Amid fierce debates over the bail reform taking effect in New York this year, the need for data on its effects is raising the profile of volunteer court watchers. It’s the latest instance of how citizen court monitoring efforts can change the justice system by making it more transparent.
The year ahead promises to deliver blockbuster decisions on access to justice topics like prosecutorial oversight and the accessibility of state legal codes. Here are four cases to keep an eye on in 2020.
When “a crisis of legitimacy” surrounds local police, it can undercut a community’s willingness to contact law enforcement or cooperate with investigations. Some, including candidates for president, say a greater focus on interacting with residents outside the heat of an emergency can help turn the tide.
Prosecutors are rarely held accountable for bad behavior, even after a court finds misconduct. But that could change in some states, as efforts to improve oversight and self-regulation gain traction.
Most attorneys that work specifically to protect children work through nonprofits or legal aid groups, but Florida-based firm Kelley Kronenberg is cutting a different path.
For defense attorneys, talking privately with federally incarcerated clients requires either an in-person visit or a specially requested unmonitored phone call. But a bipartisan bill in the U.S. House aims to increase access by affording attorney client privilege to a more convenient forum: prison emails.
Simpson Thacher attorneys helped win a landmark consent decree to end long-standing discriminatory policing practices in Mississippi’s highly segregated Madison County, where black residents said they were subjected to warrantless searches and targeted roadblocks.
Mississippi prosecutor Doug Evans, who tried defendant Curtis Flowers six times for the same crime, has taken the rare step of recusing himself from the case. With a new attorney general possibly taking over prosecution, and a motion to dismiss pending, Flowers may have “a moment of hope.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed two bipartisan bills that would offer entrepreneurship training and mentorship to people leaving federal prisons with the goal of reducing recidivism by helping former inmates gain employment and overcome the stigma of a criminal record.
What it really means to be present in court — and whether the use of video technology counts — recently took center stage at the Texas Supreme Court, as justices grappled with that due process question in the context of a state law intended to protect the public from sex criminals.
When a judge tells a private lawyer to represent someone for free, does the lawyer have to do it?
Connecticut is preparing to take a hard look at the long-simmering issue of how bias might affect jury selection, beginning a process that could close loopholes in the law and address concerns that experts have raised for years.
As Afghanistan’s corruption court has targeted more low-income government officials — and fewer of the high-ranking ones it was designed to prosecute — public defenders in the war-torn country have turned to Morrison & Foerster’s white collar attorneys for guidance.
Pennsylvania’s plan to examine reforms to its juvenile justice system should tackle the technical parole violations that can send young people to detention centers and squarely address the system’s disparate impact black people, according to some advocates, who say recent actions in other states offer a humane path forward.
Last month, Curtis Flowers was released on bail after 23 years in prison. He’s been tried six times since 1996 for the same quadruple murder, and he could still face a seventh trial. Law360 takes a look at how we got here.
The city of Philadelphia has agreed to pay more than $4 million to settle a federal lawsuit brought by a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for nearly a quarter century before being exonerated for a murder he maintains he didn’t commit.
The evidence that would eventually clear Jack Sagin of a murder conviction came to light in 2009, but it took an intense, decadelong legal battle and the pro bono help of Shearman & Sterling LLP before he was able to walk out of prison.
When a Supreme Court justice last week singled out allegations in one unusual pro se petition, it highlighted how Louisiana judges prevented habeas corpus review for hundreds of prisoners — a scheme exposed by a suicide note — and what some see as larger procedural problems with post-conviction proceedings.
The U.S. Supreme Court often dominates legal news headlines, but some state and appellate court decisions have even bigger impacts on access to justice. Here’s four landmark rulings from 2019 you might have missed.
International efforts to increase the number of children registered at birth — which can help a person access courts, banks, schools and more — have paid off in the past decade, though further gains could require capitalizing on technology and existing community programs, according to a new report.
Parole violations like missed meetings and unpaid fees are the reason why an estimated 40% of those in in New York state prison wind up behind bars. Now, the state bar association is calling on the governor and Legislature to address the “woefully high reincarceration rate.”
Discipline meted out against a now former judge who slammed Black Lives Matter should serve as a warning that jurists looking to join the conversations around criminal justice reform can all too easily raise questions of bias if they aren’t careful with their comments.
Backed by Jay-Z, Meek Mill and Van Jones, the Reform Alliance aims to transform the justice system’s use of community supervision through parole and probation. Law360 caught up with Monique Haughton Worrell, the alliance’s chief legal officer, to learn why change is needed.
