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CACJ in the News

Press Release: Stop ICE Raids in Fresno County Courthouse

The California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ), a statewide association of criminal defense attorneys in private practice and working in public defender offices, strenuously objects to recent events in which ICE agents stalked a Fresno County courthouse searching for individuals to take into federal custody.

Read the Press Release here

For more details from Fresno Bee Click here

Updated 7.26.18

L.A. County Attorneys who Represent Indigent Clients in Criminal Court Protest Their New Boss

After the L.A. Board of Supervisors controversial appointment of Nicole Davis Tinkham as interim public defender, L.A. County attorneys protest their new boss. The controversy stems from Tinkham's lack of criminal trial experience, her close relationships with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and her overall inexperience.

""Leadership without experience in the field is a recipe for disaster," said Deputy Public Defender Timothy McDermott."

"To Vernon Patterson, a 23-veteran of the public defender's office, Tinkham's appointment stung: "It felt like it was a slap in the face.""

Read more from the LA Times

CACJ's Statement re: LA Public Defender Appointment

Updated 2.14.18

Pro-Trump Television Ad Tries to Turn Americans Against Latinos

The California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ) issues the following statement regarding the recent ad issued by the Trump Campaign :

Pro-Trump Television Ad Tries to Turn Americans Against Latinos

Over the years political campaigns have explored the depths of racial hatred simply to bolster the election results of a particular candidate. Spending millions of dollars on television ads to cultivate a generalized fear against a particular race/ethnicity is abhorrent and intolerable. The fact that such race-baiting is conducted to help a politician without any regard for the damage it does to the individual members of the targeted community is a disgrace and is itself a heinous act.

This past weekend’s ad by the Trump reelection committee is yet another extreme example of racially charged messaging. It ascribes the act of a single individual to an entire population. If you look like him, you too are a threat to the safety of those around you. Imagine if every American had to bear the responsibility and blame for all the crimes committed by everyone who lives in your neighborhood simply because you share the same zip code. Trump’s re-election ad is just as ludicrous and dangerous, especially in light of the ongoing racially-tinged rhetoric we have heard from Trump himself. The ad is also an attack on the criminal justice system by suggesting that every time an individual is on trial, his/her entire community may be found guilty too.

There is no place in American politics, or America, for such racially charged attacks on communities of color, attacks that place the blame for one person’s actions at the feet of others. The talents and accomplishment of immigrants is central to the growth and greatness of America. We must move past the outdated strategy to turn us against our neighbors simply because of their racial/ethnic background.

The ad also continues the Trump strategy to reduce complex public policy into racially charged soundbites designed to play on the deepest fears of Americans. He is willing to govern from a political picture book that relies on oversimplified taglines which confirm his one-dimensional, razor-thin understanding of complex issues. America deserves better than this.

CACJ condemns this ad and calls for all of those who are as outraged as we are to join us in condemning this outrageous appeal to the worst instincts of those who it reaches.

Updated 1.24.18

CACJ and Exonerated Nation Met in January to Discuss the Unique Needs of Exonerees After Being Released

The CACJ Co-Hosted event with Exonerated Nation met with Legislators and staff in January to discuss the lack of resources that exonerees are faced with after being released. Such resources are healthcare, job placement/education, financial resources, and many others that could assist exonerees in their transition into freedom.

“We talked about being exonerated, the issues that we face – no housing, food, clothing. We want help, an opportunity, job training. We’re just trying to get back to some normal society,” Johnson said in a later interview. “I was a loving, caring father. It was an accident. The pain is nothing I can change or fix. I just have to lay everything out and be the best person I can be.”

Read more from the Sac Bee here.

Updated 2.23.18

2016 President Matthew Guerrero has been Appointed to a Judgeship

CACJ is honored to announce that our 2016 President Matthew Guerrero has been appointed to a judgeship in the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court by Governor Jerry Brown.

Guerrero said that 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."

