Shutdown Affects Prosecutor Training, Immigration Courts

The 24-day-old partial federal shutdown is hobbling enforcement efforts across the government. The Justice Department cancelled a training session on the “dark web” and immigration courts have drastically cut their workload.

The 24-day-old partial federal shutdown is hobbling enforcement efforts. halting power plant and oil well inspections, slowing financial fraud probes and tax audits, thwarting plane crash investigations and delaying a probe into Facebook’s privacy practices, reports Politico. The resulting pileup could take months to untangle after the shutdown ends. The shutdown forced the Justice Department to cancel a training session for prosecutors about online markets on the “dark web” where criminals trade in narcotics, child pornography and other illicit goods. The Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section was scheduled to host the Dark Market and Online Investigations Seminar from Jan. 8 to 10. The seminar, which was to be held at DOJ’s National Advocacy Center in Columbia, S.C., would have included briefings by FBI agents and federal prosecutors involved in takedowns of major markets. Without this training, one employee said, prosecutors “may not have the knowledge they need to effectively investigate crime ranging from computer intrusions to child pornography to the sale of narcotics and more.”

Federal immigration courts have drastically reduced their workload as most of 400 judges have been furloughed, said Ashley Tabaddor of the National Association of Immigration Judges. That will add to the court’s growing case backlog, which stands at more than 809,000, says to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. As many as 100,000 people waiting for a court hearing could be affected if the shutdown continues through the end of the month. Judges who hear cases of detained migrants have continued to work without pay. Judges who handle the “non-detained docket” have been furloughed. Judges who preside over non-detained dockets, including certain requests for asylum, can involve waits of several years, which mean a canceled court date can’t easily be placed back on the calendar.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Barr Will Call Completion of Russia Probe in ‘Best Interest’ of Americans

William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, will tell senators Tuesday it is “vitally important” that special counsel Robert Mueller be allowed to complete his Russia investigation.

William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, will tell senators Tuesday it is “vitally important” that special counsel Robert Mueller be allowed to complete his Russia investigation, the Associated Press reports. “I believe it is in the best interest of everyone — the President, Congress, and, most importantly, the American people – that this matter be resolved by allowing the Special Counsel to complete his work,” Barr will say, according to his prepared remarks.

william barr

william barr

Barr also says it is “very important” that Congress and the public be informed of the prosecution team’s findings. “For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law,” Barr will say.

He said he will base his judgments on the Mueller report “solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decisions.”

Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation tore the Senate Judiciary Committee apart. The panel is trying to put itself back together before a contentious fight over Barr’s nomination, Politico reports. Its new chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), denounced Democrats in Kavanaugh’s hearing on sex assault allegations. The panel includes three Democrats mulling a 2020 presidential run. Graham must set the tone, and he’s not making promises.

“I’m going to let it be up to [Democrats]. You pick these fights at your own peril. [Barr will] be challenged for sure. Hopefully respectfully,” he said. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said,

“I guess the question we all have is, ‘Is this going to be Kavanaugh 2.0?’ Where it’s really not about the search for the truth, it’s more about character assassination.”

Barr will struggle to attract Democratic votes but can be confirmed without bipartisan support.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Shutdown Squeezes Law Enforcement, Threatens US Security, Agents Say

The association representing agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned that a prolonged shutdown threatens to compromise national security

Federal law enforcement agencies that keep Americans safe are starting to feel the strain of the partial U.S. government shutdown, in its 21st day, with agents working for no pay and investigations delayed, according to law enforcement officials, Reuters reports.

Earlier, the association representing agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned that a prolonged shutdown was threatening to compromise national security.

The FBI Agents Association called for an end to the ongoing partial government shutdown, warning that the lapse in funds is unsustainable,  and urged Congress to pass appropriations for the Department of Justice as soon as possible, Politico reports.

FBI agents, along with more than half a million other federal employees, are set to miss their first paychecks on Friday because of the shutdown. The group sent a letter arguing that “financial security is a matter of national security.”

“As this moves forward, it’s only going to get worse,” Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, told CBS. “People are nervous, they’re upset and they’re worried about when is the next paycheck going to come in.”

There are similar concerns within other federal law enforcement agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Sources tell CBS News morale is “horrible.” Commanders are having to weigh financial constraints before approving certain sensitive undercover operations.

“You know the old adage, ‘crime doesn’t pay’ … and neither does the federal government. That’s not right,” O’Connor said.

“We still have a responsibility for going after those who might be using this time to flood the streets” with drugs, a DEA field agent told Reuters, asking not to be identified by name.

