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 17, 2017
    Cert Granted in Four Cases of Interest to Criminal Defense Practitioners

    On Friday, January 13, 2017, the Supreme Court granted cert in four cases relevant to criminal defense practitioners.

    (1) Maslenjak  v. United States (No. 16-309)
    Issue: Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit erred by holding, in direct conflict with the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 1st, 4th, 7th and 9th Circuits, that a naturalized American citizen can be stripped of her citizenship in a criminal proceeding under 18 U.S.C. § 1425(a) based on an immaterial false statement.

    (2) Weaver v. Massachusetts (No. 16-240)
    Issue: Whether a defendant asserting ineffective assistance that results in a structural error must, in addition to demonstrating deficient performance, show that he was prejudiced by counsel's ineffectiveness, as held by four circuits and five state courts of last resort; or whether prejudice is presumed in such cases, as held by four other circuits and two state high courts.

    (3) Davila v. Davis (No. 16-6219)
    Issue: Whether the rule established in Martinez v. Ryan and Trevino v. Thaler, that ineffective state habeas counsel can be seen as cause to overcome the procedural default of a substantial ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim, also applies to procedurally defaulted, but substantial, ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims.

    (4) McWilliams v. Dunn (No. 16-5294)
    Issue: Whether, when the Court held in Ake v. Oklahoma that an indigent defendant is entitled to meaningful expert assistance for the “evaluation, preparation, and presentation of the defense,” it clearly established that the expert should be independent of the prosecution.

    December 16, 2016
    Supreme Court to Review Cases Raising Brady Violations, and IAC Claim Stemming from Plea to a Deportable Offense

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted cert in three cases of interest to criminal defense practitioners. 

    Two of the cases, Turner v. United States (No. 15-1503) and Overton v. United States (No. 15-1504) are consolidated cases raising whether the petitioners' D.C. convictions should be set aside under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). 

    In the third, Lee v. United States (No. 16-327), the Court will decide the following issue:

    To establish prejudice under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), a defendant
    who has pleaded guilty based on deficient advice from his attorney must show "a reasonable
    probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have
    insisted on going to trial." Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985).  In the context of a noncitizen
    defendant with longtime legal resident status and extended familial and business ties to the
    United States, the question that has deeply divided the circuits is whether it is always irrational
    for a defendant to reject a plea offer notwithstanding strong evidence of guilt when the plea
    would result in mandatory and permanent deportation.

    For more on these cases see this SCOTUSblog post.

    December 13, 2016
    Sentencing Commission Proposes 2017 Amendments to the Guidelines

    On December 9 the Sentencing Commission voted to publish proposed amendments to the sentencing guidelines.  A summary of the amendments is available in this Sentencing Commission press release. 

    December 13, 2016
    Unanimous Supreme Court Holds That Defrauding a Bank Depositor Can Constitute Bank Fraud

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Shaw v. United States, (No. 15-5991), holding that Mr. Shaw could properly be convicted of knowingly executing a scheme to defraud a financial institution under 18 U.S. C.  §1344(1) even if he intended to defraud only a bank depositor, not the bank.

    The Court also addressed a jury instruction claim - whether the district court improperly instructed the jury that a scheme to defraud a bank must be one to deceive the bank or deprive it of something of value, instead of one to deceive and deprive.  The case was remanded to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether that question was properly presented and if so, whether the instruction given was  lawful, and, if not, whether any error was harmless.

    For an analysis of the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post.

    December 09, 2016
    Supreme Court Grants Cert in Drug Forfeiture Case

    In Honeycutt v. United States (No. 16-142), granted earlier today, the Court will address whether 21 U.S.C. § 853(a)(1) mandates joint and several liability among co-conspirators for forfeiture of the reasonably foreseeable proceeds of a drug conspiracy.  For more on the case see this SCOTUSblog post.

    December 06, 2016
    Supreme Court Rules on Personal Benefit Test in Insider Trading Case

    Today, the Supreme Court unanimously held in Salman v. United States (No. 15-628) that the 9th Circuit properly applied the court's decision in Dirks v. Securities and Exchange Commission to affirm Salman's conviction because, under Dirks, the jury could infer that Salman's tipper personally benefited from making a gift of confidential information to a trading relative.  For an analysis of the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post.

    December 01, 2016
    Changes to Rule 41 Take Effect, Expanding Government Hacking Authority

    Amended Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure took effect today.  The changes authorize magistrate judges to issue warrants to remotely access and search "electronic storage media" outside of their judicial districts, where "technological means" are obscuring the location of the media.  For more on the impacts of the new rule, see this Electronic Frontier Foundation Press Release.

    November 30, 2016
    Unanimous Supreme Court Rejects Double Jeopardy Claim

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously decided Bravo-Hernandez v. United States (No. 15-537) (J. Thomas, concurring), holding that the Double Jeopardy Clause does not bar the government from retrying defendants after a "jury has returned irreconcilably inconsistent verdicts of conviction and acquittal and the convictions are later vacated for legal error unrelated to the inconsistency."  For more on the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post.

    November 03, 2016
    New Amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines Are Now in Effect

    The new amendments to the sentencing guidelines took effect on November 1, 2016.  Among the most significant amendments are major changes to the illegal reentry guideline, as well as changes to the distribution enhancements in child pornography cases.  For more on all of the amendments see the National Sentencing Resource Counsel Project's Summary of 2016 Amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines.  Review the actual text in the Reader-Friendly Version of the Amendments.


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