Other Important Criminal Law Issues
The Center also files briefs addressing other important criminal law issues. Such cases have included:
- Angelos v. United States -- United States District Court for the District of Utah -- The Center filed an amicus brief in this case emphasizing the particular importance of policing ineffective assistance of counsel at the plea bargaining stage -- particularly where the defendant faces multiple consecutive mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment, imposed in significant part at the discretion of the Executive -- given that prosecutorial discretion and power is at its zenith during plea bargaining and most criminal cases are disposed of by plea and not by trial. This amicus brief was filed in partnership with the law firm Jenner & Block.
- Camreta v. Greene -- Supreme Court of the United States -- The Center filed an amicus brief in support of government officials this case arguing that the public school and state child services officials do not violate a minor school child's Fourth Amendment rights by conducting an interview of the child predicated on reasonable objective indicia of abuse, even where the interview includes passive participation by law enforcement. This amicus brief was filed in partnership with the law firm Skadden, Aarps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. The case was argued on March 1, 2011. On May 26, 2011, the Supreme Court vacated the lower court opinion due to mootness.
- United States v. Ghailani -- United States District Court for the Southern District of New York -- In this case, the defendant was indicted for conspiring with al-Qaeda and murdering 224 people by bombing the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in simultaneous strikes on August 7, 1998. The Center filed an amicus brief in support of the United States, in opposition to the defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment due to alleged speedy trial violations. The Center's brief argued that the speedy trial clock does not run against criminal prosecutors when another agency detains a defendant for a purpose other than criminal prosecution. The brief further argued that a contrary rule would force the Executive Branch to choose between foregoing developing potentially vital intelligence information and bringing suspected terrorists to justice, or alternatively would incentivize the Executive to try suspected terrorists in less rights-protective military commission proceedings. This amicus brief was filed in partnership with the law firm Munger Tolles & Olson LLP. The motion was argued on January 11, 2010. On July 12, 2010, the District Court sided with the Center and ruled for the government.
- United States v. Gupta -- United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (en banc)-- The Center filed an amicus brief in support of the appellant-defendant, arguing that the Second Circuit's "triviality exception" -- under which the court evaluates whether an error that the Supreme Court has categorized as "structural" merits reversal based on whether the violation is "trivial" or not -- violates the structural error doctrine. On December 14, 2011, by invitation of the court, the Center presented oral argument in the case before the entire Second Circuit, sitting en banc.
- Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project -- Supreme Court of the United States -- The Center filed an amicus brief in support of the government in this case, which raises the issue of whether the federal statute criminalizing the provision of material support to foreign terrorist organizations is unconstitutionally vague. The Center's brief emphasized the essential nature of the statute to prevent terrorism and chronicled the availability of various safeguards in federal criminal practice to protect defendants' First Amendment rights in such prosecutions. This amicus brief was filed in partnership with the law firm Skadden, Aarps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom LLP. The case was argued on February 23, 2010, and on June 21, 2010, the Court sided with the Center and ruled for the government.
- United States v. Jones -- Supreme Court of the United States -- The Center filed an amicus brief in support of the government in this case, which raises the issue of Whether the Fourth Amendment requires the police to obtain a warrant before placing a GPS tracking device on a person’s car. The Center's brief argued that it does not, and that using a GPS device advances important law enforcement interests without unduly infringing upon privacy rights. This amicus brief was filed in partnership with the law firm Skadden, Aarps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom LLP. The case was argued on November 8, 2001, and on January 23, 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed.
- Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper-- Supreme Court of the United States -- The Center filed an amicus brief in support of respondents in these joined cases. The cases involve the effect of ineffective assistance of counsel in the plea bargaining stage where counsel inadequately advised the defendants of the consequences of a plea offer and the defendants later were convicted at trial and sentenced more harshly than they would have been had they accepted the earlier plea offer. The Center's brief argued that the Sixth Amendment requires effective assistance of counsel during plea negotiations in order to maintain confidence in the plea process and its outcomes, and because the legitimacy of plea bargaining has historically depended on effective assistance of counsel to address the imbalance of power between prosecutors and defendants. The amicus brief was filed in partnership with the law firm Latham & Watkins. The case was argued on October 31, 2011. On March 21, 2012, the Court held in Frye and Lafler that the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of effective defense counsel extends to plea bargaining. The Court's majority opinion in Frye cited and quoted the Faculty Director's article, "Separation of Powers and the Criminal Law," 58 Stanford Law Review 989 (2006), and the Center's amicus brief, and relied extensively on the Center's research in reaching its decision.
- Reid v. United States -- Supreme Court of the United States -- This case presents the issue of whether the Confrontation Clause is violated when a defendant is completely precluded from cross-examining an adverse government witness regarding the mandatory minimum sentence the witness would have faced absent his cooperation with the government. This amicus brief in support of a petition for a writ of certiorari was filed in partnership with the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP. On May 18, 2009, the Court denied certiorari.
- Stinn v. United States -- Supreme Court of the United States -- The Center filed an amicus brief in support of a petition for a writ of certiorari arguing that jury unanimity is compromised when a judge issues an Allen charge after the identity of a lone holdout juror has been revealed and then subsequently removes that juror when the context suggests that her removal was based, at least in part, on her position during deliberations. This amicus brief was filed in partnership with the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. On November 29, 2010, the Court denied certiorari.
- United States v. Williams -- United States Circuit Court for the Second Circuit -- The Center submitted an amicus brief in support of the government. The Center's brief argued that prior circuit precedent incorrectly interprets the Supreme Court's decisions in the two-stage interrogation context, and that this misinterpretation has adverse consequences in the national security context. On May 17, 2012, the Court agreed with the Center and reversed, ruling for the government.
- Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York -- Court of Appeals, State of New York -- This case involves alleged systemic failures in the provision of defense services to the indigent in five New York counties, including the failure to provide defense counsel during critical stages of defendants’ criminal proceedings and the failure to train and supervise counsel that are provided. The Brennan Center, in partnership with the law firm Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP, filed this amicus brief in support of the plaintiff-appellants on behalf of 62 former New York prosecutors, including the Center's Executive Director as well as former Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, former District Attorney Joseph Jaffe, and former United States Attorneys Zachary Carter, Robert B. Fiske, Jr., John S. Martin, and Otto G. Obermaier. On May 6, 2010, the Court ruled for the plaintiff-appellants.