"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

"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, Past President

"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

"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, Board Member

"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

"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, Past President

"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, Board Member

"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, Past President

"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."

The Late Michael Millman, Past President

"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, Past President 2015

"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 Treasurer

"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

"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, Past President & Founding Member

"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, Board Member

"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

"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, Past President

"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, Board Member

"The Brady bill is the latest example of CACJ's Leg Comm and Ignacio's group having unlimited creativity to overcome all obstacles and limitless tenacity to keep battling when lesser souls would give up on exhaustion. It is an honor and privilege to be allowed to work with all of you."

Steve Rease, CACJ Secretary

"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

"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 Vice-President

"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, Past President

"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, Past President

"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, CACJ President

“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, Board Member

To fight the horrors of class warfare, mass incarceration, and the torture of solitary confinement, we must stand together. We do this through our membership in the CACJ, the single most powerful state-based group of criminal defense lawyers in the nation. Join us. We're making a difference.

Jacqueline Goodman, CACJ Secretary

Southern California Public Radio: California Supreme Court to weigh in on juvenile sentences

The California Supreme Court is set to announce a verdict on an appeal today involving a 16-year old who was tried as an adult and sentenced to 50 years to life; his attorney says that it constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.” Since juveniles can be “impetuous, fail to appreciate risks and be vulnerable to peer pressure and home environment,” the U.S. Supreme Court said judges should consider all factors that could lead to lesser sentences.

Read more here.

“Obie’s Law” Featured on Socal Connected

Obie Anthony was wrongfully convicted and spent 17 years in state prison until he was exonerated, largely due to the work of the Northern California Innocence Project and the California Innocence Project at Loyola Marymount. For the past two years Obie has collaborated with CACJ on successful legislation; first on our bill to report Brady violations to the State Bar of California, and secondly on our measure, "Obie's Law", to require reentry services for exonerated individuals. Obie received a CACJ President's Award at our most recent annual conference.

Obie founded, and is the director of, Exonerated Nation, a non-profit dedicated to help others wrongfully convicted. Both Obie and the new reentry law are featured in a story by Socal Connected, KCET television. Watch it here.

SF Chronicle: California must reform jail sentencing: SB966 is place to start

With the goal of tougher penalties on crime, a three-year sentencing enhancement was added for those prior convictions. However these sentencing enhancements didn’t stop the flow of drugs into any of our communities and instead cost taxpayers and impacted communities. With the goal of correcting this problem, SB966 was introduced to repeal the sentencing enhancements. SB966 is supported by CACJ, and is authored by Senator Holly Mitchell, who was recognized with CACJ’s Co-Legislator of the Year Award in 2014

Read more here.

Mother Jones: The Supreme Court Just Sent a Strong Message About Racism in the Justice System

In a 7-1 opinion issued this week, the Supreme Court granted a new trial for an African-American death row inmate convicted by an all-white jury because the prosecution had “unconstitutionally rejected jurors from Foster's trial based on their race.” Stephen Bright, Foster’s attorney, said "this discrimination became apparent only because we obtained the prosecution's notes which revealed their intent to discriminate. Usually that does not happen. The practice of discriminating in striking juries continues in courtrooms across the country. Usually courts ignore patterns of race discrimination and accept false reasons for the strikes. Even after the undeniable evidence of discrimination was presented in this case, the Georgia courts ignored it and upheld Foster's conviction and death sentence."

Read more here.

Study shows reducing prison population does not increase crime in California

The journal of the American Society of Criminology recently released a study focusing on the patterns of crime nationally and in California between 2010 and 2014. The study showed that there was little or no deviation in the crime rate after the mass prisoner release; “an astounding 17 percent reduction in the size of the California prison population had no effect on aggregate rates of violent or property crime.”

Read the study here.

Sac Bee: Jerry Brown discussed criminal justice reform initiative Wednesday with Sacramento business leaders

Gov. Jerry Brown presented his prison and criminal justice initiative Wednesday morning to over 1,200 business professionals at the 91st annual Sacramento Host Committee Breakfast. Brown told the group that, "when it comes to giving someone parole or an educational rehabilitative credit, that's based on a human judgment of another human being. It’s that flexibility and that discretion that adds wisdom to a system instead of automatic-pilot mechanistic rigidity.”

Read more here.

A Candid Window into the American Criminal Justice System

M. Gerald (Gerry) Schwartzbach, CACJ member since 1977 and nationally renowned criminal defense attorney, has written Leaning on the Arc. In his book he argues that true justice can only happen when we refuse to objectify a criminal defendant.

Audio link to forum discussion held on May 5th by the Commonwealth Club

Assembly & Senate Public Safety Committees held a joint informational hearings on CA death penalty initiatives

Pictured right is Nancy Haydt, CACJ's Death Penalty Committee Co-Chair, speaking out in support of the repeal measure.

Death Penalty Repeal Measure #15-0066 repeals the death penalty as maximum punishment for people found guilty of murder, replacing it with life without possibility of parole. It also applies retroactively to those already sentenced to death. People found guilty of murder must work while in prison and up to 60% of their wages may be applied to victim restitution. This initiative is expected to reduce net state and local costs by around $150 million annually within a few years.

Death Penalty Streamlining Measure #15-0096 changes procedures regarding appeals and petitions challenging convictions, including designating superior court for initial petitions, limiting successive petitions, and imposing time limits on reviews. It requires additional appointed attorneys to accept death penalty appeals, making prison officials exempt from existing regulations in the process of developing execution methods, authorizes inmate transfers, and inmates must work and pay victim restitution.

