Amicus Briefs Filed in 2021

The Amicus Curiae Committee’s mission is to provide amicus assistance on the federal and state level in those cases that present issues of importance to criminal defendants, criminal defense lawyers, and/or the criminal justice system as a whole. Membership in NACDL is not a prerequisite either for amicus assistance from the Committee, or for authorship of an NACDL amicus brief.

Caniglia v. Strom

Brief Amicus Curiae of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Criminal Procedure Professors in Support of Petitioner.


Argument: In Sutterfield v. City of Milwaukee, 751 F.3d 542, 553 (7th Cir. 2014), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit observed that the distinctions among the exigent circumstances doctrine, the emergency aid doctrine, and the community caretaking doctrine “are not always clear.” In turn, these fuzzy distinctions have led to a “lack of clarity in judicial articulation and application of the three doctrines.” This lack of clarity means that courts deciding whether the community caretaking doctrine should apply to warrantless home entries often think that doctrine is needed to justify entries that are already covered by the exigent circumstances doctrine and/or the emergency aid doctrine. As set forth in this amici brief, this Court’s opinions defining and applying the exigent circumstances and emergency aid doctrines establish that police officers would need to rely on the community caretaking doctrine as an independent justification for warrantless home entries in only two potential situations: to address (1) non-bodily harms such as nuisances; and (2) non-imminent threats of bodily harm. Framed in that fashion, it is clear that a separate and independent rationale such as “community caretaking” – which was generated by the special circumstances attendant to automobile searches – does not justify invasion of the sanctity of the home. Indeed, the way that this Court distinguished its opinion in Coolidge in creating the community caretaking doctrine makes clear that the doctrine does not and should not apply to warrantless home entries. In addition, the capacity for a “community caretaking” exception that permits warrantless searches of the home would invite its use as an end run around the protections of the warrant requirement.

Gurrola v. Duncan

Brief Of Amici Curiae The Dkt Liberty Project, The Cato Institute, Collateral Consequences Resource Center, Clause 40 Foundation, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, The Macarthur Justice Center, The R Street Institute, The Sentencing Project, And The National Association Of Criminal Defense Lawyers In Support Of Plaintiffs-Appellants.


Argument: State licensing schemes that categorically bar individuals with prior criminal convictions from holding various professions are irrational. Across the country, these licensing schemes cover almost every profession imaginable. However, these regulations frequently do nothing other than bar those with criminal records from entering a profession. These regulations prevent those with felony convictions from, among other things, operating a taxicab, performing marriages, and working as a tag officer at a state department of motor vehicles. This is true regardless of whether the individual has been convicted of a major fraud, a violent crime, or something as minor as felony littering. States regularly impose criminal-history restrictions on occupational licenses that are entirely unrelated to the applicant’s fitness to be a contributing member to the profession. And these restrictions—which bar individuals with prior convictions from finding gainful employment—contribute to recidivism, further underscoring their irrationality. Although courts have held that these licensing schemes are subject to only rational basis review, rational basis is not a toothless standard; it requires that a court find some logical relationship between the restriction—here, two felony convictions—and the occupation being regulated—here, emergency medical technicians (“EMTs”). Courts historically have been critical of, and have struck down under this test, broad regulatory schemes that bar membership of an applicant who has any felony conviction. Because California’s regulatory scheme bars individuals convicted of any two felonies without regard for whether the crimes at issue implicate the applicant’s fitness to become an EMT, including to fight fires, this scheme likewise fails rational basis review. As a result, this Court should vacate the district court’s order granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss and remand this case for further proceedings.

Sumpter v. Kansas

Amicus Brief in support of Petitioner-Appellee and Cross-Appellant by National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.


Argument: Mr. Sumpter was convicted of several sexual misconduct offenses and one count of aggravated kidnapping. The kidnapping conviction added 186 months to his sentence. Mr. Sumpter’s convictions were affirmed on direct appeal and his state post-conviction motion was unsuccessful. Kansas has appealed to the 10th Circuit. The aggravated kidnapping conviction and sentence were vacated by the United States District Court in Kansas when the court partially granted the 2254 petition and concluded Mr. Sumpter had been denied effective assistance of counsel as to the kidnapping conviction. Mr. Sumpter was convicted of forcefully confining the accuser, yet trial counsel failed to assert the defense, long established in Kansas case law, that the alleged forced confinement was not independent of the offense of attempted rape. The defendant followed the accuser to her car and attempted to sexually assault her in the car before the victim was able to force him out of the car. Defense counsel thus should have argued that there was no forced confinement independent of the alleged attempted sexual assault. The amicus brief argues that the failure of counsel to present this long-recognized defense to the kidnapping charge resulted in an unconstitutional application of the Kansas kidnapping statute.  Mr. Sumpter was convicted of kidnapping without any determination that the alleged forceful confinement was independent of the attempted sexual assault. Therefore, the district court order vacating the kidnapping conviction should be affirmed.

