New York, NY (October 22, 2015) – Today, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York received the prestigious Judicial Recognition Award from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) at the Association's 11th Annual White Collar Seminar & Fall Board Meeting at Fordham University. NACDL presents its Judicial Recognition Award to acknowledge judges who demonstrate a continuing dedication to protecting democratic principles and the fundamental rights of individuals within American society.
Judge Gleeson has served on the bench of the Eastern District of New York since 1994. Prior to his appointment, he served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District, where he was Chief of a number of divisions, including the Criminal Division. Since 1995, Judge Gleeson has served as an adjunct professor at the New York University School of Law, and he has also taught at Brooklyn Law School and the University of Virginia School of Law. He is also an accomplished writer, including co-authoring Federal Criminal Practice: A Second Circuit Handbook (LexisNexis, 2009, with Gordon Mehler and David C. James), in addition to numerous journal articles and essays.
Judge Gleeson has been a strong critic of the effect of mandatory minimums on judicial flexibility. In U.S. v. Dossie, for example, he characterized mandatory minimum sentences as "harsh" and "wooden" when they are lengthened or shortened purely by drug quantity. He has also publicly excoriated the "trial penalty," a practice by which prosecutors pile on charges and potential prison time for defendants for the sole purpose of forcing them into plea agreements. Also notably, in U.S. v. Kupa, Judge Gleeson pointed out how prosecutors threatened enhanced sentences with which even they themselves might not agree. He was also instrumental in setting up the Eastern District's first drug court, thereby providing a solid opportunity for people to avoid prison time.
Indeed, NACDL President E.G. "Gerry" Morris said that "Judge John Gleeson's life work proves that when a judge truly wants to serve the cause of justice – his hands are never tied."
Upon receiving the award this afternoon, Judge Gleeson, expressing gratitude for the recognition and pride in the work for which he was being recognized, said "I am an unabashed, admitted sentencing reformer." And speaking of his time as chair of the Defender Services Committee at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Judge Gleeson said the time he spent with defenders and panel attorneys across the country was "transformative." He also pointed to the federal indigent defense system as a crown jewel, pointing out that there are "so many respects in which the promise of Gideon has gone unfulfilled," but that "we have a great deal to be proud of in the federal system." Judge Gleeson went on to praise NACDL for its efforts toward the independence and quality of the federal indigent defense system, pointing specifically to NACDL's recent report Federal Indigent Defense 2015: The Independence Imperative and stating that he "hope[s] the committee established by the Judiciary [to study the federal indigent defense system] pays it the attention it deserves." He also applauded NACDL's work in the area of sentencing reform.
Judge Gleeson received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1980. He is married and has two daughters.
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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.