February 2014 • Vol. 34 No. 2 | An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association

ICDA Panel Created to Handle Overflow of Cases Seeking Prop. 36 Relief from Three Strikes Sentences

LACBA's Indigent Criminal Defense Appointments Program helps Post Conviction Assistance Center with representation of petitions for review and modification of sentences.

As a result of the passage of Proposition 36 in 2012, the implementation of California's Three Strikes Law was drastically modified to include—among other things—a mechanism for those already sentenced under the previous Three Strikes Law to petition the courts to review, and in appropriate cases, modify the previous sentence.

Due to the huge number of inmates wanting to file petitions, LACBA's Indigent Criminal Defense Appointments Program (ICDA) has created a special panel of attorneys to help the Post Conviction Assistance Center (PCAC) with representation of the petitions. First, an inmate must file a petition with the local court requesting that his or her sentence be reviewed. Next, the court must determine 1) whether the inmate is eligible for relief and 2) whether the inmate is suitable. This process requires those inmates be represented by counsel and have an opportunity to present their case to the judge.

Initially, the procedure in Los Angeles County required all petitions to be handled by a single judge, and those cases not previously represented by the L.A. County Public Defender or L.A. County Alternate Defense Counsel would be handled by the Post Conviction Assistance Center. PCAC, essentially a public interest law firm, was originally created to handle the “Rampart Division” cases but is now used by the court in large-scale situations involving a great number of post-conviction cases. 

Over 1,000 petitions were filed in Los Angeles County. Initially, PCAC was able to handle all the non-Public Defender and Alternate Defense Counsel cases through negotiated settlements.

However, the District Attorney’s Office now has taken a much harder line on these cases, and it appears that all remaining cases will require investigation and full hearings rather than a negotiated settlement.

As a result, PCAC, with the concurrence of the judge handling these cases, reached out to LACBA's Indigent Criminal Defense Appointments Program to see if it could help. ICDA quickly created a panel of its attorney members to handle the overflow. A seminar was held on January 14, 2014 to train the ICDA lawyers on how to handle these cases. Speakers included PCAC Directing Attorney Christa Hohmann and Stanford Law School Professor Michael Romano, who is the director and cofounder of the statewide Three Strikes Project.

ICDA now has a trained panel of 70 lawyers to take on the cases. