Access to Justice

  • April 15, 2024

    Sotomayor, Jackson Dissent As Court Rejects Capital Cases

    In a pair of dissents, Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor on Monday broke with a majority of their colleagues on the U.S. Supreme Court who declined to hear two death penalty cases.

  • April 11, 2024

    Prison Racial Gap Narrowing, No Thanks To Reforms, Study Says

    A wide range of changes to criminal sentencing laws that most states have adopted in the last two decades did not play a major role in the reduction of Black-white disparity in imprisonment seen between 2000 and 2020, according to a study released Thursday by the Council on Criminal Justice.

  • April 10, 2024

    No Damages After Drug Lab Scandal Sinks Case, Court Says

    A Massachusetts man is not entitled to compensation from a fund for exonerees after his 2006 heroin distribution conviction was among thousands of drug cases vacated due to misconduct by a chemist at the state crime lab, an intermediate appeals court said Wednesday.

  • April 09, 2024

    Mo. Gets OK To Execute Man Repped By Flat-Fee Lawyers

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to halt the looming execution of a convicted murderer who claimed that his attorneys' flat-fee contracts incentivized them to push him to plead guilty before they secured promises from prosecutors not to pursue a death sentence.

  • April 05, 2024

    Flat-Fee Representation Fuels Man's Bid To Avoid Execution

    As his execution date approaches on April 9, Brian Joseph Dorsey, who was sentenced to death for first-degree murder in Missouri, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to find that his trial attorneys' flat-flee contracts resulted in inadequate legal representation that has left him doomed to die.

  • April 05, 2024

    Study Shines Light On Excessive NY Prison Sentences

    A recent report shining a light on excessive felony prison sentences handed down by more than 140 trial judges in New York over a 16-year period has experts and advocacy groups calling for increased transparency to help ensure that courts are imposing fair penalties on criminal defendants in the Empire State.

  • April 04, 2024

    New Leader Discusses The Next Era For NY Federal Defenders

    The Federal Defenders of New York has chosen its new leader, elevating its director of strategic litigation to become the first Black woman serving as the federal public defense organization's executive director.

  • April 01, 2024

    BOP Drops Accreditation Org After IG, Sens. Raise Concerns

    The Federal Bureau of Prisons has let its $2.75 million contract with its accreditation organization expire, after a group of Democratic lawmakers and the bureau's watchdog raised concerns that the group wasn't effective or objective.

  • March 27, 2024

    Associates Help Ga. Prisoner Beat The Odds In Court

    When a team of mostly associates at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Bondurant Mixson & Elmore LLP took on the civil case of a Georgia prisoner who had developed stage 4 hepatitis C as he waited five years for prescribed treatment, they expected they'd have their work cut out for them.

  • March 26, 2024

    'Landmark' Trans Women Prison Housing Deal Gets Final OK

    A Colorado state judge on Tuesday approved a consent decree between the state and a class of transgender women who sued over dangerous housing conditions in state prisons and now hope the plan to accommodate their needs will spread to other states.

  • March 25, 2024

    Justices Nix Lenient Drug Sentence After 'Safety Valve' Ruling

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday vacated a 100-month sentence given to a woman who pled guilty to drug offenses and remanded the case to the Fourth Circuit after the justices recently clarified which defendants qualify for "safety valve" relief under a 2018 federal law.

  • March 22, 2024

    MoFo Helps Secure $2B For Calif.'s Forgotten Students

    Morrison & Foerster recently helped nab a historic $2 billion settlement to help roughly a million California students — disproportionately from Black, Latino and lower-income families — who say the state failed to provide them meaningful instruction once the COVID-19 pandemic began.

  • March 22, 2024

    Milbank Pro Bono Counsel On Leading By Example

    Milbank LLP attorneys logged more than 54,000 hours of pro bono work across the firm's 12 offices worldwide in 2023, with 96% of its lawyers in the U.S. volunteering their time. According to Anthony Perez Cassino, the firm's pro bono counsel, it's a commitment to public service work that starts at the top.

  • March 20, 2024

    Study Sees Promise For Gen AI Tools In Closing Justice Gap

    Widespread access to generative artificial intelligence tools could help increase access to justice for low-income Americans, according to a new study that found these tools largely boosted productivity for legal aid lawyers.

