The CSE Institute and Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, LLP co-sponsored a seminar on Human Trafficking in Pennsylvania at Duquesne University’s Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law on Friday, March 9, 2018.
The seminar focused on providing a victim-centered legal update on human trafficking and what steps lawyers can take to help victims. Experts from throughout Pennsylvania gave presentations on a variety of trafficking-related issues: relevant international law was covered by Judy Hale Reed, Esq., MPA from the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh; sex trafficking of minors and federal prosecutions by Jessica Lieber Smolar, Esq., Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania; labor exploitation among low-wage workers and related immigration and civil law by Matthew Lamberti, Esq. from Friends of Farmworkers; understanding human trafficking and how to respond by Carlos Golfetto, Ph.D., NCC, ACS, LPC of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape; and best practices for trauma-informed lawyering by Jamie Manirakiza, MSW, LSW from The Salvation Army Eastern Territorial Headquarters.
CSE Institute Director Shea Rhodes, Esq. provided an overview of Pennsylvania state human trafficking laws, focusing on Act 105 and its application. To round out the morning session, the experts convened for a question-and-answer panel, moderated by Benjamin E. Wecht, M.A., that further explored the legal, investigative, and treatment issues that arise in the human trafficking arena.
Shea Rhodes and CSE Institute Justice for Victims Fellow Sarah Robinson, Esq. also gave a presentation on post-conviction relief, focusing on how to help victims through the vacatur and expungement processes. They highlighted both logistics and big-picture special issues that arise during the course of post-conviction advocacy.
Pennsylvania’s human trafficking statute was enacted in 2014, which sets out clear elements to charge human traffickers. As quoted by WESA, Director Rhodes explained that before this update, “We didn’t have a statute with elements of a crime to prove. Now, we do.” The first conviction was secured by Assistant District Attorney Rob Schopf in Lehigh County in 2016. Since then, over 30 trafficking prosecutions have resulted in convictions. While “Act 105” is one of the toughest anti-trafficking laws in the country from a prosecutorial perspective, there are a number of amendments needed to bring Pennsylvania in line with federal law and enhance our impact on trafficking statewide.
The CLE was an overall success. We look forward to continued opportunities to collaborate with our colleagues at Duquesne and Saul Ewing in the Western part of the state.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.