Washington, DC (Nov. 17, 2015) – Today, E.G. "Gerry" Morris, President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) testified on behalf of the Association at a public hearing of the Committee to Review the Criminal Justice Act Program (CJA Committee) of the Judicial Conference of the United States in Santa Fe, N.M.
According to the CJA Study flyer, this ad hoc committee "[a]ppointed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., …will conduct a comprehensive and impartial review of the Criminal Justice Act program, which secures the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel for federal criminal defendants." The CJA Committee's website also invites participation and input from all stakeholders in order to accomplish this goal.
Upon its empaneling in October 2013, NACDL's Task Force on Federal Indigent Defense was concerned that it had been twenty years since the federal indigent defense system had undergone a comprehensive review. As detailed in the Task Force's recent report, Federal Indigent Defense 2015: The Independence Imperative, "no comprehensive study and analysis, as envisioned by the  Prado Report, has been performed in the two decades since," even though the Prado Report recommended that "'a comprehensive global examination of the CJA program should be undertaken every seven years.'" The report also specified "Seven Fundamentals of a Robust Federal Indigent Defense System," which centered around the theme of independence from the judiciary.
Mr. Morris summarized these points to the CJA Committee, adding that "As the review process unfolds, NACDL urges the committee to invite the judiciary, the administrative component, and the defense community to articulate with specificity a new vision for federal public defense system – one that will scrupulously safeguard independence and ensure that that every accused person in the federal system has access to high quality representation. In pursuit of this quest, NACDL stands ready to assist the Committee and the federal public defense community however it can."
Mr. Morris's testimony on behalf of NACDL is available here, and video of the Santa Fe hearing is expected to be made available by the CJA Committee here. More information about the CJA Committee, including how to anonymously submit comments, is available here.
There will be further hearings on this issue in the coming months, and a full list of dates and locations is available at www.nacdl.org/indigentdefense/federalcrisis.
You can read more about NACDL's dedicated efforts in the area of indigent defense at www.nacdl.org/indigentdefense.
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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.