News Release

President Trump Signs Executive Order Directing the Establishment of a Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice; Altogether Omits Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform

Washington, DC (Oct. 29, 2019) – Yesterday, President Trump signed an “Executive Order on the Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice” that altogether fails to support or even acknowledge broad areas of bipartisan agreement and work concerning public safety and the administration of justice. In addition, while the White House Fact Sheet about this executive order claims that this new commission will be “the first commission on law enforcement in half a century,” that is not correct. Indeed, just five years ago, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which issued its Final Report in May 2015.

“NGOs, advocates, and elected officials from across the political spectrum have in the last decade coalesced around a number of important, fact-based, and data-driven reforms that would dramatically improve the administration of justice in the United States, and indeed are doing so at the state level in numerous jurisdictions around the nation, but sadly none of those issues or reforms are addressed by this executive order,” said National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) President Nina J. Ginsberg. “The President’s executive order altogether fails to acknowledge or propose solutions to critical criminal justice issues like mass incarceration, systemic racism, disparate policing of minority and poor communities, overcriminalization, the evisceration of the right to trial, inadequate intent requirements in the criminal law, unfair discovery practices, the need for pretrial reform, and so much more. Instead, the executive order reads like a roadmap for repeating precisely the same mistakes that brought America’s criminal justice system to its current, abysmal state. NACDL stands ready to offer advice and guidance should the administration’s interest include a more balanced approach that recognizes that there is more to the proper administration of justice than more policing, prosecution, and prison.”

Indeed, the executive order does leave the door open for the commission to hear from stakeholders in the system as it develops its recommendation “regarding important current issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system”: “In carrying out its functions under subsection (a) of this section, the Commission may host listening sessions and otherwise solicit input from a diverse array of stakeholders in the area of criminal justice, including State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies and organizations; government service providers; businesses; nonprofit entities; public health experts; victims rights’ organizations; other advocacy and interest groups; reentry experts; academia; and other public and private entities and individuals with relevant experience or expertise” (emphasis added). And it does suggest the examination of “better integration of education, employment, social services, and public health services into efforts to reduce crime and ease the burden on law enforcement, courts, and corrections systems[,]” should the Attorney General so direct. NACDL President Nina Ginsberg observed, “such input should not be optional, and should come not just in ‘listening sessions,’ but by inclusion of these groups in the composition of the commission.”

“But the thrust of the order, evident in such things as the praise in the White House Fact Sheet for the federal provision of hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment to militarize local law enforcement in America, begs the question as to how interested this commission will be in solving the deep and structural problems in America’s criminal justice system, as opposed to simply delivering on certain law enforcement requests,” Ginsberg added.

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Ivan Dominguez, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or

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.