Criminal Justice Section
Criminal Justice Magazine
Volume 20 Issue 2
Chair's Report to Members
The Work of the Section: Year in Review
By Catherine Anderson
Catherine L. Anderson is the chair of the Criminal Justice Section and a district court judge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
This has been a busy and challenging year for the Criminal Justice Section. With the Supreme Court sending shock waves through the criminal justice system, our Section is leading the debate on resolving the host of difficult issues facing virtually every arm of the system. Our Section was primed to tackle the sentencing issues, having played a key role in the ABA’s Kennedy Commission, which was formed in response to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s speech calling for the repeal of mandatory minimum sentences. The Blakely Working Group has been instrumental in responding to questions raised by the Supreme Court’s rulings, and now our Section is providing leadership in the ABA’s implementation of the Kennedy Commission’s recommendations.
Last summer, while the Kennedy Commission was reporting those recommendations, ABA President Robert Grey was launching the American Jury Project and looking to the members of the Criminal Justice Section for their insight and expertise. Under the adept leadership of its chairperson, Patricia Refo, the American Jury Project moved forward at an impressive and auspicious pace. Less than nine months after the American Jury Project started to evaluate the existing principles and standards, the revised principles were adopted by the ABA House of Delegates. These principles define our fundamental aspirations for managing the jury system with the principal aim of ensuring the right to a jury trial and enhancing juror participation.
The Commission on the American Jury, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as its honorary chairperson, has initiated an outreach campaign encouraging the adoption and use of the revised principles. The principles apply to civil juries as well as criminal juries, but the principles applicable to criminal juries are based primarily on the Criminal Justice Section standards, which may be credited largely to input from Criminal Justice Section staff. As such, our Section’s previous work in devising sound principles for administering the jury system has paved the way for a new set of principles that will further advance the interests of criminal justice practitioners, their clients, and the criminal justice system.
The past year has also been fruitful for Section-sponsored publications. Titles from the past year include White Collar Crime 2005, The Gaming Law Minefield 2005, Asset Forfeiture: Practice and Procedure in State and Federal Courts, Restitution for Crime Victims: A National Strategy, and The Shadow of Justice, which is the first work of fiction published by the ABA in its 125-year history.
The Amicus Curiae Briefs Committee has also been active in its role of helping determine which cases are of such significance to the Section that ABA involvement is warranted. In the past year, the Criminal Justice Section has sponsored or cosponsored amicus briefs that were filed with the Supreme Court on the issues of the constitutionality of restrictions on the appointment of appellate counsel for indigent criminal defendants (Halbert v. Michigan, No. 03-10198), effective representation at capital sentencing (Rompilla v. Beard, No. 04-5462), and the validity of a Mexican national’s capital sentence under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (Medellin v. Dretke, No. 04-5928).
Moreover, the fruits of our amicus efforts were recently realized in two instances. In Roper v. Simmons, 125 S. Ct. 1183 (2005), consistent with the position advanced by the ABA’s amicus brief, the Court held that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid executing offenders who were under the age of 18 when their capital crimes were committed. In Fellers v. United States, 540 U.S. 519 (2004), consistent with the position advanced by the ABA’s amicus brief, the Court held that officers violated the Sixth Amendment by deliberately eliciting information from an indicted defendant in the absence of counsel and without any waiver of his Sixth Amendment rights.
Also during the past year, the Criminal Justice Section has sponsored numerous opportunities for continuing legal education, including the 16th Annual Money Laundering Enforcement Seminar, Internet Child Abuse and Pornography, the 21st Annual National Institute on Criminal Tax Fraud, the National CLE Conference on Criminal Law, the 19th Annual National Institute on White Collar Crime, the 9th Annual National Institute on the Gaming Law Minefield, the Culture and Crime Symposium, Round III of the Criminal Justice Ethics Symposium, and the 14th Annual National Seminar on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
Meanwhile, the Section’s various subgroups have enjoyed an active and productive year. The Ad Hoc Innocence Committee to Ensure the Integrity of the Criminal Process devised standards that were adopted, as revised, by the ABA House of Delegates at its 2005 Midyear Meeting. Also at that meeting, the House of Delegates approved a resolution on federal sentencing that was crafted by the Blakely Working Group.
In this limited space, I have highlighted only some of the Section’s activities and accomplishments; there have been many others during the past year.
While Section members, staff, the Executive Committee, and the Section Governing Council continue their work on these important endeavors, the Section is undergoing an organizational evaluation and evolution that promises to strengthen it by improving its effectiveness and enhancing its stature. At the Midyear Meeting, members of the Executive Committee met with staff members from the ABA’s Communication Group and identified four communications goals as part of our effort to develop a long-term plan for communication by and within the Section. Those communication goals are based on our vision of the Criminal Justice Section as the premier source of knowledge and insight into the complex issues facing the nation’s criminal justice system.
Our new Section director, Jack Hanna, brings fresh ideas and leadership, which will motivate staff members and foster innovation along with renewed enthusiasm for the work of the Section. This new leadership, coupled with the improved communication, will revitalize a Section that has always been rich in talent and ideas. To aid this revitalization, the Section has formed an Ad Hoc Committee on Bylaws Revision that is currently reviewing the existing bylaws and may propose revisions for ABA approval as early as August. At the same time, our review of committee structure and activity continues in order to deliver the services and activities members want from the Section.
During the past year, the Executive Committee has strived to enhance the Section’s deserved reputation for excellence. We are hopeful that our efforts will bear fruit in the coming years. We have come a long way in the past year, and I am confident that our progress will continue. It has been my pleasure and honor to serve as chair of the Criminal Justice Section during this exciting and memorable year. I am thankful to all of the Section members and staff, especially Susan Hillenbrand, who served so tirelessly and ably as interim Section director for most of the year. I enjoyed immensely having the opportunity to serve the Section and our profession in this way, and I look forward to my continued involvement with our ever-evolving Section.