Two weeks ago, the NAPD Amicus committee filed its 30th amicus brief since forming in the summer of 2014. That brief, U.S. v Byrd, was filed in the 3rd Circuit and addressed this issue: Did the District Court err in concluding that: (1) the police had sufficient grounds to stop Appellant because he drove in the passing lane at or below the speed limit for two tenths of a mile while passing a tractor trailer; (2) the police had a sufficient basis to prolong the roadside detention of him while ostensibly verifying his identity; and (3) the police could search the vehicle because he did not have standing to object? The brief was authored pro bono by Lochlan Shelfer, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.
Just days before that brief was filed, NAPD filed in the 5th Judicial District Court of Appeals, in the case New Mexico v. Lopez, asking the question: does systemic funding of the public defense function violate the right to counsel? NAPD’s own Glover Wright (a public defender for the Shelby County Public Defender in Memphis, TN) authored that brief.
In April, NAPD weighed in in the southern district of New York on this issue: Should defendants be held in contempt for violating court order proscribing presence and use of video cameras in Staten Island jail attorney-client conference rooms due to unconstitutional invasion of attorney-client communication and relationship? Thanks to Umer Ali, Hillary Klein and Brenna Rabinowitx, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP for their work on that brief.
In March, it filed on an issue out of Kentucky: Can defense counsel describe complaining witness as a liar in opening statement, where that description is the essence of the defense? Daniel J. Canon, Clay Daniel Walton & Adams & University of Louisville Cert Clinic authored the NAPD brief, and we appreciate NACDL and KACDL for joining our position.
Anne Geraghty Helms & Lawrence A. Wojcik of DLA Piper LLC (based in Chicago) were lead authors of the February amicus brief defending Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli in People of Illinois v. Amy Campanelli, arising out of the court’s denial of conflict of interest petitions from the public defender.
These are just a few of the vitally important issues that NAPD has taken action on, and only identifies a few of our MANY pro bono law firms, law school clinic and private authors who have helped make it possible.
Filing 30 amicus briefs in less than 3 years would be a stunning achievement in and of itself. But consider that this was done by a committee of public defenders, all with full-time (plus) work already!! The issues need to thoroughly analyzed, position taken, authors cultivated and recruited, work product reviewed, co-amici invited, filing fees raised, brief filed, and then recapitulated and tracked. All on a usually very tight filing deadline. Sometimes there’s even press coverage and media needs! Phew!
As a staff member at NAPD, I provide very limited administrative support for this effort, so credit fully goes to the committee members themselves, for mustering energy and making time for these contributions. Additionally, I must acknowledge the incredible work of the Amicus Committee leadership, and of the NAPD Bearcat Student Chapter at the University of Cincinnati Law School who perform a variety of substantive tasks to make this high quality work possible..
It has been very gratifying to watch public defenders from around the country reach out to NAPD for amicus support. As a member-led movement of public defense professionals, we are so proud to help our colleagues in this way, and to bring great writing and zealously progressive positions on the right to counsel to issues both national and local, in big offices and small offices, all across the country.
I encourage you to check out the Amicus Committee page on the NAPD website, which archives all filings (with links to the brief, and outcomes) and will introduce you to this impressive committee:
Check back often, as the Amicus Committee never rests – another brief is scheduled for filing in just a little bit!