Cynthia Giacchetti’s Thrilling Victory Impacts All Criminal Defense Lawyers

On Monday, Cynthia (Cindy) Giacchetti of Chicago, Illinois, secured a thrilling victory, earning acquittals on all counts against criminal defense attorney Beau Brindley who faced a 21-count indictment charging conspiracy, perjury, and  obstruction of justice.  Earlier this year, I posted my concerns about the potential consequences of an overreaching prosecution such as this one on the criminal defense community here. The crux of the prosecution case was that Brindley coached both clients and defense witnesses during trial preparations to lie and commit perjury at trial.  This has to be one of the scariest slippery slope prosecutions that I have ever seen and without question an attack on the criminal defense bar.

The news of the acquittal quickly hit the news media and was reported by the Chicago Tribune here with a fabulous picture of Cindy and her client right after the acquittal. You can sense the relief in their faces. And in the Chicago Sun Times here, where you can hear Brindley commenting on the meaning of the verdict for the defense community and his hope that attorneys will continue to aggressively and vigorously defend their clients; and also on Yahoo News here.

After learning of the acquittal, I had the privilege of talking to Cindy briefly after the verdict.  She was thrilled for her client, as any criminal defense attorney would be, but it was also clear that this fight was personal to her as a criminal defense attorney. She spoke about the double standard being used when the Government argued that Brindley knew his client was lying because the client changed some of the details, though not the essence, of his story. Cindy noted that the Government presents witnesses every day who have changed their stories multiple times, sometimes flipping 180 degrees. She said that if lawyers should be barred from calling a witness “every time someone changes their testimony, then they need to shut the doors of the United States Attorney’s Office.”

She and the Government had agreed to a bench trial before the district court judge. The United States Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Illinois recused itself and the trial was handled by the Milwaukee office. However, there were many troubling details of the investigation, such as the fact that it was initiated by the Northern District of Illinois Assistants who prosecuted Brindley’s clients at the trials in which they claimed the perjured testimony was elicited. After losing significant counts, these same federal prosecutors approached the witnesses and defendants directly, made clear that their focus was on Brindley, and suggested that cooperation against the defense lawyers would result in significant sentence reductions pursuant to Rule 35. Only later did the office recuse itself. The witnesses reached agreements for sentence reductions of up to 50% off their  original  sentences,  reductions that are not customary in the district. Additionally, when the FBI executed a warrant on Brindley’s law office, they made and retained a mirror image of the contents of every computer in the office, which included all of his clients’ files, not just the three that were authorized to be seized under the warrant.

Cindy spoke about the irony that the Government used witnesses they argued perjured themselves at Brindley’s bequest to now establish that Brindley knew they were lying. She was frustrated at the Government’s position that defense attorneys should not put a client on the witness stand if the weight of the Government’s case points to guilt. She said she never lost her faith in her client, stating, “I have always believed he was innocent — always.”

“I know he is aggressive, but I like that about him. That is what a good criminal defense lawyer is supposed to be,” she added, as compared to the Government’s belief that “defense attorneys are supposed to be potted plants.”  

From where I sit, this acquittal has great meaning for every criminal defense attorney and lawyers as a whole. Every accused deserves an aggressive advocate, not one that is forced to look over his or her shoulder during each and every conversation. Clients deserve more from us than that: They deserve a true advocate, not a prosecutor in defender clothes. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Cindy Giacchetti for taking this up, fighting for and with this courageous client and colleague who was willing to stand up for what he believed in. And I can’t help but be particularly proud that this monumental victory was at the hands of one of our sisters from the Windy City.  Congrats, Cindy!!

New developments in Regulatory and White-Collar field

The marriage between white-collar defense and regulatory defense doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. It seems like more and more white-collar prosecutions originate from enforcement investigations, or actions brought through regulatory agencies – the most active among them is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). For this reason, it is important to stay on top of this ever changing landscape, so here are a few of the more recent developments that deserve some attention:  

In mid-August, a judge in the SDNY issued an order preliminarily enjoining the SEC from proceeding in an administrative hearing based on her holding that the process of appointing the SEC’s administrative law judges was likely unconstitutional, and in violation of the Appointment Clause. You can read more about the ruling and other similar rulings in the White Collar Crime Professor Blog here. These kinds of rulings could be a game changer for defendants facing enforcement actions brought forth by the SEC.

