"I am passionate about and grateful for the opportunity I am afforded every day as a defense attorney to help individuals navigate through the criminal justice system, but I often feel frustrated and guilty that my day-to-day work does not as often allow me the chance to affect change on the macro level. CACJ means the chance to get involved in the broader fight as well as encourage and support a sense of community in the defense bar that is vital to the often lonely and thankless work we are all committed to."

Lee Stonum, CACJ Board Member

"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 Board Member & Death Penalty Committee Co-Chair

“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

"CACJ Membership is the cornerstone of consistent policy shifts in Sacramento and Nationwide. Your decision to join CACJ reflects not only your commitment to Criminal Justice for all, denied to none. Your Membership insures that CACJ will continue to deliver meaningful impact upon legal opinions and statutes year after year. CACJ's several Committees, including Legislative and Amicus, foster landmark laws and opinions that you can open up a code or case book and use."

Eric Schweitzer, CACJ Secretary

"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 Board Member

"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 Vice-President

"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 2011

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 Treasurer

“Criminal defense attorneys who are committed to providing the highest quality of representation to their clients join CACJ. Membership in the organization offers the opportunity to join with dedicated colleagues throughout the state to learn from one another and to stand together in the fight for justice.”

Stephen Dunkle, Co-Chair CACJ Amicus Committee & FORUM Editor

"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

"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

"It is an honor to serve as a member of the Board of Governors of CACJ. Public sentiment toward criminal justice has made a paradigm shift. Over the past few years, there have been new laws which have reduced the criminalization of certain crimes, thereby curtailing the years of over incarceration of individuals for petty offenses. As a public defender I have also witnessed the upswing in the incarceration of the mentally ill. I hope to continue our work for alternatives to incarceration such as rehabilitation and treatment for all indigent people."

Susan Roe, CACJ Board Member

"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's First President & Founding Member

"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 2012

"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

"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 1980

"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 Board Member

"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, Past President 1986

"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

"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, Past President 2013

"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 1984

"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 2011

"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 Vice-President

"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, Life 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


CACJ's Jail Informant Legislation Moves Forward

CACJ, along with the ACLU and other allies, is co-sponsoring A.B. No. 359 (Jones-Sawyer) to limit non-monetary compensation to jailhouse informants. Today the Assembly Public Safety Committee approved the measure on a bipartisan basis. The bill also requires disclosure of detailed information about the informant’s activities. A.B. No. 359 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for its next vote. Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer is a past recipient of the CACJ Legislator of the Year Award.

CACJ's co-sponsored bill to create a special master to handle exoneree compensation claims was approved by the Senate Public Safety Committee. S.B. 321 by Senator Bill Monning, will be heard next in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Sponsored bill S.B. No. 395 (Lara), gives a juvenile access to an attorney before an interrogation or waiver of Miranda rights, passed the Senate hearing today as well.


In the News: Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye Objects to Immigration Enforcement Tactics at California Courthouses

California Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye sends an open letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly expressing her concern about the recent ICE arrests at courthouses in California. Cantil-Sakauye’s concern is that the use of courthouses to target immigrants will lead to a lack of trust in our courts by the public. [These arrests] “undermine the judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice.

Read the full letter from Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye here.


In the News: ICE agents make arrests at courthouses, sparking backlash from prosecutors and attorneys

In California and the Southwest, ICE agents have been increasing their arrests including several at courthouses. ICE says that they avoid making arrests at “sensitive locations”, which include schools, hospitals, and places of worship, however courthouses are not on that list. Attorneys worry that arrests at the courthouses will deter witnesses with non-legal statuses from testifying.

Read more from the LA Times here.


Join us at NACDL's Forensic Science & the Law Seminar

NACDL's Forensic Science & the Law Seminar
May 3-6, 2017
The Cosmopolitan
Las Vegas, NV

Join your CACJ and NACDL colleagues in Las Vegas at the premiere venue - The Cosmopolitan Hotel - for the 10th Annual Forensic Science & the Law Conference, "Making Sense of Science."

  • Deconstructing a DNA Case - Laura Schile (Sun City, AZ)
  • Locating, Vetting, Retaining, and Using Experts - Christine Funk (Washington, DC)
  • A Lawyer's Guide to Understanding Mobile Forensics - John Ellis (San Diego, CA)
  • E-Discovery & Use of Digital Evidence - Richard Willstatter (White Plains, NY)
  • Quantifying Forensic-Science Opinions - David Kaye (University Park, PA)
  • False Confessions - Karen Newirth (New York, NY)
  • Ethically Crossing Government Experts - Edward J. Ungvarsky (Arlington, VA)
  • Drug Recognition Evaluations (DRE): What It is and What It Isn't - Steve Oberman (Knoxville, TN)
  • Firearms/Toolmarks - William A. Tobin (Bumpass, VA)
  • Effectively Presenting Forensic Evidence at Trial Using Experts and Demonstratives - Iris Eytan (Denver, CO)
  • Under the Shadow of PTSD: Providing Trauma Informed Representation - Michael Harris (Oakland, CA)
  • Eyewitness Identification - Scott Fraser (Los Angeles, CA)
  • ReLIEability: Creative Motions for Challenging Examiners and Their Examinations - Bonnie Hoffman (Leesburg, VA)
  • Confronting and Utilizing the Pathologist in Murder Cases - Robert M. Sanger (Santa Barbara, CA)

Update: Man spent 30 years in prison for LA murder is exonerated

Andrew Wilson was acquitted today after spending more than 30 years in prison. Mr. Wilson was convicted of murder in 1984 and has maintained his innocence throughout. Paula Mitchell, attorney for Mr. Wilson, and Legal Director of the Project for the Innocent at Loyola Law School, said "numerous due-process violations recently came to light that showed Wilson did not receive a fair trial." Mr. Wilson is set to be released in the next few days and he plans to visit his mother in St Louis, who says she has believed in his innocence and has spent the past 30 years writing letters and being his advocate.

