"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

"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

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

"What we don't mention often enough in discussing CACJ is the role that we as a group have taken on to affect change, or to protect and at times to expand the meaning of peoples' rights. Look at the work done by CACJ in the legislative arena, and in amicus litigation. CACJ is often asked for help because we are willing to speak up."

John Philipsborn, Co-Chair CACJ Amicus Committee

"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

"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

"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

"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 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

"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 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 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

"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

"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

“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

"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, Past President 2016

“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

"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

"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

"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 2011

"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

"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

"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

"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 President


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.


Two CACJ Members Appointed to County Superior Court Positions

Governor Brown Appoints
Adam B. Ryan to Shasta County Superior Court

Adam Ryan has been a CACJ member since 2009 and served on the CACJ Board of Governors. He is a sole practitioner from Redding, CA and a partner at Wright, Ryan and Anderson PLC.

Read the Press Release here

Governor Brown Appoints
Gregory J. Elvine-Kreis to Humboldt County Superior Court

Gregory J. Elvine-Kreis has been a CACJ Member since 2012. He was a deputy public defender from 2010 to 2013 at the Humboldt County Public Defender’s Office, and is currently a supervising attorney at the same office.

Read the Press Release here


Featured on 60 Minutes: Jailhouse Informants in Orange County Unveiled

This year CACJ is co-sponsoring AB 359, authored by Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer, which provides more transparency and limits over-incentivising jailhouse informants. This story on 60 minutes interviews Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckus about the jailhouse informant scandal as well as multiple jailhouse informants.

See story here


Erwin Chemerisnky named new dean of Berkeley Law.

Admired professor and legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, current and founding dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, has been appointed to be the next dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. He will begin his five-year term on July 1, 2017.

See article here


Breaking News: U.S. Attorney General Sessions’ move to bring back mandatory minimums

In his memorandum, Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined a sentencing policy giving prosecutors the power to “charge defendants with the most serious, provable crimes carrying the most severe penalties,” rolling back a policy implemented during the Obama administration that eliminated unnecessary and ineffective lengthy mandatory minimum sentences.

Cris Lamb, President of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, has issued the following comment:

"Mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses has proven to be ineffective and misguided policy that was rightfully rolled back during the Obama administration.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has revealed his disdain for evidence-based policymaking. He has instead announced a preference for discriminatory practices that in recent years have been rejected by experts.

AG Sessions has confirmed everyone's worst fears that he would revive outdated policies that disproportionately impact people of color, and celebrate antiquated "tough on crime" practices that led to the over-incarceration of boys and men of color and destroyed any chance of rehabilitation.

Click here for the entire press release

Read article here

Read memo here

Mandatory Minimums: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Updated 5.16.17


New Ethics Rule for Prosecutors Approved in Part by California Supreme Court

CACJ and allies initiated a fast track approval of a new ethical Rule 5-110 for prosecutors. The rule was approved by the CA State Bar.

Earlier this month, the CA Supreme Court approved most portions of the new rule, but sent a portion of rule, regarding prosecutors’ ethical disclosure obligations, back to the State Bar’s Board of Trustees to consider alternative revisions. The portions approved by the Court went into effect May 1, 2017.

CACJ's Legislative Director testified before the state bar last week asking that the proposed ethical rule not be watered down.

CACJ is opposed to the Supreme Court's recommended Amendment and submitted a letter to the State Bar and raised our concerns with the California Supreme Court.

Proposed change here

Court order here

Updated 5.16.2017


New Amicus Brief Filed: Finn Batato, et al

This week, CACJ and allies filed an Amicus Brief on Constitutional protections of the 4th Amendment and civil forfeiture.
CACJ has been active on due process protections and supported recent legislation, SB 443, which requires that a defendant be convicted of an underlying crime before cash or property can be permanently seized. The law took effect this year.
Read more on the brief here
Updated 5.10.2017

Monumental moment as long awaited tiered sex offender registration bill passes out of its first committee

Last week, among several bills that gained passage out of Assembly or Senate Public Safety Committee, SB 421, authored by Senator Wiener (D-San Francisco), passed out of Senate Public Safety. This measure, which is supported by law enforcement and DAs, creates a 3-tier sex offender registration. CACJ is supportive of the bill’s concept and has been discussing potential amendments.

