Access to Justice

  • June 21, 2024

    Justices Keep Domestic Abusers Disarmed, Clarify Bruen

    The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Texas man's constitutional challenge to a federal law prohibiting people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms Friday, providing limited guidance to lower courts on how to apply the high court's Second Amendment historical analogue test.

  • June 11, 2024

    DC Firms Honored For Local Legal Services Donations

    The D.C. Access to Justice Commission is recognizing 39 law firms for their financial contributions to legal aid providers in Washington, saying the private bar's support is crucial to meeting the community's needs.

  • June 10, 2024

    Split Mich. Panel Says Attorney-Free Confession OK For Court

    A split Michigan appellate panel said a judge should have admitted a video of a defendant confessing to hitting someone with his truck because the defendant signed multiple documents waiving his right to have counsel present, although a dissenting judge said police "misled" the defendant and took advantage of his confusion.

  • June 10, 2024

    New 'Access DOJ' Aims To Nix Barriers, Boost Accessibility

    The U.S. Department of Justice has announced the launch of an initiative to improve access to its programs and services, including an upcoming project to make it easier to report tips about crime or other violations of law.

  • June 07, 2024

    Judge Doubts Ethnicity Questions Deserve Jury Bias Probe

    A Washington appellate judge pushed back Friday against a Filipino family who claimed a hospital's questions about their ethnicity at trial required a bias inquiry, noting race is "something that can't be ignored" in any courtroom filled with people who look different from one another.

  • June 06, 2024

    Judge Seems Likely To Make Denver Face 2020 Protest Claims

    A Colorado federal judge on Thursday appeared inclined to reject Denver's bid to end claims that it encouraged police to use excessive force against social justice advocates in 2020, pressing the city to explain how its law enforcement policies didn't amount to indifference to violating protesters' rights.

  • June 06, 2024

    Oil Cos. Stifle Bids For Tax Transparency, SEC Letters Show

    At least three oil companies have stifled proposals initiated by the nonprofit Oxfam America for public country-by-country reporting of business activities, profits and taxes this year, according to letters from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission obtained by Law360.

  • June 06, 2024

    Some Colo. Justices Call For Nixing Peremptory Strikes

    Three Colorado Supreme Court justices said this week that eliminating peremptory challenges would help remove "the taint of impermissible discrimination" from the jury selection process, writing in two cases involving the dismissal of Black jurors that the strikes often facilitate racism that can be near impossible for a court to address.

  • June 03, 2024

    Ga. Sheriff Wants Bookstore Suit Over Jail Book Policy Tossed

    A Georgia sheriff and jail commander asked a Georgia federal judge to toss a lawsuit brought against them by a bookstore that alleges the jail instituted an unconstitutional and arbitrary policy of only allowing books into the county jail from "authorized retailers."

  • May 31, 2024

    DOJ Looks To End A Legacy Of Bias In Sex Assault Cases

    The U.S. Department of Justice says that legal fallacies and misogynistic stereotypes often lead prosecutors to decline to charge alleged perpetrators of sexual violence, but new guidance from the department is pushing prosecutors to give more credence to victims and see that their claims are more thoroughly investigated.

  • May 31, 2024

    Do Jails' 'Approved Vendor' Rules Keep Out Drugs, Or Books?

    Jailhouses and other correctional facilities are increasingly banning books not because of what they say, but because of who sent them, a practice that officials say is designed to keep drugs out of facilities, but which advocates for incarcerated people say only keeps out books.

  • May 31, 2024

    Small Town Va. Firm Wins Big Pro Bono Recognition

    Decades ago, the leaders of a small law firm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley decided to focus on the pro bono legal needs of their community. Its work, including at least one case the firm won before the state Supreme Court, recently earned the firm a national award from the American Bar Association.

  • May 30, 2024

    Insurance Atty Fights For Lone Woman On Death Row In Miss.

    Attorney A. Kate Margolis lives a double life: one, in which she fights on behalf of insurance policyholders as counsel at Bradley, and another, spent trying to save convicted murderer Lisa Jo Chamberlin, the only woman on Mississippi's death row.

  • May 29, 2024

    2nd Circ. Unsure If Error Kept Murder Exonerees' Case Alive

    A Second Circuit judge expressed doubt Wednesday that a lower court erred in declining to grant qualified immunity to two Connecticut police officers whose actions allegedly contributed to the wrongful convictions of two men for a 1985 murder, noting that a key piece of evidence challenging prosecutors' theory remains shrouded in mystery.

