Amicus Briefs

The Amicus Committee and CACJ's volunteer brief writers offer arguments that have proven to be of significance to the courts and to the defense bar, resulting in many significant decisions of reviewing courts. On occasion CACJ helps to defray the cost of producing the briefing. The work of the Amicus Committee is an important part of CACJ's contributions.

To reach the CACJ Amicus Committee, please email: amicus@cacj.org

Stephen Dunkle, Amicus Committee Chair
John Philipsborn, Amicus Committee Vice Chair

CACJ's 45 years of Amicus Briefs- The Published Cases 1973-2018

Amicus Briefs 2015 - Current

McDonough v. Smith

McDonough v Smith, United States Supreme Court, June 2019: The United States Supreme Court handed down a rare reversal of the Second Circuit in an important civil rights case for those seeking damages because of a prosecution based on fabricated evidence. The Second Circuit had ruled that the statute of limitations runs from the time that the aggrieved person discovers the fabrication--regardless of whether the underlying criminal case was still ongoing or not. CACJ and a number of organizations including Brooklyn Defender Services argued it was fundamentally unfair to force relief to be sought that early in the process, and that the plaintiff in such a case could wait until the criminal case had terminated in his or her favor before filing a civil rights action. The Court agreed that where the theory of liability involves malicious prosecution, imposing an early statute of limitations was not in keeping with the concept of allowing opportunity for redress.

The case has significance for those falsely or fraudulently accused, including those with innocence claims whose opportunity for relief would (and in certain historical cases did) run out if the Second Circuit's reasoning prevailed. CACJ and fellow amici were represented by lawyers from Arnold & Porter and Kaye Scholer in Washington, D.C..

Read the court syllabus here.

June 2019

People v. Barajas (California S.C.)

The Los Angeles Public Defender's Office is seeking review of a ruling that limits the prerogative that the same court had provided, several years ago, to a trial court to review the validity of Fourth Amendment seizure issues at time of misdemeanor arraignment under Penal Code Section 991. The case appeared headed for appellate review once before with support from the San Francisco Public Defender. J.T. Philipsborn on letter brief for CACJ.

Read the brief here.

March 2019

People v. Martinez (California S.C.)

CACJ has filed a letter brief requesting that the California Supreme Court either grant review to or depublish the Martinez decision by the Second Appellate District, 31 Cal. App. 5th 719. Martinez is one of the SB 1437 cases in which a reviewing case has shown only a grudging interpretation of SB 1437 permitting petitions for relief from murder convictions suffered by other than actual killers under specified circumstances. Several Court of Appeal rulings have, as argued in the letter, seemingly undermined the purpose of SB 1437, which was enacted thanks to efforts by CACJ and others. The letter brief was co-authored by Cliff Gardner and Eric Multhaup, and was submitted by Steve Dunkle and John Philipsborn.

Read the brief here.

March 2019

Taylor v. Pima County (Ninth Circuit)

CACJ has joined with several other organizations including NACDL in urging the Ninth Circuit to consider whether persons claiming the right to recover damages for wrongful imprisonment who were released from custody on that basis can seek violation of civil rights based damages regardless of whether they raised actual innocence claims in a habeas corpus proceeding, or whether they entered no contest pleas as part of the resolution of their cases during the litigation of their cases. On the latter issue especially, since a number of persons claiming actual innocence have been freed on condition of the entry of a no contest plea, this is a case of concern to those seeking compensation for wrongful imprisonment. Donald Falk of Mayer Brown took the lead for CACJ and NACDL.

Read the brief here.

March 2019

McDonough v. Smith (USSC)

McDonough v Smith (U.S. Supreme Court) CACJ joined a number of organizations, including Brooklyn Defender Services and many others, in a brief attacking the current procedure under which an individual suing for civil rights damages under a theory of unlawful fabrication of evidence in a criminal case has to file as soon as the individual 'learns about' the fabrication. The brief argues that this rule is unfair and unworkable. Lawyers from Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C. on brief. Steve Dunkle and John Philipsborn reviewed the case and the brief for CACJ

Read the Brief here

March 2019

People v. Cooper

CACJ submitted an amicus brief in the People v Cooper case. This week Governor Jerry Brown exercised his authority to grant review of this capital case. We look forward to the Governor taking further actions on cases before he leaves office next month.

2018

People v. Lee

24 Cal.App.5th 50 (Restitution for non-economic damages is available to certain victims of child sex abuse.)

2018

People v. Buza

4 Cal.5th 658 (The provision of the DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crimes and Innocence Protection Act which requires a defendant to submit a cheek swab DNA sample does not violate the defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment or California Constitution.)

