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June 12, 2013

Bipartisan House Overcriminalization Task Force schedules first hearing for June 14

I learned via this NACDL press release that Representative Jim Sensenbrenner Chairman Sensenbrenner has scheduled the first hearing of the Overcriminalization Task Force for this Friday, June 14, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. at 2237 Rayburn House Office Building." Here is more background and details via the release:

On May 7, 2013, The House Committee on the Judiciary voted unanimously to create the “Overcriminalization Task Force of 2013.”  At a press briefing that day, Judiciary Committee and Overcriminalization Task Force leaders expressed agreement on the need to address several important issues, including the erosion of the mens rea (or criminal intent) requirement in federal criminal law, the often unnecessary duplication of state law in the federal code, overincarceration, and the explosion of regulatory offenses that some estimate may now number as high as 300,000, among other issues.  Members also expressed the need to address mandatory minimum sentences.

According to Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), “The task force will be authorized for six months and will be led by Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner and Ranking Member Bobby Scott.” It will “conduct hearings and investigations and issue a report on overcriminalization in the federal code, as well as possible solutions.”  The task force is made up of five Democrats and five Republicans, and will include Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) and Chairman Goodlatte as ex-officio members....

The topic of this first hearing is “Defining the Problem and Scope of Overcriminalization and Overfederalization.” [And here are the scheduled witnesses:]

Mr. Steven D. Benjamin, President, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Mr. John Malcolm, Rule of Law Programs Policy Director, The Heritage Foundation

Mr. William N. Shepherd, Chair, Criminal Justice Section, American Bar Association

The Honorable George Terwilliger, III, Partner, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

A webcast of the hearing as well as the written testimony of the witnesses will be made available [at this link].

June 12, 2013 at 03:54 PM | Permalink


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Wow! Terrific news.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Jun 12, 2013 4:44:35 PM

At last we are going to get beyond soundbites to the "truth in sentencing."

Posted by: George | Jun 12, 2013 8:59:16 PM

I strongly urge the criminalization of rent seeking by over-criminalization. It is a form of armed robbery, practiced by both parties. Arrests are warranted all around.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 13, 2013 2:46:49 AM

Daubert applies to expert testimony. Expert testimony sets the standard of practice for a very narrow technical procedure.

Daubert standards should apply to all rule making. These set the standards of practice for much broader conduct, that affects many more people than expert testimony.

Any rule failing to meet Daubert standards should be presumptively void, not voidable, with all burdens on the lawyer seeking to enforce it. If it fails to meet this standard, it is rent seeking, a form of armed robbery, and in bad faith. All legal costs should be assessed to the personal assets, not the government of the prosecutor.

End all tort immunities of prosecutors, legislators, judges, juries. They are an abomination ad immoral. Although, their enforcement activities are harmful per se, are limited to punishment only, and qualify for strict liability, we do not want to put them out of business. They should have to meet professional standards of due care.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 13, 2013 6:01:47 AM

/\ Retrial set to begin for parolee charged in 2011 homicide | Wichita .../\
www.kansas.com/2013/06/10/.../ the retrial of a man charged
with strangling a Wichita woman in 2011 while on parole

{On this site} -- |"Texas jury gives repeat felon 50-year sentence for theft of ribs"| --
we read:
~-~ "Baby Back Bandit" will only be serving about 12 years in prison for sure, at which point he will be eligible for parole.
~-~ Ward rejected a 20-year prison sentence in a plea offer ... amounts to a hard five (5).

Find me an American who doesn't think this is a (bad) joke.
If the fix for it is "truth in sentencing", 'tis what the nation has long wanted, not earlier parole.

Posted by: Adamakis | Jun 13, 2013 8:47:53 AM

On the strength of what evidence, Adamakis, do you people (typically right-wing, tuff-on-crime conservatives) presume to speak on behalf of "what the nation has long wanted"?

