For our second blog challenge, we were asked to design a solution that would address a gap in legal access for a historically marginalized community of color in our locality. While thinking in the abstract about a complex legal solution is enticing, and perhaps more attractive in academic circles; I wanted to instead take this moment to amplify a current fight for legal access that is being fought in my home state of Iowa. What is being fought for is the most basic of legal rights: the right to vote.

On June 15th, Governor Kim Reynolds made a promise to sign an executive order that would restore the right to vote for people with previous felony convictions. This executive order would erase Iowa’s status as the only state in the country that permanently disenfranchises people with a felony conviction. The calls for this order came after the Iowa State Senate failed to act on a bill that would have done the same. However, despite Reynold’s promises, she has shown no urgency, stating that the order would come sometime between late summer and early fall. And while I’m sure the Governor is very busy, there must surely time to draft an order during her trips to the nation’s capital and throughout the state of Iowa. Des Moines Black Lives Matter (who can be found on Twitter @DesMoinesBLM), have continued to push the Governor, hoping for an Executive Order by this Saturday, July 4th. The following paragraphs are an incomplete illustration of why this order is so desperately needed.

Iowa’s Broken Criminal Justice System

Iowa is a largely homogenous state, with white Iowans accounting for roughly 90% of the population. This lack of diversity has many negative side-effects, including the suppression of the struggles that people of color face. The recent waves of protests that erupted following the murder of George Floyd have brought one of these suppressed struggles to the forefront: the duality of Iowa’s criminal justice system, which operates under different rules, depending on the color of your skin.

One of the most jarring examples of this system is the disproportionate policing of marijuana usage in Iowa. Despite similar rates of usage, a Black person in Iowa is 7.3 times more likely to be arrested than a white person for marijuana possession (see page 32 of the report). And as you might expect, this disproportionate policing is reflective of the broader trends of Iowa’s criminal justice system. As it currently stands, Black Iowans are 11 times more likely to be imprisoned than white Iowans, which is the third-worst disparity in the nation.  Whether this racism is intentionally inflicted by law enforcement (like the video seen below, which resulted in a $75,000 settlement due to the officers’ misconduct), or an unintended result of a massively broken system is a debate that is fruitless for the time being.  Because regardless of the motive of these disparities, the reality is that they’ve always existed, they continue to exist, and they can not be fixed until we acknowledge them.

However, acknowledgment is only the beginning. Once we acknowledge the disparities of this broken criminal justice system, it also becomes our responsibility to listen to the voices of those most affected by the system. In this case, Des Moines Black Lives Matter has made the simplest of requests: that the 1 in 10 Black Iowans who are currently disenfranchised due to a previous felony conviction be allowed to vote. This request needs no further debate nor deliberation.

Addressing the racial inequalities of this nation will be at the forefront of citizen’s minds as they approach the ballot box this year. And in no world does it make sense to exclude the opinions of some of those who have been most affected by these injustices. For that reason, it is clear:

Sign or Resign. 



Why is this blog titled Three-Point Revolution?

Shortly after the NBA introduced the three-point line in 1979, current Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni called his brother Dan, a fellow coach, and told him: “You might wanna start seeing how valuable that three-point line is. About twenty-five years later, Mike D’Antoni would revolutionize the NBA with his “seven seconds or less” Phoenix Suns basketball team.


Just one year before D’Antoni became head coach of the Suns, they had finished with an abysmal 29-53 record, despite having generational talents like Amar’e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, and Stephon Marbury. When D’Antoni inherited this roster, he kept it mostly intact, except for one key switch: bringing in Steve Nash to replace Stephon Marbury. In other words, the number of resources available to D’Antoni did not suddenly improve. Instead, D’Antoni made one key player swap and completely restructured how he used the players available to him. 


Over the course of the 2004-05 NBA season, D’Antoni implemented a brand-new offensive system that prioritized playing fast and shooting lots of three-pointers. The fast-offensive system played to the strengths of his young, athletic roster, while the three-point shooting capitalized on what analytics has now deemed to be the most efficient shot in basketball. With this forward-thinking approach supporting them, the Suns finished 62-20, in what may have been the greatest single-season turnaround of all time. 


Modern-day basketball has proven that D’Antoni was neither crazy nor misguided in his belief that the three-point shot was the most valuable in basketball. However, we must not forget D’Antoni’s willingness to be a trailblazer. If he had not questioned the status quo and considered how he could improve upon it, the Suns, and basketball itself, may have never taken the massive leap that we see today.


In a similar, and much more important vein, legal technology presents an opportunity for each of us to be trailblazers. Legal aid organizations have dedicated and talented attorneys. But no matter how dedicated and talented the attorneys are, they cannot outperform the system that they have been placed into. With that in mind, we must channel our own inner Coach D’Antoni, designing new, more efficient systems that help maximize the talents of legal aid attorneys.


My Work this Summer

This summer, I will be assisting Legal Aid of Wyoming and A2J Tech with the implementation of a Universal Triage System. The objective of the triage system is to reduce the time that both clients and lawyers spend on the intake process.

Traditionally, a client seeking representation from a legal aid organization spends significant time trying to find the proper organization to take their case. This search often involves the client needing to repeat the facts of their case to several different lawyers, just to ultimately find out that they don’t qualify for representation at the given organization. Since we can assume that clients are in enough stress already trying to live through whatever legal encounter they are facing, the triage system aims to reduce this stress of finding appropriate representation. Once the triage system is created, Wyomingites will be able to fill out one form that will point them to the proper resource to help them with their legal problem.

On the other hand, legal aid lawyers will benefit from this system because they will no longer need to spend as much time interviewing and intaking people who aren’t even eligible for them to represent. While legal aid lawyers would love to represent everybody, the truth is that their time and resources are limited. By reducing the amount of time that lawyers need to spend on the intake process, the triage system will enable more clients to be represented, and more time to be spent on each client’s case.

The ultimate goal of this system’s implementation is to help achieve 100% access to justice in Wyoming. While this system will be solid in its foundation, there will no doubt be problems to fix along the way. To spot these problems, we will be using key performance indicators (KPIs), that will allow the system to be continuously improved. By the end of this project, the hope is to create our own three-point revolution that provides talented lawyers with the systems they need to more efficiently represent the clients they serve.