From The President

From The President Lawrence S. Goldman

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.

In my previous columns, I have discussed issues of significance to our nation’s criminal justice system such as mandatory videotaping of custodial interrogations. In this issue, six months into my term as President, I narrow my focus and address issues relating to NACDL itself. More specifically, I devote this column to some of the new activities, programs and member services that the NACDL has initiated within the past year.

New committees

We have formed two committees to help our members practice law more effectively. The Federal Circuit Oral Argument Committee, chaired by Howard and Scott Srebnick, consists of a team of knowledgeable and experienced lawyers to sit as a moot court to prepare a member for an argument in a federal appellate court. (We continue our Supreme Court Oral Argument moot court program, coordinated by Professor David Cole, with the Supreme Court Institute of the Georgetown University Law Center.)

We have initiated a tutoring program, chaired by Jack Litman and Helen Leiner. Young lawyers are paired with senior, experienced lawyers who have volunteered to be on call as mentors to provide advice on law, tactics or practice.

Three new committees are addressing areas that we have too long ignored. The Prisons Committee, started last year and chaired by Avrom Robin and Raag Singhal, has already issued public statements on such issues as felony disenfranchisement. The newly formed Mental Health Law Committee, chaired by George Parnham (who represented Andrea Yates), is beginning to look at issues of mental health as they pertain to our clients. Headed by Drew Findling and Milton Hirsch, the Judicial Relations Committee is reviewing all federal judicial nominations to determine whether we should take a position on the candidate.

New electronic information

We have initiated a number of benefits available to members through increased use of electronic technology. Approximately once every three weeks each member whose e-mail address we know receives the NACDL E-NEWS an electronic publication which includes a report on NACDL programs and activities and updates on legislation, sentencing guidelines, case law and other relevant issues.

We are now making available to all our members our Newsflow program previously available only to officers and committee chairs. Members may subscribe to receive daily by e-mail approximately five articles of interest to criminal practitioners from publications throughout the country.

Most recently, we have initiated a new listserv for our members. This members-only, free-for-all, listserv allows any member to seek advice or information from other members on any issue, whether it be a question of law or trial strategy, the name of or experience with an expert witness, or information about a prosecutor or judge or lawyer. This listserv will potentially provide young (and not so young) lawyers access to the wisdom and experience of our entire membership.

We have also initiated a speaker resource Web page to provide members with information on certain criminal justice issues that they might be called to discuss in the media or before a community group.

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Our State Legislative Network, which was initiated last August, provides model statutes and legislative packets on issues that we hope to push in state legislatures. Our principal proposal is for legislation requiring mandatory electronic recording of custodial interrogation (see the cover story and my column in The Champion, December 2002).

Indigent defense

On other fronts, we have, through our Indigent Defense Committee (chaired by Priscilla Forsyth, Marvin Schechter and Lisa Wayne), supported a suit in Wayne County, Michigan, for an increase in assigned counsel fees. We are working with other organizations in Louisiana to support a statewide indigent defense reform and, together with the ACLU, are meeting with county officials in Venango County, Pennsylvania, about our demand for increased resources for the County Public Defender. In Virginia, we have formed an indigent defense coalition which has received a substantial grant from the Open Society Institute and the ABA Gideon Initiative to conduct a public relations campaign for the need for indigent defense reform in that state.

International outreach

We have received NGO (non-governmental organization) status at the United Nations thanks primarily to the efforts of Speedy Rice. I have designated Nancy Hollander, Speedy and Robert Fogelnest as our principal representatives to the UN’s Economic and Social Council in New York, Geneva and Vienna, respectively. This special consultative status will give us greater credibility and visibility in our international efforts to eliminate the death penalty in this country and throughout the world and to ensure an independent and vigorous defense bar in courts such as the International Criminal Court.

This past fall a delegation of six NACDL leaders, under a Ford Foundation grant, met with leaders of the Chinese criminal defense bar and judicial and law enforcement officials at a 10-day conference in Beijing. We and our Chinese colleagues learned a great deal. We hope to have further conferences with lawyers in China and elsewhere.

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Other services

On March 31 we will have our first group swearing-in ceremony at the United States Supreme Court. We expect that this ceremony — which will include a breakfast at the Court, priority seating for oral argument, and a lecture by a Supreme Court practitioner — will become a regular event.

We, of course, continue to provide our first-rate magazine The Champion, superb continuing legal education programs and an active amicus curiae program which submits briefs in virtually every criminal case in the United States Supreme Court and, in many cases in the federal circuits and district courts and state appellate courts. We continue to be active on the legislative front — seeking favorable federal laws, such as the Innocence Protection Act, and opposing unfavorable proposed legislation. We continue in both the print and electronic media to be the primary voice of the defense position to the American public. We continue to present special programs, such as the Gideon commemoration in Washington on March 18. And our Lawyers Assistance Strike Force and Ethics Advisory Committee are always available to our members.

We continue to provide each member with our extremely useful member handbook and to offer other valuable publications. The briefs in our brief bank are now free to all members. We continue to provide savings on liability and auto insurance, hotel accommodations and car rentals, electronic research, Web promotion, and even a discount on menswear.

We continue to look for ways to expand our programs and provide greater services to our members. I would be happy to receive any suggestions. I look forward to hearing your ideas and thoughts, and to your continued and, hopefully, even greater use of our resources and participation in our programs.


To arrange a moot court on a federal court of appeals argument, contact Howard Srebnick (305-371-6421) or Scott Screbnick (305-285-9019), or on a Supreme Court argument, contact David Cole (202-662-9078).

To become a mentor or “mentee,” contact Helen Leiner (703-591-1112) or Jack Litman (212-428-2400).

To provide your e-mail address to the NACDL office, contact Mary Ann Robertson (202-872-8600 x222)

To receive daily Newsflow articles via e-mail, contact Dan Dodson (202-872-8600 x228).

To subscribe to the listserv, contact Steven Frazier (202-872-8600 x231)

To join the Supreme Court swearing-in ceremony, contact Cecelia Hannon (202-872-8600 x241).