Access to Justice

  • April 26, 2020

    Virus Sparks Calls To Pump The Brakes On Debt Suits

    As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to envelop the country, some consumer advocates are calling for greater protections for debtors until the crisis abates, arguing that the economic crisis is negatively impacting the ability of Americans to not only pay their debts but also fight collection actions in court.

  • April 26, 2020

    UPenn Law Prof On How Public Health Policy Must Improve

    University of Pennsylvania law professor Eric Feldman says the novel coronavirus has revealed both the failures of international public health policy and the civil rights trade-offs of containing a pandemic in the U.S. and internationally.

  • April 26, 2020

    After Win, Those Fighting Divided Verdicts Eye Next Chapter

    A high court ruling last week that nonunanimous jury verdicts in criminal cases are unconstitutional could prove huge for defendants in two states who are challenging their convictions, though questions such as the ruling’s retroactive impact still need to be answered.

  • April 24, 2020

    NY Inmates Still Getting Burned On Atty Access, Judge Told

    An attorney for the Federal Defenders of New York on Friday told the Brooklyn federal judge overseeing a dispute over attorneys' contact with their incarcerated clients in New York federal jails that problems are persisting, including two cases of COVID-19 positive inmates who were being held in medical isolation without telephonic access to their attorneys or families.

  • April 22, 2020

    5th Circ. Denies Prosecutors Immunity In Fake Subpoena Suit

    The Fifth Circuit has ruled in a published opinion that a group of Louisiana prosecutors who attempted to use fake subpoenas to pressure witnesses and crime victims to answer questions are not entitled to the usual immunity that comes with the office when pursuing a criminal case.

  • April 19, 2020

    Homeless Angelenos Get Due Process Win Over City Seizures

    In January 2019, Janet Garcia returned from getting ready for work to find that all of her belongings had been seized and destroyed by the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation.

  • April 19, 2020

    Victims' Rights Suffer Blow In Epstein Case

    In the latest twist in the Jeffrey Epstein saga, a split Eleventh Circuit panel ruled last week that the protections of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act do not arise until after a formal criminal charge has been filed. For Epstein’s victims, it could mark the end of a 12-year-long legal challenge — and for the victims’ rights movement, it could be a lasting blow.

  • April 19, 2020

    Virus Forces Transparency Reckoning Among Highest Courts

    Since coronavirus concerns shuttered courthouses nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court and some appellate judges have given in to livestream technology. Transparency advocates welcome this development and hope the practice will continue even after the pandemic ends.

  • April 19, 2020

    Bail Bond Groups Can't Sink Calif. Price-Fixing Suit

    For those who turn to bail bonds in California, the cost of getting oneself or a loved one out of prison while awaiting a court date can be steep, but a proposed class action now poised to move forward contends there’s more to those rates than honest market forces.

  • April 19, 2020

    Amid Pandemic, Hearings For Detained Migrant Kids Go On

    As federal courts close their doors during the coronavirus pandemic, immigration court proceedings for migrant children in government custody are moving forward. Attorneys told Law360 that continuing these hearings risks children's health and threatens due process.

  • April 19, 2020

    O'Melveny Helps Reunite Family Amid COVID-19 Fears

    When three young siblings found themselves detained 50 miles from their father's home in Maryland, with the government moving to deport them rather than reunite the family, it was the latest hardship in a journey fraught with danger.

  • April 13, 2020

    Judge Demands Info From Officials In Miami Jail Virus Suit

    A Florida federal judge said Monday that the criminal justice system must face new realities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic as she pressed Miami-Dade County for information she said will be essential in considering a proposed class action alleging inmates' constitutional rights are being violated by inadequate jail conditions.

  • April 12, 2020

    Vecina Founder On Helping Asylum-Seekers Remotely

    Lindsay Gray created Vecina to bring together pro bono attorneys and asylum-seekers. One of the organization’s key features — connecting attorneys with clients remotely — has taken on new importance in the age of COVID-19.

  • April 12, 2020

    'Not Our Best Days': The Fiscal Crisis Coming For Legal Aid

    Civil legal aid attorneys are scrambling to help low-income clients with problems like evictions and unemployment arising from COVID-19, but many of them worry the virus' economic effects are about to take a sizable bite out of their organizations' budgets.