Interview with NBC Los Angeles here.

Read more from the Union Democrat here.


CACJ In the News: Proposed Bill would take DNA from Misdemeanor Suspects

Proposed bill AB 16 looks to reintroduce a failed bill that will extend DNA testing to some misdemeanors. Currently, police can collect DNA from felony suspects, however Assemblyman Jim Cooper wants to include more crimes.

“The government cannot collect your DNA unless there’s good reason. Good justification. If they have evidence absolutely we understand that,” said Ignacio Hernandez, a lobbyist for the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

Read more from CBS here.


CACJ Responded to the California Department of State Hospital Proposal

CACJ Responded to the California Department of State Hospitals' proposed regulation to shift greater emphasis on jail and prison-based treatment instead of state hospitals or community based programs.

Regulations can be found here.

Department of State Hospitals
1600 9th Street, Room 410
Sacramento, CA 95814


CACJ in the News: 3rd District Court of Appeal Decision to Toss Out 2015 Law

The 3rd District Court of Appeal tossed out a law that passed in 2015, which prohibits the use of a grand jury when evidence indicates that a peace officer’s use of excessive force or a firearm may have contributed to the death of a civilian, stating, “the Legislature does not have the power to enact a statute that limits the constitutional power of a criminal grand jury to indict any adult accused of a criminal offense.” CACJ supported this legislation (SB 227, authored by Senator Mitchell).

CACJ commented to the SacBee with a response to the decision, “[t]he community must feel confident in the decision of prosecutors to not file charges against police officers. Transparency in the process is a vital component to fostering this trust. This court decision undermines one approach to transparency. The Legislature must respond swiftly and with decisive action to strengthen accountability of local law enforcement.”

Read full article here.

California's 33rd Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, Sworn into Office

U.S. Congressman Xavier Becerra's (D-CA) was sworn in by Governor Jerry Brown as California's 33rd Attorney General.

Rep. Becerra, 58, of Los Angeles, has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1992, most recently as the first Latino member of the Committee on Ways And Means, ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. The congressman is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which he chaired from 1997 to 1998, and the Executive Committee of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. In 2010, Rep. Becerra served on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Prior to his election to Congress, Rep. Becerra served in the California State Assembly as representative for the 59th Assembly District in Los Angeles County from 1990 to 1992. He served as a deputy attorney general in the California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General from 1987 to 1990. The congressman began his legal career in 1984, advocating for and representing individuals with mental illness.


Is it Time to Renew your Membership?

Some CACJ memberships are up for renewal, log in to verify your membership is current and update any contact information. Membership renewal reminders are sent out starting two months before your membership expires. If you have not received any renewal reminders—or have questions about when your membership should be renewed—then please contact the office at 916.643.1800.


New CA Law to Streamline the Death Penalty is Now on Hold

Proposition 66, which speeds up the death penalty process, was just passed by voters last month. However, the California Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the law will not take effect while a court considers a lawsuit from its opponents.

The lawsuit was filed the day after the election by former California Attorney General John Van De Kamp and lawyer Ron Briggs, who stated the new law “will result in immediate increased expenditures of public funds, a suppression of legitimate challenges, and a decrease in counsels’ ability to represent their clients.” The court responded in their filing that they would need time to consider the legal challenges and to permit the filing and consideration of papers in opposition to the petition.

Read full article here.


In the News: Ruling Issued Requiring Probable Cause before a Search

The Supreme Court issued a ruling in a 2012 case against a bicyclist who was found to have child pornography in his phone after being pulled over by police in a traffic stop. The ruling stated the search violated the Fourth Amendment and that police officers can only search a person following a traffic stop if they believe there is probable cause that a crime has been committed.

The case was ultimately dismissed after it was returned to a state appellate court in which the court was instructed to suppress all information extracted from the phone. The Supreme Court stated that the only lawful actionthe officers could have done when pulling over the bicyclist was give him a traffic ticket.

Read more here.


SF Public Defender's Story: Bad Guys by Jeff Adachi

Jeff Adachi and a fellow Public Defender in San Francisco noticed a sign-up sheet being distributed around the courtroom using the label of "Bad Guy" to describe the defendants. When this was brought to the judge’s attention, he dismissed it as a joke, saying that “it says the same thing, the defendant is the accused. The “bad guy”, it is a semantics thing.”

If you are labeled as the “bad guy”, especially in a document circulated in the courthouse where it can be seen by witnesses and family members of the accused, it strips away their presumption of innocence, and “attacks the credibility of a system that promises to be fair,” explains Adachi.


Read the story here.

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Upcoming Events

NACDL's Forensic Science & the Law Seminar
May 3-6, 2017
The Cosmopolitan
Las Vegas, NV


CACJ's DUI Rules of the Road XX
September 8 & 9, 2017
Renaissance Hotel
Palm Springs, CA


CACJ's National Criminal Trial Advocacy Competition
October 19-22, 2017
San Francisco, CA


CACJ's 44th Annual Criminal Defense Seminar & Awards Luncheon
December 15th & 16th, 2017
San Francisco, CA

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