There is also a ‘not-so-new’ weapon in the war to scrutinize and regulate Corporate America called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) that seems to be getting more attention. Earlier this month BNY Mellon entered a civil settlement after an investigation conducted by the SEC and Department of Justice relating to their hiring of interns that didn’t meet their qualifications, and who were relatives of two officials of a Middle East sovereign wealth fund. This is an expansion of how the FCPA has traditionally been viewed and clearly now hiring practices will also be more scrutinized by the SEC. In response, The New York Times discussed how the Bribery Law is a New Tool to Scrutinize Wall Street.

It seems the Government is exploring creative ways to “work around” their burden to prove benefit in insider trading cases after the ruling in United States v. Newman. The New York Times highlighted this New Way of Charging Insider Trading Offenses. Federal prosecutors in Georgia charged a tippee under a securities fraud statute adopted by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act under 18 U.S.C. 1348. The Government successfully argued they did not have to prove benefit under the statute in response to the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The jury was never instructed about the requirement to establish benefit. Thankfully for the accused he was acquitted by a jury but that just means that this new approach has yet to be fully tested by a higher court and I suspect we will see it used again until then.    

Finally, there was a recent ruling out of the District of Connecticut by U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton that is significant to note. It was relating to a motion to dismiss filed in U.S. vs. Lawrence Hoskins, charging a former Alstom executive, who is a foreign national charged under the FCPA.  The court partially dismissed Count One, finding that “Based on the text and structure of the FCPA and the legislative history accompanying its enactment and its amendment, the Court concludes that Congress did not intend to impose accomplice liability on non-resident foreign nationals who were not subject to direct liability. Count One will not be dismissed in its entirety, however, because if the Government proceeds under the theory that Mr. Hoskins is an agent of a domestic concern and thus subject to direct liability under the FCPA, the Gebardi principle would not preclude his criminal liability for conspiring to violate the FCPA. The Government may not argue, however, that Defendant could be liable for conspiracy even if he is not proved to be an agent of a domestic concern.”  Read more about this ruling in FCPA Professor Blog here.

More Focus Needed on Bail Crisis

The New York Times Magazine just highlighted a significant crisis in our criminal justice system in a powerful piece titled The Bail Trap.  The article focuses on the number of accused who spend time in jail unnecessarily because they can’t afford bail and are forced to accept pleas — often for crimes they didn’t commit — to get out of jail. There isn’t a criminal defense attorney in this country who doesn’t get the point made in the article that “bail acts as a tool of compulsion, forcing people who would not otherwise plead guilty to do so.”

The article also addresses the reality that time spent being advised by counsel before a decision to plea is often embarrassingly short. If you haven’t read the NACDL Report Three-Minute Justice, it is a must read. And although the accused in the article seem to have counsel during a bail determination hearing, there are still many parts of this country where accused persons do not have counsel during bail determinations.

As co-chair of the Defense Function Committee for the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association, I had the privilege of working with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) last year on a jointly sponsored resolution to assure counsel for all accused during bail determinations and when a plea is entered. Previously, in February 2012, the Board of the NACDL, which has been at the forefront of this issue, approved a resolution to urge states and U.S. territories to guarantee counsel at initial hearings.

Through the process of drafting the Report, I reviewed studies that reflect that guaranteeing counsel during bail determinations has a direct impact on the staggering pretrial and post-conviction costs of incarceration that have a stranglehold on our system’s ability to work efficiently and effectively. As we stated in the Report, “ [u]ntil the financial crisis in our system is sufficiently relieved, it will be harder and harder to adequately tackle the constitutional and due process crises that continue to plague our system.”

The New York Times article is full of personal accounts of accused persons who were placed in a position of considering to accept pleas to get out of jail; it sheds a bright light on what is increasingly getting noticed as an embarrassing mark on our system. When I read the line in which the Judge told a Mr. Tomlin that getting out of jail after being held illegally for weeks on end was his “lucky day,” my blood started boiling, just like it has so many times before watching similar scenarios unfold in other courts across this country.