CACJ 2018 Incoming President Steve Rease said that, "CACJ is extremely excited to have one of our outstanding members appointed to the superior court bench of SLO. Matthew Guerrero's contributions to CACJ were both numerous and significant. He provided great leadership as our president. The people who come before him will find a judge with integrity, wisdom, and compassion. CACJ also congratulates Governor Brown on a most wise decision on making this appointment."

SLO Tribune article here.

Read the full press release here.

Updated 12.22.17

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

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

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

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.

SF Chronicle: We don’t want to jail people for being poor

In an opinion article in the SF Chronicle, Scott Sugarman, a past president of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, explains how jailing those unable to pay fines is "at odds not only with the law and the Constitution, but also with the values accepted by most individuals in our community."

Article Link

CACJ long time Legislative Committee member Eric Schweitzer comments to ABC 30 on Prop 57

The “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016”, backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, that would reduce the prison population by allowing non-violent offenders to earn credits towards parole for good behavior. Eric Schweitzer states, “it give[s] convicts more incentives to behave better. Prop 57 would give the parole board more flexibility to decide which prisoners are really rehabilitated and which are just going through the motions. Enrolling in prison programs, like substance abuse treatment, job skills, and schooling could increase their chances of actually getting paroled."

See video here.

Sacramento debating felony status for prosecutorial misconduct

Last week, Ignacio Hernandez, CACJ’s long-time lobbyist, spoke on KPCC, a Southern California Public Radio station, on our prosecutorial misconduct sponsored bill AB 1909. This bill was authored by Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, and would amend Penal Code 141, creating a felony for prosecuting attorneys who knowingly and intentionally withhold exculpatory evidence.

Listen here

CACJ's bill on prosecutorial misconduct featured in the OC Register

In a recent OC Register article, “Prosecutors who falsify or withhold evidence could become felons under proposed state legislation,” CACJ’s long time legislative advocate, Ignacio Hernandez, comments about prosecutorial misconduct and the recent OC jail house informant scandal,

“Orange County’s controversy reinforces the need to increase the penalties for prosecutorial misconduct...We’re seeing the problem in many parts of the state, in many counties.”

This year, CACJ is sponsoring AB 1909, authored by Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, which aims to create a felony for prosecuting attorneys who intentionally and in bad faith withhold exculpatory evidence. This bill is in response to the OC scandal and the growing epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

Last year CACJ-sponsored AB 1328, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, which added Penal Code 1424.5 to require a court to notify the state bar of a knowing and intentional Brady violation. However, even with this accountability tool, many bad-acting prosecutors fail to follow their constitutional duties and do not face any consequences for these intentional actions.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Restrictions May Soon Become Law

SB 443, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell and supported by CACJ, would require a criminal conviction before police could take permanent action if the property is worth less than $40,000. A recent compromise between the advocates and opponents, on the monetary threshold, has led to major law enforcement groups dropping their opposition to the bill. “The $40,000 threshold is an attempt to balance advocates’ desire that those in poverty don’t lose their property unless they’re convicted of wrongdoing and law enforcement’s interest in preserving its ability to go after large criminal enterprises, Mitchell said.”

The bill is expected to be voted on in the Assembly in the coming days, and will then need approval by the Senate as well as the Governor Brown before it becomes law.

Read More Here

CACJ's SB 1052 featured in the Chronicle of Social Change

CACJ’s Co-Sponsored SB-1052 Custodial interrogation: juveniles, by Senators Lara and Mitchell, was recently featured in the Chronicle of Social Change. SB 1052 adds section 625.6 to the Welfare and Institutions Code to require that juveniles have access to legal counsel before waiving their Miranda rights during a custodial interrogation. “You don’t let a 10-year-old make any legal decision, let alone one with potentially enormous consequences in waiving a constitutional right,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, regarding the Joseph H. case that sparked the need for this legislation. Justice Goodwin Liu, in his dissenting opinion stated that the case, “raises an important legal issue that likely affects hundreds of children each year: whether and, if so, how the concept of a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent Miranda waiver can be meaningfully applied to a child as young as 10 years old.” He also wrote that the “Legislature may wish to take up this issue in light of this court’s decision not to do so here.”

Read more here.

