Public defender's offices still struggle for funding
By L.J. Williamson
Criminal Law Reporter
Los Angeles Daily Journal
Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against
Fresno County claiming that inadequate funding of its public defender's
office led to routine violations of the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees
a lawyer for all criminal defendants, whether or not they can afford one.
For many, the Fresno County public defender's office is "a situation
which aptly demonstrates that public defense is still treated as the poor
stepchild of the criminal justice system," said San Francisco Public
Defender Jeff Adachi. "The problem with the Sixth Amendment is that
although it's been in the Bill of Rights since 1791, they never said
who was going to pay for it."
Steven Rease, secretary of California Attorneys For Criminal Justice, a
statewide organization of criminal defense lawyers, said that the "tough
on crime" posture on which much of the past few decades' political
landscape was built still informs many county supervisors' decisions
on how to divvy up their funds.
"Politicians are much less likely to say no to a DA who's saying
they need more money because there's more shootings, murder cases,
gang killings, and all of that," Rease said. "No politician
wants to look like he or she is soft on crime. But the public defender
cannot go in and say, 'I need more lawyers and investigators so I
can stop these prosecutions and help acquit these people.' It's
not going to go over real well."
Public defenders echoed Rease's sentiments, but added that their respective
counties have been able to avert disaster because they've slowly adapted
a more balanced approach to crime.
"It's unrealistic to think that the public defender's office
will be funded at the same level as the DA or sheriff," said Stephen
Lipson, Ventura County public defender. Lipson added that Ventura County
is funded sufficiently, but notes that some counties "get scraps."
"I remember the days when politicians would say out loud, 'Why
would I want to spend money to protect those people who commit those crimes?'"
said Riverside County Public Defender Steve Harmon. Harmon said that budgets
remain tight but the perspective in his county has evolved. "There's
a really good moment of collaboration in the criminal justice system."
Making the situation more difficult is that public defenders, save for
Adachi, are appointed, not elected. This classifies them as "at-will
employees," forced to comply with the desires of supervisors, city
managers and mayors. Adachi said that being elected puts him on a more
equal footing with other offices.
Fresno criminal defense attorney Eric H. Schweitzer would like to see public
defenders elected in other counties. "My view on this is that the
Office of Public Defender in any county with a population as large as
Fresno's probably ought to be elected by the public whom they are
sworn to serve," he said. "No elected board of supervisors should
ever be empowered to cow down their appointed public defender again."
Read more here.
The Honorable Judge Alex Kozinski speaks about Prosecutorial Misconduct
in his recent article in the Georgetown Law Journal.
See him in person at CACJ’s new White Collar Seminar – where
he will be speaking about Prosecutorial Misconduct – with a question/answer session.
A must see event!
Criminal Law 2.0 –
Preface to the 44th Annual Review of Criminal Procedure
by Hon. Alex Kozinski
Volume 103 – Issue 5 Georgetown Law Journal
"... very few criminal defendants actually go free after trial. Does
this mean that many guilty men are never charged because the prosecution
is daunted by its heavy burden of proof? Or is it because jurors almost
always start with a strong presumption that someone wouldn’t be
charged with a crime unless the police and the prosecutor were firmly
convinced of his guilt? We tell ourselves and the public that it’s
the former and not the latter, but we have no way of knowing. They say
that any prosecutor worth his salt can get a grand jury to indict a ham
Former California Supreme Court Justice asks Governor Brown to sign two
CACJ sponsored bills
Governor can take a stand on police violence with his pen
By Cruz Reynoso and Harry Snyder, July 21, 2015
In his long and multifaceted career in public service, Gov. Jerry Brown
has made a name for himself as someone who cares about criminal justice,
whether during his days as attorney general of California, or as a tough-on-crime
mayor of Oakland in the early 2000s. He also governs a state that has
more people die at the hands of police — more than
100 so far
in 2015 — than any other state in the country.
rest of the article here
"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 Treasurer
CACJ secures key victory in campaign against prosecutorial misonduct
Yesterday, the State Senate Committee on Public Safety voted to pass CACJ's
sponsored bill AB 1328, authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San
Diego). The measure establishes clear standards requiring a court to refer
an individual prosecutor to the California State Bar upon a determination that
Brady material was intentionally withheld in a case. AB 1328 also explicitly
states the authority of a court to disqualify an individual prosecutor
from a case for an intentional
Brady violation and empowers a court to disqualify an entire District Attorney's
office upon a finding of a pattern and practice of
The bill now moves to the Senate Floor for a full vote of the State Senate
Peremptory Challenge Reduction Bill Pulled, and CACJ Transport Bill Signed
Into Law By Governor
July 13, 2015 was a great day for CACJ, CPDA and all of those in the criminal
justice community who oppose the reduction of peremptory challenges from 10 to 6.
As shown by
today’s article in the Sacramento Bee lowering the capacity of criminal litigants to select a fair and representative
jury is both unnecessary and inimical to the very fiber of justice as
we know it in California. The bill that the article considers was pulled
by its author yesterday, and will not recur until, possibly, next year.
for the time being, 10 peremptories in misdemeanor trial cases will remain the law.
