"CACJ is an essential state-wide organization for all criminal defense attorneys.  The seminars, seminar materials, and Forum magazine are outstanding, addressing the latest issues and developments in criminal law, procedure and evidence.  All of the committees are accomplished and hardworking. The Legislative Committee and Ignacio is a prime example: an important and respected voice in the legislature continually achieving impressive results."

Robert Boyce

"Defense attorneys are warriors - for our clients and in defense of their constitutional rights.  We fight more effectively and successfully when we band together, when we support each other through out membership in, and commitment to, CACJ.  We gain strength in our often lonely fights for our clients from the men and women who are engaged in similar struggles for other defendants.  CACJ is a vital means to support one another."

Scott Sugarman

"As defense counsel is the accused's friend in court, CACJ is the accused's friend in the Legislature. By lobbying together for shorter sentences and fewer crimes, we can make our state more just, and our world more free."

Jesse Stout

"CACJ is important to the criminal defense bar and to the personal rights and liberties of everyone in California. CACJ's presence in Sacramento is unmatched and often is the only voice to promote or defeat bills before the State Legislature.  CACJ provides the highest quality Seminars and Webinars to educate practitioners and to give them a sense of community. CACJ also conducts the National Trial Advocacy Competition which attracts teams from law schools all over the country."

Robert Sanger

“We are the gladiators fighting to protect the liberty of the citizens who are investigated or accused of crimes. While most of us are sole practitioners, CACJ makes us into a powerful Criminal Defense law firm with the resources to even the playing field against the government. Whether it is the connections you make at the great seminars, the Brief Bank, the legislative updates and lobbying or what you learn at the seminars, it makes you a better warrior and therefore, helps your clients.”

David S. Kestenbaum

"CACJ has been the key guide to my becoming a more effective and inventive advocate for the clients I serve, by offering the great minds and strategists of our craft as inspiring mentors."

Jefferey R. Stein

"Strength comes from unity.  CACJ is a great criminal defense organization of public and private defense attorneys who are joined for self-education, mutual support, making our collective voices known, and continuing the historic, continuing struggle for justice for the accused."

Chuck Sevilla

"CACJ's great contribution to criminal justice is our work in the Legislature. As a member of the Legislative Committee since 1984, I have seen our organization become a real power for justice in the Legislature. CACJ is now a sought-after voice in the Legislature and our view on bills is given serious weight by Legislators and their staff. Yes, a lot of bad bills have become bad law. But brother, you should see the stuff CACJ has stopped. And many times, CACJ was the only organized opposition to these terrible, terrible bills. "

Steve Rease

"CACJ has represented the interests of the defense bar and our clients for almost 40 years. Our legislative efforts, educational programs, amicus support, publications, just to mention a few, have been invaluable to my practice, to our members, and for all those who represent people accused of crime"

Alex Landon

"It is such an honor to be part of CACJ and to watch the heroic efforts of CACJ members fighting to achieve fairness in our legal system.  When I first joined the Board I had no idea about the incredible efforts and success CACJ advocates make on a daily basis throughout our great state.  The collective wisdom of the outstanding attorneys that comprise the CACJ Board is inspiring and makes me a better attorney and citizen.  The efforts and support of CACJ members ensures the protection  of liberty and justice for all."

Deedra Edgar

"California Attorneys for Criminal Justice is the home for those attorneys in California who understand and truly appreciate the liberties and freedoms recognized by our Founding Fathers and embodied in the United States Constitution. More importantly, these women and men of the bar recognize that these inalienable rights enunciated in the Constitution will be ignored, belittled and ultimately stolen from us by the state without champions taking a stand -- this is who we are -- this is who YOU are!"

Jonathan Willis

"Being a member of CACJ is belonging to dedicated, professional community that has a very tangible effect on the lives of our clients and the public who benefit from our efforts to keep the government accountable and works together to ensure that the citizen's privacy rights, due process and concepts of fundamental fairness are protected and strengthened. Training, outreach and legislative advocacy are cornerstones of CACJ's 40 years."

Matthew Guerrero

"I have always been inspired and assisted by my colleagues in CACJ. I first got involved in CACJ by testifying and help refining the first California DNA laws almost 25 years ago, and was so moved that CACJ had taken the lead in the legislative testimony on the proposed DNA Act, I became actively involved. Our legislative and amicus presence, as well as our FORUM magazine, have only become stronger over time. I am more impressed than ever that a private organization like ours is generally the strongest voice, and often the only voice, on issues crucial to criminal defense."

Jeff Thoma

"There is nothing better that I could do to advance the interests of the clients and the criminal defense bar than by being an active member of CACJ. "

Jefferey R. Stein

"It has been my pleasure to serve as President of CACJ. In that capacity I have met and worked with many people who are truly committed to the defense of others and the idea that there can and should be equal justice for all. Thank you for the opportunity."