As an accumulating mountain of evidence (much of it produced by credible, respected innocence-project groups, academicians and journalists) suggests, our conviction/incarceration system somewhat routinely rides roughshod over citizens' rights in a frenzied crusade to fill prisons while enhancing the careers/fortunes of cops, prosecutors and prison profiteers and their employees.

LE/incarceration has become one of the nation's six largest industries, and America reigns as the world's most prolific jailer. Moreover, LE authorities now appear to have the capacity --tens of thousands of vague/sweeping laws, armies of militarized cops, legions of conviction-at-any-cost prosecutors waived on by lazy/biased/legislatively neutered judges -- to convict virtually any citizen they choose to target.

Of course this brutal/reckless system has its cheerleaders. Among them are dithered torch-and-pitchfork zealots such as Rep. James (federal judge-shopping) Sensenbrenner Jr., and, apparently, Adamakis. Which is fine.

Folks of their inclination and sensibilities are entitled to their opinions. Yet presuming to speak for the masses (on the strength, in this instance, of a couple of anecdotal headlines) is simply absurd.

Posted by: JohnK | Jun 13, 2013 3:20:51 PM

John K --

If "the masses" are troubled by current prison realities, you might expect it to have shown up somewhere, anywhere, among the issues discussed in the last election, but it was nowhere in sight. I know the pro-crime crowd is all roiled up that we dare send anyone to the slammer, but the pro-crime crowd is not a majority.

BTW, while you understandably have a lot to say about imprisonment, you say not a word about crime. Are you happy crime has fallen by half in the last 20 years? Do you think that might have something to do with imprisoning more criminals?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 13, 2013 7:27:22 PM

Bill, most folks remain asleep on the issue of mass incarceration until that terrible day when their individual doors are kicked in and people they care about are sacrificed to the all-powerful conviction/incarceration system. Then they discover the system's a turkey shoot and they and their loved ones are the turkeys. Then they care. At the rate things are going I assume a critical mass will be reached someday and the masses will indeed rise in protest of a tyrannical system that's grown too powerful and too unaccountable.

I believe you and I agree more trials (fewer strong-arm "bargains") are the best hope for a justice system worthy of the name. I hope we can agree, too, that instances in which the feds plausibly threaten (through charge stacking/trial penalties) 30-year prison terms to coerce plea deals netting six-month home-detention sentences scream for reform to make the system at least minimally unfair if not actually fair or wise or just.

I didn't say I speak for the masses. I said Adamakis doesn't.

Sure I have something to say about crime.

1. It's as almost as awful when it happens to you or loved ones as what happens when thuggish LE folks come calling. I say almost as awful because those who survive criminal action at least have community sympathy and support. Innocent and wrongly accused citizens emerge from prison as social pariahs, barely employable outcasts and typically remain so for the rest of their lives.

2. There's at least a dozen plausible explanations for the crime rate's fall in recent decades -- more abortions after Roe v Wade...advances in psychotropic drugs and other mental health treatments...emergence/prevalence of violent PC games allowing young males to vent rage somewhat peacefully...the success of McGruff the Crime Dog's educational programs...EPA crackdowns on lead paint and subsequent reductions of lead-paint poisonings...increased use of unleaded gasoline reducing lead levels in the air and so on. If you want to throw mass incarceration in with everything else, OK. Yet Canada experienced an almost identical drop in crime rates without packing its prisons.

Though even if draconian incarceration policies help reduce crime rates to the extent you suggest, it's hardly a satisfying defense of such a system. After all, if overly harsh prison sentences do some good, imagine how much more could be accomplished through medieval torture practices...maiming...routine summary executions. It's simply bad form in a country that brags as much as we do about our reverence for justice.

Posted by: JohnK | Jun 14, 2013 2:38:34 PM

" There's at least a dozen plausible explanations for the crime rate's fall in recent decades -- "

...one that hasn't been mentioned - demographics. In the early to mid '60s more than half the population was under 25. The baby boom has grayed over the period in question. We now have drastically fewer people in the under-25 "more likely to commit violent crime" age group

Posted by: 8th Amendment | Jun 18, 2013 11:20:23 AM

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