About ยป CACJ History

CACJ History

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed...

U.S. Constitution, Amendment VI

California Attorneys for Criminal Justice is the criminal defense lawyer organization for the State of California, it has been active for 45 years and was founded in 1973. It is the affiliate of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).

From the beginning, CACJ took on the role of advocating for criminal defense lawyers and for their clients. The Amicus Committee, started by Ephraim Margolin and now Chaired by John Philipsborn and Stephen Dunkle, has been tireless in filing briefs on behalf of CACJ as amicus curie in countless causes. Over 50 cases in which CACJ participated resulted in published decisions, many vindicating important rights on the part of the accused.

CACJ also took an early and active role in proposing legislation and lobbying to defeat the perennial, and often counterproductive, "tough on crime" legislation so often proposed by politicians. To this day, the CACJ Legislative Committee, currently Co-Chaired by Eric Schweitzer & Steven Munkelt, is one of the most active parts of the organization. Through our CACJ legislative strategist, Ignacio Hernandez, the Committee and CACJ make a tremendous impact on legislation in Sacramento.

From the beginning, CACJ started and has continued to provide the highest quality and most informative Continuing Legal Education for criminal defense lawyers in this State. Seminars Chair Jeff Thoma and his team, now put on several regular seminars each year, including the much anticipated Annual Seminar in San Francisco, the DUI Seminar in Palm Springs, and the joint seminars with CPDA in Monterey/San Diego for Capital Case Defense, and with NACDL in Las Vegas for Forensics. This year CACJ is making a special effort to broaden the education of newer lawyers, through its New Lawyers Division. There are tracks in current seminars for "101" overviews and there will be a basic criminal law seminar in the Spring just for this purpose.

CACJ has also been a strong advocate for the end of the Death Penalty. The Death Penalty Committee, currently Co-Chaired by Bob Boyce and James Thomson, meets regularly to deal with capital case issues. The Committee has met with the Chief Justice to help develop court policies and has put on regional CLE trainings on capital case issues. CACJ works closely with affilliate organization, Death Penalty Focus (DPF), and other organizations to help effect a political end to capital punishment.

The CACJ office is located in Sacramento which runs the day to day activities of the organization. The Executive Director Ignacio Hernandez and staff also help channel the tremendous energy of the members of the Board of Governors, the Committees and the active members of CACJ in general who help make this organization as powerful as it is.

There is a rich history to this organization and there are many tangible results of the hard work of the members. However, one of the most significant attributes of CACJ is that it is an organization of people who share a mission. CACJ members stand up for people who often do not have much of a voice. Members fight to achieve the goal of requiring that the system show respect to each and every person who is accused. CACJ, as the California criminal defense lawyer organization, stands up for its members to help each of them achieve that goal.

We, the members of CACJ, are proud of our 45 year history and are committed to continuing this tradition in the years to come.

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