Christopher Chaney

"CACJ is the organization that is pushing back against unreasonable laws and unjust treatment for people accused of crimes. Because of the state of the law, criminal defense work is a tough, Sisyphean endeavor. My colleagues at CACJ give me the inspiration and strength I need to zealously push that boulder up a hill over and over again. Because of them, I remember that there is strength in numbers and solace in camaraderie."

Cris Lamb

"CACJ is a family of criminal defense lawyers. We share knowledge, experience and affection. It is a mirror in which we bond with others like us to experience the best in law and lawyers. It is a message that we are not alone."

Ephraim Margolin

"CACJ is like a beacon in the distance through the fog and heavy mist.  It is where we will strive to meet and find our finest selves, where we will become the best lawyers we can be, and where we will work together to change the world and make it a better place for ourselves, our children, and most importantly, our clients."

John Crouch

"It is an exciting time to be a part of CACJ in this changing landscape of criminal justice . The resulting sea-change is the result of budgetary woes from inflated prison sentences. I am inspired every time I attend a meeting and learn of the efforts members make on behalf of the accused without compensation or commendation to put "rehabilitation" back into the system which for so long just sought to warehouse those society deemed unsuitable. I am particularly hopeful that I can address the problems of elderly prisoners seeking compassionate release. No one should die in prison."

Oliver Cleary

"For 40 years, CACJ has been a powerful voice for criminal defense attorneys and their clients. It has impacted laws that protect the rights of the convicted and accused and provided defense attorneys with education, advocacy  and community. CACJ's strength, purpose and longevity make it a cornerstone of criminal justice in California."

Laurel Headley

"As criminal defense attorneys we regularly make difference in our individual clients’ lives. However, standing alone, our efforts only go that far. In order to bring about a real change to the criminal justice system, we must work together as a team. CACJ provides the framework for that cooperation. As Helen Keller once said: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Orchid Vaghti

"CACJ continues to succeed in derailing harmful legislation through our tremendous lobbying efforts of Ignacio Hernandez and the dedicated attorneys of the Legislative Committee.  CACJ has a meaningful voice around the State through our Amicus Committee and the briefs they file.  It is humbling to work along side such a rich pool of minds dedicated to criminal defense in California."

Mara Fieger

"There are countless pieces of catastrophic legislation dead on the floor of the legislature as the direct result of the dedicated, articulate and dogged work, over the years, of the CACJ Legislative Committee and our lobbyists."

Jefferey R. Stein

"For over 30 years CACJ has provided me with access to the leading criminal defense practitioners in California, and the opportunity to know about and respond to pending legislation - which I otherwise would not have had."

Michael Millman

Advocates for the defense for over 40 years!

Board Member Nominations for 2016

The nomination for Board Members is an important aspect of your CACJ membership. The nominations for the 2016 Board of Governors will shape how CACJ moves forward and evolves in the changing climate. If you know of someone who would be suited to this candidacy, please submit their information here.

Relaxing California Sex Offender Rules Intended To Make Communities Safer

“It’s really about looking at each case individually and deciding what punishment fits the crime,” Ignacio Hernandez told CBS 13. “The way the law’s drafted now, it captures the most egregious cases and the least serious cases and treats them the same. We assumed that at some point the courts would find that unconstitutional.”

Amicus Update from John Philipsborn

Jones v. Davis: The case is before the Ninth Circuit for review of a District Judge's ruling that pervasive systemic delays invalidate the death penalty in California. CACJ, NACDL and MCLAP have filed a brief to address the implications of the delays in the appointment of counsel for death row inmates, and in doing so points to the chronic underfunding of the defense function in post-conviction death penalty litigation in California. Numerous other groups are expected to address other aspects of this litigation, and reasons for outlawing the death penalty as it is employed in California.

"A man convicted of attempted murder contends his prosecutor, now a Monterey County Judge, failed to turn over key evidence in his case. His attorneys are also asking that all local judges be barred from presiding over a hearing to investigate why a potentially exonerating videotape never surfaced at trial."

CACJ is co-sponsoring SB 411 by Senator Lara

SACRAMENTO, CA —Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) today announced legislation to clarify that recording public safety officers in the course of their duties does not constitute an obstruction of an officer. Senate Bill 411 reinforces the First Amendment and underscores recording protections for civilians and police. “Recent events throughout the country and here in California have raised questions about when an individual can -- and can’t -- record,” Lara said in a statement. “SB 411 will help erase ambiguity, enhance transparency and ensure that freedom of speech is protected for both police officers and civilians.”

Assembly Public Safety Committee on Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras: Policies and Pitfalls

This morning at the State Capitol CACJ President Jeff Thoma participated in a panel discussion regarding the use of body cameras by law enforcement. The legislative informational hearing was convened by the Assembly Public Safety Committee chaired by Assemblyman Bill Quirk. The hearing consisted of testimony by a number of experts from law enforcement and civil rights organizations. Jeff Thoma addressed a number of key legal issues involved in the potential use of body cameras.