Funding for “Answering Gideon’s Call” initiative in 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

CACJ, along with numerous other defense associations, signed a Letter requesting the Justice Department grant funding for public defense. In 1963, Gideon v. Wainwright was brought to the Supreme Court of the United States and in a unanimous ruling, held that the assistance of counsel was a fundamental right under the United States Constitution. However, in the 50 years since Gideon, due to insufficient funding “the right to counsel in all criminal prosecutions announced in Gideon is far too often short-changed or ignored.” The letter requests that the Justice Department ensure Federal funding to assist state and county public defenders to keep up with increased case load as well as technological advancements and training.

Read the letter here.

SF Chronicle: California must reform jail sentencing: SB966 is place to start

With the goal of tougher penalties on crime, a three-year sentencing enhancement was added for those prior convictions. However these sentencing enhancements didn’t stop the flow of drugs into any of our communities and instead cost taxpayers and impacted communities. With the goal of correcting this problem, SB966 was introduced to repeal the sentencing enhancements. SB966 is supported by CACJ, and is authored by Senator Holly Mitchell, who was recognized with CACJ’s Co-Legislator of the Year Award in 2014

Read more here.

CACJ Board President Matthew Guerrero quoted in the The Bakersfield Californian

Matt Guerrero comments on scandal in Kern County involving two detectives involved in corruption and who have pleaded guilty to several charges. “One example of a common potential legal issue is that defense attorneys never had the chance to question the credibility of Diaz and Mara, because they did not know their credibility was in question. But now, after the fact, their credibility is in shambles, and those cases in which their veracity was assumed must be closely examined, said Matthew Guerrero, an attorney in San Luis Obispo County and the board president of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice.”

Read more here.

Assembly & Senate Public Safety Committees held a joint informational hearings on CA death penalty initiatives

Pictured left is Nancy Haydt, CACJ's Death Penalty Committee Co-Chair, speaking out in support of the repeal measure.

Death Penalty Repeal Measure #15-0066 repeals the death penalty as maximum punishment for people found guilty of murder, replacing it with life without possibility of parole. It also applies retroactively to those already sentenced to death. People found guilty of murder must work while in prison and up to 60% of their wages may be applied to victim restitution. This initiative is expected to reduce net state and local costs by around $150 million annually within a few years.

Death Penalty Streamlining Measure #15-0096 changes procedures regarding appeals and petitions challenging convictions, including designating superior court for initial petitions, limiting successive petitions, and imposing time limits on reviews. It requires additional appointed attorneys to accept death penalty appeals, making prison officials exempt from existing regulations in the process of developing execution methods, authorizes inmate transfers, and inmates must work and pay victim restitution.

CACJ calls for transparency and accountability in assault investigation

James Crawford, a criminal defense attorney and member of CACJ, was attacked in the courthouse after exchanging words with an investigator regarding the recent Orange County DA scandal. This scandal was brought to light by Scott Sanders, during the Dekraai case that revealed the use of jailhouse informants to gather information form defendants illegally.

California Attorneys for Criminal Justice remains dedicated to equal justice, and the need to have transparency in the investigation of the assault. Jacqueline Goodman, a CACJ Executive Committee Member, is clear; "We call for a thorough, independent investigation into the incident to ensure that the criminal justice system in Orange County is above reproach, and that no one is above the law." We should be focused on gathering the facts, and ensuring that the same procedure is applied fairly to everyone.

Read more from My News LA.

Read more from the Sac Bee

CACJ congratulates our Executive Board Member, Jacqueline Goodman, on her feature in OC Weekly.

When honoring her in 2012 with CACJ’s Skip Glen Award, Jacquie was described as, "proudly standing beside the unpopular, the reviled and the condemned in their hour of need, her humility, combined with her legendary sense of humor, has earned Jacqueline the respect and admiration of everyone she interacts with—from the bench to the bar, from the press to her puppies." We are extremely proud of everything she has accomplished, and incredibly honored to have her serve on our board.

Read more from the OCWeekly here.