The partial shutdown shows no signs of ending any time soon as negotiations between Democrats and the White House over the issue of funding for border security remain at an impasse.

While House Democrats aim to pass individual spending bills that would reopen more of the government, Republicans have largely stood with President Trump in opposition to a piecemeal approach without concessions from Democrats.

The letter from the FBI agent group undercuts Trump’s argument that large parts of the federal workforce support his push for border wall funds, even if it means the government shutdown persists.

The agents warn that resources for FBI investigations are running thin. Financial uncertainty caused by the possibility of future shutdowns could affect the agency in the long run by deterring prospective agents from joining or causing current agents to seek employment in the private sector.

See also: Shutdown Called Absolute Disaster for Federal Prisons

from https://thecrimereport.org

Broward Sheriff Vows to Fight Ouster Over Parkland School Shooting

Scott Israel charged the decision to remove him as sheriff was all about “politics.” His replacement will be Broward County’s first African-American sheriff.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, criticized for his office’s inadequate response to last year’s Parkland, Fl., school shooting, plans to fight  the decision to remove him from office, claiming he is a victim of “politics,” reports The Miami Herald.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended the two-term Democratic sheriff Friday, citing the conclusions of a state panel’s investigation of the Broward County agency’s response to the Feb. 14, 2018, shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, said The Herald, CNN and other news outlets.

The panel found that several Broward deputies failed to run into the building to try to stop the gunman — or were slow and inadequately trained to confront the killer and stop him.

The governor’s action came three days after he was sworn in, and fulfilled a promise he made during last Fall’s election campaign to remove the sheriff.

Israel was replaced by Gregory Tony, a former Coral Springs, Fl., police sergeant with a background in active-shooter training, who will be the county’s first African-American sheriff.

Israel’s lawyer, Stuart Kaplan, said that not only would Israel fight the governor’s order, but he would run for re-election when his term ends in 2020.

“There certainly were mistakes made,’’ Kaplan said. “But in every situation we can always identify things that could be done better…it does not in any way rise to the level to single out Sheriff Israel and hold him accountable for what happened.’’

Appearing later at a meeting with reporters, Israel made clear he saw himself as a victim of political scapegoating.

“Sadly, this is not about what occurred on Feb. 14 [2018],’’ he said at a news conference at New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale. “The governor promised as a candidate — well before he had any facts about the investigation, well before the commission even began their work — that he would remove me from office.”

Israel added: “Today he merely fulfilled a campaign promise. This was about politics — not about Parkland.”

After expressing his sympathies for the families who lost loved ones in the mass shooting, Israel insisted he had not failed in his duty.

The ousted sheriff said there was no “wrongdoing” on his part.

“I served the county honorably and I will continue to do that,” he said.

The new sheriff, who now lives in Boca Raton, left the Coral Springs Police Department after 12 years in 2016, the South Florida.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Laws Restricting Opioid Care Undermine Efforts to Curb Epidemic: Study

Allowing nurse-practitioners more “independence” in prescribing opioids to treat patients could play a key role in curbing the opioid epidemic, according to a University of Alabama study.

Allowing nurse-practitioners more “independence” in prescribing opioids to treat patients could play a key role in curbing the opioid epidemic, according to a University of Alabama study.

Scope of Practice (SOPs) laws in many states restrict nurse practitioners— often the primary providers of health care in rural and under-served communities—from prescribing  opioids for treatment of patients without the supervision of a physician.

But such laws are counter-productive and may even “undermine patient safety,” concluded the study by Benjamin J. McMichael, an assistant law professor at the University of Alabama’s Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law.

McMichael analyzed over 1.3 billion individual opioid prescriptions, representing about 90 percent cent of all opioid prescriptions filled at outpatient pharmacies between 2011 and 2017, to examine the impact SOP laws have on the quantity of opioids prescribed by both physicians and NPs.

Although SOP laws are strongly backed by the American Medical Association, among other groups, as a way to ensure patient safety, McMichael said he found no evidence to suggest that opioid patients’ health was compromised by NPs in states where such laws were not in existence.

In fact, he argued, the tendency of NPs to prescribe smaller doses or fewer prescriptions when they were not bound by what doctors ordered may be a significant factor in the successful treatment of addiction.

According to the data, the overall amount of morphine “milligram equivalents” prescribed by all providers during that period actually decreased slightly—by 1.2 percent— during that period.

“The clear majority of evidence demonstrates that granting NPs independence reduces the use of prescription opioids across three different measures of opioid prescribing,” wrote McMichael, in a working paper, entitled “Scope-of-Practice Law and Patient Safety: Evidence from the Opioid Crisis.”

