John Balazs is an attorney in Sacramento, California, specializing in criminal defense, including appeals, habeas corpus, pardons, expungements, and civil forfeiture actions. After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1989, he clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. John was an Assistant Federal Defender in Fresno and Sacramento from 1992-2001. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in clinical trial advocacy at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. Please email EDCA items of interest to Balazslaw@gmail.com. Follow me on twitter @balazslaw.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. The law can change rapidly and information in this blog can become outdated. Do your own research or consult with an attorney.
In an increasingly common practice in the war-on-drugs in Northern California, the United States Attorneys in the Eastern and Northern Districts have been filing civil actions seeking to forfeit homes linked to marijuana grows even where no federal criminal charges are filed. (It's too early to tell if this practice will change under Obama's yet-to-be-selected U.S. Attorney). Often times home owners are unable to obtain the funds to hire an attorney to defend the forfeiture suit, especially if they had to go through the ordeal of fighting criminal marijuana charges in state court.
But a little known statute, 18 U.S.C. section 983(b)(2)(A), provides for the appointment of counsel through the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) if the claimant is indigent, requests an attorney, and the property is the claimant's primary residence. Download Sample LSC Appointment Order. Courts in the Eastern and Northern Districts of California have now appointed counsel in at least three such cases, see E.D. Ca. No. 08-CV-1113, E.D. Cal. 08-CV-1050, and N.D. Cal. No. 08-CV-3080, with a fourth application pending. I have been assisting LSC's Assistant General Counsel Mark Freedman in the appointment process and finding local attorneys willing to accept appointment. Attorney fees are paid at the CJA rate upon application to the court, win or lose. For more info on defending civil forfeitures, check out the Fear Foundation's excellent website, FEAR.org.
That's the best answer I ever got when I asked law students who were interviewing at the Federal Defender's Office why they wanted to be a public defender. With that lead-in, here's Judge Karlton's reasonable doubt instruction from a jury trial last year: Download LKK Reasonable Doubt Instruction. Doesn't the criticism of the Ninth Circuit's model reasonable doubt instruction in Stoltie v. California, 501 F.Supp.2d 1252 (C.D. Cal. 2007), op. adopted in large part and aff'd, 538 F.3d 1296 (9th Cir. 2008), as explained in my last post, Ripe For a Challenge, provide new ammunition in arguing that district courts should abandon the 9th's model instruction for one more like Judge Karlton's formulation?
The Sacramento Bee reports that Judge Mendez today imposed a 30-year sentence in a child porn case. The court reportedly not only went above the government's 27-year recommendation in this case, but reports are that he also broke a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) conditional plea agreement in a separate tree cutting case because he found the agreed-upon sentence to be too lenient.
Simply fill out and submit Download US Dist Court Applicationto Sen. Feinstein's office. Instructions on how to apply for this and other federal positions are available on Sen. Feinstein's website.Aren't there any criminal defense or civil rights attorneys who can pass the vetting process?
U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. scolded federal prosecutors in Sacramento for considering new charges against the defendants nearly two years after they first were arrested.
He told prosecutors they should take the case "to the top" of the new administration before deciding whether to keep prosecuting former Laotian GeneralVangPao, former U.S. Army officer Harrison Jack and nine other members of California's Hmong community.
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The judge's comments came after lead defense attorney John W. Keker said he will soon file a motion alleging government misconduct and asking for a review by new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
"We're hoping that an independent review by people who have the power to say 'Enough is enough' will prompt the government to drop the case," Keker said.
The Fresno Bee reports, Fresno Bee NewsBlogthat Fresno criminal defense attorney Tony Capozzi and Sacramento Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner are among the three finalist recommended to Sen. Feinstein for the EDCA's U.S. Attorney position.
Denny's front-page article in today's Sac Bee, $100 Million Alleged Mortgage Fraud, says the "largest mortgage fraud case in the history of the Sacramento region" is heating up now that the feds have captured two of the three defendants charged in the Loomis Wealth Solutions case. The third remains a fugitive. You can bet your mortgage that more defendants are on their way.
A status conference in the always colorful Neutrality Act prosecution, U.S. v. Harrison Jack, is set for Monday at 1:30 p.m. before Judge Damrell. Late Friday, Judge Drozd issued orders concerning four of the defendants' discovery motions. But no word on the "big" discovery motion requesting, among other things, documents concerning the prosecution of the Hmong by the Laotian government, CIA correspondence regarding this case, and documents relating to any U.S. covert military operations in Laos. There's a decent chance that Judge Drozd will issue a ruling before Monday afternoon status.
On the local side, Sac Bee reports that the Sacramento County District Attorney and Public Defender Offices expect layoffs will be necessary as they face deep budget cuts. Sacramento County Lawyer Layoffs Feared
Finally, good luck to AFD Tim Foley as he argues Monday before the Attorney General's Death Penalty Review Committee against authorization of the death penalty in his Montana federal capital prosecution.