Washington, DC (March 27, 2014) -- This morning, the bipartisan House Judiciary Overcriminalization Task Force held its second hearing of 2014, and the subject was "Overfederalization."
The witnesses who testified at today’s hearing were:
- Professor James Strazzella, Temple University School of Law
- Mr. Joseph I. Cassilly, National District Attorneys Association
Republican and Democratic Task Force members agreed that any examination of overfederalization of criminal law must begin with an acknowledgement that the body of federal criminal law has become enormous. Indeed, there are over 4,500 crimes scattered throughout the federal code, and by some estimates hundreds of thousands in the federal regulations. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) noted that Congress on average creates some 50 new federal crimes each year. The hearing evidenced a broad, bipartisan consensus that the overfederalization of criminal law is a problem in need of a solution.
There were multiple references to certain types of offenses that the witnesses and Task Force members appeared to agree were more properly the province of state law, and therefore unnecessary at the federal level, such as carjacking and dog fighting. In order to avoid such further expansion of the federal criminal law, both witnesses as well as numerous Task Force members agreed that Congress must more carefully analyze whether any proposed criminal law is necessary at the federal level.
State Prosecutor Joseph Casilly told the Task Force that "the problem of overfederalization is due largely to [Congress] reacting to the crime of the month." He suggested that any proposal to Congress to adopt another federal criminal law be required to make a predicate showing both that "states are unable or unwilling" to prosecute that particular type of offense and that there is a "compelling federal interest."
A link to a webcast of today’s hearing will be available, and the written testimony of both witnesses at today’s hearing is available, here. Since the Congressional Overcriminalization Task Force was first authorized in May of 2013, it has held six substantive hearings on Capitol Hill, with NACDL leadership testifying as witnesses at two of those hearings. Links to webcasts of all five of the Task Force’s previous hearings and the written testimony of all of the witnesses are available at www.nacdl.org/overcrimtaskforce. And to learn more about NACDL’s extensive work on the problem of overcriminalization in America, including the overfederalization of the criminal law, visit www.nacdl.org/overcrim.
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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.