2018

People v. Miracle (California Supreme Court)

CACJ has filed a brief in support of the State Public Defender's argument that Penal Code Section 1018 mandating that the accused in a capital case have counsel of record, and consent of that counsel, to plead guilty is a constitutionally valid statute that promotes public policy in favor of exercising care in the litigation of capital cases. Andrea Asaro of OSPD for the appellant. J.T. Philipsborn on brief for CACJ

2018

Facebook v. Superior Court (Touchstone)

In this litigation pending before the California Supreme Court, CACJ has filed a supplemental brief explaining why it supports Real Party Touchstone's arguments in favor of the creation of procedures for individuals charged with crimes in California courts to be able to procure access to stored electronic media from companies like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat (to name a few) notwithstanding the federal Stored Communications Act. Don Landis briefed the matter in CACJ's initial brief. J.T. Philipsborn on brief on the supplemental brief.

Read the brief here

2018

Sean Garvin v New York

CACJ is joined in an amicus brief filed in the United States Supreme Court by Mark Thompson and other lawyers at Washington, D.C.'s Crowell and Moring on behalf of several organizations including CACJ. CACJ's amicus committee chair, Steve Dunkle, and vice chair John Philipsborn, were both involved in the drafting process and contributed material to demonstrate California's interest in the litigation that asks the Court to recognize that there is no exception to the warrant requirement that would be permit a warrantless arrest of persons who are in the doorway on a home. The case addresses the argument that there is a doorway exception to the warrant requirement.

Read the brief here

2018

S.V. v. Superior Court (Harris)

CACJ has filed a letter brief supporting the Orange County Public Defender's petition for review of a published Court of Appeal ruling that denied the accused in a criminal case access to files pertinent to him that were part of a juvenile court proceeding. The Los Angeles Public Defender and CPDA also filed letter briefs. Steve Dunkle and John Philipsborn on brief for CACJ.

Read the brief here

2017

United States v. Fell

CACJ joined the NACDL Death Penalty Committee in a brief filed in the Second Circuit in a pending capital case, United States v. Fell, in which the Circuit is considering whether to uphold a trial court ruling that the Crawford rule applies to penalty evidence, and should result in a co-defendant's statement to police being excluded at the penalty trial. CACJ Amicus Co-Chair John Philipsborn and California based Michael Burt are counsel of record for Donald Fell before the Second Circuit, and in the trial court. John Mills of San Francisco wrote the amicus brief for CACJ and NACDL.

Read the brief here.

2017

People v. Valencia

3 Cal.5th 347 (Proposition 47's definition of “unreasonable risk to public safety” does not apply to Proposition 36.)

Read the brief here.

2017

People v. Ryann Lynn Jones

CACJ has filed a letter brief in the California Supreme Court supporting Stephen Greenberg's well crafted and extensive argument on the failure of California reviewing courts--including the California Supreme Court--to follow existing standards of review, particularly the standard applicable to errors of constitutional dimension. John T. Philipsborn on the letter brief.

Read more on the brief here

2017

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

2017

ALADS v. Superior Court

This case involves the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff’s (ALADS) challenge to a trial court order allowing the Sheriff’s Department to inform the District Attorney’s Office that there may be exculpatory or impeachment material in specific deputies’ personnel files. CACJ jointly filed a brief with the ACLU Southern California, CPDA and Dignity and Power Now in support of real parties, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Jim McDonnell and the County of Los Angeles. The brief argues that the Brady procedure approved by the trial court is lawful and the sort of “laudably established procedure” approved of by the California Supreme Court in People v. Superior Court (Johnson) (2015) 61 Cal.4th 696, 721. Benjamin N. Gluck and Naeun Rim of Bird, Marella, et al. and Peter J. Eliasberg Melanie R.P. Ochoa of ACLU Southern California, for amici, with John Philipsborn and Steve Dunkle appearing for CACJ.

Read the Amicus Brief here.

2017

Briggs v. Jerry Brown

This is a case in which the Petitioner is asking the California Supreme Court to find that Proposition 66, the ballot initiative which was proposed to counter any proposal to repeal the death penalty in California, is invalid. The challenge is made on the grounds that the initiative interferes with the jurisdiction of the courts, violates the single subject rule for propositions, violates the separation of powers and renders the death penalty system in California unconstitutional. The brief was jointly filed by CACJ and Death Penalty Focus. Robert Sanger and Steve Dunkle on the brief.

Read the Amicus Brief here.

2017

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

This is a case in which the Petitioner is asking the State Supreme Court to consider whether a criminal defendant is entitled to obtain electronic records by suboena duces tecum prior to trial. The questions before the court are: (1) Did the Court of Appeal properly conclude that defendants are not entitled to pretrial access to records in the possession of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter under the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) (18 U.S.C. § 2701, et seq.) and People v. Hammon (1997) 15 Cal.4th 117? (2) Does an order barring pretrial access to the requested records violate defendants' right to compulsory process and confrontation under the Sixth Amendment or their due process right to a fair trial? (3) Should this court limit or overrule People v. Hammon (1997) 15 Cal.4th 117? CACJ previously filed an amicus brief addressing these questions. The court invited supplemental briefing on the issue of whether the SCA should be construed to apply to only those communications that were, when sent, configured to be private - e.g., restricted to "followers" or "friends" - and not to communications that were, when sent, configured to be public, and hence generally accessible to the public. Don Landis on the brief for CACJ.

