Criminal Law Update


Gaitan Testifies Before Sentencing Commission


On October 21, 2009, Chief Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. testified before the U.S. Sentencing Commission at a regional hearing in Denver, Colorado.  The purpose of the public hearing was for the Commission to solicit information from invited witnesses regarding federal sentencing policy and to assess the satisfaction of the stakeholders. 

At the hearing, Chief Judge Gaitan was asked, “what, if any, recommendations the Commission might make to Congress about the statutory changes regarding federal sentencing.”  He offered “statutory minimums prevent the Court from exercising its objective of fair sentencing.  They do not allow for an objective consideration of the offense or the offender.”  As it stands now, Congress requires judges to conform to statutory minimums that “do not allow the court to exercise its discretion within the realm of either 18 U.S.C. § 3553 or the advisory guidelines.”  Chief Judge Gaitan hopes the Commission will impress upon Congress the need to eliminate the mandatory minimums and allow judges to sentence defendants on a case by case basis.  “The mandatory, now advisory, guidelines allow judges to be judges in the truest sense of the word, not just fill-in-the blank judges.”  To read the entire transcript of Judge Gaitan’s testimony, click here.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission was created by the Sentencing Reform Act provisions of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 and celebrates its 25th year in existence.  It is a commission that Congress created and controls.  To learn more, visit their website at www.uscc.gov

 
Accessing Presentence Investigation Reports in CM/ECF


In January 2009, the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office began electronically filing presentence investigation reports and subsequent addendums in criminal cases.  These documents are sealed documents and are not available to the public.  When presentence reports and/or addendums are filed in CM/ECF, an electronic notification is now sent to the attorneys of record (the Assistant U.S. Attorney and the attorney for the defendant who is the subject of the report) with a link to the document.  This is the same type of link used in all electronic notices from CM/ECF with one important exception.  Because these documents are sealed, the attorney receiving the notice must log in to CM/ECF to view the documents. 

When the attorney clicks on the link to the document, a login screen will appear.  The attorney must enter his or her CM/ECF login and not the PACER login.  Entering the CM/ECF login will authenticate to the system that the attorney has permission to view the presentence investigation report and/or addendum.  Once the attorney is able to view these documents, it is recommended that he or she either print or save a copy of the document.  If this is not done, future review through CM/ECF will require the additional PACER login and the fee for viewing documents.

Contact Malia Brown, U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office, at 816-512-1301 or malia_brown@mow.uscourts.gov if problems are encountered while trying to view one of these documents.

 

Congress Raises CJA Attorney Rates

On December 16, 2009, Congress passed and President Obama signed the appropriations bill for the Judiciary's 2010 funding. Included in that legislation were funds to raise the non-capital hourly CJA panel attorney compensation rate from $110 to $125, and the maximum hourly capital rate from $175 to $178 (for federal capital prosecutions and capital post-conviction proceedings.) The new rates apply to work performed on or after January 1, 2010. Click here for more details.

CJA TIPS---Vouchers and Worksheets

Hate filling out timesheets?  Most attorneys do, but for CJA attorneys, using the proper paperwork is critical when reporting time.  Most cases will require the use of CJA 20 worksheets.  CJA 30 worksheets should only be used when reporting time expended for death penalty cases.  Timely processing and payment of attorney vouchers depends on use of the correct forms, and CJA Administrator Teresa Harrison urges CJA counsel to train staff members in this area and to contact her with any questions or concerns before submittal.

She notes that the category headings on the CJA worksheets correspond with the category headings on the CJA vouchers.  When her office is contacted about how the worksheet categories and vouchers categories do not match, callers are often using incorrect worksheets.  Put simply, if you are completing a CJA 20 voucher, use CJA 20 worksheets. If you are completing a CJA 30 voucher, use CJA 30 worksheets.

Blank worksheets can be found in the CJA handbook on the Court’s website by clicking here.

For CJA questions or if you would like to receive fillable Excel format worksheets,  contact  Teresa at (816) 512-5066 or teresa_harrison@mow.uscourts.gov



The Second Chance Fund

By virtue of the Second Chance Act which was passed by Congress on April 9, 2008, the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office for WDMO has funding for new resources to provide services to more of its clients under supervision.  The purpose of the Act was to reduce recidivism, rebuild ties between offenders and their families, protect the public and to assist offenders in establishing self-sustaining lives.  Funding from the Act is now producing programs to achieve these goals.    

“The Second Chance Fund allows us to now spend money for emergency and transitional services for all offenders under our supervision,” said Chi King, Senior Probation Officer and Second Chance Fund Coordinator.  King states that in the past, this type of monetary assistance was only available to offenders with mental health and/or drug dependency issues.

Many offenders have no way to get to their programs or to their places of employment.  With this new fund, the Probation and Pretrial Office can now provide such things as bus passes, emergency housing, vocational services, educational services and cognitive behavior treatment. While funding is always limited, King notes that  guidelines and procedures are being developed to make the most of the funding that is available.  The Second Chance Act and monies allocated under it will enable the local Probation and Pretrial Office to provide more tools for success to a larger number of clients.  For more information about the Second Chance Fund, contact Chi King at chi_king@mow.uscourts.gov.

 
Kathy Prater Promoted


The Western District of Missouri congratulates Kathy Prater on her recent promotion to Assistant Deputy Chief Probation Officer in the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Office.

Kathy began her federal career in 1991 as an officer in U.S. Pretrial Services for the Western District of Missouri in Springfield.  In 2001, she was promoted to Officer in Charge of Pretrial Services in Springfield.  In 2002, she also began supervising Pretrial Services in the Central Division in Jefferson City.  The offices of U.S. Probation and U.S. Pretrial Services consolidated in January 2009, and  Kathy began supervising the entire Central Division office in May 2009. 

She was appointed to her current position of Assistant Deputy Chief U.S. Probation Officer in August 2009.  With her promotion, she now oversees Pretrial Services in all three divisions of the Western District of Missouri as well as continuing her prior duties.  Prior to her federal employment, Kathy was a state probation and parole officer in Springfield for six years and a juvenile officer for five years in Columbia, Missouri.  She received her undergraduate degree from Central Missouri State University (now University of Central Missouri) in 1980.

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