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The Trial Penalty

That’s the title of this new report by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. It looks at the steep decline of jury trials in our system, explains why that matters, and examines how to preserve this important right to trial by jury. What is the trial penalty? It refers to the big difference in Read More

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Saving Basic Civil Justice in America

As you may know, the new administration’s proposed budget aims to eliminate all federal funding for the Legal Services Corporation. As in, no funding at all. Zero. Zilch. Nothing. Why is that a problem? The LSC is the single-largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans. In other words, if you’re poor and accused of Read More

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A Big Anniversary for the Bill of Rights

Thursday will mark 225 years to the day. On December 15, 1791, the Commonwealth of Virginia became the eleventh state to ratify the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. That meant that three-fourths of state legislatures had approved them, which meant the Bill of Rights was born. To commemorate the occasion, here’s a great Read More

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Do You Care About Justice?

Speaking of lies, there’s no shortage of them in an election year, but if you’re looking for a constructive way to sound off to the presidential candidates, here’s one. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has sent each of the four candidates—Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein—a questionnaire with fifteen questions about their views on the criminal-justice system. The NACDL has created Read More

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SCOTUS Stands Up for the Sixth Amendment

We’ve asked this question before. What if the government charged you with a crime, and you wanted to defend yourself but couldn’t—not because you didn’t have any money, but because the government had blocked all access to it? Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court said the government can freeze your money before trial if there’s probable Read More

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An Unfunded Mandate from Above

In Gideon, the United States Supreme Court observed that “lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries.” But fifty years later, we continue to fall short of the full promise of the Sixth Amendment, and the struggle is real. National standards recommend that public defenders handle no more than 150 felony cases, 400 misdemeanor cases, or 200 juvenile Read More

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The Importance of Public Defense

Many people observed National Public Defense Day on March 18. Yes, there’s a day on the calendar for everything, but this one’s important. It honors the day in 1963 that the Supreme Court decided Gideon v. Wainwright: the case of a poor defendant who believed the Constitution promised him an effective lawyer if he was accused of a crime. The man had just Read More

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Do You Have a Good Criminal Defense Attorney?

If you don’t know, here’s some food for thought from the Huffington Post. The author is a former public defender who writes about the realities of our justice system, and he makes five good points that are worth considering in evaluating your lawyer. I’ve paraphrased them below, but you can read his words for yourself right here. Good lawyers advocate zealously for you. Read More

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New California Criminal Laws in 2016

Happy New Year! And with it, here are five important criminal laws that went into effect. Courts must report prosecutors for bad-faith Brady violations. This is Assembly Bill 1328. It amends the Penal Code to provide that a court must report a prosecutor to the State Bar who it finds, by clear and convincing evidence, has deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence in Read More

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The Mercy Project

Life is fragile. We sometimes forget that, but we remember quickly when we lose something or someone important to us. We often forget it because, in the developed world, we tend to live longer and better than people ever have. We forget that, even in our own country, not everyone lives (and has lived) as we do. Last Friday, President Obama granted Read More

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