US AG William P. Barr Announces the Establishment of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice

Today, Attorney General William P. Barr announced the establishment of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. On Oct. 28, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order No. 13896, authorizing and designating the Attorney General to create such a Commission that would explore modern issues affecting law enforcement that most impact the ability of American policing to reduce crime.

“There is no more noble and important profession than law enforcement.  A free and safe society requires a trusted and capable police force to safeguard our rights to life and liberty,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.  “But as criminal threats and social conditions have changed the responsibilities and roles of police officers, there is a need for a modern study of how law enforcement can best protect and serve American communities.  This is why the President instructed me to establish this critical Commission, whose members truly reflect the best there is in law enforcement.  Together, we will examine, discuss, and debate how justice is administered in the United States and uncover opportunities for progress, improvement, and innovation.”

The Executive Order instructs the Commission to conduct its study by focusing on the law enforcement officers who are tasked with reducing crime on a daily basis.  It also directs the Commission to research “important current issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” and recommends a variety of subjects for study, such as, but not limited to:

The challenges to law enforcement associated with mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse, and other social factors that influence crime and strain criminal justice resources;
The recruitment, hiring, training, and retention of law enforcement officers, including in rural and tribal communities;
Refusals by Stat​​e and local prosecutors to enforce laws or prosecute categories of crimes;
The need to promote public confidence and respect for the law and law enforcement officers; and
The effects of technological innovations on law enforcement and the criminal justice system, including the challenges and opportunities presented by such innovations.

The Commission will principally conduct its study through a series of hearings, panel presentations, field visits, and other public meetings.  At these events, the Commission will hear from subject matter experts, public officials, private citizens, and other relevant stakeholders and institutions who can provide valuable insight into these issues.

The Commissioners, appointed by the Attorney General and announced today, are urban police chiefs, state prosecutors, county sheriffs, members of rural law enforcement, federal agents, U.S. Attorneys, and a state attorney general.  In addition to their diverse experiences and backgrounds, each member brings to the Commission an expertise in formulating and shaping law enforcement policy and leading police departments and law enforcement organizations.

Commissioners on the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice include:

Chair: Phil Keith, Director, Community Oriented Policing Services
Vice-Chair: Katharine Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs
David Bowdich, Deputy Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Donald Washington, Director, United States Marshals Services
Regina Lombardo, Acting Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives
Erica Macdonald, United States Attorney, District Of Minnesota
D. Christopher Evans, Chief of Operations, Drug Enforcement Administration
James Clemmons, Sheriff, Richmond County, North Carolina
Frederick Frazier, City Council, McKinney, Texas/ Police Officer, Dallas Police Department
Robert Gualtieri, Sheriff, Pinellas County, Florida
Gina Hawkins, Chief of Police, Fayetteville, North Carolina
Ashley Moody, Florida Attorney General
Nancy Parr, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Chesapeake, Virginia
Craig Price, South Dakota Secretary of Public Safety
Gordon Ramsay, Chief of Police, Wichita, Kansas
David B. Rausch, Director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
John Samaniego, Sheriff, Shelby County, Alabama
James Smallwood, Police Officer, Nashville Metropolitan Police Department

The Commission will meet monthly for the next year and then report its findings to the Attorney General, who will submit a final report to the President.

Chief justice: Missouri public defenders need more funding

For several years officials with the Missouri State Public Defender System have said they need more funds to hire more lawyers. The head of the Missouri Supreme Court announced his support for that cause Wednesday.

During the annual State of the Judiciary address, given to a joint session of the Missouri Legislature, Chief Justice George Draper III talked about how many of the lawyers he faced when he served as a prosecutor were public defenders.

“Speaking from the perspective of both a former prosecutor and a former trial judge, I can tell you the system simply does not work without a sufficiently funded and staffed public defender system,” Draper said.

Missouri’s public defender system began in 1972 as the state’s response to a 1965 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found the federal Constitution’s 6th Amendment right to counsel includes poor people who can’t afford their own attorney.

In Missouri, the public defe​​nder’s office is appointed to a criminal case only when there’s a possibility of a jail or prison sentence and the defendant can’t pay to hire a lawyer. Historically, the system’s attorneys have had a large caseload and constant turnover.

Document: Missouri State of the Judiciary 2020 VIEW DOCUMENT

“To be sure, all attorneys in public service work long, hard hours, and many are underpaid and under-recognized,” Draper said. “However, if criminal cases cannot be moved efficiently through the system because of overloaded attorneys, we risk leaving those who are guilty on the street, those who are not guilty unable to return to being productive members of society, and victims and their families powerless to find closure and move forward with their lives.”

During a December meeting with Cole County judges, Justin Carver, who heads the local public defender office serving Cole, Miller and Moniteau counties, told judges there was a wait list of nearly 340 cases. Of that number, nearly 200 were from Cole County.

Carver noted the oldest case dated back to June. He said the majority on the wait list are cases where the defendant is not being held in custody. They look for the oldest cases of those in custody as the ones to deal with first on the wait list.

Carver is authorized to have seven assistant public defenders.

One way to help relieve the caseloads for public defenders and the courts has been the use of alternative courts. In Wednesday’s address, Draper noted Missouri now has more than 100 counties served by more than 120 treatment courts — adult, juvenile, family and DWI courts.

“Because of House Bill 547, which you also passed last year, we will have treatment courts established in every circuit in the state by August 2021,” Draper told legislators Wednesday.

Cole County has Drug Court, DWI court and Veterans Court. Prosecutor Locke Thompson said they are trying to develop another alternative court in the future.

Draper also asked lawmakers to continue efforts to increase the pay of the 3,600 people who work in the state court system.

“We simply cannot ask these people — who reside in your communities and work in our court system — to live below the value of their service,” Draper said. “On their behalf, we thank you for your appropriations over the past few years of salary increases to bring our lowest-paid staff to at least the base of where our classification and compensation study shows they should be. However, if we want to retain the good employees we have and be able to recruit high-quality workers as positions become open, we need to move our staff toward market salary goals.”

 


By Jeff Haldiman | News Tribune

Missouri Lawmakers Push Long Prison Sentences for Fentanyl

Missouri lawmakers have moved to enact strict penalties for people caught with the highly lethal opioid fentanyl.

The House gave the bill initial approval in a voice vote.

If passed, the bill would add fentanyl and two substances sometimes used to commit rape to Missouri’s drug laws.

Fentanyl is already federally listed as a controlled substance. Republican bill sponsor Rep. Nick Schroer said banning its misuse under state law will give local prosecutors more tools to convict people who sell the deadly opioid.

Under the bill, selling or trying to sell more than 10 milligrams of fentanyl would be punishable by five to 15 years in prison. Those convicted of trying to sell 20 milligrams or more of the drug would face 10 to 30 years in prison.

Possessing or trying to buy more than 10 milligrams of fentanyl would mean up to seven years in prison or five to 15 years behind bars for 20 milligrams or more.

Bipartisan critics questioned whether long prison sentences would be effective in deterring drug sales and fighting the opioid epidemic.

St. Louis Democratic Rep. Peter Merideth raised concerns that the law could mean lifelong prison sentences for people struggling with addiction.

 


By Associated Press | Missouri Lawyers Weekly molawyersmedia.com