Criminal Justice Section  

    Criminal Justice Magazine

Criminal Justice Magazine
Summer 2000
Vol. 15, Issue 2

Chair's Report to Members

A Look Back to View the Future

By Bruce M. Lyons

My tenure as chair of this Section is over but for this final column. I thought it appropriate to review some of our accomplishments, make some observations, and thank some people who were instrumental in making this a wonderful experience for me.

From a CLE standpoint, 1999-2000 was unusually busy and innovative. It resulted in a stand-alone, jointly sponsored program between the American Psychological Association and the Criminal Justice Section. More than 300 lawyers and mental health professionals attended the program in Washington on October 17, 1999, and I had the privilege of making the welcoming remarks prior to the introduction of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. In conjunction with our fall Council meeting in November, we presented a successful program entitled "DNA for the Criminal Law Attorney," which brought both prosecutors and defense attorneys together to learn about DNA from the experts. In November, we cosponsored a program on prosecutor ethics at American University's Washington College of Law. These are just the tip of the iceberg. October 25, 1999, saw us in Washington, D.C., for the Eleventh Annual Money Laundering Enforcement Conference. In collaboration with the Section's Juvenile Justice Center and others, we sponsored the Third Annual Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit at Georgetown University Law Center. We held the Qui Tam Enforcement Institute in mid-January in Washington, D.C. More than 600 lawyers attended the White Collar Crime Institute in Miami. Additionally, one CLE program that deserves special mention is the one we cosponsored with the Utah Prosecution Council and the Utah Association of Criminal Lawyers. Held in conjunction with the spring Council meeting in Park City, Utah, it gave true meaning to the "umbrella concept" that was birthed at our long-range planning meetings several years ago. It was the first time that prosecutors and defense attorneys were together at a joint conference to engage in a dialogue and learn side by side.

We also had success with our publishing program. The Section produced the third edition of the ABA Criminal Justice Standards on Guilty Pleas along with the "Technologically-Assisted Physical Surveillance" portion of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice's electronic surveillance chapter. We released a new book entitled The Environmental Crimes Case: From Pretrial Proceedings to Sentencing Guidelines.

In my first column in the fall 1999 issue of Criminal Justice, I wrote about the role of lawyers in the criminal justice system and our fallen image. As the result of the passing of longtime Section member Charles English, I began the process that eventually resulted in the establishment of the Charles English Award for Service to the Criminal Justice Section. The first recipient was Terry McCarthy, federal public defender in Chicago, past-chair of the Section, and current member of the Board of Governors. The award was made at the Annual Meeting Luncheon in New York in July, and attended by Charles English's widow, Marylyn English. Our luncheon speaker was the high-profile defense lawyer, Barry Scheck, who discussed "Crime, Politics, and Innocence."

At our spring meeting, the Council passed a resolution on DNA that was presented to the House of Delegates at the July Annual Meeting. The resolution requires that all biological evidence be preserved and made available to defendants upon request. There is a real problem in this area that needs to be addressed. This resolution, with its accompanying report, will, hopefully, alleviate the problem that lawyers have had in securing this evidence. As a result of the Council's action, I have established a three-person task force consisting of a prosecutor, a public defender, and an academic to gather and assess existing standards, legislation, and other data on the use of DNA evidence. The task force will then present recommendations as to the need for standards on DNA. This task force will also explore grant possibilities for outside funding for a Standards Task Force on this subject.

As chair of the Section, I felt it important to push for loan forgiveness programs for both prosecutors and public defenders. Towards that end, Kevin Driscoll, the Section's government affairs liaison, has worked with Representative Tom Campbell, (R-California), and others to bring this problem to the attention of Congress. I have spoken to both prosecutors' and public defenders' offices on this subject. I have received letters from these lawyers detailing their financial problems and their desires to stay in public service if they can afford to do so. Hopefully, in the next term some realistic progress can be made in securing legislation on this subject.

On May 16 and 17, I was in Washington as part of ABA Day in an effort to lobby our legislators on matters important to the ABA and, more particularly, the Criminal Justice Section. The crisis in indigent defense funding has never been more apparent. Prosecutors and judges have received raises over the years while Criminal Justice Act lawyers have gotten only $5 an hour more. Inflation would indicate that this raise amounts not to a gain but a loss of purchasing power. We have lobbied for a $75 across the board raise for these attorneys, and we have received support from the attorney general, chief justice, and the Judicial Conference of U.S. Probation and Parole. Without adequate compensation for CJA panel attorneys, it becomes difficult to recruit and retain experienced lawyers to provide representation to indigent defendants who are entitled to the same quality representation as those who can afford private counsel.

I want to take time to thank our Executive Director Tom Smith. He provided me with guidance and his experience. I have had the pleasure of working with Sherill Fortinberry on CLE, and her dedication, hard work, and love for the Section must be acknowledged. Lastly, special thanks to Kevin Driscoll who guided me through the politics of politics so that we could put forth our agenda. Only time will tell how successful we will be. There were many members of the Section who volunteered their time and energies and I will thank them individually for their accomplishments. I wish our incoming chair, Ralph Martin, the best of luck. I know his wisdom and energy will steer the Section on the right course. n

Bruce M. Lyons is 1999-2000 chair of the Criminal
Justice Section and a partner with Lyons & Sanders, Chartered, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.