Human Trafficking Program Hosted by The Arthur D. Shores – Robert S. Vance American Inn of Court

The Arthur D. Shores – Robert S. Vance American Inn of Court is hosting a special presentation entitled Human Trafficking in Our Own Backyard: A Panel Discussion. The presentation will be held February 12th at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Birmingham (250 18th St. South).

The nation’s most trafficked intersection runs along I-20 from Birmingham to Atlanta, making human trafficking an issue that affects every community in the metro area and throughout the state. Carla Ward, Assistant U.S. Attorney, will moderate a panel of professionals who are dedicated and active in the efforts to halt human trafficking: Carolyn Potter, Executive Director of The Well House, Sgt. Trent Kempster, Tuscaloosa Police Department, Doug Gilmer, Special Agent in Charge with Department of Homeland Security, and Jordan Giddens, Finance Director and Member Resource Liaison of the AL House Democratic Caucus.

The presentation has been approved for one hour of CLE credit. CLE materials will be sent to registrants ahead of the meeting. The meeting will start with a cash bar cocktail hour at 5:00 pm and the meeting will begin promptly at 5:30 pm. The cost to attend is $25 per person to cover the cost of dinner. Seating is limited so RSVP you and your guests early.

Meeting Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2019 5:00 PM Where: Hilton Garden Inn, 250 18th Street South, Birmingham, Alabama 35233 Cost: $25 per person RSVP Deadline: Friday, February 8, 2019 12:00 PM (or when limited seating is full)

Non-Members: RSVP by emailing Ben Cohn at cohn@wec-law.com. To complete your registration you will need to mail your $25 check ahead of the meeting, made payable to Birmingham Inn of Court, to P.O. Box 59591, Birmingham, Alabama 35259.

ABA urges U.S. Supreme Court to review constitutionality of structured bail systems

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The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that the Calhoun, Ga., bail system, which ties pretrial release directly to a fixed-payment schedule of offenses, violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment.

“A money bail system that deprives defendants of their liberty without individualized assessments of their personal and financial circumstances violates the Constitution,” the ABA brief said.

The brief, in support of a group of defendants in Calhoun, asks the high court to grant certiorari to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upholding Calhoun’s revised bail system. Scores of jurisdictions nationwide use similar inflexible money-bail systems in their criminal justice proceedings although many states and local entities have discarded their use in recent years.

The Calhoun case, as well as others before other circuit courts, have been moving through the federal court system for several years, with the Eleventh Circuit challenge giving the Supreme Court a chance to consider the constitutionality of a system that detains poor defendants, regardless of the offense, solely because they were unable to pay pre-set bail.

The ABA brief cites long-standing ABA policies and ABA Criminal Justice Standards that encourage release on recognizance and notes that “pretrial release conditions should be imposed only as necessary to serve their legitimate purposes of ensuring defendants’ reappearance and protecting the public.

“Because poverty strongly correlates with race, cash bail tends to result in the pretrial incarceration of racial minority groups, exacerbating pre-existing racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” the ABA brief said.

The amicus brief in Maurice Walker v. City of Calhoun, Ga., is available here. The ABA has also filed amicus briefs in similar cases arising out of Rutherford County, Tenn. and Harris County, Texas. These and other amicus briefs can be found on the ABA Standing Committee on Amicus Curiae Briefs’ website.

Video: Toobin says it’s not surprising FBI arrested Roger Stone

FBI sealFBI agents arrested former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone in an early morning visit to his home. Stone was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Stone is accused of seeking stolen emails from Wikileaks that would benefit Trump’s campaign. CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin says it’s shocking but not surprising that Stone was taken into custody.

Video: NTL member Ed Herman shares cereal expertise

cerealYou’ve been eating cereal wrong your whole life, says National Trial Lawyers member Ed Herman of Brown & Crouppen in St. Louis. To set things straight, Herman shares his cereal expertise with the world in a viral YouTube video that’s winning him fans, with more than 200,000 views on YouTube and more than 600,000 on Facebook, according to Riverfront Times. The video is titled “Ed V. Cereal,” and it may cause you to rethink how you eat your daily bowl of breakfast cereal. What does he believe is the perfect cereal? Watch this video to find out!

Video: Is the US bail system fair?

cash moneyA movement to eliminate cash bail is gathering steam in the criminal justice system. Is forcing people with low or no income to pay to get out of jail a fair and effective practice? California recently abolished cash bail for defendants, as noted by The Washington Post, although critics say the new law creates new problems. PBS station KQED takes a look at whether reform is needed in the bail system in this video.

