Legal Aid Society


Listen: A Conversation with LAS' Twyla Carter

Twyla Carter, The Legal Aid Society’s new Attorney-in-Chief and CEO recently joined The New York County Lawyers Association  Amicus Curiae Podcast to discuss rising to the challenge of the moment in her new role.

“We are literally in the middle of the civil rights movement of my lifetime,” she tells host Daniel K. Wiig. “The work that the public defender and Legal Aid and support service organizations provide to low-income New Yorkers is at a crucial point.”

Carter acknowledged the crisis of attrition facing defender organizations due to underfunding from the City, despite the fact that these legal services are constitutionally mandated. She contrasts the organization’s funding needs with the NYPD’s billion-dollar budget and notes the disparity in pay with City’s district attorneys’ offices.

“Budgets reflect values and what we place importance upon,” she said. “Having our attorneys and staff make what City attorneys and staff make is the bare minimum.”

“People view our work as protecting and helping the ‘bad guy’ and they completely dismiss the fact that every person accused of a crime is presumed innocent,” she continued. “Public defenders from around the country we share this same frustration around the culture of pro-law enforcement to the grave detriment of fair, just, equitable systems.”

The challenges are great but it is a moment Carter is ready to meet.

“I only went to law school to become a public defender,” Carter said. “To have an opportunity now to support the lawyers and staff at The Legal Aid Society as they continue to push back and hold the line against the empire, as I call it, any time there is reform and progress the empire always strikes back. This is a dream job.”

Listen to the full episode below.