  • May 29, 2024

    Non-Atty Advice To Debtors Is Unprotected, 2nd Circ. Told

    New York urged the Second Circuit on Wednesday to find that stopping a nonprofit focused on bankruptcy education and the South Bronx pastor it's working with from advising low-income debtors represents a content-neutral regulation on who can practice law that does not violate the First Amendment.

  • May 28, 2024

    Gorsuch Unhappy Court Won't Rethink Jury Size Precedent

    In a strongly worded dissent Tuesday, Justice Neil Gorsuch said the U.S. Supreme Court needs to rethink precedent that "made the unthinkable a reality" by permitting juries of fewer than 12 people to decide cases involving serious criminal offenses.

  • May 23, 2024

    High Court Sides With Gov't Over Repeat Offender Sentencing

    A state drug conviction can trigger a mandatory 15-year sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act if it involved a drug on the federal schedules at the time of that conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

  • May 20, 2024

    Lethal Injection 'Not Rocket Science,' Ga. Says As Trial Begins

    As Georgia began a bench trial Monday against a death row inmate who is suing to be executed by firing squad, counsel for the state told a federal judge that she expected the inmate to have "a hard road to hoe" in disproving that the state's use of lethal injection is safe, effective and can be carried out with relative ease.

  • May 17, 2024

    NY Discovery Reform Feud Simmers Between DAs, Defenders

    Four years after New York imposed new requirements on prosecutors to more promptly hand over evidence to defendants in criminal cases, data suggests that district attorneys’ offices are still struggling to comply. In the meantime, experts and advocates say many are quietly working to tweak the reforms or potentially scale them back.

  • May 17, 2024

    Reid Collins Helps Score Verdict For Teen In La. Policing Case

    Nearly four years to the day when Louisiana teenager De’Shaun Johnson recorded his mother’s arrest in their Slidell driveway, attorneys with Reid Collins & Tsai LLP and the ACLU help convince a federal jury that a local sheriff’s deputy who threatened to Tase him had intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

  • May 16, 2024

    Lowenstein Sandler Pro Bono Head Leaves Legacy Of Service

    As she winds down her tenure leading Lowenstein Sandler LLP's Center for Public Interest this month, Catherine Weiss is leaving behind a legacy as a fierce public advocate for immigrants and reproductive rights at a time when public interest law as a whole faces new challenges.

  • May 13, 2024

    Jackson, Sotomayor Would Have Taken Up Jury Pool Dispute

    U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor dissented Monday from the other justices' refusal to review a case in which a defendant and his counsel were excluded from attending initial juror qualification in his capital murder case, calling the circumstances "significant and certworthy."

  • May 13, 2024

    Justices Reject Incarcerated Man's Atty Abandonment Claim

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the case of a Texas man incarcerated on death row who says his court-appointed lawyer deprived him of a fair chance at challenging his conviction in a 2005 double homicide.

  • May 09, 2024

    Justices Uphold Civil Forfeiture Standards Amid Abuse Fears

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that people whose property is seized during criminal investigations of others aren't entitled to a quicker process to seek its return, even though a majority of justices expressed concerns about the constitutionality of civil forfeiture systems in general.

  • May 03, 2024

    Criminal Defense Attys Push Biden For Cannabis Clemency

    On the heels of the U.S. Department of Justice's announcement that it would recommend relaxing federal restrictions on marijuana, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has urged President Joe Biden to grant clemency and compassionate release to those with federal nonviolent marijuana convictions.

Expert Analysis

  • Justices' Repeat Offender Ruling Eases Prosecutorial Hurdle

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    The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week in Brown v. U.S., clarifying which drug law applies to sentencing a repeat offender in a federal firearms case, allows courts to rely on outdated drug schedules to impose increased sentences, thus removing a significant hurdle for prosecutors, says attorney Molly Parmer.

  • Congress Must Abolish Acquitted Conduct Sentencing

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    The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s recent amendment, limiting judges’ ability to consider acquitted conduct at sentencing, is a necessary step toward ensuring fairer trials and protecting individual rights, but ultimately, Congress must end the practice altogether, say Marc Levin at the Council on Criminal Justice and Martín Sabelli at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

  • Trauma-Informed Legal Approaches For Pro Bono Attorneys

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    As National Trauma Awareness Month ends, pro bono attorneys should nevertheless continue to acknowledge the mental and physical effects of trauma, allowing them to better represent clients, and protect themselves from compassion fatigue and burnout, say Katherine Cronin at Stinson and Katharine Manning at Blackbird.

