News Release

Nation’s Defense Bar Sues DOJ for Transparency on New Charging and Sentencing Policies Under FOIA 

Washington, DC (June 6, 2024) – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) have filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking public records detailing the Department of Justice’s implementation of December 2022 memoranda establishing new policies for all federal prosecutors’ charging and sentencing practices. 

On December 16, 2022, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued two memoranda mandating significant changes in the litigation of criminal cases by federal prosecutors. These changes include treating crack cocaine offenses the same as powder cocaine offenses to prevent unjust and racially disparate sentencing outcomes. Additionally, charges carrying mandatory minimum sentences should be reserved for cases where other charges would not adequately reflect the seriousness of the alleged criminal conduct, the danger to the community, or the harm to victims. Finally, the memo directs that charges should not be filed simply to coerce pleas.  

“This lawsuit is crucial for ensuring transparency, accountability, and justice in our criminal legal system,” said Nate Pysno, Director of Economic Crime and Procedural Justice at NACDL. “The public and especially defendants deserve to understand how the Department of Justice is implementing these policies. If fully and consistently implemented, these practices will work to eliminate racial disparities, promote fairness in sentencing, and ameliorate coercive plea practices.” 

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Kate Holden, NACDL Public Affairs and Communications Strategist, 202-465-7624 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.