Learn more about Jacqueline Goodman

Statement from CACJ's President Matthew Guerrero and Secretary Jacqueline Goodman on the Investigation into the assault by O.C. DA Investigator

California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ) believes that the public courthouse is a sacred place where prosecutors and defense attorneys should be free to practice their respective professions with honor and zeal in the pursuit of justice. In the sanctity of the courthouse, no person should ever be intimidated or silenced by the threat of physical aggression, particularly by one who represents the government.

CACJ feels that law enforcement's response to the incident has been woefully inadequate; the DA's office’s failure to express any criticism of its investigator, as well as Dominguez's rush to defend the investigator when all the facts weren't yet available, or make any denunciation of the violence, is disgraceful. President Matthew Guerrero also criticized law enforcement for "circling the wagons" and for not being transparent about the incident.

We renew our call to have nothing less than a thorough, independent investigation. And we renew our call to the District Attorney to take to ensure both a climate of respect for all those who work toward justice, and a commitment to ensuring it.

Read more from the Huffington Post here.

Prosecutorial misconduct and other legislative mistakes cost Californians millions

Prosecutorial misconduct led to the overturning of 86 convictions in California from 1989 to 2012. These, combined with other judicial mistakes, resulted in wrongful imprisonment of nearly 700 people over two decades. The total to incarcerate, and later settle lawsuits for these cases, cost the taxpayers over $220 million dollars.

CACJ is the leading organization demanding that prosecutors be held accountable for violations. In 2015 CACJ pushed for AB 672, otherwise known as Obie’s law, named for Obie Anthony who spent 17 years behind bars for a crime for which he was later exonerated. This bill, which was passed and was signed by the Governor, requires that CDCR provide transitional services, such as job training, housing assistance, and mental health services, to those wrongfully convicted.

CACJ also sponsored first-of-a-kind legislation to report prosecutors to the California State Bar for withholding evidence.

Read more from the LA Times

President Obama Speaks out on Need for Criminal Justice Reform

CACJ has been at the forefront of pushing for change in policies. This year we rolled back statutes on felony drug transportation, required reentry services for the wrongfully convicted, and toughened laws on misbehaving prosecutors and police officers. This week President Obama announced several policy changes and has made clear his commitment to criminal justice reform.

"The first of the executive actions Obama announced today—in a speech that coincided with the early release of thousands of drug offenders whose sentences were shortened thanks to changes in federal sentencing guidelines—involves the creation of grants that will help pay for job-training programs and housing for the newly released. The second will prevent the federal government from asking job candidates about their criminal records until after their qualifications have been substantively evaluated. This measure will only have a very modest effect in practice, but it puts the symbolic weight of the Obama administration behind a national reform movement known as “ban the box,” which says people who have been to prison should be given a chance to prove themselves when applying for jobs instead of being marked for life with a big red 'x' that discourages employers from interviewing them."
Read more from Slate

California Crime Laws are Due for an Overhaul, Gov. Jerry Brown Says

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown announced in a Forum for Federal Judges that California's crime laws have gone too far and inmate behavior should play a greater role in determining the length of a prison stay. He called for a greater need for parole boards to have more discretion to decide if inmates should be paroled.

Over three decades ago, Gov. Brown approved determinate sentences, which he acknowledged has led to state prison overcrowding with long-stay offenders. The system which once was seen as arbitrary and harsh on racial minorities, has disadvantaged the entire system. "Instead of disadvantaging a small minority, we now cover the whole system.... In this process we have 5,000 criminal provisions and there are 400 enhancements."

Read more from the LA Times

California State Bar Commission Approves Expedited Consideration of New Ethical Rule for Prosecutors

At the request of CACJ, The Innocence Project, CPDA, and others, the California State Bar Rules Commission convened Friday, October 23rd, in San Francisco to consider the expedited adoption of an ethical rule for California prosecutors. Friday's vote was the first step in getting a final rule adopted in California.

CACJ asked for the rule to follow ABA Model Rule 3.8 which has been adopted in various forms by every other state in the country. The California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) opposed the proposed rule and sent several representatives to offer testimony.

CACJ had two individuals register support for the ethical rule and signed on to a joint letter with CPDA and others.