Special thanks to Ignacio Hernandez and the hard working members of his
staff for their tireless stalwart and effective efforts to once again,
defeat this ever-recurring piece of bad legislation. For various reasons,
this year, it was very, very close.
Your CACJ Legislative Committee worked hard on this, and preparations are
being made along with other allied forces for the inevitable permutations
of this troublesome bill that will occur in years to come.
Our CACJ sponsored AB 730 was signed by the Governor. This bill is an extension
of past efforts by CACJ to clarify and restrict certain narcotics offenses,
including H & S 11360, 11379.5 and 11391. This is the first of several
CACJ sponsored bills that have been or will be received by the Governor
this year. More bills to preserve and to improve justice are winding their
way to the Governor’s desk. With your ongoing support, it can and
ERIC H. SCHWEITZER
CACJ LEG. COM. CO-CHAIR
Changing Jury Selection is Bad for Justice
By Jeff Adachi and Luis J. Rodriguez, July 13, 2015
The right to an impartial jury is the linchpin of our justice system. Now,
that fundamental protection is in jeopardy for millions of Californians.
Senate Bill 213, which comes before the Assembly Committee on Public Safety on Tuesday,
would slash the number of peremptory challenges for misdemeanor criminal
cases from 10 to six. A peremptory challenge is used to dismiss a juror
whom a prosecutor or defense attorney suspects, but cannot prove, is biased.
That’s why prosecutors and defense attorneys alike – including
Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey, the California Public Defenders
Association and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice – all
oppose SB 213.
Bill protecting civilians' right to record police officers clears Legislature
By Melanie Mason and Patrick McGreevy, July 9 2015
“We are one signature away from making it absolutely clear: You have
the right to record,” the bill's author, state Sen. Ricardo
Lara (D-Bell Gardens), said in a prepared statement. “This is about
reinforcing our 1st Amendment right and ensuring transparency, accountability
“Cellphone and video footage is helping steer important national
civil-rights conversations, and the Right to Record Act is critical to
protecting this fundamental right,” Lara said.
Ruling allowing no-barrier visits between attorneys, inmates upheld
By Denny Walsh, July 9 2015
The California Supreme Court has let stand an appellate court ruling that
attorneys must be allowed to visit jailed clients with no partitions or
barriers separating them.
That means an opinion of the 3rd District Court of Appeal handed down in
April and published in May becomes legal precedent statewide.
The 14-page opinion upholds a ruling by Nevada Superior Court Judge Thomas
Anderson in a challenge by jail inmates to that county’s practice
of not allowing such “contact visits.”
Briefs in support of the inmates were submitted by the California Attorneys
for Criminal Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
By Bill Keller
In the mid-nineteen-eighties, shortly after the convictions of six members
of the House of Representatives and one senator in the F.B.I. bribery
sting code-named Abscam, one of the bureau’s anticorruption units
turned its attention to the California legislature, where an informant
had reported that lawmakers were on the take. Agents posing as representatives
of a shrimp-processing company announced plans to build a plant near Sacramento,
provided that a state-loan guarantee could be procured. They offered to
reward legislators who would help secure their financing. The operation,
inevitably, was known as Shrimpscam.
Florida Police Concealed DNA Evidence That Could Exonerate Man Accused
In Quadruple Homicide
Jennifer Portman, 7:05 p.m. EDT June 12, 2015
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement sat on DNA evidence for more
than two years that could point to another suspect in the 2010 killing
of Brandi Peters and her three young children.
A motion filed Friday by the defense attorney for Henry Segura, who is
set to stand trial in two weeks on capital murder charges, revealed a
FDLE crime lab analyst was ordered by her supervisor to disregard findings
by the FBI that DNA evidence found at the crime scene was a partial match
to a convicted international drug trafficker.
Hobbs argued in the filing FDLE’s “conscious, willful and
deliberate attempt” to conceal the DNA information in a timely fashion
hurt his ability to track down leads and prepare for the defense of Segura,
who faces the death penalty.
“This was no harmless error,” Hobbs wrote. “This willful
decision to conceal such evidence until the 11th hour leaves the defense
in the posture of questioning the credibility of the FDLE lab analysts.”
Hobbs, who declined to comment beyond his court motion, is asking that
the case either be dismissed, postponed so all evidence can be independently
tested or that he be allowed to raise the issue at trial before jurors.
Adventures In Litigating Attorney-Inmate Visiting
By Stephen Munkelt
I recently had the great honor and privilege of serving as lead counsel
for a passionate group of defenders fighting for jail visits without glass
barriers. The decision in
County of Nevada v. Superior Court (Siegfried) (Filed 4/23/2015) 2015 Cal. App. LEXIS 412 (
Siegfried) represents a significant win for our county, and for future litigation
over attorney-client visits in jail or prison. There is now California
authority that due process under the Fourteenth Amendment “includes
the right to contact visits with counsel.”
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.