The Foundation for Criminal Justice preserves and promotes the core values of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the American criminal justice system. Ongoing and recent projects supported by the FCJ include unprecedented studies of the federal public defense system, barriers to disclosure of exculpatory information, and obstacles to restoration of rights and status after conviction; efforts to identify concrete and easily-achieved solutions to racial disparities in the criminal justice system; free trainings for lawyers on a variety of topics including representing juveniles accused of wrongdoing and individuals facing immigration-related collateral consequences of conviction; and efforts to improve public defense in federal and state courts.
The FCJ Supports Unprecedented Clemency Efforts
One way that support for the FCJ helps directly influence people's lives is through the FCJ's support of Clemency Project 2014. To date, President Obama has granted 1,023 commutations, 523 of which were supported by Clemency Project 2014.
Clemency Project 2014, an unprecedented, wholly independent effort by the nation's bar, has recruited and trained nearly 4,000 volunteer lawyers from diverse practice backgrounds and completed screening of over 35,000 of the more than 36,000 federal prisoners who have requested volunteer assistance, as of November 2016. The Project's painstaking review of these cases revealed that the overwhelming majority of those requests were by applicants who did not meet the criteria put forward by the Department of Justice in April 2014. By late 2016, Clemency Project 2014 had submitted more than 2,400 petitions to the Office of the Pardon Attorney.
The First Amendment and Liberty's Last Champion: Celebrating Free Speech, Seeking Criminal Justice Reform
Honoring and featuring remarks by David Simon
October 28, 2016
The Foundation for Criminal Justice will hold its 2016 awards dinner on October 28, 2016, on The First Amendment and Liberty's Last Champion: Celebrating Free Speech, Seeking Criminal Justice Reform. The First Amendment is the bedrock right that guarantees the ability to speak out against a broken criminal justice system. Stand with the Foundation for Criminal Justice and the nation’s criminal defense bar at the Newseum, the world’s premier institution celebrating the role of free speech and a free press in a free society, in celebrating the role of the First Amendment in criminal justice reform.
FCJ Annual Report
The Foundation for Criminal Justice is pleased to publish its most recent Annual Report.
Read the report | Read the report in PDF (PDF)
Privacy in the Digital Age:
Freedom, the Fourth Amendment, and the Future
The Foundation for Criminal Justice held its 2015 awards dinner on July 24, 2015, on Privacy in the Digital Age: Freedom, the Fourth Amendment, and the Future. The Fourth Amendment is the starting place in the work to protect privacy and individual liberty.
Watch the speeches and learn more about the FCJ's 2015 awards dinner.
Read about the FCJ's 2014 awards dinner.
Access to Competent Counsel
The FCJ supports myriad activities to reform local, state, and federal public defense systems. The FCJ embraces the fundamental concept that counsel must be provided to all accused persons at any court appearance at which a guilty plea to any crime may be entered or at which liberty is at risk. This goal remains elusive throughout much of the country. Through support for NACDL’s Public Defense
Reform and Litigation Fund, the FCJ also supports a broad range of activities
to improve the nation’s public defense infrastructure, and to vastly expand
training and education opportunities for defense lawyers in all realms of
Federal Public Defense
In the wake of the severe cuts to the provision of public defense services during sequestration in 2013, the FCJ provided critical funding to NACDL's Federal Indigent Defense Task Force to examine the federal public defense system. The task force's mission included an assessment of the level of independence afforded to the Defender Services Office and consideration of whether reforms are necessary to ensure adherence to the ABA’s Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System. After extensive research and more than 130 interviews with key stakeholders, the Task Force identified several significant, persistent deficiencies in the system. This report explores those concerns and offers seven recommendations to assure a robust federal public defense system.
Read the Report (PDF) | Project Overview
Learn more about how the FCJ supports public defense reform.
Fighting Overcriminalization and Prosecutorial Misconduct
Overcriminalization is a dangerous trend that the FCJ is working to reverse. The problem is compounded by a system that unduly imbues prosecutors with an excessively disproportionate array of tools, including unbridled charging authority, mandatory minimum sentences, and largely unreviewable discretion to control the flow of information to the defense. The threat of geometrically increased
penalties for those who dare to challenge the government’s case, often without
access to vital information consistent with innocence, unduly burdens the right
to a trial. This is known as the trial penalty. The resulting systematic
imbalance impels even innocent people to waive fundamental constitutional
Material Indifference and Brady Disclosure
In courtrooms across the nation, accused persons are convicted without ever having seen information that was favorable to their defense. The frequency with which this occurs and the role it plays in wrongful convictions prompted With FCJ support, NACDL and the VERITAS Initiative to undertake an unprecedented study of Brady claims litigated in federal courts over a five-year period. The Study asked: What role does judicial review play in the disclosure of favorable information to accused? The results revealed a troubling answer—the judiciary is impeding fair disclosure in criminal cases and, in doing so, encouraging prosecutors to disclose as little favorable information as possible.
Read the Report (PDF) | Project Overview
Restoration of Rights and The Eight Amendment
Federal, state, and local law enforcement arrest some 14 million people annual, and it is estimated that nearly 70 million adults have criminal records. There are at least 45,000 collateral consequences of arrest or conviction. This vast array of legal restrictions, generalized discrimination, and social stigma have become more severe, more public, and more frequently permanent. The FCJ and NACDL are undertaking efforts to rein in this worrisome trend.
