Law professor Laurie Levenson will give an hourlong lecture next week to about 30 arrestees from Occupy L.A., as part of their diversion program.
The class is the result of a compromise worked out between the office of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and the National Lawyers Guild, which has been representing Occupy defendants in court. Levenson's lecture will cover the First Amendment.
Trutanich originally wanted to charge $375 for the class, which would have been administered by American Justice Associates. But Occupiers objected to being forced to pay money to a private company to avoid criminal charges.
So, under the agreement worked out between the two sides, the First Amendment class will be free.
“There was no way they could afford that program,” said Cynthia Anderson-Barker, an NLG board member who represented protesters from Occupy UCLA.
The City Attorney's Office has contracted with American Justice Associates for more than a decade. The company offers a “scared straight” class, which includes a DVD and a workbook on issues like anger management and impulse control. The class is generally offered to low-level first-time offenders as a way of avoiding criminal prosecutions.
Trutanich's original idea was to send Occupy arrestees to that program, while adding a First Amendment class to the curriculum. But under the agreement with NLG, the “scared straight” program has been dropped, and the only requirement is the one-hour First Amendment class. The first class will be held Feb. 29, with other dates to follow.
Levenson is frequently quoted as a legal expert. She first came to prominence during the O.J. Simpson trial.
“Our office is extremely appreciative Professor Levenson has agreed to share her expertise with the participants and lead this program,” said Frank Mateljan, the city attorney's spokesman.