The vote was split, but ultimately a majority of the Commission Members approved the ethical rule. The rule will next be sent to the Board at their November 20th meeting for review, and then out for public comments for a 90-day period. The Commission also approved to expedite this rule, which will allow it to be given separate consideration by the CA Supreme Court, ahead of other rules that will be submitted by the Bar.

Former CACJ President Gerald Uelmen, Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, and Michael Ogul of CPDA provided much of the testimony in support of the rule.

This victory continues CACJ's campaign against prosecutorial misconduct. A few weeks ago Governor Jerry Brown signed the CACJ sponsored AB 1328, which requires judges to report prosecutors who intentionally withhold evidence to the State Bar.

Statewide ballot initiative in FAVOR of Death Penalty has been filed: Deadline for public to submit comments is November 19th.

"Court rulings have prevented the state from executing anyone since 2006. A federal judge ruled that the former method exposed inmates to inhumane suffering if one of the three drugs failed to work. Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen, who headed a state commission several years ago on capital punishment, expressed pessimism Friday that the proposal by prosecutors and crime victims would work."

"It doesn't address the causes of the delay," he said. The causes include the fact that there are too many crimes that now qualify for the death penalty, he said. "We end up with too many cases - more than the system can handle - coming in the door every year," he said"

Read more from the LA Times
Language of initiative
Submit your comment here.

Decision by federal judge in SF protects medical marijuana dispensary operating in compliance with California law. Will decision set new legal precedent?

"Congressional action prohibits federal drug enforcers from shutting medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state law, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled Monday in a potentially precedent-setting case." Read more from the SFGate here.

IN THE PRESS: CACJ’s Prosecutorial Bill Gains Attention

In the past two days, CACJ’s sponsored bill, AB 1328, on prosecutorial misconduct, received some noteworthy press from both the Orange County Register (view here) and Huffington Post (view here).

In the OC Register, one of the writers that has been closely following the Dekraai case, wrote a great piece on the bill.

Alex Kozinski, former chief judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, told The Huffington Post. "It seems to give a great deal of discretion to trial judges, so its effectiveness will depend on the degree to which those judges are willing to exercise that authority."

Erwin Chemerinski, Dean of Irvine School of Law and Constitutional Scholar, commented to the Huffpost that the law was a “good” development.

"The Constitution and professional ethics already require that prosecutors turn over exculpatory evidence," Chemerinsky said. "But violations are widespread. This provides additional sanctions for prosecutorial misconduct and hopefully an additional deterrent."

Assembly Bill 256

AB 256, another CACJ sponsored bill, passed unanimously from the Senate floor. The bill returns to the Assembly for a concurrence vote, before heading to the Governor's office for final consideration.

“The public has a right to record the police and we need to send a clear message that any law enforcement official who tries to destroy this evidence will be punished” said Jeff Thoma, president of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice regarding AB 256.

  • The LA Times highlighted the passage of our bill in an article today.

Grand jury ban on probing shootings brings transparency

By Robert Boyce & Jeff Thoma | Aug. 29, 2015

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed Senate Bill 227 (Mitchell) into law prohibiting the use of grand juries to probe police shootings. This is an important step toward transparency and accountability necessary to keep the public trust in our judicial system.

Black men dying after encounters with police officers have made news and sparked protests in the last year. Grand juries in Missouri and New York decided not to bring charges against the officers involved, increasing concerns of bias. Earlier this month, California banned the use of grand juries to decide if police officers should face criminal charges when they kill in the line of duty. Supporters say secret grand jury meetings are not the place where such decisions should be made. Critics say the law is unnecessary and won’t increase transparency. Here, San Diego County’s district attorney and leaders of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice share their views on the issue.

Bill to Cut Back Juror Strikes Stalled in California Legislature

By Maria Dinzeo | August 12, 2015

"Ignacio Hernandez, a lobbyist for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, said he just doesn't see a reason for the bill."

"This is the most recent in many failed attempts to do this. We did not receive any convincing evidence that there was a need to reduce the number of peremptory challenges in California," he said, adding that he also hasn't seen any evidence that the bill could actually save money."