Guaranteeing counsel for all bail determinations won’t completely alleviate the problems addressed in the article, but it will go a long way in helping the problem. In fact, studies conducted over the past 15 years demonstrate that the presence of counsel during bail determination can directly loosen the strangling incarceration costs in this country. I wanted to add to this discussion by sharing some of the relevant research that we cited in the Report about the topic. Below are a few excerpts:

“In the United States 1 out of every 100 adults is incarcerated1 and 1 out of 31 adults is either incarcerated or being monitored under probation or parole.2 A highly significant number, roughly 12 million people annually, cycle through local jails while awaiting trial.3

A recent Prison Policy Initiative report observed,

Jail churn is particularly high because at any given moment most of the 722,000 people in local jails have not been convicted and are in jail because they are either too poor to make bail and are being held before trial, or because they’ve just been arrested and will make bail in the next few hours or days. The remainder of the people in jail — almost 300,000 — are serving time for minor offenses, generally misdemeanors with sentences under a year.4

These pretrial jail detentions can be significant in length. In September 2014, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in Mississippi in response to the Scott County Detention Center’s practice of holding people for as long as a year without appointing counsel and without indicting them.5

“A study published in the Cardozo Law Review in 2002 revealed that having defense attorneys at pretrial release determinations resulted in defendants being released on their own recognizance twice as often than if they were unrepresented.6 Further, bail was four times more likely to be reduced when attorneys were representing the accused.7 For the defendant, this translates into more than simply cost savings; having an attorney present at this hearing resulted in the median amount of time in jail being reduced to two days, versus nine days for unrepresented defendants.8

Finally, a study released in 2012 by the New York City Criminal Justice Agency documents that defendants who are incarcerated pre-trial have worse outcomes than those who are released pre-trial.9 The study found that those who are detained are more likely to be convicted.10 If convicted, they are more likely to be sentenced to a term of incarceration, and if incarcerated their sentences are likely to be longer.”11


 1 Jennifer Warren, Adam Gelb, Jake Horowitz, Jessica Riordan, One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008, The Pew Center on the States ( Feb. 28, 2008)
Solomon Moore, Prison Spending Outpaces All but Medicaid, New York Times, p. A13 (March 2009).
3 Prison Policy Initiative, Mass incarceration: The Whole Pie (March 12, 2014), available at http://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie.html.
4 Id.
5 Burks, et al v. Scott County, U.S. Dist. Ct. S. Dist. Miss. N. D. (September 24, 2014).
6 Douglas L. Colbert, Ray Paternoster & Shawn Bushway, Do Attorneys Really Matter? The Empirical and Legal Case for the Right to Counsel at Bail, 23 Cardozo L. Rev. 1719, 1755 (2002)
Id. at 1753
8 Id. at 1755.
9 Mary T. Phillips, A Decade of Bail Research in New York City, New York City Criminal Justice Agency (August 2012).
10 Id. at 18
11 Id. at 20.

Public Defender Tamara Brady Saves a Life

Last week, the jury in the James Holmes case failed to reach a unanimous verdict to apply the death penalty in the Colorado theater shooting case. Under Colorado law, the consequence of the verdict is that the Court must impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Tamara Brady, a Colorado State Public Defender who has extensive experience handling capital cases, has been co-lead counsel on his case from the outset and played a significant role in saving Holmes’ life. She delivered the closing argument for the defense in the death phase and made an impassioned plea for his life. As quoted in the Huffington Post, she stressed that “[t]he death of a seriously mentally ill man is not justice, no matter how tragic the case is. Please, no more death.”

When the verdict was read, Holmes remained stoic, as he was throughout the trial, but Fox News reported that when he returned to his seat after all of the verdict forms were read, he grabbed Brady’s hand and smiled and said, “Thank you”.

Additionally, the media reported that there was one juror firmly against a death sentence and two undecided jurors. In some states, unfortunately, a majority ruling from the jury can empower a judge to impose death, but in many states, such as Colorado, a unanimous verdict is required to do so. This was also the case in the Jodi Arias case which we discussed here.  

The notion that “justice” rests in the hands of one juror in our criminal justice system is both a blessing and a curse. But when it comes to the death penalty, it serves as a powerful weapon against our system’s ultimate sentence. Cases like the Colorado theater shooting certainly test our beliefs about the death penalty. But in the end, we are all better served as a society and as humans with a result such as the one reached in this case.

