California Lawyers Association

Criminal Law eNews

Articles and updates from the Criminal Law Section eNews

“Tell me something your client did when no one was keeping score,” responded then-U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Erickson of North Dakota to a query when I interviewed him late last year. I had asked him what an attorney can do when faced with representing a client who has committed a reprehensible offense with a lengthy criminal record. “I think well of people who act out of the goodness of their hearts,” he added. Read more
Before rejoining the Zuckerman Spaeder LLP law firm in Washington, D.C., Judge Mehta worked for the highly acclaimed Public Defender Service in Washington, which was founded by Charles L. Ogletree, now a Harvard Law School professor. Asked what a lawyer can do at a sentencing hearing to make a difference if he’s already provided the court with a quality sentencing memorandum, Judge Mehta says, “Bring passion and candor to the case. Humanize your client. While I don’t know of any judge who takes the bench without an idea of what the sentence is going to be and the sentencing memorandum is vitally important, hearing the lawyer’s words at the hearing definitely can sway me. For example, show me that your client is not necessarily who he or she was at the time of the offense.” Read more
Due to the COVID-19 risk in our jails and prisons, every effort should be made to avoid incarceration and, for those in prison, get released. Here are some strategies that attorneys can use to help clients avoid, or at least delay, custody during the pandemic. Read more
U.S. District Judges Frederic Block of the Eastern District of New York and Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California in San Francisco are legendary sentencing judges. Read more
“What is best for the victim?” asked U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill. “What is best for the community? What is best for the defendant?” Read more
What can you do if faced with the government argument that a lesser sentence for your client would depreciate the seriousness of the offense and promote disrespect for the law? As one judge once told me, “Tell me something that your client did when no one was keeping score.” Read more
More than one judge I’ve interviewed for this series has told me that they expect lawyers to be succinct; tell them what they don’t already know; be candid about the client’s crime and its impact; and bear in mind that your job in sentencing representation is to connect with the judge, not to impress your client and their friends and family. Read more
This article is republished with permission from Law360 By Alan Ellis Part 3 of this series included interviews with 12 U.S. district court judges on the topic of sentencing advocacy for the challenging client who has committed a heinous offense with a serious prior record as an aggravating factor. Judge James S. Gwin of the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland was one of those judges. My interview with Judge Gwin was conducted during the pendency of an appeal, United… Read more
This article is republished with permission from Law360 By Alan Ellis Alan Ellis Criminal defense lawyers consider Judges John R. Adams and Otis D. Wright II tough sentencers. Judges Justin L. Quackenbush and Walter H. Rice are viewed as being at the opposite end of the spectrum. With their reputations, it was interesting to learn how similar they were on what constitutes good defense sentencing advocacy. Judge Quackenbush sits in the Eastern District of Washington in Spokane and Judge Rice… Read more
Judge Cynthia A. Bashant of the Southern District of California in San Diego and Judge Jon D. Levy of the District of Maine in Portland were both appointed by President Obama in 2014 and confirmed at the same time. Read more

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