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NACDL E-News

May 31, 2017; Vol. 16 No. 05

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions Issues Retrograde Charging Policy; Seeks Return to 20th Century's So-Called 'War on Drugs' and the Age of Mass Incarceration

On May 12, the Washington Post made public the May 10, 2017, Sessions Memo regarding Department of Justice charging and sentencing policy issued to more than 5,000 assistant United States attorneys and all assistant attorneys general. The policy represents a dramatic departure from the previous policy, which called for prosecutors in all cases to "individually evaluate the unique facts and circumstances and select charges and seek sentences that are fair and proportional based upon this individualized assessment."

"This Attorney General has taken away the discretion of professional prosecutors to determine what sentence serves justice in any given case," said NACDL President Barry J. Pollack. "Instead, prosecutors are now required in every case mindlessly to seek the maximum possible penalty. The new policy resurrects the failed one size fits all approach to criminal justice of prior Administrations. Those policies led to the shameful mass incarceration that made the United States first in the world in putting its citizens in jail. The Attorney General should be applying a fact-based approach to public health matters like drug addiction and abuse. Instead, he has established a policy that will lock up non-violent offenders with little or no criminal history, waste untold millions of dollars, devastate families and whole communities, and yet not make us any safer." 

Read more here.

Fourth Circuit Permits Mass Surveillance Lawsuit to Move Forward, but Without the Criminal Defense Bar and All but One Plaintiff

In March 2015, Wikimedia, NACDL, Human Rights Watch, and several other organizations filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland challenging the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass interception and searching of Americans' international Internet communications. The case is captioned Wikimedia, et al. v. NSA. On Oct. 23, 2015, the district court granted a motion by the government to dismiss the case, holding that the group of plaintiffs had not made plausible allegations that their communications were, in fact, being monitored by the NSA. On May 23, 2017, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, but only as to one plaintiff in the case, Wikimedia itself.

"While NACDL is pleased that this important case can now move forward, we are concerned about the exclusion from the case of the nation's criminal defense bar and the significant interests of its members and their clients," said NACDL President Elect Rick Jones. "The sanctity of attorney-client communications and attorney work product cannot be overstated. Accordingly, NACDL will study this decision and consider its options going forward."

To read more, click here.

NACDL First Amendment Strike Force and Mass Defense Unit Seeks Volunteers

NACDL has a long tradition of fighting to protect constitutional principles and standing up for the individual against the government. In keeping with that tradition, the Foundation for Criminal Justice (FCJ) and NACDL have committed to establish a First Amendment Strike Force and Mass Defense Unit. The goal of this project is to provide qualified counsel to represent protesters when the exercise of First Amendment rights results in arrest and prosecution. Specifically, NACDL supports a cadre of criminal defense lawyers who will be available to provide pro bono assistance to protesters throughout the country in the event of mass arrests. For those lawyers who volunteer, NACDL will maintain a database of available counsel and provide training and support at no cost.

Lawyers wishing to volunteer, please send an email to firstamendment@nacdl.org providing your bar number and indicating the state(s) in which you are admitted and are willing to provide pro bono assistance in the event of arrests related to mass protests.

Please stay tuned in the coming weeks for a formal announcement from NACDL and FCJ of the launch of this initiative, once the infrastructure is in place.

Save the Date – 16th Annual State Criminal Justice Network Conference

NACDL's 16th Annual State Criminal Justice Network Conference will take place in San Francisco, CA from July 26-28, 2017. Early bird registration for this conference "Moving Forward, Forging On: Effective & Creative State Criminal Justice Reforms" ends Wednesday, May 31, 2017. Registration for members is $125 and $150 for the general public. Please join NACDL and engage with attorneys and advocates around the country seeking state criminal justice reform.

In addition, NACDL is providing limited scholarships that can be used to cover airfare, hotel, and conference registration. Please visit here to learn more about the conference and to find instructions on how to apply for scholarships.