  • April 12, 2020

    Can Law Enforcement Handle Scofflaws Amid A Pandemic?

    Fines of up to $5,000, felony charges for misdemeanor crimes and a woman incarcerated in a trailer behind the local jail: Despite efforts to maintain voluntary compliance with public health orders spurred by COVID-19, law enforcement is testing a range of tactics for scofflaws who endanger themselves and others.

  • April 09, 2020

    Calif. District Courts Want Speedy Trial Act Deadlines Paused

    California's Eastern and Central Districts have asked the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit to suspend Speedy Trial Act deadlines, arguing that their strained judicial resources won't allow them to comply in light of backlogs caused by the novel coronavirus.

  • April 09, 2020

    Mass. Judge Says Virus-Prone Detainees Meet Class Criteria

    A Massachusetts federal judge has certified a class of immigrant detainees seeking to be released from a county jail that allegedly lacks adequate protections against the coronavirus, saying that we are now in "a world brought to its knees by the pandemic."

  • April 05, 2020

    COVID-19 Makes 'Strange Bedfellows' Of LA Defenders, DAs

    When attorneys felt Los Angeles’ courthouses were slow to respond to the coronavirus threat, a set of frequent adversaries reached across the aisle. The public defenders’ and district attorneys’ unions jointly asked that courthouses shutter, saying they’d endangered lawyers and their clients.

  • April 05, 2020

    'No Release' Injunction In NY Could Be A Blueprint Elsewhere

    A court decision blocking the New York field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from using its so-called "no release" policy for certain people detained before a hearing is being hailed by immigrant advocates as a key victory that could set an important standard for other parts of the country.

  • April 05, 2020

    Simpson Thacher Helps Upend Calif. Murder Conviction

    Up to the moment last month when a judge told him he was a free man, Jeremy Puckett refused to believe freedom was a real possibility.

  • April 05, 2020

    New York's About-Face On Bail Reform Wins Few Fans

    Just three months after historic bail reforms took effect in New York, the state Legislature agreed last week to roll back some of the changes in an effort to placate fierce opposition from law enforcement and conservatives. But while many reform advocates aren’t pleased with the results, law enforcement isn’t cheering either.

  • April 03, 2020

    Judge Warns NYC Prisons To 'Do Better' On Attorney Access

    A Brooklyn federal judge on Friday chastised the Federal Bureau of Prisons for failing to provide New York City inmates adequate access to their attorneys during the coronavirus pandemic, giving the agency until Monday to explain why it wasn't allowing more phone calls.

  • April 02, 2020

    Fla. Judge Preps For Video Trial In Ex-Felon Voting Rights Suit

    A Florida federal judge is planning to press forward in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic with a bench trial in a battle over a requirement that ex-felons pay all fines and fees before being able to vote, despite concerns from the state about the video conference format.

  • April 01, 2020

    Prison Says It Tested Just 2 More Inmates Despite Virus Cases

    The Federal Bureau of Prisons alarmed inmates' counsel when it revealed to a New York federal judge on Wednesday that a Brooklyn federal prison had tested only two additional inmates — out of 1,700 — after five staff members and one prisoner were found to be infected with the coronavirus.

  • March 29, 2020

    Lynch Appt. Raises Hope For Atty Access Fix Amid Pandemic

    Even as the potential spread of COVID-19 in prisons and jails sets off alarm bells, New York advocates are hopeful that involvement by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch will lead to a quick resolution for people in detention at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center in a suit over attorney access.

Expert Analysis

  • High Court Ruling Highlights Double Jeopardy Complications

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    Although the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Gamble does not change the application of the double jeopardy clause as interpreted by federal courts, the decision reinforces the significant impact of dual prosecutions and the risks for corporate and individual defendants, say Laurel Gift and Randall Hsia of Schnader Harrison.

  • High Court's 'Separate Sovereigns' Ruling Is Good For Tribes

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    The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Gamble v. U.S. — reaffirming the so-called separate sovereigns doctrine — preserves tribal prosecutors' autonomy and ability to respond promptly to offenses without worrying about the legal repercussions on federal prosecutions, say Steven Gordon and Philip Baker-Shenk of Holland & Knight.

