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Groundbreaking Report Offers Solutions to America’s Indigent Defense Crisis as Nation Marks 50 Years of Gideon v. Wainwright

January 9, 2013 Comments off

Groundbreaking Report Offers Solutions to America’s Indigent Defense Crisis as Nation Marks 50 Years of Gideon v. Wainwright
Source: National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

As the nation enters the 50th anniversary year of Gideon, the landmark Supreme Court decision clarifying that the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel applies regardless of whether a defendant can afford to pay an attorney, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid & Indigent Defendants (ABA/SCLAID), with invaluable support provided by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), today release a critically important new report, National Indigent Defense Reform: The Solution is Multifaceted.

This report, prepared by Professor Joel M. Schumm of the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, documents a day-long convening last year of 18 leading innovators in the indigent defense field representing all branches and levels of government, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law professors, and non-governmental reformers. It is, in short, a blueprint for reform, offering a panoply of approaches for improving America’s indigent defense systems. The report provides an in-depth discussion with myriad, concrete reform recommendations, including “reclassification and diversion, which help reduce the number of cases entering the system…. delivery of services, including the importance of standards and commissions, the central role of the private bar, and development of training…. [and] the need for collaboration and cooperation with others within and outside the criminal justice system in order to achieve significant and sustainable reform.”

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Evaluating grand jury reform in two states: The case for reform

November 12, 2011 Comments off

Evaluating grand jury reform in two states: The case for reform (PDF)
Source: National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

The grand jury system has long been the subject of debate and proposals for reform. While the federal system has largely resisted any change, a number of states have not only implemented various reforms but also have extensive experience with them. Their experience is instructive in understanding how these measures would fare if adopted into the federal grand jury system.

NACDL selected two states for consideration: Colorado and New York. Both states have a constitutional right to a grand jury and have adopted several prominent reforms similar to those recommended by NACDL. In addition, the two states differ in their geography, size and legal culture, thus permitting comparisons of the experiences of grand jury reform in varying locales. Grand juries in both states see many of the same kinds of felony cases as those brought in federal court, including white collar fraud, gang cases and cases with strong political or public interest.

Researchers surveyed nearly 200 defense lawyers and interviewed upwards of 50 prosecutors, defense lawyers and retired judges. Prosecutors constituted no fewer than one-third of the interviewees in each state.

Four key reforms were addressed in the research, as both states had experience with each: (1) defense representation in the grand jury room, (2) production of witness transcripts for the defense, (3) advance notice for witnesses to appear, and (4) the presentation of exculpatory evidence to the grand jury.

The results strongly support the implementation of the four reforms at issue, finding many benefits and few drawbacks when states pursue these measures. The responses were uniform between the two states and across roles in the criminal justice system, whether prosecutors, defense lawyers or judges.

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