Washington, DC (May 16, 2016) – In recent days, the working group known as Clemency Project 2014, which was formed by National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers (NACDL), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the American Bar Association (ABA), and the Federal Public and Community Defenders, surpassed a major milestone, submitting its 1,000th petition to the Office of the Pardon Attorney.
Clemency Project 2014, a historically unprecedented and wholly independent volunteer effort by the nation's bar, is a vehicle through which thousands of attorneys have been able to respond to the Department of Justice's call for the bar to offer free assistance to potential petitioners. Through the Project, and with the assistance of a small paid staff and volunteer leaders of the participating organizations, these lawyers received in-depth training, screened tens of thousands of requests for assistance, engaged in often challenging factual and legal research, and ultimately, as of now, submitted more than 1,000 petitions, prepared pro bono, on behalf of non-violent federal prisoners serving draconian sentences that likely would not be imposed today given changes in law and policy.
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the largest pro bono undertaking in the history of the American legal profession," said NACDL President E.G. "Gerry" Morris. "I could not be more proud of the bar and, in particular, the many criminal defense lawyers who stood up and volunteered to do what they can to help secure freedom for prisoners who appear to qualify under the criteria announced by the Department of Justice in April 2014. In addition to providing office space at NACDL headquarters for Clemency Project 2014, I know our staff has taken on significant additional responsibilities to support this unique and incredibly important effort. Support for an endeavor like Clemency Project 2014 is what NACDL is all about."
Gerald B. Lefcourt, President of the Foundation for Criminal Justice (FCJ), which among other groups provided critical financial resources for Clemency Project 2014, including right at the start to help get the Project off the ground, said: "This Project, and the support FCJ has provided to it, is in the greatest tradition of the mission of the Foundation, ‘to preserve and promote the core values of America's justice system guaranteed by the Constitution,' including fair sentencing. For an almost entirely volunteer project like this to have been able to train thousands of lawyers, process tens of thousands of requests for pro bono assistance, track down countless archived materials, and now to surpass 1,000 petitions submitted is nothing short of monumental. It speaks volumes of the character of the legal profession."
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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 justice system.