  • March 20, 2024

    US Senators Seek Clemency For Native American Activist

    A group of mostly Democratic senators is urging U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to release compassionately a Native American activist who is serving a life sentence for his alleged involvement in the 1975 murder of two FBI agents, saying he is suffering from severe health conditions and should be able to live out his remaining days among his own people.

  • March 18, 2024

    Connecticut Exonerees Ask Lawmakers For Help After Prison

    The Connecticut Legislature's joint judiciary committee is considering sweeping changes to the way the state compensates exonerated convicts, and three men who each served more than 18 years in prison urged lawmakers Monday to make one edit that would apply the bill to pending state-level claims.

  • March 18, 2024

    Bookseller Says Ga. Jail's Book Policy Is Unconstitutional

    A Georgia bookseller filed a federal lawsuit Friday accusing an Atlanta-area sheriff of imposing an unlawful policy that only allows books into the county jail from "authorized retailers" under the guise of security concerns, alleging the practice is arbitrary, subjective, and an "unconstitutional permitting scheme."

  • March 15, 2024

    Justices Back Strict View Of Sentencing 'Safety Valve' Relief

    The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to let a broader class of nonviolent drug offenders qualify for relief from federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, siding against certain recidivists in a ruling that focused on the meaning of the word "and" in a section of the First Step Act.

  • March 14, 2024

    Calif. County's Indigent Defense System Is Illegal, Atty Says

    A criminal defense program for indigent people run by the bar association in San Mateo County, California, violates a state law prohibiting trade associations from engaging in legal practice and provides constitutionally deficient representation, a member of the association says in a suit in state court.

  • March 13, 2024

    Mass. Gov. Announces Pardon Plan For Marijuana Possession

    Massachusetts Gov. Maura T. Healey has announced plans for sweeping pardons of misdemeanor cannabis possession convictions, following the directive of President Joe Biden, who urged state executives to follow his lead in pardoning low-level marijuana offenses.

  • March 12, 2024

    Judge Lets Feds Appeal 'Novel' Issues In Asylum Bond Suit

    A Washington federal judge allowed federal immigration agencies to seek the Ninth Circuit's opinion on whether the district court can hear a class of asylum-seekers' lawsuit alleging deprivation of bond hearings, saying jurisdictional and constitutional issues in the case seem novel.

  • March 12, 2024

    NY DAs, Public Defenders Urge Student Loan Aid Expansion

    A coalition of 35 district attorney offices, public defender offices, civil legal services providers and unions has urged New York elected officials to pass a bill increasing student loan financial assistance for legal aid attorneys and state prosecutors, many of whom face yearslong debt, Law360 has learned.

  • March 08, 2024

    'It Erases Us': Sex Abuse Survivors Troubled By Wash. Bill

    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign into law a bill that eliminates time limits for bringing child sex abuse claims in the future, but survivors say they are disappointed by an amendment stripping the bill's retroactivity, saying the legislation doesn't go far enough to hold abusers accountable.

  • March 08, 2024

    Debt-Stricken Homeowners Fight Back After High Court Ruling

    Ten months after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision finding a Minnesota county wrongly held onto excess proceeds it reaped after seizing a woman’s condominium and selling it to settle a tax debt, states are scrambling to reexamine their laws as financially distressed homeowners file new suits challenging the practice.

  • March 08, 2024

    NY Atty's 10-Year Fight Upends Wrongful Murder Conviction

    Garrett Ordower's career has evolved considerably over the last decade. But from his time at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, to his current roles at Scale LLP and as general counsel for a legal tech startup, there's been one constant: his commitment to clearing Steven Ruffin's name for a murder he didn't commit.

Expert Analysis

  • Prosecutors' Growing Case Backlogs Need Urgent Attention

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    Growing case backlogs in prosecutors' offices around the country affect the functioning of the entire criminal legal system, so the problem's root causes must be immediately addressed, say Minnesota county prosecutor John Choi and Montana county prosecutor Audrey Cromwell.

  • Context Is Everything In Justices' Sentencing Relief Decision

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    In the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Pulsifer v. U.S. decision, limiting the number of drug offenders eligible for sentencing relief, the majority and dissent adopted very different contextual frames for interpreting the meaning of “and” — with the practical impact being that thousands more defendants will be subject to severe mandatory minimums, says Douglas Berman at Moritz College of Law​​​​​​​.