Read the Amicus Brief here.

2017

Williams v. Adams

CACJ joined NACDL in urging the granting of certiorari to a case that was litigated from California courts into the Ninth Circuit, based in part on the allegation that the trial court had erroneously dismissed a holdout juror who was inclined towards voting for an acquittal. The concern addressed by amici was that the Ninth Circuit had deferred entirely to a California appellate court’s finding, unsupported in the trial record, that it was juror bias that provided a basis for the removal. The challenge here was not only to the violation of the right to trial by jury through trial court interference with the deliberations, but also error in the Ninth Circuit which allowed a state appellate court factual determination to provide the basis for the eventual decision-making which was error under the state’s appellate procedures. The USSC denied the petition. Timothy Simone, John Grimm and Elizabeth Bonner of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis in Washington, D.C. represented CACJ and NACDL.

Read the Amicus Brief here.

2017

US v. Christiansen

CACJ, in a brief that was drafted by a team from Ropes and Gray in Boston headed by Kirsten Mayer and contributed to by CACJ amicus chairs John Philipsborn and Steve Dunkle, has asked the Supreme Court to grant certiorari in a case that raises the question of when, if ever, a trial court can remove a sitting juror based on the trial court's view that there is ground for removal especially where the removal of the juror has a coercive effect to the rest of the jury.

Read the Amicus Brief here.

2016

Caroni v. US

CACJ joined with other criminal defense associations in submitting to the United States Supreme Court a brief supporting a grant of certiorari in Caroni v. US. The case is asking if it is a violation of Due Process for a court to direct a verdict in favor of the government on an essential element, thereby denying the accused the right to trial by jury on all elements.

Read the Amicus Brief here.

2016

In re Patterson

CACJ has joined with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, and a number of other organizations, in submitting an Amicus brief in the case of In re Patterson. CACJ has previously argued that defendants in criminal cases must be fully advised of potential adverse immigration consequences prior to entering a plea, and as they consider their legal options. It is critical for the defense bar to be fully aware of this obligation, and the need for reviewing courts to properly consider the prejudice of failures to address immigration consequences in an effective manner. Although this case is still in litigation, CACJ has previously briefed this issue and renews its support for ensuring that adverse immigration consequences are properly dealt with.

CACJ thanks Cody Harris and the Keker & Van Nest firm in San Francisco for its work on this case.

Read the Amicus Brief here.

2016

People v. Hudson

244 Cal.App.4th 1318 (A sentencing finding that a defendant’s drug possession was not solely for personal use can be made by a judge by a preponderance of the evidence.)

2016

County of Nevada v. Superior Court

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.”

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

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

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

2015

Sara Johnson v. United States of America

Below is a brief on its way to the US Supreme Court in which CACJ is joining with a number of other defense counsel organizations. Their aim is to support the Supreme Court's consideration of whether the subject of restitution should be the subject of the Sixth Amendment right to jury trial, and individuals who are subject to restitution should be protected by greater formalities against the imposition of restitution.

2015

Pedro Jesus Gomez v. Superior Court, 223799

"A man convicted of attempted murder contends his prosecutor, now a Monterey County judge, failed to turn over key evidence in his case. His attorneys are also asking that all local judges be barred from presiding over a hearing to investigate why a potentially exonerating videotape never surfaced at trial."

2015

Jones v. Davis

The case is before the Ninth Circuit for review of a District Judge's ruling that pervasive systemic delays invalidate the death penalty in California. CACJ, NACDL and MCLAP have filed a brief to address the implications of the delays in the appointment of counsel for death row inmates, and in doing so points to the chronic underfunding of the defense function in post-conviction death penalty litigation in California. Numerous other groups are expected to address other aspects of this litigation, and reasons for outlawing the death penalty as it is employed in California.

2015

Orcutt v. Sup Ct

2015

People v. Toure

2015

People. v Brown

2015

Luis v. United States

The United States Supreme Court has issued a decision in Luis v. United States declaring federal forfeiture law in violation of the 6th Amendment Right to Counsel if forfeiture includes untainted assets and restricts ability to hire counsel. Over the last 5 years, CACJ has joined with other criminal defense lawyer organizations in contesting the Government's broad approach to the use of forfeiture laws to affect the ability of individuals to retain counsel of choice, and to conduct a privately funded defense where possible. In 2014, Chief Justice Roberts mentioned CACJ's briefing attacking the degradation of the Sixth Amendment in the dissent that he filed in Kaley v. United States 571 U.S.___(2014). This decision also has language that reinforces the right to counsel and the need to properly fund indigent defense. CACJ thanks Courtney Linn of the Orrick firm for fine work on this case.

2014

Kaley vs US

CACJ mentioned by the Supreme Court Chief Justice

CACJ was mentioned by name in Chief Justice's dissent in the opinion for Kaley vs US. He referenced the Amicus Curiae Brief filed by CACJ on Jul 3 2013, by John T. Philipsborn and John B. Owens, et al.

2013

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