"We are always disturbed when you have a group of judges arguing under the banner of court efficiency, their idea to roll back what is a core protection for those accused of crimes," he said. "Even if this were to generate $1 million in savings, it should be the last place we look to cut. Why start there for such a small savings that's even questionable is beyond us."

CACJ Member Receives the "Lawyer of the Year" Award from the Utah State Bar

Ronald J. Yengich,
CACJ member since 1987,

was honored with the title Lawyer of the Year.

Mr. Yengich is a member of the Utah State Bar, the United States Bar: 9th, 10th, and 11th Circuit Bar, the Montana Bar Association, and the United States Supreme Court Bar. He is also a member of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, the National Association of Criminal Lawyers, the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the Society for the Reform of Criminal Law, the Italian-American Lawyers of California, the Italian-American Lawyers Association of Utah, the Croatian American Bar Association, and the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law.

Traffic Amnesty Implications for Defense Attorneys

A recent law passed that may affect defense attorneys' assistance to clients charged with driver’s license violations, e.g., driving on a suspended license or driving without a license.
Effective immediately, California Vehicle Code § 42008.8 is a traffic ticket amnesty program that will reinstate driver’s licenses that are suspended for failure to appear and/or failure to pay traffic fines. The driver’s license reinstatement will occur upon the license holder’s entry into a payment plan for outstanding fines. All persons who apply for the amnesty program are eligible for a 50% reduction in outstanding fines. Read more here...

Advocates! Please join us for a webinar that will provide training and materials helpful for amnesty implementation. Legal Aid Association of California (LAAC) will be hosting, so please save the date: September 15, 2015 12:00PM - 1:00PM.

Sincerely, Jesse Stout (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children)

Governor Signs Bills Banning Use of Grand Juries in Police Shootings and Allowing Citizen Recording of Police Officers

by David Greenwald | August 12, 2015

“Today, California makes it unequivocal – you have the right to record,” said Senator Lara in a statement. “With the stroke of a pen, Governor Brown reinforces our First Amendment right and ensures transparency, accountability and justice for all Californians. At a time when cell phone and video footage is helping steer important national civil rights conversations, passage of the Right to Record Act sets an example for the rest of the nation to follow.”

“CACJ is proud to co-sponsor this timely legislation. Following various high profile incidents across the country, it is essential for the community to hold the police accountable without fear of being intimidated or arrested,” added Dennis Garcia of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice."

Governor Brown Signs "Right to Record Act," Clarifying Lawfulness of Civilians Recording Public Safety Officers

by Asia Morris | August 12, 2015

"SB 411 clarifies individuals’ First Amendment right to record police officers by stating that a civilian recording while an officer is in a public place, or the person recording is in a place he or she has the right to be, is not violating the law. Additionally, it makes clear that recording does not constitute reasonable suspicion to detain a person or probable cause to arrest. This bill also protects police by ensuring that these provisions do not allow a civilian to obstruct an officer."

"Following various high profile incidents across the country, it is essential for the community to hold the police accountable without fear of being intimidated or arrested," said Dennis Garcia, spokesman for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, which co-sponsored the legislation, in a statement."

Bill to Cut Back Juror Strikes Stalled in California Legislature

By Maria Dinzeo | August 12, 2015

"Ignacio Hernandez, a lobbyist for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, said he just doesn't see a reason for the bill."

"This is the most recent in many failed attempts to do this. We did not receive any convincing evidence that there was a need to reduce the number of peremptory challenges in California," he said, adding that he also hasn't seen any evidence that the bill could actually save money."

"We are always disturbed when you have a group of judges arguing under the banner of court efficiency, their idea to roll back what is a core protection for those accused of crimes," he said. "Even if this were to generate $1 million in savings, it should be the last place we look to cut. Why start there for such a small savings that's even questionable is beyond us."

Public defender's offices still struggle for funding


By L.J. Williamson | 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."

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.

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"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 misconduct

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.

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 theCalifornia 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.

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.”

