From the President: NACDL — The Engine for Justice

NACDL is the engine for criminal justice. Members of this organization are on a never-ending mission to ensure individual and institutional due process, equality, and fundamental fairness.

Access to The Champion archive is one of many exclusive member benefits. It’s normally restricted to just NACDL members. However, this content, and others like it, is available to everyone in order to educate the public on why criminal justice reform is a necessity.

NACDL is the engine for justice — criminal justice. NACDL’s staff, its members, and the Foundation for Criminal Justice (FCJ) provide the critical fuel. While serving the past 12 months as NACDL’s president, I observed firsthand the incredible work and generosity of so many. The fuel, of course, comes from different but equally important energy sources. In some ways it personifies my mantra of the past year: money, membership, and mission.

It is customary for the president’s final column to summarize and comment on some of the good that NACDL achieved in the preceding year. To do so is a good endeavor, but NACDL members are on a never-ending mission to ensure individual and institutional due process, equality, and fundamental fairness. Without a vital staff, FCJ and members, it would be impossible to weather the storm of what otherwise would be unchecked prosecutorial power and limitless increases in legislative overcriminalization and punishment. We work together to protect the Bill of Rights and to make sure that each accused person receives zealous and effective representation. Without our collective energy, there would be an unchecked avalanche of injustice in every area of the criminal justice arena, and this would endanger the civil rights and constitutional freedoms of all.

Even with all the good achieved during the past 12 months, however, the mission is not done. In fact, it can never be completed. It is the nature of the beast. This is the reason each NACDL member is Liberty’s Last Champion®, the reason “the defense never rests,” and the reason liberty would be at a greater risk without us.

Individuals accused of breaking the law — rich or poor — do not maintain a lobbyist in Congress to make sure their rights are protected. It is left to the advocate for the accused — the criminal defense lawyer — to stand between the client and the forces that seek to take away liberty. After a year of traveling, speaking and meeting with lawyers around the country, I have an even greater appreciation of the self-sacrifice and commitment of defense lawyers and the role defense lawyers play in protecting the Constitution.

As we move into the next fiscal year, please consider the various ways in which you can further advance NACDL’s mission: (1) Membership — call a lapsed member or enlist a new one; (2) Clemency Project — take on a case and find other lawyers and firms willing to do so; (3) Fundraising — consider making a donation to the FCJ, spreading the word, and identifying other supporters; and (4) Greater Involvement — become more involved in NACDL by joining a committee and attending a seminar.

It seems like only yesterday that my term began at last year’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the membership, we partied in City Hall courtyard, and we filled the National Constitution Center for our Gala. Throughout my term as president, NACDL attacked abuses in the criminal justice system involving racial and ethnic injustice, indigent defense, death penalty, grand jury reform, and forfeiture reform. To learn more about the issues we addressed, visit NACDL’s website and take a look at the nearly 80 press releases we issued, far exceeding recent years. NACDL has not only been heard, but its message retold in much higher numbers. This year’s NACDL media mentions are 63 percent over 2013-2014 and 156 percent over 2012-2013. Further, NACDL’s work or materials were cited or mentioned in nearly 100 journal and law review pieces this past year. The press releases provide not only a good accounting of much that occurred and NACDL’s achievements, but also demonstrate our constant, timely, vigilant voice on issues that are so important.

It is heartening to recall the following significant events: at our insistence the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld an ethics opinion barring plea agreements containing waivers of ineffective assistance of counsel, and at the Louisiana courts ordered funding for the defense of indigents in complex cases; DOJ ended the practice of seeking IAC waivers; the receipt of profound funding to aid the indigent crisis and train lawyers; the C-Span coverage of our rollout of the FCJ report Material Indifference: How Courts Are Impeding Fair Disclosure in Criminal Cases at the National Press Club; successful legislative efforts including our work to have the Judiciary Committee review all criminalization legislation and the ending of the death penalty in Nebraska; the unveiling with the DOJ of FBI historic failures in testimony on hair microscopic analysis; calling for an end to mass postal surveillance practices; the work challenging the shortfalls of the USA Freedom Act; training thousands of lawyers through seminars and webinars; our clemency work; protecting the defense bar when under attack; and the formation of a task force to review police body cameras. This work and so much more leaves me continually impressed with and thankful for our organization.

We have instituted a successful Board-staffed membership table at each seminar, an educational Board retreat, and a robust social media committee. In addition, lawyer assistance programs are accessible on the home page.

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With all the good to recount, we also remember with heavy hearts the loss this year of liberty’s last champions — NACDL Treasurer Bill Buckman and Life Members Herald Price Fahringer and Edward L. Greenspan, Q.C. We also regret the passing of longtime member Sam Buffone. Their work inspires us all.

Finally, I extend hearty congratulations to incoming NACDL President Gerry Morris (Austin, Texas), and to the two newly minted officers, Treasurer Chris Wellborn (Rock Hill, S.C.) and Secretary Nina Ginsburg (Alexandria, Va.).

You are my sisters and my brothers. I thank you for your commitment and dedication. With every client, every day, and at every step, we are part of the noblest of professions. It was an honor to serve you and to serve the cause of justice.

NACDL, Amen.

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About the Author

Theodore “Ted” Simon is an attorney in private practice in Philadelphia, Pa., where he has based a local, national, state, federal, and international trial and appellate practice representing individuals and corporations. Simon has obtained reversals in the U.S. Supreme Court and in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He is a leading authority on the representation of Americans abroad, extradition, and international prisoner transfer. Simon is a Trustee of the Foundation for Criminal Justice. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Philadelphia’s Jenkins Law Library, America’s first law library.

Theodore Simon
Law Offices of Theodore Simon
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Philadelphia, PA 19103
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