Podcast: Great Trials with NTL members Tommy and Adam Malone

The Great Trials podcast features in-depth conversations with leading trial attorneys from across the country who discuss the courtroom strategies that helped them win landmark cases. Every episode includes one or two lawyers talking about a significant case they successfully tried in front of a judge and jury. The podcast is co-hosted by Steve Lowry and Yvonne Godfrey, two award-winning trial lawyers. Episode one features National Trial Lawyers members Tommy and Adam Malone. 

The Hamilton Project releases new report that concludes the cash bail system cost the U.S. economy over $15 billion in 2018

cash moneyThe Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution has released a new report titled, “The Economics of Bail and Pretrial Detention,” which explores the economic burden that the U.S. bail and pretrial detention system places not only on low-income defendants—but society as a whole. 

The study concludes that in 2018, the direct cost of bail to the U.S. economy was $15.26 billion (illustrated below in Table 1). The more than $15 billion in costs does not include additional indirect fees and long-run damages including: decreased future employment opportunities, increased financial burdens placed on family members, and future crimes committed, among other factors.  Additional findings from the report include:

  • Despite California’s recent elimination of cash bail, the analysis finds that in recent decades, the usage of bail and the duration of pretrial detention in the U.S. has increased significantly—regardless of the type of offense. For example: between 1992 and 2009, median bail increased by 33 percent for drug offenses, 48 percent for public order offenses, and 67 percent for violent offenses. 
  • Nearly 25 percent of all state and local inmates are in jail without having been convicted of a crime. The majority of these people are deemed eligible for release by a judge—but are unable to raise the funds to leave jail.
  • Pretrial detention periods are growing substantially, subsequently increasing costs to those who cannot afford bail. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the median duration of pretrial detention increased for every charged offense, ranging from an increase of 34 percent for burglary to 104 percent for rape. 
  • The share of released defendants who relied on commercial bail bonds more than doubled—rising from 24 to 49 percent, from 1990-2009. Commercial bonds account for all of the increase in total defendants who are able to secure financial release.

To learn more about the findings in the analysis, view the full report online.

ACLU and The Leadership Conference Praise Senate Passage of FIRST STEP Act

JailThe Senate has passed a revised version of the FIRST STEP Act by a margin of 87-12. It is expected to pass quickly in the House of Representatives in the coming days.

Jesselyn McCurdy, deputy director of the Washington Legislative Office at the American Civil Liberties Union, had the following reaction:

“The FIRST STEP Act is by no means perfect. But we are in the midst of a mass incarceration crisis, and the time to act is now.”

“We applaud the bipartisan group of senators who were willing to listen to advocates and include important sentencing reforms that will grant thousands of currently incarcerated people a second chance.”

“People’s lives are at stake. We’re delighted to see common sense prevail and the FIRST STEP Act move closer to the finish line.”

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, had the following response:

“The Senate’s bipartisan vote to pass the FIRST STEP Act is an important, but modest step forward for justice and human dignity. But it is not the end of our fight. This bipartisan bill offers some important improvements to the current federal system, but it falls short of providing the meaningful change that is required, as we explained in a letter to the Senate. More work will be needed as we push for transformational change that will end mass incarceration in America.”

“We applaud our coalition members for their tireless work to ensure that the final bill included the vital sentencing provisions that improved the bill, Senators Durbin, Booker, Harris, Lee, and Grassley for their leadership, and the many formerly incarcerated allies and advocates who remind us that this work has real-world impact.”

More information about the ACLU’s position on the FIRST STEP Act can be found here:
https://www.aclu.org/blog/smart-justice/mass-incarceration/how-first-step-act-moves-criminal-justice-reform-forward

Podcast: President Trump’s deepening legal troubles

President Trump’s legal issues continue to mount, including whether he violated campaign finance laws when he allegedly directed his attorney, Micheal Cohen, to pay hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels. In this podcast from NPR, Steve Inskeep talks to Trump supporter Chris Buskirk, who runs the conservative publication American Greatness, about the president possibly being linked to campaign finance violations.

Video: Toobin says Trump should be nervous after Flynn’s sentencing recommendation

Robert MuellerCNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says Robert Mueller’s recommendation that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn serve no prison time in exchange for his cooperation should send a signal to President Trump. And that signal is that it’s time to be nervous about the investigation. Mueller says Flynn provided “substantial” assistance to his investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. You can read the heavily-redacted sentencing recommendation document here.