"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

"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

"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

“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

"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

"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

"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

"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 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

"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 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

"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

"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

"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 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

"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

"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

"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 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 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

"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

"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

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.

Read more here.


Florida Police Concealed DNA Evidence That Could Exonerate Man Accused In Quadruple Homicide

Jennifer Portman, Tallahassee Democrat, 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.”


Deadline Crime with Tamron Hall Murder in the Mellen Patch

Suzy Mellen's story will be hitting the screen on June 18, 2015 on NBC's Deadline Crime with Tamron Hall. The show will begin with the gruesome discovery of a body engulfed in flames in an alley in San Pedro. They will take us through the detective's investigation of this vicious and sadistic murder, which ultimately resulted in Suzy Mellen's wrongful conviction.

The terrible injustice and extraordinary hardship that Suzy and her family faced when she taken away from her two young children for 17 years will now be shared with all of America. In one year the Innocence Matters team was able to vindicate Suzy and return her to family and friends. With your generous support, our next round of interns can help to free other innocent people.

  • You can read more about Suzy's exoneration and Innocence Matter's work here.

State Bar of California: Commission to Study the California Rules of Professional Conduct

At the its meeting on May 29 & 30, 2015, the Commission considered an agenda item (action Item III.A) involving a request from the Innocence Project that the State Bar expedite study of ABA Model Rule 3.8. Following discussion, the Commission voted that a study group be appointed immediately to evaluate ABA Model Rule 3.8; and that the Commission’s work plan be amended to accommodate the study group’s consideration. Members of the Commission indicated their belief that a study of ABA Model Rule 3.8 should begin promptly but that any determination for further action should await the report and recommendation of that assigned study group. In other words, the Commission has not yet taken any position on whether a proposed California counterpart to Model Rule 3.8 rule should be processed (e.g., issued for public comment, presented to the Board for adoption, submitted to the Supreme Court for approval, etc. . . ) on a separate track from the Commission’s comprehensive work to revise the entire rules. As mentioned, the comprehensive consideration of the Rules in their entirety is scheduled to be completed by March 2017.

Public Comment Period Deadline: June 16, 2015


Nebraska's Legislature Votes to Repeal the Death Penalty

The Nebraska legislature voted 30-19 to override the veto of Governor Pete Ricketts and abolish the death penalty. Nebraska becomes the 19th state to repeal the death penalty, and the 7th state to do so since 2007. It is the first predominantly Republican state to abolish the death penalty in over 40 years, and state legislators said Republican support was critical to the bipartisan repeal effort. Sen. Jeremy Nordquist said, "This wouldn't have happened without the fiscally responsible Republicans who aren't just beholden to conservative talking points, but are thoughtful about policy." Sen. Colby Coash cited fiscal concerns among his reasons for supporting repeal: "The taxpayers have not gotten the bang for their buck on this death penalty for almost 20 years. This program is broken." The sponsor of the repeal bill, Independent Senator Ernie Chambers, opened the repeal debate with a reference to the historic nature of the pending vote. “This will be the shining moment of the Nebraska Legislature,” he said. “The world, by anybody’s reckoning, is a place filled with darkness, contention, violence. We today can move to lift part of that cloud of darkness that has been hovering over this state for all these years.”

(G. Schulte and A. Gronewold, " Nebraska abolishes death penalty in landmark override vote," Associated Press, May 28, 2015; Joe Duggan, Paul Hammel and Martha Stoddard, " Hours of suspense, emotion lead up to a landmark vote for legislators on repealing death penalty," Omaha World-Herald, May 27, 2015)

From NACDL
"The death penalty is arbitrary, discriminatory, fallible, irrevocable, costly, and ineffective. Whether taken individually or collectively, these reasons necessitate the elimination of the death penalty. Nebraska now stands at the vanguard of an emerging bipartisan consensus that there is no place for capital punishment in America. Today’s vote is a critical step forward in bringing this woefully defective practice one step closer to being properly and universally eliminated," said National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) President Theodore Simon. "NACDL applauds the profiles in courage in the Nebraska legislature who, under intense pressure from Gov. Ricketts's office not to override his veto, nonetheless followed through and made history today."
For more information on the death penalty and NACDL’s efforts in this area, please visit http://www.nacdl.org/criminal-defense/death-penalty/.
From other medial outlets:

Facebook, Inc., Instagram, LLC, and Twitter Inc. vs San Francisco County Superior Court

Don Landis, Monterey County Assistant Public Defender, has written a CACJ amicus brief addressing Facebook, Twitter, etc litigation--over the defense's ability to get material from media companies to prepare a defense.

"CACJ will address what appears to be the elephant in the courtroom, but has not generated much legal analysis in these proceedings- whether a state court trial judge can rule on the federal constitutionality of a federal statue as applied in a state court criminal proceedings."


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."


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