Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Justice Reform Update

Senate, House Bills Advance Despite Law-Enforcement Pushback


By Derek Gilna


            Only good news came out of the “mark-up” session on the Senate bill for prisoner relief, after it was approved as expected by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Those opposing the bill, such as Republican Presidential Candidate and Texas (where else!) Senator Ted Cruz, (who took time out from trying to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood), complained about the fact that approximately 13,000 additional federal prisoners will be released in the next year. Former federal prosecutor Senator Ted Sessions also opposed any reductions (Surprise, surprise!).

            However, these actions were expected by the bill’s sponsors, and easily turned aside. Senators Grassley and Durbin and their allies supporting the bill are fully prepared to beat back the delaying tactics usually used to oppose these measures.  The leadership of both parties stands firmly behind the bill and I am still expecting passage sooner rather than later.  There is no question that President Obama will sign the legislation when it hits his desk.

            We know that the bill still does not go far enough, and has little to say about white-collar prisoners, but a new coalition is banding together to propose the next generation of reform after the Senate and House bills pass. These proposals are the next logical step in this process, and would drastically reduce the number of people coming into the system. More attention will also be paid to bills already introduced to give the currently confined a pathway to earlier release by programming and “good behavior.” Other advocates are proposing legislation to limit the immunity of prosecutors who violate discovery rules and commit other misconduct, as advocated by some federal appellate court judges.  There is a lot making its way through the pipeline.

            For those of you not wanting to wait for legislative relief, the roadmap for relief is clear given existing case law and some exciting cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.  We would be happy to help you explore your options.


Federal Legal Center, Inc.

Derek A. Gilna, JD, Director

113 McHenry Rd. #173

Buffalo Grove, IL  60089

(847) 878-0160

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Criminal Justice Reform Moves Ahead in DC

Don’t Question Grassley’s Clout in the BOP/House Bill Summary


By Derek Gilna


            As a native Chicagoan, I know a little bit about “clout,” that use of power to get what you want done, no matter who gets in the way or whose feelings get hurt.  The BOP found out what clout means when they ran afoul of Senator Charles Grassley in peremptorily banning pork from BOP menus.  The BOP claimed that a “survey” of prisoners found that they wanted pork off the menu. (Next they’ll be surveying prisoners over what sort of ‘imitation’ coffee they would prefer.)

            You will recall that Grassley is one of the co-sponsors of the new prisoner relief bill introduced recently, and as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee has a lot to say about the subject and how the BOP runs its operation. That kind of clout bodes well for some sort of relief coming out of the Senate.      

            What about the House?  The House bill also has some powerful co-sponsors, and does resemble the Senate bill.  It would also eliminate mandatory life sentences for three-time, nonviolent offenders, reducing minimum sentence to 25 years. It would also have retro effect, except for offenders who have prior serious violent felony conviction that resulted in a prison sentence of greater than 13 months.  It would also apply the FSA retroactively to several classes of prisoners.  Although I would have liked to see more in this bill, it’s a start, and an important one.

            Sentence relief comes in bits and pieces, because politics is important, and even in the current more favorable climate for relief, no one wants to get too far out in front of the parade.  You can count on parts of the DOJ to drag their feet, but the DOJ has no votes in either the Senate or House, and legislators are anxious to show the public that can cooperate on something.

            How may we help you? 


Federal Legal Center, Inc

Derek Gilna, Director

113 McHenry Rd., #173

Buffalo Grove, IL 60089