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United States v. Lindberg
Brief for Amicus Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (“NACDL”) in Support of Defendants-Appellants.
Argument: The District Court impermissibly directed a verdict on the existence of an official act. The jury decides whether the defendant is guilty of each contested element of the charged offense. The District Court usurped the jury’s exclusive role. Under Gaudin and McDonnell the question of whether alleged conduct constitutes an official act is a mixed question of law and fact reserved for the jury. Neither Fattah Nor Hastie justify a directed verdict on the official act element. That different juries may reach different verdicts based on similar facts is inherent in the jury system—it is not a basis to abrogate the jury’s right to render a verdict. The District Court’s error if uncorrected will impact other criminal defendants. The District Court’s error warrant a new trial. A directed verdict for the government on a disputed element can never be harmless. The improper directed verdict on the official act element also negates the convictions on the Section 666 charge.
McFadden v. United States
Brief for Amicus Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Support of Petitioner (on Petition for Writ of Certiorari).
Argument: The Court should grant certiorari to confirm that instructional error as to a contested element is never harmless. The Constitution prohibits judges from directing a verdict on a contested element of a criminal offense. The circuits are split over whether overwhelming evidence can render harmless the omission of a contested element, and the issue is a recurring one. This case presents an ideal vehicle to resolve the lower court confusion over the harmless error test applicable to instructional errors.
Caroni v. United States
Brief of Amici Curiae of Associations of Criminal Defense Attorneys in Support of Petitioner (on Petition for Writ of Certiorari) (California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, New York Council of Defense Lawyers, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers).
Argument: This Court should grant review to clarify when harmless error will justify denial of the right to a jury determination on a contested essential element.