  • Public Interest Attorneys Are Key To Preserving Voting Rights

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    Fourteen states passed laws restricting or limiting voting access last year, highlighting the need to support public interest lawyers who serve as bulwarks against such antidemocratic actions — especially in an election year, says Verna Williams at Equal Justice Works.

  • Officers' Failure To Appear In Court Undermines Justice

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    Ten years of data from Philadelphia show that police officers frequently fail to appear at court hearings for which they’re subpoenaed, which has numerous consequences for defendants, crime victims and the smooth functioning of the criminal legal system, say Lindsay Graef, Sandra Mayson and Aurelie Ouss at the University of Pennsylvania and Megan Stevenson at the University of Virginia.

  • Criminal Defendants Should Have Access To Foreign Evidence

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    A New Jersey federal court recently ordered prosecutors to obtain evidence from India on behalf of the former Cognizant Technology executives they’re prosecuting — a precedent that other courts should follow to make cross-border evidentiary requests more fair and efficient, say Kaylana Mueller-Hsia and Rebecca Wexler at UC Berkeley School of Law.

  • Justices' Forfeiture Ruling Resolves Nonexistent Split

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    The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McIntosh v. U.S., holding that a trial court’s failure to enter a preliminary criminal forfeiture order prior to sentencing doesn’t bar its entry later, is unusual in that it settles an issue on which the lower courts were not divided — but it may apply in certain forfeiture disputes, says Stefan Cassella at Asset Forfeiture Law.

  • Advocating For Disability Rights In Probation And Parole

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    While the U.S. continues to over-police people with disabilities, defense attorneys can play a crucial role in ensuring that clients with disabilities who are on probation or parole have access to the accommodations they need and to which they are legally entitled, says Allison Frankel at the ACLU.

  • 11th Circ. Block Of 'Stop WOKE' Act Is Good For Public Safety

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    The Eleventh Circuit’s recent decision to uphold an injunction of Florida’s so-called Stop WOKE Act, a law that curtails workplace diversity training, means that law enforcement can continue receiving such training — an essential step toward more equitable policing and public safety, say Miriam Krinsky at Fair and Just Prosecution and Diane Goldstein at Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

  • Prosecutors' Growing Case Backlogs Need Urgent Attention

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    Growing case backlogs in prosecutors' offices around the country affect the functioning of the entire criminal legal system, so the problem's root causes must be immediately addressed, say Minnesota county prosecutor John Choi and Montana county prosecutor Audrey Cromwell.

  • Context Is Everything In Justices' Sentencing Relief Decision

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    In the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Pulsifer v. U.S. decision, limiting the number of drug offenders eligible for sentencing relief, the majority and dissent adopted very different contextual frames for interpreting the meaning of “and” — with the practical impact being that thousands more defendants will be subject to severe mandatory minimums, says Douglas Berman at Moritz College of Law​​​​​​​.

  • Passing The HALT Fentanyl Act Will Repeat Past Mistakes

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    The war on drugs has failed, with overdose deaths at an all-time high despite decades of criminalization, so lawmakers should vote no on the HALT Fentanyl Act's proposal to impose lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl-related drug offenses, says Liz Komar at The Sentencing Project.

  • Behind The Unique Hurdles Of Rural Access To Justice

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    While rural access to justice has become conflated with access to lawyers, the two are not synonymous, and in order to solve both issues, it is critical to further examine the role and impact of resident attorneys in these communities, say Daria Fisher Page and Brian Farrell at the University of Iowa College of Law.

  • Compassionate Release Grants Needed Now More Than Ever

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    After the U.S. Sentencing Commission's recent expansion of the criteria for determining compassionate release eligibility, courts should grant such motions more frequently in light of the inherently dangerous conditions presented by increasingly understaffed and overpopulated federal prisons, say Alan Ellis and Mark Allenbaugh at the Law Offices of Alan Ellis.

  • Justices' Double Jeopardy Ruling Preserves Acquittal Sanctity

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    The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision last week in McElrath v. Georgia, barring the state from retrying a man acquitted of murder after a so-called repugnant verdict, is significant in the tangled web of double jeopardy jurisprudence for its brief and unequivocal protection of an acquittal’s finality, says Lissa Griffin at Pace Law School.

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