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.

    February 10, 2017
    Trump Issues Executive Orders Regarding Crime

    On February 9, 2017, the White House issued three executive orders targeting crime, following the swearing in of Jeff Sessions as the new Attorney General.

    Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking:
    This order calls on the administration to strengthen federal law to reduce transnational criminal organizations, including those that smuggle drugs, people, and weapons and engage in financial and cyber crime. It directs that federal law enforcement “give high priority  and devote sufficient resources” to going after such organizations, including extraditing members to face prosecution in the United States, where possible, and deporting foreign nationals who are members of such groups. The order calls on the heads of several agencies to review existing federal laws that could be used to further combat international crime groups. It additionally directs federal agencies to  maximize information sharing among themselves and with foreign governments.   

    Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers: This order focuses on preventing crime against law enforcement, including a push to define new federal crimes and potentially establish new mandatory minimum sentences. The order directs the attorney general to review existing federal laws “to determine whether those laws are adequate to address the protection and safety” of law enforcement officers at all levels. Following that review, the Attorney General will make recommendations to the President for potential new legislation, which would include “defining new crimes of violence and establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for existing crimes of violence against” officers. The Attorney General is also directed to evaluate all Justice Department grant funding programs “to determine the extent to which its grant funding supports and protects” officers and recommend any changes.

    A Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety:
    The third order directs the Attorney General to establish a task force aimed at developing strategies “to reduce crime, including, in  particular, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime.” The Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety — whose members will be chosen by the Attorney General — will propose new legislation and evaluate existing laws and data collection on crime.    

    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.


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