The Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey has issued a Standing Order to facilitate the representation of federal inmates seeking compassionate release in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The order comes several days after a similar order was issued in the District of Massachusetts (see our previous post). [link]
The Order authorizes the Office of the Federal Public Defender (“OFPD”) to represent defendants who were previously determined to be eligible for a public defender or who previously retained counsel and subsequently became indigent. Where a conflict of interest exists, the Clerk’s Office will appoint counsel pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act (“CJA”). The Order also authorizes Probation and the Clerk’s Office to disclose to the OFPD (but not to inmates) documents, including Presentence Investigation Reports (“PSRs”), Judgments, and Statements of Reasons, relevant to determining whether a defendant is eligible for relief or whether a conflict of interest exists.
PSRs are lengthy, defendant-specific reports produced by the Probation Office for the Court’s benefit at the time of sentencing, affording courts an ostensibly objective portrait of each defendant with virtually all their background information, including childhood, family life, educational background, career history, health condition, financial condition, and social and civic engagement, among other areas. Given the breadth and general reliability of their content, such reports would be invaluable to reviewing attorneys asked to file motions for at-risk defendants and to do so as quickly as practicable, which motions must argue that there are “extraordinary and compelling reasons” warranting a specific prisoner’s release.
The Order also stipulates that the Court shall notify the OFPD of all pending and future pro se motions for compassionate release, and the OFPD and Probation shall notify the Court of all pro se motions which they become aware of.
If you believe that you or a loved one may be eligible for compassionate release from federal or state prison sentences, you should contact an experienced criminal defense firm that is familiar with the current state of the law regarding compassionate release.