Additional CACJ supported bills that gained passage, include:

  • A.B. No. 935 Mark Stone. Establishes timelines and processes relating to the determination of juvenile competency in court proceedings and the evaluation and delivery of remediation services.
  • A.B. No. 1308 Mark Stone. Allows certain inmates who were 25 years or younger when they committed a crime for which they received a lengthy or life sentence eligible for a youth parole hearing.
  • S.B. No. 312 Skinner. Provides youth, who committed certain offenses, the opportunity to seal their record when they have been able to demonstrate rehabilitation.
  • S.B. No. 185 Hertzberg. Prohibits license suspensions for failure to pay or appear in court for minor traffic tickets.
  • S.B. No. 620 Bradford. Allows judicial discretion when applying a sentence enhancement when a person uses or discharges a firearm during the commission of an offense and subsequent conviction.

To see CACJ opposed bills that failed passage, log-in here

Updated 5.2.2017


In the News: US Supreme Court orders refunds for people whose criminal convictions are overturned

In a decision for a Colorado case, the SCOTUS ordered that states must return court costs and fees, as well as restitution, to those who have had their convictions overturned. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “they are entitled to be presumed innocent.” The decision was 7-1, with Justice Thomas as the only dissenting opinion.

Read more from the LA Times

Updated 4.20.2017


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

Prosecutors in California Speak out Against ICE Raids at Courthouses San Francisco Chronicle, At the Lectern, Press-Telegram

Read more about courthouse arrests from the LA Times here

Updated 4.7.17


Orange County prosecutor facing State Bar disciplinary charges for failing to turn over exculpatory evidence

The CA Bar alleges the prosecutor knowingly failed to turn over the exculpatory evidence to win a 2014 case. Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals, who presided in State of California v. Iacullo, said it “was a willful violation.” Read the article from the OC Weekly

CACJ recently sponsored two new laws to combat prosecutorial misconduct. AB 1909 makes it a felony for intentional violations, and AB 1328 requires a court to report misconduct to the California State Bar.

New law: Prosecutors face felonies if they falsify or withhold evidence from the OC Register

Updated 4.18.2017


CACJ In the News: CACJ Opposed Tough on Crime Bills Fail Passage

The Senate Public Safety Committee voted against two of Senator Pat Bates’ bills, one of which, SB 75, looked to expand the definition of “serious violent crime.” The other, SB 69, a second attempt after last year's failed measure, would make it a felony for a person to remove/disable a GPS device if it was affixed as a result of a conviction of certain specified sex offenses.

In response to SB 75, Jacqueline Goodman, CACJ Board Treasurer, explained "the ill-conceived legislation would effectively double the number of crimes for which violators could serve life in prison --including, for example, theft crimes where no actual violence occurred.”

Read more from the Patch

Updated 4.28.17


In the News: Sessions Orders Justice Department to Review All Police Reform Agreements

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said agreements made during the Obama administration between police departments and the civil rights division will be reviewed to ensure they do not go against the new Drumpf administration’s goal of “promoting officer safety and morale.”

Read more from the Washington Post here

Updated 4.4.17


CACJ Supports Modernizing Outdated and Discriminatory HIV Criminal Laws

In Assembly and Senate Public Safety committee hearings, several CACJ supported bills passed out of committee. One particularly important bill to note that gained passage is SB 239, authored by Senator Wiener, which reduces several felony laws that criminalize and stigmatize individuals living with HIV down to misdemeanors. This is sponsored by a coalition of LGBT and public health organizations. CACJ Members can read more here.

Updated 3.28.17


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. Last week 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.

Updated 3.28.17

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Upcoming Events


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 Appellate Practice Seminar
November 4th, 2017
San Diego, CA


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

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