Collateral Damage and the Task Force on the Restoration of Rights
With more than 65 million people in America having some form of a criminal record, the universality and import of the problem this nonpartisan report tackles is tremendous. With critical support from the FCJ, NACDL's Task Force on the Restoration of Rights and Status After Conviction held hearings all over the country, featuring testimony from more than 150 witnesses from every corner of the criminal justice system, as part of the research leading to this report. Included among the witnesses were those who have faced unfair, irrational, and often life-altering barriers arising from a brush with the criminal law. Many of their stories are captured in the report. And many more are available in the complete transcripts of the Task Force’s hearings. With more than one in four adults in the United States having some form of a criminal record, and more than 2.2 million people currently behind bars in the United States, more than any other nation in the world, the vast impact of the problem of collateral consequences and legal barriers to reentry is undeniable.
Read the Report (PDF) | Project Overview
Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities
As the nation is constantly reminded, racial and ethnic disparities permeate America's criminal justice system. the FCJ supports projects designed to constructively address these disparities.
Eliminating Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System
The Foundation for Criminal Justice sponsored Criminal justice in the 21st Century: Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System in partnership with NACDL and other partners. This groundbreaking project brought together leading experts from all corners of the criminal justice system over two conferences to identify effective and practical solutions to end racial and ethnic criminal justice disparities. Articles from the two conferences appeared in The New York University Journal of Legislation & Public Policy and in a series of articles published in The Champion, in addition to a three-part podcast series.
Learn more about the project.
With FCJ support, NACDL produced a webinar following events in Ferguson, Mo., on polarizing issues including racism, implicit bias, disparate sentencing policies, as well as, the over-policing of minority and poor communities. The result was Under Siege: The Defense Bar Examines Police Militarization, Ethnic & Racial Dynamics of Sentencing, and Their Impact on Criminal Justice Outcomes. The panels addressed militarization, ethnic & racial dynamics of sentencing and their impact on criminal justice outcomes, as well as the historical and systemic issues associated with crime and the response of police to those communities most affected by crime, and solutions policy makers and communities can make to solve these issues on the local, state and federal level.
Learn more about the project or watch the webinars.
Protecting the Fourth Amendment
I no area is the role of the criminal defense more vital than in defining individual privacy rights. The limit of the government's power to conduct searches and seizures is tested in the context of criminal cases. The constitutional validity of the government's surveillance and investigation method sis litigated when prosecutors offer evidence against someone who is accused of wrongdoing. The FCJ supports efforts to ensure that the Fourth Amendment remains a vibrant protection against encroachments on individual privacy and liberty.This is an especially vital role in the digital age. The FCJ
believes that Fourth Amendment protections should neither turn on the medium
used to transmit private information, nor on how that information is stored.
Mail Cover Surveillance
NACDL's Fourth Amendment Advocacy Committee carefully and comprehensively studied issues concerning the current United States Postal Service Mail Covers regime in light of reports that the U.S. Postal Service’s mass mail covers surveillance program, which secretly monitors the mail of Americans, approved nearly 50,000 requests from law enforcement agencies as well as its own internal inspection unit, all without judicial review. That report also revealed that federal prosecutors used a mail cover to monitor the communications between a criminal defendant and his lawyers, one of whom was Past President of NACDL Cynthia Orr. NACDL's newly adopted report Mail Cover Surveillance: Problems and Recommendations analyzes the issues and offers a number of recommendations for addressing the issue, concluding that 'addressing the potential for mail covers to violate the Fourth Amendment and privacy norms is more important than ever.’
Read the Report (PDF)
Domestic Drone Information Center
NACDL’s Domestic Drone Information Center provides a one-stop source of cutting-edge information on the proliferation of drones inside the United States. It collects news from leading publications across the nation; features a comprehensive listing of legislative developments; and contains sections devoted to relevant case law, scholarship, upcoming events, and data on drone usage. The Domestic Drone Information Center also aggregates existing material from other websites, making it a launching pad to additional information about domestic drones on the web. This project was made possible in part by support from the Foundation for Criminal Justice.
Visit the Center.
Resources for Lawyers
The Resource Counsel Project at NACDL, made possible by initial support from the FCJ, provides access to technical assistance for, among others, court-appointed counsel, contract defenders, and solo and small firm defense attorneys. The goal of this project is to give all defense lawyers access to information and direct assistance on as range of critical topics from the basics of criminal procedure, to the cutting edge of substantive criminal law, like motions to challenge eyewitness identification procedures. The Resource Counsel has developed a broad, web-based technical assistance module for defense lawyers, as well as provided innumerable attorneys with direct technical assistance.
Additional examples of recently launched web-based training programs and resources are:
- NACDL’s Compendium on Electronic Recordation of Interrogation provides a complete, upto-date analysis of laws that require law enforcement to record the entirety of custodial interrogations — a principal source of wrongful convictions.
- The Proportionality Litigation Project is a collection of individual downloadable documents that summarize for each U.S.state the key doctrines and leading court rulings setting forth constitutional and statutory limits on lengthy imprisonment terms and other extreme (non-capital) sentences.
Having the resource counsel position has also permitted NACDL to obtain funding to train defense lawyers on a number of critical and topical issues. With support from the FCJ, NACDL coordinated a series of webinars to ensure that the criminal defense bar understands the implications of the Padilla v. Kentucky, Graham v. Florida, Miller v. Alabama, and Jackson v. Hobb decisions. The trainings have been made available online without any charge, and remain available on demand, in an effort to reach the broadest possible audience. In addition, and with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, NACDL’s Resource Counsel has coordinated several national trainings that educate attorneys on litigating post-conviction innocence claims involving mainly flawed forensic evidence.