Office of the Federal Public Defender-Northern District of California


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A comprehensive discussion of new Ninth Circuit cases, and of other new legal challenges and ideas, can be found on the Ninth Circuit blog. The Ninth Circuit blog contains Federal Defender Jon Sands' weekly Ninth Circuit summaries, interesting new defense challenges and theories posted by AFPDs David Porter and Steve Sady, and the “Case o’ The Week” memos by Federal Defender Steve Kalar. The Ninth Circuit blog is a useful starting place for the latest developments in federal criminal defense.

To search the Ninth Circuit blog use the white search box next to the orange "B," in the upper left hand corner of the site. Note that many blog entries have been tagged by Judge involved or by subject. Clicking on those tags will pull up all blog entries related to that tag entry.

CJA counsel are encouraged to comment on the blog postings – many new ideas have been fleshed out and enhanced by attorney commentary.

Judge Chen Grants Government's Motion for Dismissal

Federal charges against twelve defendants arrested in a series of drug stings in the Tenderloin neighborhood were dismissed by prosecutors Tuesday--six months after U.S. District Court Judge Chen found “substantial evidence” that San Francisco police officers engaged in biased policing by targeting only black people in a joint operation with the DEA. Judge Chen signed the motion to dismiss January 25, 2017.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to substantively comment on its decision to dismiss the indictments. But the stings, known as Operation Safe Schools, have been under scrutiny since April 2015, when the federal public defender’s office pointed out that all 37 people indicted on drug-dealing charges were black.

The dismissal follows the hard work of Assistant Federal Public Defenders Galia Amram and Steven Koeninger to establish selective enforcement occurred in the prosecutions. Transcripts available here.

Judge Chen Grants Discovery Motion Based on Selective Enforcement

U.S. District Judge Chen of the Northern District of California found that Assistant Federal Public Defender Galia Amram met the necessary Armstrong evidentiary burderns in demonstrating that the San Francisco Police Department ("SFPD") engaged in selective enforcement in prosecution of low-level drug sales within the Tenderloin. As a result of the court's ruling, the Office of the Federal Public Defender will be entitled to engage in further discovery orders to substantiate claims of selective enforcement by SFPD.

For more, please find the ruling here.

Judge Koh Rules Warrant Required for Historical Cell Data Search

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California ruled that the Fourth Amendment applies to historical cell site information. As a result of this groundbreaking ruling--the first of its type in the nation--the government must obtain a search warrant to demand historical cell site information from cellphone carriers. Argued by Assistant Federal Public Defender Ellen Leonida, Judge Koh held that the location data generated by a phone automatically pinging cell towers (through continuously opperating apps and other involuntary communication) doesn't amount to a "voluntary conveyance" of information to cell phone companies.

For more, please find the ruling here.