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RECENT DEVELOPMENTS and AMICUS COMMITTEE UPDATES
LACDL Amicus Curiae Committee Guidelines
Except in exceptional circumstances, the Amicus Curiae Committee will only consider requests to appear in the Louisiana Supreme Court, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. The committee strongly recommends that persons seek amicus curiae assistance before a writ is sought so that the committee can deliberate as early as possible whether to authorize a brief if a writ is granted.
Requests for an amicus curiae appearance must be accompanied by a completed copy of the LACDL form, "Request for Amicus Curiae Appearance."
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A AMICUS APPEARANCE REQUEST FORM
The request must specify the date the writ application was filed or is to be filed (if you are in support of the granting of the writ) and the last day for filing your brief (if a writ has been granted).
Attach a copy of the most important appellate materials (e.g., briefs of the parties, decisions of the lower courts, writ application, writ grant) and any additional material or information requested by the Amicus Curiae Committee
All requests should be directed to the LACDL Amicus Curiae Committee:
By Email To: LACDL@tatmangroup.com
By Mail To:
P.O. Box 82531
Baton Rouge, LA 70884
Phone: 225-767-7640 Fax: 225-767-7648
The requesting party has a continuing responsibility to inform the Amicus Curiae Committee of developments in the case after the initial request is submitted.
Some of the specific limits and deadlines set by the courts are:
Lousiana Supreme Court
If a writ has been granted, the party seeking to file an amicus curiae brief must file its motion for leave and its brief within the time allowed for the filing of the brief of the party whose position amicus seeks to support. Rule VII, section 12.
In no event will an amicus curiae brief be accepted in support of a petition for rehearing.
United States 5th Circuit
The party seeking to appear as amicus curiae must file its motion for leave to file and its brief within seven days after the principal brief of the party it supports is filed. F.R.A.P. 29 (e).
Briefs Recently Filed By The
LACDL Amicus Curiae Committee
Supreme Court of the United States
Dustin Dressner v. LA
Click here for a copy of the Dressner Amicus Brief
April 26, 2011
Summary of Argument of Dustin Dressner v. LA.
Previously the LACDL provided this Court with an amicus brief in support of the petition for certiorari arising from the Batson claim in Snyder v. Louisiana, 552 U.S. 472 (2008). In that brief, amici sought to assist the Court by explaining the historical failure of Louisiana reviewing courts to identify and remedy racial discrimination in jury selection.
This Court granted certiorari in Snyder and ultimately granted relief, finding that the trial judge had committed clear error in denying Mr. Snyder's Batson challenge. This should have been a watershed moment in Louisiana jurisprudence as this Court's finding contrasted so markedly with the findings of the Louisiana Supreme Court which had twice found that not only was there not clear error but that it agreed with the trial court.
Unfortunately, this Court's opinion in Snyder has not served as a watershed in Louisiana's Batson jurisprudence and since the Snyder opinion, matters have become, if anything, worse.
In this brief amici updates the review of appellate practice in Louisiana by studying the cases decided since Snyder was announced. That review shows that no defendant has received relief under Batson, that there has been an apparent explosion in "reverse-Batson" rulings involving findings of discrimination against white jurors by defense lawyers, and that in the one case where Batson relief was temporarily granted by a Louisiana appellate court after Snyder, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the grant of relief without briefing or argument.
The review also demonstrates that the problems with Louisiana's Batson jurisprudence stretch much further than the number of denials. In the wake of Snyder, the Louisiana Supreme Court has developed a form of analysis in relation to statistical and historical evidence of discrimination at odds with this Court's holdings and fatal to the use of such evidence in Batson claims. Rather than encouraging increased and meaningful scrutiny in the Batson process following Snyder, the Louisiana Supreme Court has endorsed patently inadequate review and has elevated appellate deference to a point that renders review meaningless. Rather than Snyder opening the door to a more Batson friendly approach in Louisiana, it has seen an explosion of reverse-Batson cases.
From the outset, Louisiana has had trouble giving effect to the reach of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause to jury selection. The Louisiana Supreme Court has a regrettable history in this regard and unfortunately that history of recalcitrance appears to be repeating itself. This Court should grant certiorari to review the decision in this case and to finish the work it started in Snyder - the work of ensuring that Batson's prescription and this Court's holdings reach into Louisiana.
