilt is the basic operating principle that keeps the whole system running.” Just yesterday, like every day as a public defender, I saw this hypocrisy. Privileged white men are literally the least likely group to be presumed guilty.
Sep 15, 2018 28 tweets 8 min read
Happy Saturday everyone! Preparing for a day in court. 9-5 arraignment shift. Meeting everyone arrested in Brooklyn within the last 24-48 hours. Why? Because mass incarceration doesn’t get a day of rest in the fourth largest city in America. Follow along for observations. Necessary ammunition:

1. Coffee
2. To-go coffee
3. Water
4. Ibuprofen just in case
5. Phone charger
6. Court ID
7. Pens
8. Biz cards
9. Memobook
10. Legal pad
11. Blank notices (more on that below)
12. Calendar (google printouts bc I lost my calendar this week)
Aug 28, 2018 32 tweets 6 min read
Today I’m working the dreaded “double.” I will be in arraignments from now through 1am. Meeting people arrested within last 24-48 hours, arguing for release, working to advise traumatized families on what’s next, individualizing my clients beyond the accusation & criminal record. 2 for 2. When I met with both of my first clients & the conversation turned to bail, the question was rhetorical: “If bail is set, do you or any family have any money?” Their answers, as usual, is inevitable: “I don’t have no money. Not even a dollar.”
Aug 5, 2018 5 tweets 5 min read
Don’t let him distract you. *This is what he doesn’t want you to watch. His deportation force violently stealing away a man who has lived in this country for 25 years & then strangling the woman who had the courage to film it. If ICE is outside your door, don’t panic, and remember: YOU HAVE RIGHTS. Even if you do everything right, they still may enter. View #WeHaveRights series from @ACLU + @BklynDefender & be prepared. WeHaveRights.Us
Jul 30, 2018 5 tweets 6 min read
IDEA: Instead of retweeting, commenting, or otherwise spreading Trump’s anti-immigration screed today, share the #WeHaveRights immigrant empowerment series in this thread. How to safely defend against & document abuses by ICE. More: WeHaveRights.Us If ICE is outside your door, don’t panic, and remember: YOU HAVE RIGHTS. Even if you do everything right, they still may enter. View the #WeHaveRights series from @ACLU + @BklynDefender & be prepared. WeHaveRights.Us
Jul 22, 2018 11 tweets 3 min read
Raymond Dearie. 1 of 4 FISA judges approving Carter Page surveillance. I spent everyday for a year w/ him as his law clerk. I care deeply about civil liberties & protection against govt intrusion. When Justice Roberts appointed him, I felt immense relief. He’s no rubber stamp. Yes, he was appointed by Reagan. But he’s no partisan. Yes, he was the former US Attorney (top federal prosecutor) in New York. But as this public defender can tell you, he was uniquely protective of defendant’s rights. Every one got a fair shake. He was *careful. To a fault.
Jun 21, 2018 6 tweets 2 min read
**ALERT** ICE is outside/inside of Brooklyn Supreme Court NOW. 320 Jay. Some agents are in blue windbreakers. Attorneys: contact your clients. If your client is apprehended, remind about his/her right to silence, advise agents that they’re represented. Clients: Contact attorneys. BYSTANDERS: If you witness an ICE encounter *You have a right to take video and pictures as long as you do not interfere with the arrest.*
Jun 14, 2018 5 tweets 5 min read
The children have bar codes. They are being scanned before they eat. Figured now was a good a time to remind people that-whether you’re documented or undocumented-YOU HAVE RIGHTS when interacting with ICE or other immigration authorities.

Please share these 4 short films. Visit WeHaveRights.Us for all 7 languages.
Jun 11, 2018 11 tweets 3 min read
“Gang databases” sound like key enforcement tools. But find out how they work in practice & who they target. They’re an over-broad surveillance tool used far more often to stop/frisk young people of color than to stop gang crime. Thread breaking this down:… 1. OVERBROAD: My clients who are not gang members are routinely identified as gang members. With wildly over-broad criteria, if you’re a person of color in a certain neighborhood, there’s a good chance you’ll be in the database, whether you’re in a gang or not.
Jun 8, 2018 16 tweets 4 min read
Heading into night court in Brooklyn where I’ll be meeting clients for the first time & arguing for release until 1am. I can’t complain. I’m free to go home afterward. I’ll try to update here if/when I have time. For now: Photo of criminal court w/ badly tangled American flag. First 2 things observed tonight: 1. Two benches full of family & loved ones outside courtroom waiting for it to open up. Mostly women & young children. 2. Behind courtroom, eight women just brought from central bookings, shackled together, struggling to move. Their laces removed.
