The Defender Services Office Training Division furthers the right to effective assistance of counsel by providing training and other resources to attorneys appointed under the Criminal Justice Act.

    January 26, 2015
    Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Oklahoma's Lethal Injection Protocol

    After refusing to delay the execution of one of the petitioners, the Supreme Court granted cert last Friday in Glossip v. Gross (No. 14-7955), to decide these questions regarding the constitutionality of Oklahoma's three-drug lethal injection protocol. See these articles in the New York Times and NPR for more on the case. 

    January 20, 2015
    Supreme Court to Rule on Mental State Required for Conviction Under Controlled Substances Analogue Act; Issues Decisions in Two Habeas Cases

    On January 16, 2015 the Supreme Court granted cert in McFadden v. United States (No. 14-378) to decide whether, to convict a defendant of distribution of a controlled substance analogue, the government must prove the defendant knew that the substance constituted a controlled substance analogue.

    The Court also issued a summary reversal in the capital habeas case of Christeson v. Roper (No. 14-6873), ruling that, pursuant to Martel v. Clair, 565 U.S. ___ (2012), the Eighth Circuit improperly affirmed the district court's denial of the petitioner's motion for substitute counsel.

    In addition, on January 13, 2015, the Court held in Jennings v. Stephens (No. 13-7211) that a prisoner who sought federal habeas relief based on three theories of ineffective assistance of counsel and prevailed in the district court on two of them is not required to file a cross-appeal or seek a certificate of appealability on the third theory to rely on it as part of his defense against the state’s appeal.  For an analysis of the opinion, see this SCOTUSblog post.

    January 13, 2015
    Supreme Court Hands Down Opinion on Forced-Accompaniment Provision of Bank Robbery Statute

    Earlier today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion holding that “a bank robber 'forces [a] person to accompany him,' for purposes of [18 U.S.C.] §2113(e), when he forces that person to go somewhere with him, even if the movement occurs entirely within a single building or over a short distance."

    January 13, 2015
    Sentencing Commission Publishes Proposed Guideline Amendments

    On January 9, 2015 the Sentencing Commission voted to publish proposed amendments to the guidelines and issues for comment.  The Commission will hold a hearing in March and will vote on the final amendments in April.

    Full story

    January 12, 2015
    Supreme Court to Decide Whether ACCA's Residual Clause Is Unconstitutionally Vague

    On Friday, the Supreme Court ordered supplemental briefing and oral argument in Johnson v. United States (No. 13-7120), a case that was first argued in November, 2014. In the new order, the Court has asked the parties to address: "Whether the residual clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984, 18 U. S. C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), is unconstitutionally vague."

    December 15, 2014
    Supreme Court Holds Traffic Stop Based on Mistake of Law Still Proper; Grants Cert on Retroactivity of Miller v. Alabama

    Today, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Heien v. North Carolina (No.13-604), holding that a police officer's traffic stop did not violate the Fourth Amendment even though it was based on a mistake of law. 

    The Court also granted cert last Friday in Toca v. Louisiana (No. 14-6381) to determine (1) Whether the decision in Miller v. Alabama, limiting sentences of life without parole for minors who commit murder, applies retroactively in this case; and 2) Whether a federal question is raised by a claim that a state collateral review court erroneously failed to find a exception?

    Full story

    December 10, 2014
    Recent Supreme Court Cert Grants and Opinions of Interest to CJA Practitioners

    In a unanimous opinion issued on December 8 - Warger v. Shauers (No.13-517) - the Supreme Court held that FRE 606(b) precludes a party seeking a new trial from using one juror's affidavit of what another juror said in deliberations to demonstrate the other juror's dishonesty during voir dire.  For an analysis of the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post

    On December 5, the Supreme Court granted cert in Brumfield v. Cain (No. 13-1433) to address the following issues:

    (1) Whether a state court that considers the evidence presented at a petitioner’s penalty phase proceeding as determinative of the petitioner’s claim of mental retardation under Atkins v. Virginia has based its decision on an unreasonable determination of facts under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2); and (2) whether a state court that denies funding to an indigent petitioner who has no other means of obtaining evidence of his mental retardation has denied petitioner his “opportunity to be heard,” contrary to Atkins and Ford v. Wainwright and his constitutional right to be provided with the “basic tools” for an adequate defense, contrary to Ake v. Oklahoma.

    Earlier in the term, the Court granted cert in another habeas case Chappel v. Ayala (No. 13-1428) to address: (1) whether a state court's rejection of a claim of federal constitutional error on the ground that any error, if one occurred, was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt is an “adjudicat[ion] on the merits” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C.
    § 2254(d), so that a federal court may set aside the resulting final state conviction only if the defendant can satisfy the restrictive standards imposed by that provision;  and (2) whether the Court of Appeals properly applied the standard articulated in Brecht v.

    And in Henderson v. United States (No. 13-1487) the Court will determine whether a felony conviction, which makes it unlawful for the defendant to possess a firearm, prevents a court under FRCP 41(g) or under general equity principles from ordering that the government (1) transfer non-contraband firearms to an unrelated third party to whom the defendant has sold all his property interests; or (2) sell the firearms for the benefit of the defendant.


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