"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 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 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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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 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

“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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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'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

"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

"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

"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

"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

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 sandwich..."

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.

Read 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 Brady violations.

The bill now moves to the Senate Floor for a full vote of the State Senate in August.

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 will happen.


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 and justice."

“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.

Prison Revolt

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.

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