  • Passing The HALT Fentanyl Act Will Repeat Past Mistakes

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    The war on drugs has failed, with overdose deaths at an all-time high despite decades of criminalization, so lawmakers should vote no on the HALT Fentanyl Act's proposal to impose lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl-related drug offenses, says Liz Komar at The Sentencing Project.

  • Behind The Unique Hurdles Of Rural Access To Justice

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    While rural access to justice has become conflated with access to lawyers, the two are not synonymous, and in order to solve both issues, it is critical to further examine the role and impact of resident attorneys in these communities, say Daria Fisher Page and Brian Farrell at the University of Iowa College of Law.

  • Compassionate Release Grants Needed Now More Than Ever

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    After the U.S. Sentencing Commission's recent expansion of the criteria for determining compassionate release eligibility, courts should grant such motions more frequently in light of the inherently dangerous conditions presented by increasingly understaffed and overpopulated federal prisons, say Alan Ellis and Mark Allenbaugh at the Law Offices of Alan Ellis.

  • Justices' Double Jeopardy Ruling Preserves Acquittal Sanctity

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    The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision last week in McElrath v. Georgia, barring the state from retrying a man acquitted of murder after a so-called repugnant verdict, is significant in the tangled web of double jeopardy jurisprudence for its brief and unequivocal protection of an acquittal’s finality, says Lissa Griffin at Pace Law School.

  • NY Must Address Urgent Need For Immigration Legal Aid

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    The recent influx of migrants to New York has exposed the urgent need for state legislators to make a long-term investment in sustainable immigration legal services infrastructure, supervision and training, say Marielena Hincapié and Stephen Yale-Loehr at Cornell Law.

  • 911 Call Scrutiny Should Not Be Used To Identify Suspects

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    Though the use of 911 call analysis to identify suspects continues to spread across the country, this scientifically unproven method opens the door to wrongful convictions, so prosecutors should review investigations that relied on the technique, and lawmakers should ban it nationwide, say Miriam Krinsky at Fair and Just Prosecution and Isabelle Cohn at the Innocence Project.

  • 6 Practice Pointers For Pro Bono Immigration Practice

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    An attorney taking on their first pro bono immigration matter may find the law and procedures beguiling, but understanding key deadlines, the significance of individual immigration judges' rules and specialized aspects of the practice can help avoid common missteps, says Steven Malm at Haynes Boone.

  • 8th Circ. Redistricting Ruling Imperils The Voting Rights Act

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    The Eighth Circuit’s recent ruling in Arkansas NAACP v. Arkansas Board of Apportionment, holding that private plaintiffs don't have standing to sue in redistricting cases, creates a circuit split, and, if upheld, would nearly destroy the Voting Rights Act, says William Brewer at Brewer Storefront.

  • Justices May Clarify Expert Witness Confrontation Confusion

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    After oral arguments in Smith v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to hold that expert witness opinions that rely on out-of-court testimonial statements for their factual basis are unconstitutional, thus resolving some of the complications created by the court’s confrontation clause jurisprudence, says Richard Friedman at the University of Michigan Law School.

  • Immigration Detention Should Offer Universal Legal Counsel

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    Given the large backlog of immigration court cases and the more than 70% of people in immigration detention without counsel in 2023, the system should establish a universal right to federally funded representation for anyone facing deportation, similar to the public defender model, say Laura Lunn and Shaleen Morales at the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network.

  • UX Research And Design Is Crucial For Justice Technologies

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    It’s essential that new access-to-justice digital tools incorporate user experience research and design methodologies to enhance access and accessibility, improve efficiency in processes and service delivery, and reduce risk, says Sarah Mauet at Innovation for Justice.

  • Higher Juror Compensation Trend Is Good For Justice System

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    This year a number of states increased daily juror compensation rates after decades of stagnation — a positive development that facilitates more representative juries, aids decision making and boosts public confidence in the legal system, says Cary Silverman at Shook Hardy.

  • The Pop Culture Docket: Judge D'Emic On Moby Grape

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    The 1968 Moby Grape song "Murder in My Heart for the Judge" tells the tale of a fictional defendant treated with scorn by the judge, illustrating how much the legal system has evolved in the past 50 years, largely due to problem-solving courts and the principles of procedural justice, says Kings County Supreme Court Administrative Judge Matthew D'Emic.

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