FORUM Current Issue is Out Now

Issue 43.1 of the FORUM is now on-line as well as being delivered to members this week.


Dateline Orange County
by Jacqueline Goodman, Esq.
Justice Stevens and The Future of the Death Penalty
by Robert M. Sanger, Esq.
Proposition 47 Summary Update Where Are They Now?
by Gary McCurdy, Esq.
On The Vagaries of the Law: Vagueness Challenges After Johnson V. U.S.
by Charles M. Sevilla, Esq.

Richard Branson honored with Abolitionist Award at Death Penalty Focus Dinner

At Death Penalty Focus’s 25th Awards Dinner last week, Richard Branson, of Virgin Airlines, was honored with the Abolitionist Award for his efforts to end the death penalty here in CA and across the world. “It is a violation of human rights that has no place in a civilized society,” he said. “And I feel we all have a duty to work for its abolition across the world.” He also encouraged everyone to support the Justice That Works Act and end the death penalty in the November election.

Read more here.

Funding for “Answering Gideon’s Call” initiative in 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

CACJ, along with numerous other defense associations, signed a Letter requesting the Justice Department grant funding for public defense. In 1963, Gideon v. Wainwright was brought to the Supreme Court of the United States and in a unanimous ruling, held that the assistance of counsel was a fundamental right under the United States Constitution. However, in the 50 years since Gideon, due to insufficient funding “the right to counsel in all criminal prosecutions announced in Gideon is far too often short-changed or ignored.” The letter requests that the Justice Department ensure Federal funding to assist state and county public defenders to keep up with increased case load as well as technological advancements and training.

Read the letter here.

New York Times: Pfizer Ends the Use of Its Drugs in Executions

Pfizer joins 20 other pharmaceutical companies in adding restrictions to the use of their drugs for executions. This has caused states that allow lethal injections to search for the narcotics needed from an increasingly narrow market. Due to the lack of suppliers willing to sell pentobarbital to CA to be used for executions, the cost could exceed $700,000 for the execution of 18 prisoners for whom their appeals have been exhausted.

“Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve,” the company said in Friday’s statement, and “strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.”

Read more from the New York Times.

Justice That Works submits signatures to qualify for California’s November ballot

The Justice That Works campaign submitted nearly double the required signatures to qualify their initiative to the end the death penalty in California for the November ballot. Justice That Works 2016 is gearing up for a statewide vote in November. CACJ calls on our members to end the death penalty in California by supporting the Justice that Works Act of 2016. Please support the measure by DONATING to the campaign. This is our moment to make history.

  • Eliminates the possibility of executing an innocent person
  • Saves $1 billion dollars over the next 7 years
  • Serious offenders must work and pay restitution to victim’s families

NPR: Is America Engaged in a 'Vicious Circle' of Jailing the Poor?

In an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Nancy Fishman, a project director at the Vera Institute which published a 2015 report Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America, explains how the bail system is economically biased. In the country there are more than 3000 jails, and within those jails, there are more than 12 million admissions- most being for low level infractions such as traffic offenses and non-violent property crimes. “You're talking about people who often [enter jail] in fragile economic situations and end up that much worse by the time they get out, "Nancy Fishman noted. She explained that people who are in jail have been accused but not convicted, so "they are legally innocent. One of the great travesties, frankly, of jail admissions right now is that we have people sitting in jail for long periods simply because they can't afford to pay [bail].”

Read more from NPR here.

CACJ asks the United States Supreme Court to protect right to jury trial in Caroni case

CACJ joined with other criminal defense associations in submitting to the United States Supreme Court a brief supporting a grant of certiorari in Caroni V US. The case is asking if it is a violation of Due Process for a court to direct a verdict in favor of the government on an essential element, thereby denying the accused the right to trial by jury on all elements.

Read the Amicus Brief here.

Learn more about CACJ's Amicus Committee and Briefs

CACJ’s Bills Moving through the Legislature!

CACJ's sponsored legislation, AB 2655, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), passed off the Assembly floor.

AB 2655 would provide defendants with the option of extending their bail for up to 90 days if the DA fails to file charges. Currently, some bail companies are requiring individuals to post bail a second time when charges are filed after the initial 15 day window.

CACJ's co-sponsored legislation, AB 813, introduced last year by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), passed out of Senate Public Safety Committee.

AB 813 provides a procedural vehicle to challenge a legal conviction based on ineffective assistance of counsel or new evidence of actual innocence pursuant to the California Supreme Court's decision in People v Kim (2009) 45 Cal.4th 1078.

Study: No scientific basis for laws on marijuana and driving

A recent study by AAA found that: “Legal limits, also known as per se limits, for marijuana and driving are arbitrary and unsupported by science.”

The laws in five states automatically presume a driver guilty if that person tests higher than the limit, and not guilty if it's lower than the limit. Marshall Doney, AAA's president and CEO says "in the case of marijuana, this approach is flawed and not supported by scientific research."

CACJ remains in strong opposition to AB 2740, which is currently in Assembly Appropriations Suspense file. AB 2740 creates a per se standard for driving under the influence of marijuana, including making it a “crime for a person who has 5 ng/ml or more of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.”

Read more on the study here.


Current Issue is now on-line!


  • AB 813
  • AB 1052
  • AB 1909
  • SB 1202
  • SB 1242
  • SB 1389
  • AB 2655
  • Donate

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