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NACDL E-News

November 30, 2015; Vol. 14 No. 11

NACDL's Forensic Science Committee Requests the Assistance of All Members

As NACDL monitors the progress of the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS), various issues have emerged on which members can provide vital assistance. One such current issue is the extent to which state and local laboratories provide cursory or truncated laboratory reports that lack the detail normally associated with contemporary forensic science standards. Typical examples are reports that merely provide conclusions, or scant reference to how the conclusion was drawn. They may be found in any number of disciplines, including analysis of purported drugs, toxicology, ballistics, fingerprints, etc.. NACDL can play a vital role if it can provide the Commission with examples from throughout the country.

If you have an example of a cursory state or local laboratory report, please send copies of these reports to ForensicReports@nacdl.org.

The Forensic Committee appreciates your assistance and will update the membership on NCFS developments.

Mens Rea Legislation Introduced in House and Senate

On Monday, Nov. 16, bipartisan leadership from the House Judiciary Committee and House Crime Subcommittee introduced important legislation to address the erosion in the criminal intent, or mens rea, requirement in federal criminal law, legislation which on Nov. 18 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a unanimous voice vote. Since at least 2009, as evidenced by the House Crime Subcommittee's first hearing on the "Over-criminalization and Over-federalization of Criminal Law," Members have been interested in the importance that criminal intent requirements play in a fair and rational criminal justice system.

Also, on Wednesday, Nov. 18, in the U.S. Senate a group of Senators introduced even stronger legislation aimed at ensuring that only those who are truly culpable of criminal conduct committed with criminal intent are ensnared by federal criminal laws. Introduced by U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and David Perdue, the mens rea reform would generally establish a default criminal intent requirement that the government prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted "willfully, with respect to any element for which the text of the covered offense does not specify a state of mind." NACDL endorses strong mens rea requirements in the criminal law.

In a speech delivered Nov. 12 in Washington. D.C., NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer explained, "Intent requirements are the moral anchor of our criminal law….It is critical – especially for the little guy who cannot afford cadres of high priced lawyers to analyze every statute and regulation – that we produce meaningful reform that will ensure that every criminal statute has a precisely defined intent requirement."

Read more here.

NACDL President E.G. "Gerry" Morris Testifies before Criminal Justice Act Review Committee

On Nov. 17, 2015, NACDL President E.G. "Gerry" Morris testified on behalf of the Association at a public hearing of the Committee to Review the Criminal Justice Act Program (CJA Committee) of the Judicial Conference of the United States in Santa Fe, N.M.

According to the CJA Study flyer, this ad hoc committee "[a]ppointed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., …will conduct a comprehensive and impartial review of the Criminal Justice Act program, which secures the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel for federal criminal defendants." The CJA Committee's website also invites participation and input from all stakeholders in order to accomplish this goal.

Upon its empaneling in October 2013, NACDL's Task Force on Federal Indigent Defense was concerned that it had been twenty years since the federal indigent defense system had undergone a comprehensive review. As detailed in the Task Force's recent report, Federal Indigent Defense 2015: The Independence Imperative, "no comprehensive study and analysis, as envisioned by the [1993] Prado Report, has been performed in the two decades since," even though the Prado Report recommended that "'a comprehensive global examination of the CJA program should be undertaken every seven years.'" The report also specified "Seven Fundamentals of a Robust Federal Indigent Defense System," which centered around the theme of independence from the judiciary.

Mr. Morris summarized these points to the CJA Committee, adding that "As the review process unfolds, NACDL urges the committee to invite the judiciary, the administrative component, and the defense community to articulate with specificity a new vision for federal public defense system – one that will scrupulously safeguard independence and ensure that that every accused person in the federal system has access to high quality representation. In pursuit of this quest, NACDL stands ready to assist the Committee and the federal public defense community however it can."

Mr. Morris's testimony on behalf of NACDL is available on NACDL's website. Testimony, transcripts, and video of the Santa Fe hearing are expected to be made available by the CJA Committee here. There is also more information about the CJA Committee, including how to anonymously submit comments, on their website.

There will be further hearings on this issue in the coming months, and a full list of dates and locations is available at www.nacdl.org/indigentdefense/federalcrisis.

You can read more about NACDL's dedicated efforts in the area of indigent defense at www.nacdl.org/indigentdefense.

NACDL Testifies Before the U.S. Sentencing Commission

On Nov. 5, 2015, Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma testified on behalf of NACDL before the United States Sentencing Commission in Washington, DC. The public hearing focused on the proposed amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines specifically regarding the definition of a "crime of violence." In his testimony, Margulis-Ohnuma expressed NACDL's strong support for removing the residual clause from the Sentencing Guidelines' definition of crime of violence and also urged for such changes to be adopted retroactively. Margulis-Ohnuma is a Life Member of NACDL, vice-chair of NACDL's sentencing committee, and an attorney in private practice in New York City.

Video recording as well as additional information about the hearing and the U.S. Sentencing Commission are available here.

Take Action: President Obama has “Banned the Box” – Tell Congress to do the same!

Earlier this month, President Obama announced that he is directing the Office of Personal Management (OPM) to take action to "Ban the Box" in federal employment hiring practices, delaying inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process. As you may know, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs reported S. 2021, the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2015, favorably from the committee. This legislation would go a step further by requiring federal contractors to "Ban the Box" as well. NACDL sent a letter to President Obama urging him to "Ban the Box" and signed onto the coalition letter in support of S. 2021.

Contact your senator today and urge them to support S. 2021! 

Become a Life Member of NACDL

There will never be a better time to become a Life Member of NACDL! You can lock in the current rate with the first of five yearly $1,000 installments, or a one-time payment of $5,000. If you have ever thought of upgrading your membership…2015 is the year to do it. Beginning January 7, 2016, a new Life Membership will cost $6,500.

CALL: The Membership Hotline now to upgrade your membership! (202) 872-4001. 

QUESTIONS: Contact Michael Connor at (202) 465-7654 or mconnor@nacdl.org.

VISIT: http://www.nacdl.org/lifememberupgrade for more information, or to download the Life Membership Form.

NACDL 2016 Election Notice
NACDL's 2016 election will commence in the coming weeks. Individuals interested in running for officer positions or for the board of directors should consult www.nacdl.org/elections. Deadlines and procedures will be posted there by January 1.
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In Other News

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Recent Updates to Restoration of Rights Project
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