Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities
Criminal Justice in the 21st Century: Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System is a critically important and inclusive examination of the profound racial and ethnic disparities in America's criminal justice system, and concrete ways to overcome them. This conference report prepared by Consultant Tanya E. Coke is based upon a multi-day, open and frank discussion among a distinguished group of criminal justice experts – prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, scholars, community leaders, and formerly incarcerated advocates. This three-day convening was held October 17-19, 2012, at the New York County Lawyers' Association's historic Home of Law and was co-sponsored by the following organizations: the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, the Foundation for Criminal Justice, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, and the New York County Lawyers' Association.
The Underfunding of Assigned Counsel Systems
This report documents the unreasonably low rates of compensation paid to private attorneys who represent indigent defendants in state courts. The lack of adequate funding restricts the pool of attorneys willing to represent indigent defendants and creates conflicts of interest for attorneys by encouraging them to limit the amount of work they perform on a case for an indigent client. More experienced attorneys refuse to participate in assigned counsel systems that pay hourly rates far below the market rate while younger attorneys, who are often burdened by student loans, never even consider joining the defense bar. Even more troubling is the possibility that low hourly rates will encourage some attorneys to accept more clients than they can effectively represent in order to make ends meet. The result is an inadequate, inexperienced, overworked and inherently conflicted pool of attorneys accepting court appointments in our criminal courts.
Solutions to Indigent Defense Crisis
This report summarizes the highlights of the wide–ranging discussion and innovative proposals for reform discussed during a focus group convened in 2012 by NACDL and the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants. The report is divided into three broad topics. First, the report discusses front-end reforms such as reclassification and diversion, which help reduce the number of cases entering the system. Next, the report turns to the delivery of services, including the importance of standards and commissions, the central role of the private bar, and development of training. Third, the report considers the need for collaboration and cooperation with others within and outside the criminal justice system in order to achieve significant and sustainable reform.
Reforming America’s Grand Jury System
NACDL issued a groundbreaking new report on restoring and reforming the grand jury system-- Evaluating Grand Jury Reform in Two States: The Case for Reform. This research reflects an in-depth study of grand jury reform in two states – New York and Colorado. In conducting this study, researchers Erin Crites, Jon Gould and Colleen Shepard of the Center for Justice, Law & Society at George Mason University studied the experiences of prosecutors, defense lawyers and retired judges. Four key reform recommendations emerge from the research: (i) defense representation in the grand jury room, (ii) production of witness transcripts for the defense, (iii) advance notice for witnesses to appear, and (iv) the presentation of exculpatory evidence to the grand jury.
Three Minute Justice
Nearly a half million people, or approximately three percent of Florida's adults, pass through the state's misdemeanor courts each year. Most are found guilty. The average court appearance lasts as little as three minutes.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) studied misdemeanor courts and procedures in 21 Florida countiesi and is releasing its results and recommendations to the public today at noon. The report is entitled Three Minute Justice: Haste and Waste in Florida's Misdemeanor Courts.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and The Heritage Foundation jointly undertook an unprecedented look at the federal legislative process for all studied non-violent criminal offenses introduced in the 109th Congress in 2003 and 2006. This study revealed that offenses with inadequate mens rea requirements are ubiquitous at all stages of the legislatives process: Over 57 percent of the offenses introduced, and 64 percent of those enacted into law, contained inadequate mens rea requirements, putting the innocent at risk of criminal punishment. Compounding the problem, this study also found consistently poor legislative drafting and broad delegation of Congress's authority to make criminal law to unaccountable regulators.
The debate over drug enforcement policy in the United States is almost always framed in stark terms premised on narrow options. Conventional thinking about criminal justice issues—prison, community corrections, probation, or possibly some sort of diversion program for minor offenses and first-time offenders—has not worked, nor has it abated the addiction problem. Drug courts have swept the nation without much debate or input from the criminal defense bar. That input is long overdue.
This report seeks to inform and redefine the debate by considering and challenging the fundamental criminal justice lens through which drug-related issues are evaluated. Because "the definition of the alternatives is the supreme instrument of power," accepting the criminal justice paradigm legitimizes drugs courts while ignoring other smart, fair, effective, and economical approaches. The report also summarizes the history and evolution of drug courts, evaluates their operation and effectiveness, makes an overarching recommendation on the treatment of addiction, and offers a number of recommendations to ensure that the procedures and practices in drug court comply with constitutional and ethical norms.
Minor Crimes, Massive Waste
The explosive growth of misdemeanor cases is placing a staggering burden on America's courts. Defenders across the country are forced to carry unethical caseloads that leave too little time for clients to be properly represented. As a result, constitutional obligations are left unmet and taxpayers' money is wasted.