  • Border Phone Search Questions Continue In Federal Court

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    A Massachusetts federal court's eventual decision on cellphone searches at the U.S. border in Alasaad v. Nielsen will further illustrate the differences in how federal courts apply the U.S. Supreme Court's 2014 decision in Riley v. California to the warrant-requirement exception for border searches, says Sharon Barney at Leech Tishman.

  • US Misdemeanor System Should Honor Principles Of Justice

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    The U.S. misdemeanor system — which represents the vast majority of the country’s criminal system — is under-regulated, rarely scrutinized and rife with official rule-breaking. It's time we brought this enormous aspect of our democracy into the modern legal era, says Alexandra Natapoff of University of California, Irvine School of Law.

  • Does Multidistrict Litigation Deny Plaintiffs Due Process?

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    Judges in multidistrict litigation consistently appoint lead plaintiffs lawyers based on their experience, war chests and ability to get along with everyone. But evidence suggests that these repeat players often make deals riddled with self-interest and provisions that goad plaintiffs into settling, says Elizabeth Chamblee Burch of the University of Georgia School of Law.

  • NLRB Case Hinders Workers' Path To Justice

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    A little-noticed National Labor Relations Board filing has taken the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 class action waiver decision and turned it into a justification for further limiting workers’ access to courts, says Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

  • Immigration Enforcement Under Trump Neglects Rule Of Law

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    What President Donald Trump and his administration have described as a “humanitarian crisis” at the U.S. southern border is, in reality, a Trump-exacerbated crisis — which demands real solutions, not incendiary rhetoric, cruelty and lawlessness, says David Leopold of Ulmer & Berne.

  • Calif. Lawmakers Should Stay Out Of USC Sex Abuse Case

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    A pending settlement between the University of Southern California and 17,000 former students would resolve claims over the actions of a sexually abusive gynecologist. But proposed state legislation could undermine the settlement, says Shook Hardy partner Phil Goldberg, director of the Progressive Policy Institute’s Center for Civil Justice.

  • Utah's Online Dispute Platform Is Streamlining Small Claims

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    By making small claims litigation cheaper, faster and more convenient, especially for those facing difficulty appearing in court due to work schedules or geographic distances, an online pilot program in Utah is resolving cases that would otherwise go unfiled — or defaulted upon, says Martin Pritikin, dean of Concord Law School at Purdue University Global.

  • The First Step Act Is A Major Step For Sentencing Reform

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    While many have heralded the First Step Act as an example of bipartisan cooperation, the mainstream press has said surprisingly little about the law's specific sentencing improvements — many stemming from recommendations made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, says Judge Patti Saris, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

  • How To Improve Jurors' Perceptions Of Legal Outcomes

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    When practitioners use methods to emphasize procedural fairness during jury selection, they can engender more faith in the justice system among potential jurors — which can extend beyond trial, says Natalie Gordon of trial consulting firm DOAR.

  • The Role Of Data In An Access To Justice Movement

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    To change the system, we need the wider community to see beyond personal stories of injustice to the “complete picture” of the lack of access to civil justice. Collecting data, indexing it and making it comprehensible is a key part of painting that picture, say James Gamble and Amy Widman of Fordham Law School's National Center for Access to Justice.

  • Changing The Conversation On Bail Reform

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    Instead of looking at “bail reform” as a choice of bail or no bail, we need to focus on reforming four major aspects of the criminal justice process that lead up to the point of bond determination, says Wilford Pinkney of FUSE Fellows.

  • The Criminal Justice System's Algorithms Need Transparency

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    Trade secret protections for pretrial risk assessment algorithms must be eliminated, or else criminal defendants will be unable to challenge or even examine the data being used to keep them incarcerated, says Idaho state Rep. Greg Chaney, whose bill forcing algorithmic transparency recently passed the Idaho Legislature.

  • How Do We Know If Prosecutors Are Doing A Good Job?

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    From Special Counsel Robert Mueller to Chicago prosecutor Kim Foxx, prosecutors are receiving plenty of negative attention in the news, but there is no clear standard for judging prosecutor performance, says Jeffrey Bellin, a professor at William & Mary Law School.

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