Sumpter v. Kansas

Brief for Amicus Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Support of Petitioner-Appellee/Cross-Appellant and Urging Reversal. 


Argument: Mr. Sumpter was convicted of several sexual misconduct offenses and one count of aggravated kidnapping. The kidnapping conviction added 186 months to his sentence. Mr. Sumpter’s convictions were affirmed on direct appeal and his state post-conviction motion was unsuccessful. Kansas has appealed to the 10th Circuit. The aggravated kidnapping conviction and sentence were vacated by the United States District Court in Kansas when the court partially granted the 2254 petition and concluded Mr. Sumpter had been denied effective assistance of counsel as to the kidnapping conviction. Mr. Sumpter was convicted of forcefully confining the accuser, yet trial counsel failed to assert the defense, long established in Kansas case law, that the alleged forced confinement was not independent of the offense of attempted rape. The defendant followed the accuser to her car and attempted to sexually assault her in the car before the victim was able to force him out of the car. Defense counsel thus should have argued that there was no forced confinement independent of the alleged attempted sexual assault. The amicus brief argues that the failure of counsel to present this long-recognized defense to the kidnapping charge resulted in an unconstitutional application of the Kansas kidnapping statute. Mr. Sumpter was convicted of kidnapping without any determination that the alleged forceful confinement was independent of the attempted sexual assault. Therefore, the district court order vacating the kidnapping conviction should be affirmed.

Terry v. United States

Brief of Retired Federal Judges, Former Federal Prosecutors, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner. 


Argument: Defendants sentenced for crack cocaine offenses under the pre-2010 version of § 841(b)(1)(C) are eligible for resentencing under the First Step Act of 2018.  The First Step Act’s resentencing provisions apply to offenses whose penalties were “modified” by the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010.  Although defendants sentenced under the pre-2010 version of § 841(b)(1)(C) remain eligible for their original sentences after the statute was recently amended, the sentences they would have received under the post-2010 version of the statute almost certainly would have been lower—likely significantly lower.  That is because the Fair Sentencing Act dramatically expanded the drug quantities to which § 841(b)(1)(C) applies.  All else equal, a sentencing judge generally aims to align the various drug-quantity ranges in § 841(b) with the corresponding sentence ranges—assigning lower sentences for lower quantities and higher sentences for higher quantities.  In other words, the drug-quantity benchmarks in § 841(b) exert a powerful anchoring influence over a judge’s sentencing decisions.  And Congress changed the relevant anchor points 2010.  Thus, it “modified” the statutory penalties in § 841(b)(1)(C), and defendants sentenced under that provision are entitled to resentencing.

United States v. Perez-Perez

Amicus Brief in support of Defendant-Appellant’s petition for rehearing en banc by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studies.


Argument: In a split decision, the Tenth Circuit (per Ebel, J.) affirmed on plain error review a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5) (illegal or unlawful alien in possession of a firearm) notwithstanding the fact that during the plea colloquy the judge failed to inform the defendant of two essential elements of the crime:  (1) he had to know his status as a prohibited person; and (2) he was illegally or unlawfully in the United States. There’s a spirited dissent by Judge Bacharach. Although the panel concluded Mr. Perez’s constitutional rights were violated due to these failings when he accepted the plea agreement, the majority nevertheless decided Mr. Perez had not established plain error. The amicus brief argues that the majority erred in not finding plain error pointing out that the evidence of Mr. Perez’s knowledge of his prohibited status was weak and that there was ample record support for this potential defense. The majority instead engaged in speculation about why Mr. Perez accepted the plea agreement (to avoid mandatory minimum charges) when the meagre factual record suggested instead that Mr. Perez did not accept the plea agreement to avoid these charges. Rather, the record is clear that Mr. Perez sought to avoid the trial penalty and to transfer out of the onerous conditions of pretrial detention, which he had suffered for more than 18 months. As a result of the plain error in this case, Mr. Perez is entitled to have his conviction vacated. 

 

Featured Products