He added: “Allowing NPs to practice independently, if anything, reduces the use of opioids, consistent with an improvement in patient safety, given the demonstrated harms associated with recent levels of opioid prescriptions.”

NPs are registered nurses who have undergone additional training to provide healthcare services historically provided by physicians, the study noted. In general, NPs may evaluate patients, provide diagnoses, offer treatment, and prescribe medications.

State scope-of-practice (SOP) laws—a subset of the occupational licensing laws that govern NPs and many other professionals—determine what services NPs may provide and the conditions under which they may provide those services.

Another significant effect of granting NPs more independence is lowering healthcare costs, McMichael noted.

McMichael cited other studies that have demonstrated that granting NPs more autonomy “can result in lower healthcare prices, increased access to care, and improved quality of care.”

“While SOP laws are not generally mentioned in the debate over the opioid crisis, the results… suggest that changing how the healthcare workforce is regulated via SOP laws could play a role in mitigating the effects of this crisis,” he wrote.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 40 Americans died each day from a drug overdose involving a prescription opioid during 2017.

Additional Reading: Can We Help Opioid Abusers Without Jailing Them?

A full copy of the report can be downloaded here.

Megan Hadley is a senior staff writer for The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Jerry Brown’s Criminal Justice Legacy: ‘It’s Called Hope’

The California governor, whose final term ends in January, changed from a tough-on-crime advocate in the 1970s to a reform advocate who concluded much of the old thinking on crime and punishment had been wrong. Former state corrections secretary Jeanne Woodford said his “refreshing” transformation was guided by criminologists’ evidence-based research.

When California Gov. Jerry Brown’s final term ends next week, he will leave behind a state criminal justice system infused with a new commitment to second chances, a shift away from an era in which tens of thousands were imprisoned with little opportunity to turn their lives around, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“It’s called hope,” Brown told the newspaper. “One hundred fifty thousand young men with zero hope bolsters the gangs, leads to despair, leads to violence and makes the prisons very dangerous.

Many of them, the majority, will get out anyway. And they’ll get out as very wounded human beings.” The governor’s attempt to unwind the old approach contrasts with his legacy from the 1970s. No governor did more to launch the tough-on-crime era, including a seminal law four decades ago that paved the way for strict sentences, even for nonviolent crimes.

See Also: Has Jerry Brown Changed His Views on Crime?

Brown’s decision to change course was driven by legal mandates as much as morality. A key was his reliance on research and data that concluded much of the old thinking on crime and punishment had been wrong.

“He’s really followed the science of criminal justice,” said Jeanne Woodford, a former state corrections secretary. “That’s very refreshing, as opposed to people making decisions based on their worst fears.” Brown supported legislation or ballot measures that downgraded drug crimes, offered some inmates new opportunities for parole and prevented or limited the detention of children and teenagers.

He helped craft a sweeping plan to grant judges greater discretion over California’s bail system. He appointed hundreds of jurists who share his vision of considering options other than lengthy incarceration.

To some, the four-term governor made things worse when taking office in 2011. Critics cite an uptick in violent and property crimes in some communities as evidence that leniency won’t work.

Among  the signature accomplishments during Brown’s term was “justice realignment” –a move to reduce state prison populations, and reform of the state’s “three-strikes” law.

 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Senate GOP Names Two Women to Judiciary Panel

Freshman senators Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Joni Ernst of Iowa will become the first Republican women to serve on the Judiciary Committee. The appointments solve a longstanding optics problem for Republicans, who have had only men on the panel.

Freshman Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa will become the first Republican women to serve on the Judiciary Committee when the new Congress is seated this week, Politico reports. The appointments solve a longstanding optics problem for Republicans. There are four Democratic women  on the influential panel, including ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), in contrast to the previously all-male GOP slate. Lawmakers and advocacy groups hope the appointment of the two senators will deflect the kind of criticisms that surfaced when the Judiciary Committee investigated charges of sexual assault during the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Republicans hired a female counsel to question Kavanaugh and his accuser.

Conservative groups are excited about the appointment of Blackburn, who over eight terms in the House staked out a reputation as one of the most vocal foes of abortion. Ernst, who is up for reelection in 2020 and was once considered a potential running mate for President Trump, is a staunch conservative who has authored legislation defunding Planned Parenthood and who praised her home state’s abortion ban as an “important step forward.” Questioned earlier about the lack of Republican women, committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said, “It’s a lot of work. Maybe they don’t want to do it” — a statement for which he apologized. Blackburn and Ernst will be among the few Judiciary members without a law degree. Blackburn has a bachelor’s degree in home economics while Ernst has a master’s degree in public administration.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Federal Prison Workers Say Shutdown Violates Their Rights

Two federal Bureau of Prisons employees have filed a federal class action lawsuit claiming the Trump administration is violating federal labor laws by not paying certain employees during the ongoing partial government shutdown.