“We Need to Talk About an Injustice…”

"In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America's justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country's black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America's unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness."

Recent Amicus Briefs filed by John Philipsborn, Amicus Committee Chair, on behalf of CACJ

Exoneree Kirk Bloodsworth to Receive NCIP’s 2015 Cookie Ridolfi Freedom Award

Kirk Bloodsworth, the first death row inmate to be exonerated based on DNA testing, will be honored at NCIP’s eighth annual Justice for All awards dinner on March 12, 2015. In 1984, Bloodsworth was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a young girl near Baltimore, Maryland. He subsequently served almost 9 years in prison— two of those years on death row. While Bloodsworth was facing execution in the early 1990s, he learned about DNA testing and its ability to prove his innocence. With the help from his attorney and supporters, the prosecution agreed to DNA testing of the evidence from Bloodsworth’s case. The testing results excluded Bloodsworth and matched the DNA of the actual perpetrator, Kimberly Shay Ruffner. Bloodsworth was officially exonerated in 1993.

Since his exoneration, Bloodsworth has become an influential voice for the wrongfully convicted on multiple fronts. He inspired the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program, created by Congress in 2004, to help defray the costs of DNA testing for those innocent people who still remain incarcerated.

Brady Violations Gain Judicial Attention as well as Proposed Solutions

CACJ's President, Jeff Thoma, was recently interviewed by John Roemer for the Daily Journal regarding Brady Violations. They discussed a "plan to rein in prosecutors who hide favorable evidence from the defense in criminal trials [which] could be gaining traction." Called a Brady colloquy, during pretrial hearings, before the defendant enters a plea, judges could ask prosecutors a short series of questions, on-the-record, to determine if undisclosed exculpatory evidence exists.

Jeff Thoma remarked that "Brady violations [are] also on the state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakayue's mind this month," and that in "meeting with [her] he pointed out that California is the only state that has not adopted the American Bar Association's model rule of professional conduct 3.8 on the special responsibilities as a prosecutor. She assured me that her staff would review it, as we all agreed that this was an issue that needs to be addressed in some manner."

Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski supports the idea; putting prosecutors on notice that withholding pro-defense material violates the Constitution.

"For Thoma, the Brady colloquy idea resonated. Jason Kreag, [a Law Professor at the University of Arizona College of Law,] proposed that if trial judges refuse to ask Brady-oriented questions of the prosecutor, defense lawyers should put a statement on the record about what material they requested and what they got in response."

Clemency Project 2014

Volunteer Attorneys Needed to Support Clemency Project:

In 2014, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced an initiative to entertain petitions for clemency from federal inmates whose sentences would, due to intervening changes in law or policy, be shorter had they been sentenced today. Clemency Project 2014 seeks the assistance of your members in this national pro bono effort to secure freedom for many federal inmates who are serving unnecessarily harsh sentences for non-violent offenses. CP 2014 is a working group comprised of lawyers and advocates including the American Bar Association (ABA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), Federal Public and Community Defenders, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). The goal is to recruit and train lawyers to participate in this project by providing assistance to inmates who meet the stated criteria (which are available at the CP 2014 website www.clemencyproject2014.org).

At this very moment, Project staff has received more than 26,000 requests for assistance from federal inmates, nearly 6,000 of which are currently under attorney review to ascertain whether they meet criteria announced by the DOJ. Although many of these inmates will not, it is likely that hundreds, perhaps thousands, will. While some 1,500 attorneys have already volunteered for the Project, the job cannot be completed without the help of your members. Clemency Project 2014 assists volunteers by providing (i) comprehensive on-line training, (ii) a complete set of resource materials that complement the training, (iii) a panel of expert Resource Counsel to answer technical, procedural and substantive questions, and (iv) Screening Committee that will review attorney recommendations on individual cases. And those who are CJA panel attorneys are not required to complete the on-line, on-demand training, though many will find it helpful.

Please encourage your members to join this historic opportunity to reverse the unduly harsh prison sentences that were imposed upon so many. To volunteer, individuals should sign-up at www.clemencyproject2014.org/volunteers/intro or send an email to volunteer@clemencyproject2014.org.

On Thursday, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) released a new comprehensive report showing a clear decline in death penalty sentences -- here in California and across the country.

The report shows that the country has seen the lowest number of death sentences in the last 40 years. And here in California, the vast majority of counties no longer seek the death penalty in capital cases.

That's progress, but there's still a lot of work to do. We are getting closer to eradicating a death penalty system that is broken beyond repair, risks innocent lives, and wastes billions of taxpayer dollars. But we won't stop until every county in California -- and every state in the country -- stops using the death penalty.

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