Immigrants seeking asylum at the southern border are being wrongfully deprived of legal counsel, according to a new lawsuit filed in D.C. federal court that claims U.S. officials are detaining asylum-seekers in facilities that are effectively “legal black holes.”
Federal judges cannot rely on an arrest record, as opposed to a conviction record, when determining an appropriate sentence, the Third Circuit has ruled in the case of a man sentenced to 85 years in prison for various drug and weapons possession charges.
With the aid of Dechert LLP attorneys and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, Willie Veasy was able to prove something he’d steadfastly maintained during the nearly three decades he spent in prison for murder: his innocence.
More and more cities are using automated license plate readers to scan millions of license plates, generating a wave of privacy concerns and calls for more regulations to increase transparency about how the technology is being used.
As survivors of human trafficking try to clear their criminal records of related offenses, prosecutors may play a crucial gatekeeping function. They should help streamline the process, not throw up roadblocks, according to a new report.
Shortly after Robert Bianchi became Morris County, New Jersey's top prosecutor in 2007, and a decade before the state implemented significant bail reforms, he combed through a list of old cases and discovered something troubling.
As criminal justice reform advocates focus on the critical need to reduce unjust pretrial detention, jurisdictions must commit to a range of policy changes that include, but also go beyond, risk assessments, says former Wisconsin Judge Jeffrey Kremers.
Pending U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services proposals to prolong employment ineligibility and charge for employment authorization documents would be particularly detrimental to already-vulnerable LGBTQ asylum seekers, says Richard Kelley at the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project.
A hearing in the Jeffrey Epstein case featuring victim impact statements and a White House meeting between a hit-and-run driver and the victim's parents have been described as restorative justice, but the reality is more complex, says Natalie Gordon of DOAR.
On topics ranging from public trial rights to electronic monitoring technology to the rules of evidence in the context of sexual harassment trials, 2019 brought a wide array of compelling commentary from the access to justice community.
Raquel Wilson, director of the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s Office of Education and Sentencing Practice, discusses this year's developments in federal sentencing, including new legislation in the Senate and U.S. Supreme Court cases invalidating certain statutes.
In Odonnell v. Harris County, a Texas federal court ordered that misdemeanor offenders could be released without bail, marking a fundamental deterioration of the Texas criminal justice system, says attorney Randy Adler.
Although they may mean well, federal judges should stop attempting to help criminal defendants get into drug rehabilitation programs by unlawfully sending them to prison for longer than their recommended sentences, says GianCarlo Canaparo at The Heritage Foundation.
In North Carolina, one in seven adults has a suspended driver’s license, but our research suggests that many of them never received actual notice of their license suspension, or of the court proceeding that led to it, making this a fundamentally unfair sanction, say Brandon Garrett, Karima Modjadidi and William Crozier at Duke University.
Dawn Freeman of The Securus Foundation discusses why humanizing the language used to discuss justice-involved individuals is a key aspect of reform and how the foundation’s upcoming campaign will implement this change in mainstream publications and on social media.
If the U.S. Supreme Court grants certiorari in Asaro v. U.S. and rules that sentencing judges cannot consider uncharged, dismissed and acquitted conduct, a peculiar and troubling oddity of criminal and constitutional law will finally be rectified, say criminal defense attorney Alan Ellis and sentencing consultant Mark Allenbaugh.
The provocative new book by Alec Karakatsanis, "Usual Cruelty: The Complicity of Lawyers in the Criminal Injustice System," shines a searing light on the anachronism that is the American criminal justice system, says Sixth Circuit Judge Bernice Donald.
The U.S. Supreme Court in Lomax v. Ortiz-Marquez should hold that any case dismissed for failure to state a claim should count as a strike for purposes of Section 1915(g), which allows incarcerated people to file three complaints free of charge, says GianCarlo Canaparo at The Heritage Foundation.
Congress should advance the Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act, which seeks to explicitly preclude federal judges from a practice that effectively eliminates the democratic role of the jury in the criminal justice system, says Robert Ehrlich, former governor of Maryland.
Women returning from military deployment often require more legal assistance than their male counterparts, and Congress can alleviate some of these burdens by passing the Improving Legal Services for Female Veterans Act, says Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa.
Despite criticisms from the legal profession, a California proposal to allow some legal service delivery by nonlawyers is a principled response to the reality that millions of Americans currently must face their legal problems without any help, says Chris Albin-Lackey, legal and policy director at the National Center for Access to Justice.