I am always moved by the courage of one person standing up against an angry mob-like mentality convinced that the taking of a life will right the wrong of lives senselessly taken. I can’t imagine the kind of courage and strength that this single act of bravery requires. Not to mention the bravery of the Tamara Bradys of the world who give of themselves selflessly to fight for one of our society’s most loathed souls and to plead to save that life. Congrats to Tamara Brady and the entire team for fighting to save their client’s life against what seemed like insurmountable odds.   

 

ABA Annual Conference Highlights Women and Diversity

This past weekend at the 2015 ABA Annual Meeting, there was much to celebrate about the advancement of women, and a commitment to increase diversity in the legal profession. Most notably, Paulette Brown was installed as president, and is the first woman of color to  serve as president in the organization’s history.  At the conference, Brown made a compelling speech, focusing on starting initiatives to create a more diverse and inclusive profession.  She also talked about the need to deal with racial bias, and how it has eroded the public’s confidence in the justice system.

Also during the annual meeting, five women were honored by the Margaret Brent Awards for outstanding legal careers and paving roads to help other women in the profession. The honorees were:

  • Mari Carmen Aponte, the United States to El Salvador Ambassador
  • Flora D. Darpino, the US Army’s Judge Advocate General
  • Justice Fernande R.V. Duffly, who was appointed as the first Asian-American associate justice on the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2011
  • Mary Ann Hynes, a senior counsel with Dentons U.S.
  • Professor Emma Coleman Jordan, a tenured professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

Finally there was a panel of minority and female attorneys/business professionals during the annual meeting discussing why law firms haven’t fully embraced the benefits of a diverse workplace. The panel was moderated by Joan Bullock of Florida A&M University College of Law, and the panel members consisted of Emery Harlan: a partner at Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan, John Mitchell: an executive coach at KM Advisors, Wendy Shiba: a retired GC, and Joseph West: president and CEO of Minority Corporate Counsel Association.  The panel discussed how the legal profession continues to be one of the least diverse professional service fields,  with many panelists stressing that it will be up to corporate America to force the legal profession to become more diverse.

However, the biggest question this weekend brought up is how will you fight for more diversity? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Best Law Firms for Women in 2015

Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers just named this year’s 50 Best Law Firms for Women 2015.  The ABA Journal listed many of the factors that were considered in assessing which firms emphasized the promotion and retention of female attorneys. Many of the firms on the list were large law firms which have put significant resources into making the workplace more female friendly.

Interestingly enough, the law firms that made the cut had more women equity partners than the national average (17%). It is about time we see more female partners! The number of rainmaking female partners has also been increasing. In 2014, 11% of firms had 3 or more rainmaking partners. In 2015, this number increased by 5%, which is incredible.

Best Law Firms for Women in 2015
Some of the firms that made the list are:

  • Holland & Hart
  • Ice Miller
  • WilmerHale
  • Cooley
  • Debevoise & Plimpton
  • Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner
  • Katten Muchin Rosenman
  • Morrison & Foerster
  • Vinson & Elkins

It is amazing how the conversation around the retention and cultivation of female attorneys continues to unfold. Even a decade ago, I would never have imagined how much change we would see. Law firms are (finally) realizing that they need to be conscious of what women want and require in a professional working environment if they want them to continue to practice at the firm. Law firms are offering part time and flex options, remote working arrangements, child care and generous parental leave plans.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”is a quote by the CEO of Microsoft that has always intrigued me.  I could not agree more with him on this point. Culture really does matter, and I sense that what distinguishes the firms listed in the article above is that they have proactively developed a culture that respects and promotes women.  In my opinion, this, more than any of the other qualifications considered in coming up with the list, is what sets the winners apart.

Finally Statistics for Criminal Defense

I am a firm believer in the “less statistics, more action” philosophy. Nevertheless, statistics do make us become aware of where we are and how we need to change, and thus should not be ignored. The American Bar Foundation and the ABA Commission on Women just released a report titled First Chairs at Trial More Women Need Seats at the Table, a research report on the participation of women lawyers as lead counsel and trial counsel in litigation.  Almost every woman criminal defense attorney I know can tell you a story about the time they were the only female on the defense side in a multi-defendant case. In my own experience, I remember one time where it was me and seven other men. I felt like Snow White.

This report caught my attention because it is the first time I have seen statistics about women in criminal defense. First, the study reflects on the number of lead counsel attorney appearances by men and women in criminal matters. These numbers were virtually identical; 88% of all men appearing and 89% of all women appearing entered lead counsel notice of appearances. This did not come as a surprise considering that criminal cases “tend not to be layered with different levels of associates and partners.” However, a gender gap presented itself with appearances in general in criminal cases. In the report it says, “among all attorneys appearing in criminal cases, 67% are men. Among attorneys appearing as lead counsel, 67% are men (33% are women), and among attorneys appearing as trial attorney, 79% are men (21% are women).” Additionally, the study found that there is a gender gap between prosecution work and defense work. For example, “men appearing as lead counsel in criminal cases, 34% appear for the government and 66% appear for defendants. Of women appearing as lead counsel in criminal cases, the ratio is reversed: 69% appear for the government and 31% appear for defendants.”  This statistics tell me that women excel in the public sector but things shift as they enter the private sector. The study doesn’t distinguish between public defender and private defense work but there is still valuable information to be gained from these statistics.

The report summarized, “[t]he results in criminal cases—where one side is the government and the other a private party, albeit a criminal defendant—show a pattern consistent with the private vs. public sector gender gap we observed in civil cases. Women lead counsel in criminal cases represent the government more than twice as often as they represent criminal defendants. For men, the ratio is reversed: men appear as lead counsel for private defendants twice as often as they appear for the government. Even so, only a minority of attorneys appearing in criminal cases are women.”

The report presents an upside to the criminal field for women because it provides greater opportunity for women to act as lead counsel in cases. However, the same gender gap throughout law still exists in criminal, especially in the private sector. What caught my interest was the fact that women drop from handling 33% of criminal cases as lead counsel, to 21% as trial attorneys.  For me, the answer is simple; it is up to all of us to make sure we create more seats for women at the trial table.

Criminal Defense: Obama Commutes 46 Drug Sentences

President Obama commuted 46 defendant’s sentences this week – what a turnaround for the defense bar.  More often than not, our cries for leniency and a reasonable perspective when fashioning a sentence falls on deaf ears –  so much so that it feels hard to trust that people are actually listening and doing something about it.  As defense attorneys we develop tough skins, and an ability to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off after every lost battle. Because of this experience, it has been difficult, at least for me, to trust there is a genuine and universal desire to help our clients.  This feeling has stuck with me throughout the Clemency Project, where I feel as though I have been waiting for the rug to get pulled out from underneath me.

But I must admit that in this week’s announcement, something shifted.  I began to relax, and mistrust was replaced with hope.  I never thought I would see the day where a sitting President would give a news conference explaining that the punishment levied in the drug sentences he commuted didn’t fit the crime while he announced we are a nation of second chances.  And then post a video of his address (see embedded video below) on social media.  The President even sent personal letters to the 46 prisoners, encouraging them to take advantage of the second chance they had been given.  Finally, the President will be the first sitting president to visit a federal prison this week and is expected to announce his administration’s plans to overhaul the criminal justice system. If I am dreaming, don’t pinch me.

These 46 newly commuted sentences that bring the total of sentences commuted to around 90, is still a small drop in a big bucket, but it is starting to feel like a powerful drop. This drop is about far more than just the lives of 46 people, it is a strong statement by our leader that something has to change; that our criminal justice system is broken.  It is hope for our clients past, present, and future.

This announcement also reminds me that there is still an overwhelming amount of work to do.  There is an army of lawyer volunteers to assist with the overwhelming number of applicants for clemency but that army is a drop in the bucket too. Even more lawyers are needed.  If you would like to help, please visit The Clemency Project and volunteer if you have not already.  It is so important that we take advantage of this opportunity for our clients, our system, and our humanity.

 

Why Women Need to Stop Apologizing

Why Women Need to Stop Apologizing

Many years ago I began to notice women using the phrase, “I’m Sorry” frequently in their regular vocabulary when there wasn’t any exchange that warranted an apology.  Not only did I notice other women apologizing too much, I noticed myself doing it as well. “I’m sorry” was such an ingrained part of my vocabulary that I really had to work at stopping it, and I’m still not sure that I have totally nipped this bad habit in the butt.  I have to work to stay conscious of it, or I catch myself slipping back in the pattern of using I’m sorry as a precursor to most requests. 

