House Votes to Correct Injustice
Washington, DC (September 26, 1997) -- "The House of Representatives scored a victory for all Americans yesterday by voting to reimburse citizens' legal fees in defending themselves against unjust or wrongful charges," said Gerald Lefcourt, President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). The House action benefits not only citizens who are forced to expend thousands of dollars defending themselves against false criminal charges, but it will save taxpayers monies as well by discouraging ill-considered prosecution based on little or no evidence of wrongdoing," he added.
"It's only fair that the basic rights of citizens accused in criminal proceedings mirror those guaranteed in civil ones," stated Lefcourt, noting that the provision allowing defendants to recover their legal fees in criminal trials is patterned after the 1980 "Equal Access to Justice Act" allowing similar recovery in civil cases. "All American taxpayers will benefit from this bill too," he added, "because publicly funded federal prosecutors will be discouraged from bringing frivolous criminal charges against innocent people. It's ludicrous that the White House opposes this bill which that not only ensures fairness for Americans falsely accused, but prevents abuse and waste within the nation's cherished criminal justice system."
Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry B. Hyde's (R-IL) amendment to the spending bill provides that defendants prevailing in federal criminal prosecutions may be reimbursed, up to $125 an hour, for their legal fees - - unless the government can prove its prosecution was justified. The original language of the amendment was coined by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), as a gesture to fellow Representative Joe McDade (R-PA), who, after undergoing the ordeal of an eight-year federal investigation, was fully acquitted of bribery and racketeering charges.
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