Amicus Briefs

NACDL files amicus briefs in federal and state courts across the nation in those cases that present issues of importance to criminal defendants, criminal defense lawyers, and/or the criminal legal system as a whole. NACDL is one of the most successful of the frequent amicus contributors to the nation’s state and federal courts, in part because NACDL draws upon the collected expertise of the nation’s criminal defense bar.

NACDL’s Amicus Program is managed by the Association’s Amicus Curiae Committee, which has been an important representative of NACDL—in the courts, in the media, and among other sectors of the legal community. In this section of the website, you will find digests and links to nearly 20 years of NACDL amicus briefs.

This mission statement and the accompanying protocols linked below were adopted by NACDL's Board of Directors on July 26, 2015. If you have any questions concerning the procedure by which to submit a request for amicus  support in your case, counsel for the party or parties may contact:

Vanessa Antoun
Senior Resource Counsel, NACDL
vantoun@nacdl.org
202-465-7663

NACDL Amicus Curiae Committee Mission Statement

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Showing 1 - 15 of 217 results

    • Brief

    Cody v. United States

    Brief of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Due Process Institute as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner (On Petition for a Writ of Certiorari). 


    Argument: Without addressing the relevant text or history, the Eleventh Circuit held that, for purposes of the COA statute, a “proceeding under section 2255” extends beyond identifying a defect in custody—habeas’s historic outer limit—to also include the process of choosing an appropriate remedy. The court of appeals erred by reading the jurisdictional limits in the Antiterror-ism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) in isolation from—rather than in pari materia with—the jurisdictional grants that they were enacted to restrain. Read together, sections 2255 and 2253 communicate Congress’s unambiguous intent that a “proceeding under section 2255” has the same scope as a traditional proceeding for habeas corpus. This Court’s habeas precedents, in turn, make clear that the scope of that proceeding does not include selecting a remedy. review is warranted because requiring a Certificate of Appealability prior to appellate review of a choice of remedy under § 2255(b) would be the functional equivalent of abolishing review altogether. COAs are available only for constitutional claims, but the choice of post-conviction remedy is an almost purely statutory procedure, and, as a practical matter, no COA could ever issue to a defendant in petitioner’s position. This Court’s review is needed to resolve that split and correct the Eleventh Circuit’s misinterpretation of the statutes governing federal post-conviction review.

    • Brief

    McCallum v. Italy

    Amicus Curiae to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.


    Argument: Article 3 of the ECHR absolutely prohibits the infliction of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In a series of major decisions since 2013, the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR has spelt out the criteria according to which sentences of life imprisonment must be implemented to ensure that Article 3 is not infringed. If life sentences meet these criteria, they can be imposed and implemented consistently with Article 3. Article 3 also governs extradition from member states. When a member state receives an extradition request, it has a duty to assess prospectively whether allowing extradition may result in a life sentence in the requesting state that would infringe Article 3, as interpreted by the ECtHR. This does not impose a burden on a non-member state seeking extradition, but on the member state from which extradition is sought. Such member state must ensure that its actions in allowing extradition do not foreseeably result in the Article 3 rights of a person in its jurisdiction later being infringed by a non-member state. The amici curiae submit in this intervention that the criteria developed by the ECtHR in respect of life imprisonment should be applied when deciding whether Italy is justified in extraditing McCallum to stand trial in Michigan, where she will be sentenced mandatorily to Life Without Parole (LWOP) if she is convicted of first-degree murder.

    • Brief

    United States v. Tsarnaev

    Brief of American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Inc., National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Rutherford Institute as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondent.


    Argument: NACDL’s amicus brief argues that in the sentencing phase of his capital trial, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sought to introduce evidence in mitigation that his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev had previously enlisted an accomplice to commit a brutal triple murder and robbery on the ten-year anniversary of September 11, 2001. Tamerlan bound, beat, and slit the throats of three men (one a childhood friend) in the name of jihad.  This evidence supported Dzhokhar’s core mitigation theory that his older brother was a violent jihadist who influenced him to participate in the Boston Marathon bombings and was more culpable for those crimes. But the district court excluded it. Tamerlan’s previous jihadist murders and recruitment of an accomplice are powerful pieces of mitigation evidence, and 18 U.S.C. § 3593(c) provides no basis to exclude them. “Waste of time” is not a basis for exclusion under Section 3593(c). The proposed mitigation evidence created no danger of “confusing the issues.” Section 3595(a)’s harmless error standard is demanding, and the Government fails to meet it here. The Government fails to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury was just as likely to disbelieve Dzhokar’s core mitigation theory if it had seen the Waltham evidence.  The Government also fails to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury would have sentenced Dzhokhar to death even if it believed Dzhokhar acted under Tamerlan’s influence.

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