U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. to Speak at NACDL’s Annual Meeting
NACDL is pleased to announce that U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. will address attendees at NACDL's 57th Annual Meeting and Seminar and 13th Annual State Criminal Justice Network Conference on Friday, August 1, 2014 at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel Ballroom in Philadelphia at 10:00 a.m. In his remarks, the Attorney General is expected to address topical issues of interest to the criminal defense bar.
Clemency Project 2014 Receives More than 20,000 Prisoner Surveys
On Monday, Clemency ProjectTM 2014 issued a statement announcing that more than 20,000 federal prisoners have returned surveys seeking pro bono representation in the clemency process. The statement also said that over the course of the next 30 days, Clemency Project 2014 will begin to forward survey responses to trained lawyers who will help the Project assess whether they meet the Justice Department's clemency criteria and, if so, assist them in filing clemency petitions.
In additional news, the Project conducted training July 15-16 for over 550 attorneys from the private bar from 42 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Over 500 more attorneys have accessed the training online via on-demand viewing since. The training included an overview of federal sentencing guidelines and applicable case law, as well as how to determine whether a sentence would be lower if imposed today, one of six criteria for clemency. In the near future, federal defenders, as well as additional members of the private bar, will also receive clemency training. The project currently has over 1,000 attorneys who have volunteered to participate. Twenty large law firms have each agreed to represent at least ten or more eligible prisoners, and dozens more have expressed interest.
Clemency Project 2014 is a working group composed of the Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and NACDL, as well as individuals active within those organizations.
NACDL Applauds U.S. Sentencing Commission Vote Cutting Federal Prison Terms for Drug Offenses
On July 18, the U.S. Sentencing Commission took a significant step, long urged by NACDL and numerous allied organizations in the criminal justice community, to cut federal prison terms for drug offenses. The adopted reform retroactively decreases the drug table set forth in U.S. Sentencing Guidelines §2D1.1 by two-offense levels across all drug types. In short, it means that, unless Congress acts to block it, effective November 1 of this year, some 50,000 people currently incarcerated in the federal prison system for drug offenses could be eligible for a reduction of their sentence by an average of nearly two years, with releases slated to begin November 1, 2015.
The courts can begin granting motions for sentence reductions, under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), on November 1, 2014. The Commission delayed the date upon which release may occur to November 1, 2015, in order to provide the courts with time to consider motions and to provide the Bureau of Prisons and reentry agencies with time to prepare for reentry services. The amendment will be added to the list of retroactive guideline changes under USSG §1B1.10. This guideline also sets forth various policies concerning reduction proceedings and will now include the proviso that court orders reducing sentences under the "drugs minus two" amendment must have an effective date of November 1, 2015, or later.
NACDL has long advocated for an end to mandatory minimums and for fairer and more rational sentencing policies. In connection with the Commission's consideration of the retroactivity of Amendment 3, the Association filed this letter on July 7, 2014. Additional NACDL resources on sentencing reform can be found here.
NACDL Immediate Past President Steven D. Benjamin Testifies at Congressional Overcriminalization Task Force Hearing
Last Friday, NACDL Immediate Past President Steven D. Benjamin Testified before the bipartisan House Judiciary Overcriminalization Task Force. The topic of the hearing was "The Crimes on the Books and Committee Jurisdiction."
In his testimony, Benjamin provided significant detail about the problem of overcriminalization, including covering the subjects of the proliferation of the federal criminal code, the absence of meaningful criminal intent requirements in federal statutes and regulations, rules of construction, sentencing, collateral consequences and the restoration of rights, and the critical importance of Judiciary Committee jurisdiction when it comes to the consideration and adoption of legislation that would add or modify criminal offenses or penalties in the federal code. Importantly, as Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) and others cited favorably, Benjamin's testimony proposed concrete goals and solutions. "We're ready to act, we know the problem," Rep. Bachus said, inviting NACDL to also submit model statutes to aid the Task Force in the work that lies ahead to address the scourge of overcriminalization in the federal law.
Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) said that he looks forward to working with Task Force Chair Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to develop a consensus report based upon the work of the Task Force and to present it to the full House Judiciary Committee. Chairman Sensenbrenner indicated his desire to see the bipartisan approach to tackling overcriminalization extend into the new Congress in which he hopes to see reforms regarding mens rea, or criminal intent, and regulatory criminalization, among others, be enacted into law.
Benjamin was one of two witnesses at last Friday’s hearing, which was the tenth and final hearing of the Task Force. The other was Dr. John S. Baker Jr. (Visiting Professor, Georgetown Law School). A link to a webcast of the hearing and the written testimony of both witnesses is available here. Webcasts and additional information about the Congressional Overcriminalization Task Force’s nine previous hearings can be found at www.nacdl.org/overcrimtaskforce.
Another Grotesque Spectacle, this Time in Arizona, Demands Immediate End to the Death Penalty in America
On June 23, the State of Arizona executed Joseph Rudolph Wood. Later, it was reported that the execution of Mr. Wood took nearly two hours, with Wood gasping for more than an hour and a half after the lethal drugs were injected into him.
In a statement issued July 24, NACDL President Jerry J. Cox said: "NACDL unequivocally opposes the death penalty on numerous grounds. Yesterday's botched execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood is just the latest installment in a long series that should shock the conscience of all Americans. Our leaders must act immediately. We cannot accept this continued barbarism as the new normal. I have said it before and I will say it again. The death penalty is a stain on the honor of this great nation. And it must stop. Now."
Longtime NACDL Member Cheryl Krause Confirmed by Senate to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
On July 7, Philadelphia-based attorney Cheryl Krause was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She had been nominated by President Barack Obama in February. Ms. Krause, who was most recently a partner at the law firm Dechert LLP, was a member of NACDL from 2003, and served on the Association’s White Collar Crime Committee.
"While NACDL does not take positions on judicial contests or appointments, the Association and its members are extremely proud of Cheryl Krause," said NACDL President Jerry J. Cox.
Cybersecurity is Back and it is Still Bad
In July, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) approved Chairman Feinstein’s (D-CA) Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA) (S. 2588). Prior to SSCI consideration, NACDL joined a coalition letter in opposition to CISA. Among other privacy concerns, CISA would “create a gaping loophole in existing privacy law that would permit the government to approach private companies; ask for “voluntary” cooperation in sharing sensitive information, including communications content; and then use that information in various law enforcement investigations.” As currently drafted, CISA creates many of the same privacy, transparency, and Fourth Amendment concerns NACDL fought against when similar legislation was defeated in 2012. If the concerns outlined in the June coalition letter are not appropriately addressed, NACDL will continue to oppose the bill.
Group Admission to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court
NACDL is once again pleased to sponsor an opportunity for up to 12 members to participate in a group admission ceremony to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Participation in this ceremony, in which admittees are administered the oath of admission by the Chief Justice of the United States in the well of the Supreme Court, will be available to the first 12 qualified members on a first-come, first-served basis and will take place on the morning of January 20, 2015. Members will be responsible for their own travel arrangements, must be in good standing with a state bar for a minimum of three years, and must submit their completed application materials to NACDL by November 14, 2014.
Interested members should contact Elsa-Maria Ohman, NACDL’s National Affairs Assistant, at (202) 465-7638 or firstname.lastname@example.org, for further instructions.
Forum on Alleviating the Collateral Consequences of Arrest & Conviction
On Thursday, September 18, 2014, NACDL and Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) will host a forum entitled, "Alleviating the Collateral Consequences of Arrest & Conviction."
The event will include two sessions. The first will feature judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, human service specialists, sheriffs and their staff, business leaders, and elected officials. The second will feature criminal justice practitioners, advocates, and members of affected communities. Both sessions will focus on the collateral consequences suffered and relief mechanisms available for individuals with a criminal conviction. The sessions will highlight recommendations from NACDL’s report Collateral Damage: America's Failure to Forgive or Forget in the War on Crime.
The event will be held on September 18, 2014 from 3:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. at George Mason University's Arlington Campus (3301 Fairfax Dr., Arlington, VA, 22201). For more information, please contact Gail Arnall at email@example.com.