Criminal Justice

H.R.1272 – Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2017

Short Titles as Introduced:

Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2017

Official Title as Introduced:

To provide for the expeditious disclosure of records related to civil rights cold cases, and for other purposes.

Summary:
Introduced in House (03/01/2017)

Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2017

This bill requires the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to establish a collection of cold case records about unsolved criminal civil rights cases that government offices must: (1) publicly disclose in the collection without redaction or withholding, or (2) submit to a protected collection of records for which public disclosure may be postponed.

The Cold Case Records Review Board is established as an independent agency of impartial private citizens to: (1) facilitate the review, transmission to NARA, and public disclosure of government records related to such cases; (2) hold hearings and render decisions on determinations by government offices to seek to postpone the disclosure of such records; (3) direct government offices to make information available to the board; (4) subpoena private persons to compel testimony and records; and (5) receive information from the public.

Postponement is permitted based on clear and convincing evidence that public disclosure would: (1) impair national security or reveal intelligence sources or methods; (2) reveal the name of, and pose substantial harm to, a living person who provided confidential information; (3) constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy that outweighs the public interest; (4) compromise an understanding of confidentiality currently requiring protection between a government agent and a cooperating individual or group; or (5) reveal a security or protective procedure of the Secret Service or another executive agency responsible for protecting government officials.

NARA and the originating agency must review postponed or redacted records every 180 days. The reasons for any continuation of postponement must be published in the Federal Register.

Each cold case record shall be publicly disclosed and shall be available in NARA’s collection not later than 25 years after enactment of this bill, unless: (1) continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to military defense, intelligence operations, or the conduct of foreign relations; and (2) the gravity of the identifiable harm outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

The President has sole and nondelegable authority to require disclosure or postponement of an executive branch cold case record under the grounds set forth in this bill after the board has made a formal determination concerning a record obtained or developed solely within the executive branch.

The board may request the Department of Justice to petition courts to release information related to cold cases under seal or held under the injunction of secrecy of a grand jury.

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Judiciary

S.276 – Judicial Administration and Improvement Act of 2017

Short Titles as Introduced:

Judicial Administration and Improvement Act of 2017

Official Titles as Introduced:

A bill to amend title 28, United States Code, to divide the ninth judicial circuit of the United States into 2 circuits, and for other purposes.

Introduced in Senate (02/02/2017)

Judicial Administration and Improvement Act of 2017

This bill divides the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit into: (1) a new Ninth Circuit, to be composed of California, Hawaii, Oregon, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands; and (2) a newly established Twelfth Circuit, to be composed of Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Washington.

Precedent from the former Ninth Circuit shall not be binding on the Twelfth Circuit.

The bill designates locations where the new circuits are to hold regular sessions.

The bill distributes active circuit judges of the former Ninth Circuit to the new circuits. Circuit judges and senior circuit judges currently stationed in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, or Washington may elect their circuit assignment. For each circuit judge in regular service who elects to be assigned to the new Ninth Circuit, the President shall appoint one additional circuit judge for the Twelfth Circuit.

–From Countable:

“This bill would split off part of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — which is the federal appeals court for Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington plus Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands — into a new 12th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 12th Circuit Court would cover Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Washington, while the 9th would keep the other states and territories under its current jurisdiction. These changes would take effect one year after this legislation’s enactment.

When this legislation takes effect, the 9th Circuit would continue to deal with all cases that have already been submitted for a decision. Appeals or proceedings that haven’t progressed to that stage of the judicial process would be referred to the court that would’ve had jurisdiction over it had the new court existed at the time of submission, and all relevant records would be transferred to that court.”

Argument in favor‘:

“The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as it’s currently structured is too large and has too heavy a caseload. With an average wait time of 15 months, citizens under its jurisdiction don’t have quick access to justice. Creating a new 12th Circuit Court of Appeals would ease the burden of both courts and ensure the judicial system functions efficiently for residents of western states.”

Argument opposed‘:

“The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals should keep its current jurisdiction despite it being a lot bigger than other circuits in terms of geographic size and population. Conservatives mainly want to break it up because they think it is staffed by too many liberal judges and has issued too many rulings that were eventually overturned by the Supreme Court.”

Racial Equality

H.R.799 – Shift Back to Society Act of 2017

Short Titles as Introduced:

Shift Back to Society Act of 2017

Official Title as Introduced:

To authorize the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, to establish a pilot program to make grants to historically Black colleges and universities to provide educational programs to offenders who have recently been, or will soon be, released from incarceration, and for other purposes.

Summary:

Introduced in House (02/01/2017)

Shift Back to Society Act of 2017

This bill directs the Department of Justice to establish a pilot program that awards matching grants to historically black colleges and universities to provide educational programs for eligible offenders to facilitate re-entry into the community.

An eligible offender is a convicted criminal offender who has been released from incarceration for less than one year or who is scheduled to be released from incarceration within one year.

The Government Accountability Office must report to Congress on the results of the pilot program.

Question:

“This bill directs the Department of Justice to establish a pilot program that awards matching grants to historically black colleges and universities to provide educational programs for eligible offenders to facilitate re-entry into the community.”

Why only direct ‘convicted criminal offender[s]’ to ‘historically black colleges and universities*’ rather than provide the grant to any university who is willing to offer such a program? Is it not a racist stereotype that most ‘criminal offenders’ are African American? Is this bill simply trying to implement a form of segregation through education as well as to possibly place a heavier burden, both financially as well as potentially skewing performance statistics for their students, on ‘historically black colleges and universities’ rather than on other non-historically black colleges and universities? Could it not also potentially stigmatize any ‘historically black colleges and universities’ that opt to participate, as it would signal, both to their other students as well as the community at large, that they agree with the stereotype that most ‘criminal offenders’ are African American?

The general idea seems relevant, however the planned implementation seems suspect.

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*According to the text of the bill, “The term “historically Black college or university” has the meaning given the term “part B institution” under section 322(2) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1061(2)

20 U.S.C. 1061(2) States that:

“(2) The term “part B institution” means any historically Black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of Black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation,,1 except that any branch campus of a southern institution of higher education that prior to September 30, 1986, received a grant as an institution with special needs under section 1060 of this title and was formally recognized by the National Center for Education Statistics as a Historically Black College or University but was determined not to be a part B institution on or after October 17, 1986, shall, from July 18, 1988, be considered a part B institution.”

Criminal Justice

H.R.64 – Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act of 2017

This bill amends the federal criminal code to require the Bureau of Prisons to release early an offender who has completed at least half of his or her prison sentence if such offender has: (1) attained age 45, (2) committed no violent offenses, and (3) received no institutional disciplinary violations.