Two federal Bureau of Prisons employees have filed a federal class action lawsuit claiming the Trump administration is violating federal labor laws by not paying certain employees during the ongoing partial government shutdown, reports Courthouse News Service. When the government shut down on Dec. 22, some 400,000 federal workers who were deemed “excepted employees” had to continue working. This included Justin Tarovisky and Grayson Sharp, who say in a complaint filed in the Court of Federal Claims they received no pay for work they put in on the day the government shut down. “Excepted employees were required to report to work and perform their normal duties, but they were not timely compensated for certain work performed in pay period 25, including work performed on December 22, 2018,” the complaint says.

Announcing the lawsuit, the American Federation of Government Employees noted many of the employees deemed excepted work in dangerous situations, such as Tarovisky and Sharp, work at high-security prisons. The lawsuit now covers only employees who broke through their overtime threshold with the hours they put in on Dec. 22. However, Heidi Burakiewicz, an Washington, D.C., attorney handling the case, said more federal employees could have a legal claim if the shutdown continues to the next pay day and their paychecks fall below minimum-wage thresholds. Burakiewicz brought a similar suit on behalf of federal employees after a 2013 government shutdown, winning a verdict that entitled employees to twice their back pay. “This is not an acceptable way for any employer, let along the U.S. government, to treat its employees,” Burakiewicz said. “These employees still need to pay childcare expenses, buy gas, and incur other expenses to go to work every day and yet, they are not getting paid. It is a blatant violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Federal Prison Workers Say Shutdown Violates Their Rights

Two federal Bureau of Prisons employees have filed a federal class action lawsuit claiming the Trump administration is violating federal labor laws by not paying certain employees during the ongoing partial government shutdown.

Two federal Bureau of Prisons employees have filed a federal class action lawsuit claiming the Trump administration is violating federal labor laws by not paying certain employees during the ongoing partial government shutdown, reports Courthouse News Service. When the government shut down on Dec. 22, some 400,000 federal workers who were deemed “excepted employees” had to continue working. This included Justin Tarovisky and Grayson Sharp, who say in a complaint filed in the Court of Federal Claims they received no pay for work they put in on the day the government shut down. “Excepted employees were required to report to work and perform their normal duties, but they were not timely compensated for certain work performed in pay period 25, including work performed on December 22, 2018,” the complaint says.

Announcing the lawsuit, the American Federation of Government Employees noted many of the employees deemed excepted work in dangerous situations, such as Tarovisky and Sharp, work at high-security prisons. The lawsuit now covers only employees who broke through their overtime threshold with the hours they put in on Dec. 22. However, Heidi Burakiewicz, an Washington, D.C., attorney handling the case, said more federal employees could have a legal claim if the shutdown continues to the next pay day and their paychecks fall below minimum-wage thresholds. Burakiewicz brought a similar suit on behalf of federal employees after a 2013 government shutdown, winning a verdict that entitled employees to twice their back pay. “This is not an acceptable way for any employer, let along the U.S. government, to treat its employees,” Burakiewicz said. “These employees still need to pay childcare expenses, buy gas, and incur other expenses to go to work every day and yet, they are not getting paid. It is a blatant violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Analysis: Grassroots Reform Takes Hold at Local Level

A number of tough-on-crime veteran sheriffs and prosecutors were defeated by campaigns capitalizing on “more receptive audiences for their arguments, as well as to renewed coordination among groups looking to transform local politics,” says a year-end reform wrap-up in The Appeal.

“District attorneys and sheriffs rarely face stiff competition, but something was in the air in 2018,” The Appeal‘s Daniel Nichanian writes in a year-end commentary on criminal justice reformers’ tactics and successes. Starting with veteran St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, voted out of office four years after he oversaw the investigation of Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, a number of tough-on-crime veterans were brought down by grassroots campaigns capitalizing on “more receptive audiences for their arguments, as well as to renewed coordination among groups looking to transform local politics,” Nichanian writes.

Key reforms took shape in California, where the legislature reined in the state’s laws governing felony murder and certifying juveniles for adult charges, and in Philadelphia, where reform-minded district attorney Larry Krasner changed how homicides get prosecuted. Looking ahead, the commentary concludes: “The interplay between emboldened organizers and the new public officials elected in 2018 will be crucial to the landscape of criminal justice reform in 2019 and beyond.”

from https://thecrimereport.org