United States Court of Appeals
US v. Dalton Bennett
Click here for a copy of the Bennett Amicus Brief
Summary of Argument of US v. Bennett
In this brief, LACDL argued that there is a troubling disparity in federal court criminal cases in the Fifth Circuit when it comes to charges of discrimination in jury selection. Both the government and the defense are prohibited from discriminating against potential jurors on the basis of race, and both sides are held to the same standard when accused of using a peremptory strike against a juror in a discriminatory fashion: if a prima facie case of discrimination has been made, the party accused-either the government or the defense-has to provide race-neutral reasons for striking the juror, which the court can accept or can find is a mere pretext for discrimination. However, while the same rules apply to both sides, an exhaustive review of Fifth Circuit case law showed that courts nearly always find that the government's strikes were race- or gender-neutral, whereas they nearly always find that the defense's strikes were discriminatory.
In this case, Dalton Bennett sought to strike certain jurors based on characteristics that the Fifth Circuit has, in the past, found race-neutral when used as justifications by the government. Mr. Bennett sought to disqualify jurors based on the jurors' occupations, their family members' occupations, places of residence, socio-economic status, and dress/demeanor. All of these justifications have been accepted by the Fifth Circuit as race-neutral when offered by the government, but in this case Mr. Bennett's challenges were found to be pretexts for discrimination.
The same rules apply to both the government and criminal defendants in jury selection, and yet the available case law suggests that defendants are operating on an uneven playing field. In this brief, the LACDL asked the Fifth Circuit to correct this disparity.
Summary of Argument for Lee Roy Odenbaugh v. LA
This amicus brief argued that the ability-to-assist-counsel prong of the competency analysis should be applied more broadly to address situations involving paranoid and delusional clients unable to assist their attorneys in their defense. The inquiry into a defendant's competency to stand trial asks two questions: (1) "whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him," and (2) "whether he has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding," Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 402 (1960) (per curiam).This brief focused on the second prong of that analysis.
The record in the lower court evidenced that the defendant was a mentally ill man, who obsessively believed that his attorneys were wearing listening devices and that his jailers had secretly implanted a microchip in his brain. The Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers argued that the current practices surrounding sanity commissions and competency determinations do not sufficiently protect the constitutional rights of clients in Louisiana whose severe mental illness interferes with their ability to meaningfully confer with counsel. In Indiana v. Edwards, the United States Supreme Court embraced a more nuanced understanding of competency and mental illness. 554 U.S. 164, 175 (2008), which amici counsel argued should be followed by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Competency determinations should take into account the following issues: (1) defendants who may appear capable of understanding the legal process may nonetheless be incompetent to stand trial if they harbor delusions that prevent them from adequately assisting their counsel; (2) representations by defense counsel regarding a defendant's inability to assist in preparing his defense should be credited, not discounted; and (3) a defendant's ability to assist his counsel is not a mere medical question that can be answered by a sanity commission, but instead is a complex legal determination that must take into account how the sanity commission assessed the defendant's ability to assist his counsel, the type and complexity of the case, the experiences of defense counsel, the nature of the defendant's mental illness, and myriad other factors that may arise in particular cases.
Summary of Argument Dorsey v. LA
The Louisiana Supreme Court's opinion in the instant case - in which it held that a statistical showing that the prosecution exercised peremptory challenges against 71% of prospective African-American jurors while only exercising peremptory challenges against 22% of prospective white jurors was not sufficient to make a prima facie showing of discrimination under Batson - is but the latest sad chapter in a long history of racial discrimination in jury selection in Louisiana.
LACDL and its membership have invested a great deal of effort in identifying, documenting and increasing awareness of the continuing effects of racial discrimination and the use of racial stereotypes in jury selection in Louisiana. Those efforts have included empirical research in racial hot spots like Caddo Parish - where the trial in the instant case took place - and Jefferson Parish. The research shows that on average prosecutors in Caddo Parish use their peremptory challenges against African Americans at a rate of 3.4 times the rate that they are used against non-African Americans.
LACDL has also sought to highlight for this Court in previous amicus briefs the weaknesses and limitations in the application of Batson in Louisiana. As occurred in this case, the pattern of peremptory challenges - the statistical evidence - will be the only direct evidence that can be offered in support of a prima facie case. By barring courts from finding a prima facie case based upon statistical evidence, the Louisiana Supreme Court has pulled Batson's teeth and dramatically reduced the opportunity to identify and prevent racial discrimination in jury selection.