Washington, DC (April 1, 1998) -- Years of "woefully inadequate" funding for federal criminal defense services has resulted in "widespread and rampant abuse of citizens rights by federal prosecutors," the President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) told a House Appropriations subcommittee today.
"Without any effective counterbalance, the enormous power concentrated in the hands of federal prosecutors invites abuse of that power," NACDL President Gerald B. Lefcourt explained to the panel. "Without adequate defense funding, this dangerous encroachment on the precious rights of all Americans will persist. It renders a mockery of any Sixth Amendment right to counsel or Fifth Amendment right to due process. It compromises our justice system in America."
The lack of an adequately-funded defense function, which is supposed to act as the primary bulwark against unchecked prosecutorial excesses, has resulted in what Representative Joseph M. McDade (R-PA) recently cited as "unethical, abusive and improper conduct by U.S. Department of Justice employees," Lefcourt observed. Mr. McDade is the sponsor of bipartisan legislation which would rein in much of that unbridled power.
"In 1997, numbers of both federal criminal cases and federal defendants rose to their highest levels since the end of Prohibition in 1933," Lefcourt noted. "Eighty-five percent of those defendants can't afford a lawyer and have one appointed by the court, nearly half of which are from the private defense bar. Yet because Congress has consistently and arbitrarily denied the cost-of-living increases for federal court-appointed lawyers authorized by the Criminal Justice Act of 1986, federal court-appointed work now does not even cover a lawyer's overhead. With more and more money going to the Justice Department prosecutorial arm every year and less and less to the defense function, Congress is turning our time-honored adversarial system into a sham."
"Last month, the country celebrated the 35th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, by which the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously established a citizen's constitutional right to be represented by counsel in every criminal case, even if he cannot afford one," Lefcourt noted. "But Gideon's promise rings hollow if his lawyer actually loses money every hour he spends on a federal court-appointed case and is denied the funds needed to mount an adequate defense. Lack of defense funding is the surest way to guarantee that innocent citizens are imprisoned along with guilty ones. What a sad commentary on our nation's 'war against crime'."
Immediately prior to the hearing, Lefcourt presented Representative McDade with NACDL's prestigious Champion of Justice Award, in recognition of his efforts to level the playing field as between prosecutors and citizen defenders by introducing (with John Murtha, D-PA) H.R. 3396, the "Citizens Protection Act of 1998." Among other things, the legislation would require federal prosecutors to comply with the same state and federal laws and ethical rules that apply to all other attorneys.
[Click Here] for the text of Gerald Lefcourt's testimony.
[Click Here] to contact members of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees.
(Don't forget to also contact your own Senators and Representatives.)
Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence: A Trial Strategy Guide
NACDL’s Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence will assist criminal defense practitioners in scoring points when cross-examining forensic experts in cases involving DNA and biological evidence. This resource contains thousands of questions that will help defense lawyers cross-examine challenging witnesses without reinventing the wheel with each new case. It includes pattern questions that can be used to dominate prosecution DNA experts and level the playing field at trial.
Cross-Examination of the Analyst in Drug Prosecutions (2nd Ed.) By James M. Shellow
Now in its second edition with some new material, James M. Shellow’s book offers what its title promises: ways of thinking about cross-examining the forensic analysts in drug cases. But the book is so much more than that. It offers a look inside the mind of one of the finest cross-examiners and defense lawyers the United States has produced in the last seventy years. This small book can inspire and direct you in making big changes in the way you defend your clients and think about the entire project of trying any case.
Justice For All, Justice Now White T-Shirt (Women’s)
This custom, vintage-faded NACDL t-shirt is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon weighing 5.2 oz. and is lightwieght, flexible and soft, providing maximum comfort. It features the "Justice For All, Justice Now" slogan and Lady Liberty image on the front, with the NACDL logo on the back. Currently available in both men's and women's sizes in both black and white colors. View the full line-up of colors and sizes on our online store, as well as our other popular and best-selling t-shirt designs at: nacdl.org/store.
Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection - CD-ROM
NACDL’s Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection is the sweeping culmination of every single article of written materials ever published from each installment of NACDL's annual "Defending Modern Drug Cases" seminar. Totaling over 12,000 pages, this vast collection includes 12+ years of motions, briefs, reports, outlines, transcripts, case citations, scholarly articles, powerpoints and other written commentaries. This collection provides trial strategies and tactics you can immediately apply to your current cases.
Mental Illness & the Law: Addressing and Litigating Behavioral Health Disorders in Criminal Cases
Whether it is insanity, impairment, a disorder, or adolescent brain development; mental health and intellectual competence issues affect pretrial supervision, trial and sentencing, and your chances of successfully advocating for your impaired client. This training provides ideas and proven solutions to assist you in advocating for your client during trial, whether it be insanity defenses, jury selection, cross of expert witnesses, persuasion, or mitigation at sentencing.
NACDL Communications Department
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.