Jun 7, 2018 4 tweets 1 min read
READ: An *assault victim* was falsely arrested & wrongfully accused of attempted murder. Bronx DA's office withheld evidence for 3 YEARS: Video surveillance, notes, knife, & med records showing she was a victim. She was acquitted. Her life still ruined.… HER PUBLIC DEFENDER: “They didn’t have to arrest her. When it’s Eric Schneiderman, they investigate before they arrest him, but when it’s a poor person of color, they take a complainant at their word & arrest the person. There’s no such thing as ‘innocent before proven guilty.’”
May 26, 2018 22 tweets 5 min read
JUSTICE: My client who was jailed & charged on Wednesday night with armed robbery bravely testified last night before the grand jury and the grand jury *dismissed* the case against him. He’s free from Rikers & now trying to win back the job that he lost when $10k bail was set. I met this 56 year old man 24 hours after arrest. On paper it looked bad. A man allegedly held up with a sharp object to his stomach while my client demanded his money, took $20, & fled. He had over 20 convictions on his record, and has just been released from prison in April.
May 24, 2018 6 tweets 2 min read
Done w/ night court. 8 of my clients saw the judge. 1 had family that could pull together $2k bail. Another $250 (just started a maintenance job). My last client’s wife had $50. The rest $0. The total bail amt set tonight on my clients was $56,500. All but one is now on Rikers. Bail in NY is only supposed to be set in an amount necessary to ensure return to court. Not a single one of my clients needed any additional incentive to do so. The only thing that bail ensured will be their return in shackles. The judge knew this. I told him so. He didn’t care.
May 16, 2018 7 tweets 4 min read
He was 14 when he was falsely arrested & prosecuted. 14. Years. Old. His trial lasted a single day. He spent 17 innocent years behind bars & the rest on state supervision. Impossible to heal. And no one will be held accountable. Powerful photo of one of my favorite judges-Judge Simpson-consoling Mr. Bunn. "I am more than emotional about this day," said Simpson as her voice cracked. "You were 14 at the time. This shouldn't have ever happened."
May 13, 2018 14 tweets 3 min read
NYPD always claims that it’s complaints (911 & 311 calls) that drive racially disproportionate marijuana arrests. Nope. As we legalization advocates been screaming about for years, it’s actually just racism. See: this important @nytimes study out today. “Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at 8 times the rate of white people over the last 3 years. Hispanic people were arrested at 5 times rate of white people. In Manhattan, Black people were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people.”
May 5, 2018 7 tweets 2 min read
1. THREAD: My brilliant friend Maribel from law school asked me to share her personal story about how Trump’s heartless decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans will affect her husband and her family. 2. Maribel wants people to understand the human consequences of this administration's immigration policy decisions. This horrific decision barely registered given all the other noise. PLEASE help their story break thru so people pay attention. The following are Maribel’s words:
May 4, 2018 7 tweets 3 min read
Another thing about cash bail in New York City: Even when those few clients of mine *can actually afford to pay for their freedom, they still get stuck on Rikers because of ridiculous obstacles like, for example, broken fax machines. Yes, Rikers island still runs on fax machines. FAX MACHINES. Person at bail pay window must fax handwritten receipt to Rikers. Then Rikers faxes back. If theres no one at fax machine on Rikers, have to wait. Last week, machine was broken. No one released.…
Mar 19, 2018 11 tweets 3 min read
As we celebrate #publicdefenseday, I want to talk about this: "A vast majority of cases end in plea deals before an officer is ever required to take the witness stand in open court, meaning the possibility that an officer lied is seldom aired in public."… We see this horrific insulation every day: When an officer interacts with someone, stops, frisks, searches, arrests, they *know* there is basically zero chance their conduct will ever be challenged. For most arrests-low-level, crimes of poverty-pleas happen w/n a day of arrest.
Jan 8, 2018 6 tweets 1 min read
1. Yesterday, I met a 56 y/o man in court whose experience w/ criminal legal system tells a clear story of how mass incarceration traps people in a cycle of marginalization, poverty, and reincarceration. But also the power of micro-interventions to help break cycle. Follow me: 2. Client was just walking down the street when NYPD approached, stopped & frisked w/o justification. They found small $10 baggie of heroin in his pocket (their claim as always: he was holding drugs in his hand). Arrested him for drug possession. This was his 35th arrest.
Jul 3, 2017 9 tweets 1 min read
1. Critical for public defenders to *notice & speak up about "casual" everyday injustices. They can happen so fast, easy to overlook. 2. Just now in Court: person sentenced to 15 days jail for failure to pay a fine, and "civil judgment" was entered on the $120 surcharge.