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Berthiaume v. Smith Summary

The National Association for Public Defense (“NAPD”), in conjunction with the ACLU of Florida and Lambda Legal, recently played an instrumental role as amici curiae in protecting and advancing the rights of the LGBT community.
The National Association for Public Defense (“NAPD”), in conjunction with the ACLU of Florida and Lambda Legal, recently played an instrumental role as amici curiae in protecting and advancing the rights of the LGBT community.

In Berthiaume v. Smith, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that jury members may be questioned during voir dire regarding latent bias predicated on sexual orientation.   Relying on its decision in United States v. Bates and the United States Supreme Court's decision in Rosales-Lopez v. United States, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that, where matters of sexual orientation are “inextricably bound up” with the facts of the case, LGBT litigants are entitled to constitutional protections against jury bias.  

In so holding, Eleventh Circuit found that “the risk that latent, undiscovered prejudices may have influenced the jury's verdict” was “substantial.” Furthermore, the Court emphasized that “general inquiries regarding the jurors' ability to be impartial,” coupled with the trial court's instruction “that jurors not be prejudiced against witnesses based on the witnesses' backgrounds” failed to sufficiently apply the Rosales-Lopez and Bates standards. For these reasons, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the trial court's decision a remanded the case for a new trial.  In response to the decision, D'Arcy Kemnitz, the executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, stated that “LGBT individuals facing trial have the same right to jury of their peers, free from prejudice, as every other American.”

The Eleventh Circuit's decision and reasoning reflects the arguments presented by the NAPD in its amicus brief, which emphasized the critical role of voir dire in preserving the constitutional right of stigmatized and marginalized groups to a fair and impartial jury trial. As D'Arcy Kemnitz explained, “[n]o one should ever face a jury filled with potential animus, and it is time that members of the judiciary recognize sexual orientation and gender identity as legitimate classes in need of protection.” In the Eleventh Circuit, that time has arrived.

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NAPD News

December 15, 2018: Registration is now open for NAPD's Spring Events:
  • Executive Leadership Insitute (Frankfort, KY)
  • Train the Trainer (Frankfort, KY)
  • "We the Defenders" Investigators Conference (Biloxi, MS)
  • "We the Defenders" Social Workers/Sentencing AdvocatesConference (Biloxi, MS)
  • Team Mitigation Institute (Atlanta, GA)
Click on Events Tab for more info and to register.
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October 30, 2018: NAPD releases a video about its achievements over the 5 years since forming in November in 2013. This films was coordinated by NAPD Steering Committee Member and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and debuted at the Racial Justice Training and 5 Year Celebration in Baltimore, Maryland. You can watch the video HERE

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July 1, 2018: General Registration opens for the “WE THE DEFENDERS” TRAINING CONFERENCE,  November 26-29, 2018, Indianapolis, IN

You can watch a video about the event HERE 

Due to overwhelming demand, NAPD will again offer this comprehensive Investigator and Social Worker/Sentencing Advocate training experience! The program will include one track for Investigators and a separate track for Social Worker/Sentencing Advocates.  Hear from nationally recognized experts who will share their knowledge on a wide range of topics relevant to the work you do each and every day.  Network with other criminal defense practitioners from around the country and find your tribe. 
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January 23, 2018: In response to US Attorney General Jeff Session's reversal of prior policy on the imposition of fines and fees for criminal defendants, NAPD submitted the following letter on behalf of the public defender community. You can read the letter HERE
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