NACDL's State Legislative Affairs Committee Seeks Applications for Award
The Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award will be presented on Friday, July 28, 2017, at the State Criminal Justice Network Conference in San Francisco, California. The deadline to submit nominations is Friday, June 30, 2017. The award recognizes an individual or group whose exceptional efforts have led to positive reform of a state criminal justice system. For criteria and application guidelines, please click here.
Immigrant Defense Project Releases "Fighting Aggravated Felony Charges" Resource
The Immigrant Defense Project released "Fighting Aggravated Felony Charges," which is designed specifically to support the defense of immigrants alleged by the government to have in the past been convicted of an "aggravated felony." This legal resource is intended to provide information regarding legal arguments and supporting case law to challenge aggravated felony charges in removal, asylum/withholding, naturalization, and other immigration and federal criminal proceedings. To learn more, purchase the resource, or obtain other support on immigration issues, click here.
NACDL Election Notice
The NACDL Nominating Committee announced the 2017 nominees for officer and director positions on May 5, 2017. Petitions for candidacy will be accepted until June 8, 2017. To see election information, click here.
House Advances Legislation to Expand Federal Death Penalty and Grant Probation Officers Authority to Make Third Party Arrests

H.R. 115, the Thin Blue Line Act, passed the House with a vote of 271-143. Under this bill, the murder or the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or other first responder would become an aggravating factor in death penalty determinations. Click here to view a coalition letter in opposition to H.R. 115. Contact your U.S. Senators today and urge them to oppose H.R. 115!

The Probation Officer Protection Act of 2017, H.R. 1039, would authorize probation officers to arrest third parties without a warrant if the probation officer believes the person is interfering with the performance of their official duties. It passed the House with a vote of 229-177. Click here to view a coalition letter in opposition to H.R. 1039.

Both measures await action in the Senate.

Federal Legislative Tracking
Click here for a complete listing of all federal legislation NACDL is currently tracking. For more information on a specific bill or to learn NACDL's position, please contact Monica Reid, NACDL's Grassroots Advocacy Manager, at mreid@nacdl.org.
State Legislative Tracking
Click here for a complete listing of all legislation NACDL is currently tracking, sorted by issue area. Under each issue area you can either view legislation in select states or view all legislation. To jump to your particular state of interest, just click on the state on the map.
Advocacy Resources: What NACDL Can Do for You

Visit NACDL's Take Action webpage for state and federal legislative updates and action alerts. You can find more advocacy information and resources in NACDL's Advocacy Resource Library.

Please contact NACDL's Grassroots Advocacy Manager, Monica L. Reid, at mreid@nacdl.org for any advocacy question or need.

Federal Action Alerts

Take Action to Support Expanding Federal Expungement Eligibility  

The Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act, or the REDEEM Act, H.R. 1906/S. 827, would automatically seal and, in some cases, expunge juvenile records. It would also allow adults convicted of nonviolent crimes to petition a court to have their records sealed.

Help NACDL reduce the collateral consequences of returning citizens by contacting your Member of Congress today and urging them to support the REDEEM Act!

Take Action to "Ban the Box" 

Legislation to "Ban the Box" at the federal level has been reintroduced this Congress. The Fair Chance Act, H.R. 1905/S. 842, would require the federal government and federal contractors to postpone a request for criminal history information from job applicants until the applicant has received a conditional offer of employment.

Help NACDL reduce the barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated people by contacting your Member of Congress today!

New NACDL Connect Discussion Community on Healthcare Fraud

Members who wish to join the new Healthcare Fraud Discussion Community can click here.

To see a list of all available communities (along with options to join each), members can click here.

The available communities are:

  1. Daily Criminal Justice Briefing
  2. NACDL General Discussion Community
  3. NACDL Healthcare Fraud Discussion Community
  4. NACDL White Collar Crime Discussion Community
  5. Young & New Lawyers Discussion Community
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In Other News

Upcoming CLE Events
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Recent Updates to Restoration of Rights Project
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Employment Opportunities
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