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Concerning the Coronavirus

May 12, 2020, Message from NACDL President Nina J. Ginsberg

Dear Colleague,

I hope you, your loved ones, and your colleagues are well during these challenging times. I write to you on the heels of NACDL’s May 9 spring board meeting, which was held online. Among the topics covered, the Board received briefings on recent Title IX developments, NACDL’s and its members’ efforts in the courts through direct litigation as well as the Compassionate Release Clearinghouse to secure the release of incarcerated individuals who are sitting ducks during this pandemic, and the numerous, well-received initiatives launched for the benefit of NACDL members during this period.

Additionally, the response to NACDL’s online CLE programming and free member webinars (and still more in the NACDL Resource Center) has been extraordinary and NACDL is busy working to continue providing these valuable programs. Indeed, there is an NACDL webinar in the works on the new Title IX Rules that take an important step in restoring due process in campus proceedings involving allegations of sexual misconduct. And tomorrow, the very popular NACDL Engage & Exchange Video Discussion Series, aired every Wednesday at 2 pm ET, will feature Kate Judson, the Executive Director of the Center for Integrity in Forensic Sciences, discussing defending child abuse cases in light of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ position paper on shaken baby/abusive head trauma cases. And now that in many parts of the nation we are moving into a new phase in which some courts are re-opening and beginning to reschedule jury trials, please send any motions, memos, rulings, and standards for the use of video-conferencing and the resumption of jury trials that you think belong in NACDL’s ever-growing Coronavirus Resource to NACDL’s Senior Director of Public Affairs & Communications Ivan Dominguez (idominguez@nacdl.org).

More importantly, at Saturday’s board meeting, NACDL’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to endorse “NACDL’s Supplemental Statement of Principles and Further Call to Action Concerning COVID-19 and America’s Criminal Justice System: Avoiding Criminalization in Confronting COVID-19,” issued in full to the media and the public on Monday morning as part of this news release. All too often, the United States turns to the criminal justice system as the tool of first resort to address all manner of socially undesirable conduct. So it comes as no surprise that authorities in many jurisdictions are turning to criminal penalties in connection with efforts to address this pandemic. The nation’s criminal defense bar knows first-hand the consequences of such ill-advised criminalization. In adopting these principles, NACDL decries criminalization as a response to COVID-19 and implores policymakers across the nation to reconsider this terribly ill-advised response to the pandemic.

And as NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer explained, “Overcriminalization inevitably results in selective law enforcement that hits minority communities the hardest. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past when we turned public health concerns associated with drugs into an instrument of oppression and put the nation on a path to mass incarceration. Let us be smart this time and rely on civic education rather than criminal prosecution.”

It is critical that NACDL is again out front, standing tall in defense of fairness and justice. So, just as NACDL issued its Call for Prompt Implementation of Comprehensive, Concrete, and Transparent COVID-19 Coronavirus Readiness Plans for Nation’s Prisons, Jails, and Other Detention Facilities on March 4, the day after the United States surpassed just 100 confirmed cases of the virus, Liberty’s Last Champion is out front again as stories begin to come in from across the country about criminalization as a response to the pandemic, both of which are already adversely and disproportionately impacting minority communities.

In addition, at Saturday’s board meeting, the Nominating Committee announced its candidates for director and officer positions in this year’s election. You can see their report and procedures to seek election via petition at www.nacdl.org/elections.

During this challenging time, please consider helping NACDL continue to serve you and your clients during this public health crisis and into the future. Click here to donate to the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice. You can make a one-time contribution, or an ongoing monthly commitment. You have my word, every dollar makes a difference.

I could not be more proud than I am to serve you and this great Association. Thank you for all that you are doing.

Best wishes for good health to you and yours,

Nina J. Ginsberg

NACDL President