Applications Open for 2014 NACDL Election
In 2014, NACDL members will elect nine members of the Board of Directors, as well as President-Elect, First Vice President, Second Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary. If you are interested in running for a Board or Officer position, please submit an application to NACDL’s Nominating Committee by April 14, 2014 at 5pm ET. All rules governing the conduct of NACDL elections as well as instructions for submitting applications to the Nominating Committee are available at www.nacdl.org/elections.
NACDL Continues Project to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System
On December 6, NACDL co-hosted a full day conference, “Criminal Justice in the 21st Century: Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: Advancing the Reform Dialogue through Action.” The meeting continued what has been more than a year of NACDL efforts on this important and timely project aimed at addressing ongoing racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal justice system. A detailed description of the event, its co-sponsors and the program agenda are available here. A complete webcast of the day’s discussions can be found here.
In the coming weeks, NACDL’s project to address racial and ethnic disparities will culminate with the publication of a series of academic articles in the New York University Journal of Legislation and Public Policy. Further elements of the projects including articles, conference report, podcasts, webcasts and more can be found at www.nacdl.org/racialjustice.
Federal Court Finds Systemic Violation of Indigent Defendants’ Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel
On December 5, in the case of Wilbur v. City of Mount Vernon, et al., one of a number of cases challenging systemic deficiencies in the delivery of indigent defense services across the nation, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington State found systemic violations of defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel by the Cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington, Washington, and ordered injunctive relief. A copy of the decision is available here. On August 14, 2013, the United States Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in this case. While not taking a position on the merits of plaintiffs’ claims in this particular case, the Department of Justice made very clear that “The United States has an interest in ensuring that all jurisdictions – federal, state, and local – are fulfilling their obligation under the Constitution to provide effective assistance of counsel to individuals facing criminal charges who cannot afford an attorney, as required by Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963).”
NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer said: “Not only was this case historic for the action taken by the Department of Justice in filing its important Statement of Interest last August, but also its holding is significant as it puts all jurisdictions across the nation – local, state and federal - on notice that adequate funding and resourcing of the defense function is not an elective budget line item. It is a core constitutional mandate that can, and must, be enforced by the courts.”
Recent NACDL research reports in this area include: Minor Crimes, Massive Waste: The Terrible Toll of America’s Broken Misdemeanor Courts, Three Minute Justice: Haste and Waste in Florida’s Misdemeanor Courts. National Indigent Defense Reform: The Solution is Multifaceted (a joint report with the ABA), and Part I – Rationing Justice: The Underfunding of Assigned Counsel Systems. These and other NACDL reports are available online at www.nacdl.org/reports.
Transfers Abroad from Guantánamo Now Easier
Congress has passed the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is a comprehensive policy bill that addresses Department of Defense spending over the next fiscal year. The bill is now awaiting the President's signature. Included in the bill is a provision that clarifies the President’s authority to transfer Guantánamo detainees to their home or foreign countries. NACDL supports this provision and encourages the administration to use its authority to responsibly close the Guantánamo detention facility. Today, 158 detainees remain, 79 of whom have already been cleared for transfer.
President Obama Surprises with Rare Exercise of Clemency Power
Yesterday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama granted clemency to 21 individuals – eight commutations and thirteen pardons. For some time, President Obama has come under blistering criticism for his neglect of executive clemency power. Indeed, many have pointed out that previous presidents exercised this power more frequently and at a higher rate than has President Obama. Unfortunately, never before has the need to invoke this power to do justice been greater. More people languish behind bars in America than any other nation on earth, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population, many of them for non-violent offenses and under the most severe of mandatory minimum schemes.
NACDL President Jerry J. Cox said: “As we learn more and more about the pervasive racial and ethnic disparities that plague America’s criminal justice system, and as we witness every day how those accused of crime are pressured to plead guilty given both the high cost of exercising their Constitutional right to trial and the leverage afforded prosecutors by outrageous mandatory minimum sentences, many in America are coming to see a criminal justice system that is broken in so many critical respects. While we applaud President Obama sticking his toe in the waters of clemency, we hope that this is just the beginning. There are sound reasons why American presidents and governors were long ago vested with these powers. The facts on the ground today reveal that they may never have been more necessary than now in order to right many injustices and excessive sentences being meted out by today’s American criminal justice system.”
NACDL is working diligently to shine a light on the crisis in America’s criminal justice system. As part of its significant efforts to reform a criminal justice system in crisis, NACDL launched a Task Force on the Restoration of Rights and Status After Conviction that has been conducting hearings across the nation and which will be issuing a major report in early 2014. In addition, not too long ago, NACDL launched the Restoration of Rights project -- a collection of individual downloadable documents that profile the law and practice in each U.S. jurisdiction relating to relief from the collateral consequences of conviction, available at www.nacdl.org/rightsrestoration. And earlier this year, NACDL launched another online resource – NACDL’s Excessive Sentencing Project -- a collection of individual downloadable documents that summarize for each U.S. state the key doctrines and leading court rulings setting forth constitutional and statutory limits on lengthy imprisonment terms and other extreme (non-capital) sentences, available at www.nacdl.org/excessivesentencing.
NACDL Edge Upgrade
NACDL is delighted to announce a major upgrade to the NACDL Edge app for iOS and Android. The Championsection of the app now provides on-the-go access to the entire online archive of The Champion. Users can search or browse past issues at will, as long as they are connected to a Wi-Fi or wireless network. The news feed now offers a full seven days of news stories, and members can download more by simply tapping a button at the bottom of the screen. As always, members have full on-the-go access to the NACDL membership directory, CLE calendar and the experts database.
These enhancements to both the Android and iOS versions of NACDL Edge were released in early December, and the app upgraded automatically on most devices. Members can get the free NACDL Edge smartphone app at www.nacdl.org/nacdledge.
Upcoming CLE Events
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Updates to Domestic Drone Information Center
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Deadline Approaching for Student Diversity Fellowship Program
For a full description and application information, click here.