Reforming America’s Grand Jury System
NACDL issued a groundbreaking new report on restoring and reforming the grand jury system-- Evaluating Grand Jury Reform in Two States: The Case for Reform. This research reflects an in-depth study of grand jury reform in two states – New York and Colorado. In conducting this study, researchers Erin Crites, Jon Gould and Colleen Shepard of the Center for Justice, Law & Society at George Mason University studied the experiences of prosecutors, defense lawyers and retired judges. Four key reform recommendations emerge from the research: (i) defense representation in the grand jury room, (ii) production of witness transcripts for the defense, (iii) advance notice for witnesses to appear, and (iv) the presentation of exculpatory evidence to the grand jury.
Three Minute Justice
Nearly a half million people, or approximately three percent of Florida's adults, pass through the state's misdemeanor courts each year. Most are found guilty. The average court appearance lasts as little as three minutes.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) studied misdemeanor courts and procedures in 21 Florida countiesi and is releasing its results and recommendations to the public today at noon. The report is entitled Three Minute Justice: Haste and Waste in Florida's Misdemeanor Courts.
Minor Crimes, Massive Waste
The explosive growth of misdemeanor cases is placing a staggering burden on America's courts. Defenders across the country are forced to carry unethical caseloads that leave too little time for clients to be properly represented. As a result, constitutional obligations are left unmet and taxpayers' money is wasted.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and The Heritage Foundation jointly undertook an unprecedented look at the federal legislative process for all studied non-violent criminal offenses introduced in the 109th Congress in 2003 and 2006. This study revealed that offenses with inadequate mens rea requirements are ubiquitous at all stages of the legislatives process: Over 57 percent of the offenses introduced, and 64 percent of those enacted into law, contained inadequate mens rea requirements, putting the innocent at risk of criminal punishment. Compounding the problem, this study also found consistently poor legislative drafting and broad delegation of Congress's authority to make criminal law to unaccountable regulators.
The debate over drug enforcement policy in the United States is almost always framed in stark terms premised on narrow options. Conventional thinking about criminal justice issues—prison, community corrections, probation, or possibly some sort of diversion program for minor offenses and first-time offenders—has not worked, nor has it abated the addiction problem. Drug courts have swept the nation without much debate or input from the criminal defense bar. That input is long overdue.
This report seeks to inform and redefine the debate by considering and challenging the fundamental criminal justice lens through which drug-related issues are evaluated. Because "the definition of the alternatives is the supreme instrument of power," accepting the criminal justice paradigm legitimizes drugs courts while ignoring other smart, fair, effective, and economical approaches. The report also summarizes the history and evolution of drug courts, evaluates their operation and effectiveness, makes an overarching recommendation on the treatment of addiction, and offers a number of recommendations to ensure that the procedures and practices in drug court comply with constitutional and ethical norms.