Philly mayor’s controversial conflict counsel plan put on hold

    A controversial plan by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to provide legal representation for the poor has been temporarily put on hold.

    The Nutter administration had been planning to sign a contract this week with a private law firm to represent low-income clients in situations where the public defender’s office has a conflict in a case. The goal, according to  Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison, was to provide additional services to those clients, such as social workers and administrators.

    On Wednesday, the city announced that it had withdrawn a notice of intent to contract with the company, a firm headed by Daniel Alva, due to a “technical registration filing issue.”

    A spokesman for Nutter said the prepared contract listed the name of Alva and Associates LLC, rather than Alva’s actual LLC, the Law Offices of Daniel P. Alva.

    “I want to emphasize that this technical issue does not reflect on the quality of the proposal,” Gillison said in a statement. “We firmly believe this approach will improve the delivery of legal services to the most vulnerable individuals in the criminal justice and dependency system.”

    Critics of the proposal said a private firm would be driven by profits, instead of a mission to defend the poor.

    Attorney Samuel Stretton had been planning to file a lawsuit over the contract along with Councilman Dennis O’Brien. He said he is glad the plan, which he saw as underfunded, is now on hold.

    “It was destined to failure,” said Stretton. “I think now this is a chance to really start from scratch and look at the various proposals.”

    The Nutter administration told O’Brien it now plans to reach out to the Philadelphia Bar Association for input, Stretton said. He said he believes that’s a signal that the city is rethinking its approach.

    Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Nutter, said the administration has expressed that it is open to discussing the concept with others, but that “does not constitute a ‘rethinking of the whole process.'” He said the city is planning to issue a new request for proposals to hire a private firm in the near future.

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