Relaxing California Sex Offender Rules Intended To Make Communities Safer

“It’s really about looking at each case individually and deciding what punishment fits the crime,” Ignacio Hernandez told CBS 13. “The way the law’s drafted now, it captures the most egregious cases and the least serious cases and treats them the same. We assumed that at some point the courts would find that unconstitutional.”

Read more from the article here.

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.

CACJ Responds to SF Public Defender's arrest and violation of constitutional rights.

Original SF Gate article (in italics) By Vivian Ho . Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle.

A San Francisco deputy public defender was handcuffed and arrested at the Hall of Justice after she objected to city police officers questioning her client outside a courtroom, an incident that her office called outrageous and police officials defended as appropriate.

[Public Defender Jeff] Adachi said he was hoping for "some accountability" from the Police Department. "A uniform does not give anyone license to bully people out of their constitutional rights," he said. "If police are able to do this to a deputy public defender in front of her client, I can only imagine what is happening out on the streets."

CACJ's President Jeff Thoma, in a letter to Police Chief Gregory P. Suhr, expressed CACJ's "outrage over the arrest on Wednesday January 28 by your department of San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Jami Tillotsen, in the Hall of Justice, for insisting that her client receive the constitutional right of her representation during questioning."

Brady Violations Gain Judicial Attention as well as Proposed Solutions

CACJ's President, Jeff Thoma, was recently interviewed by John Roemer for the Daily Journal regarding Brady Violations. They discussed a "plan to rein in prosecutors who hide favorable evidence from the defense in criminal trials [which] could be gaining traction." Called A Brady colloquy, during pretrial hearings, before the defendant enters a plea, judges could ask prosecutors a short series of questions, on-the-record, to determine if undisclosed exculpatory evidence exists.

Jeff Thoma remarked that "Brady violations [are] also on the state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye's mind this month," and that in "meeting with [her] he pointed out that California is the only state that has not adopted the American Bar Association's model rule of professional conduct 3.8 on the special responsibilities as a prosecutor. She assured me that her staff would review it, as we all agreed that this was an issue that needs to be addressed in some manner."

Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski supports the idea; putting prosecutors on notice that withholding pro-defense material violates the Constitution.

"For Thoma, the Brady colloquy idea resonated. Jason Kreag, [a Law Professor at the University of Arizona College of Law,] proposed that if trial judges refuse to ask Brady-oriented questions of the prosecutor, defense lawyers should put a statement on the record about what material they requested and what they got in response."

CACJ on Capital Radio

Ignacio Hernandez, CACJ's policy director and founder of the Hernandez Strategy Group, appeared on Capital Public Radio's Insight with Beth Ruyakon 11/19. He discussed Prop. 47 and its effect on the community and the judicial system. Joining Ignacio will be Lenore Anderson, executive director of the Californians for Safety and Justice.

New Problem Could Torpedo Guilt Cold-Case Murder Trial

San Jose Mercury News

September 24th, 2014

A pending case in Santa Clara County, where the DA withheld 10,000 pages of discovery until 2 weeks before jury trial on a homicide, and also failed to disclose that he was having an affair with the lead criminalist in the case who provided the key DNA results in a "cold hit" murder, is threatening to torpedo the trial of two brothers accused of a 25-year-old "cold case" murder.

The evidence issue comes as Gov. Jerry Brown considers whether to sign Assembly Bill 885, sponsored by California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, which would allow judges to tell a jury when a prosecutor has intentionally concealed potentially helpful evidence to the defense.

"Everybody that has ever tried cases," Barry Scheck said, "knows this (prosecutorial misconduct involving withheld evidence) is a problem."

California reduces deportations for minor crimes

By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press | July 21, 2014

"Amazingly, the fact that it's 364 means it's not an aggravated felony under federal law," said Steven Rease, a criminal defense attorney in Monterey County. "It's a very small change in terms of 365, 364, but it's going to make all the difference in the world to a legal immigrant...whose chances of deportation are greatly reduced."

Rease is co-chairman of the legislative committee of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, which represents defense attorneys and sought the change in state law."

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