So where did this bad habit come from, and how do we stop it? Just recently op-ed contributor Sloan Crosley eloquently explained Why Women Apologize and Should Stop. She takes up the belief that women do this to express politeness, and presents an alternative theory that, “[t}hese sorrys are actually assertive. Unfortunately, for both addresser and addressee alike, the ‘assertive apology’ is too indirect, obscuring the point. It comes off as passive-aggressive — the easiest of the aggressions to dismiss.” And she makes the case why women need to stop. She states, “[i]t’s not what we’re saying that’s the problem, it’s what we’re not saying. The sorrys are taking up airtime that should be used for making logical, declarative statements, expressing opinions and relaying accurate impressions of what we want.”

Crosley isn’t the only one who has noticed this phenomenon among other women. For example,  Pantene’s 2014 “Not Sorry” ad was aimed at highlighting the constant use of the phrase I’m sorry, then encourages women to lose it.  Comedian Amy Schumer also noticed the trend and aired a skit of accomplished women on a panel apologizing all the time in an effort to out the problem.  The skit is actually pretty painful to watch when you realize how true it is.  It’s almost impossible to watch these videos without seeing a little of yourself in the women depicted.

This conversation is about much than a phrase.  “Sorrygate” is just another example of how our programing and wiring hinders women in business.  When women primarily worked in the home, these idiosyncrasies didn’t matter.  Women are struggling for equality in business in so many ways, and feeling obligated to apologize for everything does affect our success.  Don’t mistake my intentions in this article; examining what we are doing to affect our own success in business is not about blaming women.  This absolutely is not about blame, it’s about taking a look at what we can control to affect change for ourselves.

In business it is critical to consistently communicate your competence and ability to be effective. Women should be pridefully talking about their successes and boasting about their abilities.  Apologizing all the time sends the message that you are not competent or confident.  Make a change today by cutting out the sorrys at a starting ground. Lastly, don’t forget to sing your own praises, you deserve it.

A Week In Review: Same Sex Marriage, Charleston, and Human Worth

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: It’s about Worth

Recently there have been a whirlwind of monumental shifts in our country,  and although this blog is focused on the very specific goal of highlighting and promoting women in the criminal defense field, I feel compelled to discuss these events.

By far, the most powerful among them was the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges, and the related cases that held that same-sex marriage is a guaranteed Constitutional right.  At first glance this case appears to be about marriage, but in reality it sheds light on much deeper issues of human rights.  This case was about equality and human worth – as Frank Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist from the New York Times, so eloquently stated in Our Weddings Our Worth; “It was about worth. From the highest of this nation’s perches, in the most authoritative of this nation’s voices, a majority of justices told a minority of Americans that they’re normal and that they belong — fully, joyously and with cake.”

This was not the only significant case ruling this week. The day before the same-sex marriage ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.  Otherwise known as Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act provides healthcare to all Americans. This is yet another huge statement about how we strive to see worth and value in every citizen, by assuring them access to medical care.

There was also the memorial for the horrific shooting in Charleston, and the video of President Obama delivering a powerful eulogy that moved our nation. Hopefully his words serve to heal some of the pain caused by the hatred and bigotry behind that senseless crime.  This event forces us to remember that prejudice and bigotry are alive and that we must continue fighting to assure that every person is treated equally and with value regardless of race, sex, or sexual orientation.

Lastly, it would be negligent to not mention that the Supreme Court also issued a ruling on Friday relevant to criminal defense in Johnson v. United States.  The case determined that imposing an increased sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) residual clause was a violation of due process due to the fact the clause was unconstitutionally vague.

As criminal defense attorneys we, more than most, understand fighting and struggling for others to see the worth and value in every citizen.  Our clients are often society’s most hated and disregarded citizens.  At the core of what we do is the belief that a person is more than the worst thing that they have done in their life and that they have worth beyond a criminal act.  The theme that rings loud and clear this past week is a theme we appreciate and have to value.  When our nation demonstrates compassion and understanding in the way that it has this past week, we are all better for it.