In an article in the New York Law Journal, Jerry Goldfeder and Myrna Pérez discuss recent progress on voting rights restoration for citizens with criminal records, and look forward to prospects for change in 2018. While 4.7 million Americans are still unable to participate fully in civic life because of restrictive voting rights restoration laws, Goldfeder and Perez point to a number of promising signs:
- In Alabama, the state legislature has passed the “Definition of Moral Turpitude Act” to finally comply with Chapman v. Gooden and define the term to eliminate the discretion that local elected officials used to disenfranchise voters. That case challenged the Alabama Secretary of State’s practice of denying voter registration to all citizens with felony convictions, despite state law being limited to crimes of “moral turpitude,” a vague term that had been problematic for decades. After the trial court in Gooden directed the state to develop a workable definition, they amended their practice in order to avoid further litigation, but it took 10 years, until this past May, for a clarifying law to be passed.
- In New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has come out strongly in favor of expanding access to voting rights for persons with criminal convictions.
- In Florida, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has gathered more than 900,000 signatures on a petition to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would restore voting rights to almost all of the 1.5 million people in that state who have completed their sentences.
- The Democracy Restoration Act has been introduced in every Congress since 2008. The Act would restore voting rights in federal elections to all Americans with a past conviction who are living in the community, including those released from prison and probationers who are never incarcerated, affecting about 4.7 million people. New Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who file an amicus brief in the Chapman case, has publicly stated his support for this Act.
Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States
A legal professional for more than three decades, Paul Seeman has served as an attorney and deputy county counsel, as well as a judge for the Alameda County Superior Court in California. In addition to his bench service, he served as a member of the Judicial Council Task Force for Criminal Justice Collaboration on Mental Health Issues. As an attorney, Paul Seeman was also a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.
There are a number of reasons why a litigator would seek admission to the Bar of the Supreme Court. Membership has a pragmatic component since in almost every case court rules dictate that each party to a case being argued in court must be represented by a member of the Supreme Court Bar in good standing.
Additional perks come with bar membership, as well. For the general public, attending a session of open court requires standing in line for a good number of hours before the 10 a.m. arguments commence. Bar members, however, have their own special section of the courtroom in which they are able to sit. Seating is limited to those who arrive first, but the line for bar members is typically much shorter than the one for the general public.
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
Former judge Paul Seeman served the Alameda County Superior Court from 2009 to 2013. While serving as an Alameda County judge, Paul Seeman also chaired the International Committee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ).
Founded in 1937, NCJFCJ is celebrating its 80th year working to improve juvenile and family justice courts in the United States. The organization’s 80th anniversary will be a focus of the upcoming NCJFCJ Annual Conference, which will take place July 16-19, 2017, in Washington, D.C.
Over the course of four days, attendees at NCJFCJ’s 80th Annual Conference will have the opportunity to take part in presentations and other education sessions organized into several training tracks. They will also get the chance to hear from a list of prominent speakers that will include renowned legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, who will deliver the event’s opening keynote address.
Those interested in attending can register for the NCJFCJ Annual Conference online. Standard registration fees range from $745 for members to $940 for non-members who register before June 30. Both members and non-members who wait until July to register will pay an additional $50. To register or learn more about the event, visit www.ncjfcj.org.
A former judge for the Superior Court of Alameda County, California, Paul Seeman served as the vice chair of the California Center for Judicial Education and Research (“CJER”) Juvenile Law Education Committee. Previously a juvenile court Referee and judge Pro Tem, Paul Seeman presided over dependency and delinquency hearings
The procedure for suspected juvenile offenders is substantially different from that of adults suspected of committing an offense. Typically, police have more discretion in situations involving minor offenders, they may issue warnings, divert the case to an informal resolution, or hold the minor in custody briefly and the release them to a parent or legal guardian. Finally, they may refer the case to a juvenile court.
When a minor is referred to a juvenile court, the court prosecutor becomes involved. Prosecutors may dismiss the case, deal with the case informally, or file a civil petition that formally charges the juvenile with a criminal offense. The procedure the prosecutor takes will depend on factors such as the gravity of the alleged offense, the age of the juvenile, and the minor’s past record as well as his/her social history.