Dean v. US: Judges can consider the mandatory minimum sentence a defendant will serve under Sec. 924(c) in deciding sentence for predicate conviction

“Whether the sentence for the predicate offense is one day or one decade, a district court does not violate the terms of Sec. 924(c) so long as it imposes the mandatory minimum ‘in addition to' the sentence for the violent or drug trafficking crime,” the Court held.

Moore v. Texas: Courts must use current medical standards in determining intellectual disability under Atkins

Courts reviewing whether a death-sentenced defendant is intellectually disabled under Atkins must use current medical standards in considering the claim, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled March 28 in Moore v. Texas.

Beckles v. United States: Federal sentencing guidelines are not subject to due process vagueness challenges

The federal sentencing guidelines are not subject to vagueness challenges under the Due Process Clause, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled March 6 in Beckles v. United States. This is because the Guidelines do not fix the permissible range of sentences, but merely guide the exercise of a court's discretion in choosing an appropriate sentence.

Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado SCOTUS Summary

&‹Rules against impeachment of verdicts must give way to evidence that a verdict was based on racial animus, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled March 6. In Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, the Court ruled that a trial judge must consider evidence from jurors who came forward after trial to tell defense counsel that another juror had made statements during deliberations showing that racial bias was a motiving factor in his vote.

Buck v. Davis: Supreme Court condemns racially based testimony as factor in imposing death sentence; explains standard to use in deciding certificates of appealability

The U.S. Supreme Court February 22 strongly condemned use of racially based testimony as a factor in assessing a death sentence. In Buck v. Davis, the Court held that a death penalty counsel was ineffective in calling an expert who testified that the defendant's race made him statistically more likely to be dangerous in the future, even though the expert's principal testimony was that the particular defendant probably would not be dangerous.

Supreme Court cautions lower courts against expanding qualified immunity

“Clearly established law” for qualified immunity purposes cannot be defined at a “high level of generality,” but must be “particularized” to the facts of a case, the Court ruled.

Supreme Court Issues Decisions on Double Jeopardy, Bank Fraud, and Insider Trading

The U.S. Supreme Court issued three criminal opinions in November and December on double jeopardy, bank fraud, and insider trading. The cases are: Bravo-Fernandez v. United States, Shaw v. United States, and Salman v. United States. You can read recaps of these decisions in the blog post below. 

Voisine v. United States: Upholds Firearms Ban for Persons Convicted of DV Misdemeanors Involving Only Reckless Conduct

People convicted of misdemeanor crimes involving use of physical force against a domestic relation cannot possess firearms or ammunition, even when the offense they were convicted of involves only reckless conduct, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 27.

Mathis v. United States: Re Warrantless Breath Tests

The Armed Career Criminal Act compares only “elements” of offenses to determine whether a prior conviction qualifies for an enhanced sentence, even when the state law at issue lists alternative means of satisfying one or more elements, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 23 in Mathis v. United States. But with five justices questioning the result, either in whole or part, the decision will not be the last word on interpreting ACCA.  

Birchfield v. North Dakota: A SCOTUS Summary

States can criminalize refusal to take a breath test without a warrant after an arrest for drunk driving, because a breath test is categorically a search incident to arrest, the U.S. Supreme Court held June 23 in Birchfield v. North Dakota. But States cannot criminalize refusal to submit to a blood test without a warrant, due to the blood test's more intrusive nature, the Court held. Two Justices dissented from the Court's ruling regarding breath tests. 



April 16, 2017: 60 Minutes' Anderson Cooper features the Orleans Public Defenders and NAPD General Counsel in a substantive segment about public defenders' excessive workloads, pervasive injustice, and the obligation of defenders to resist the "conveyer belt" of mass-incarceration. You can watch the compelling segment HERE 

On March 18, 2017 - the 54th anniversary of the Gideon v. Wainright decision - NAPD published its Foundational Principleswhich are recommended to NAPD members and other persons and organizations interested in advancing the cause of equal justice for accused persons.  


On March 2, 2017, NAPD released its Statement on Reducing Demand For Public Defense: Alternatives to Traditional Prosecution Can Reduce Defender Workload, Save Money, and Reduce RecidivismThere are more than 2 million people in jail and prison in the United States. This is a four-fold increase since 1980. This increase and the racial disproportionality among incarcerated people has led to alliances across the political spectrum to address the impact on people and on budgets.  As the new Coalition for Public Safety has put it, “Our country has an ‘overcriminalization’ problem and an ‘overincarceration’ problem — and it’s getting worse." NAPD authored this statement because there is a great opportunity to make transformative changes that can improve justice and save money.  A variety of organizations representing a wide spectrum of political views have joined together to end the systematic problem of overcriminalization and narrow the net of incarceration by reforming criminal codes.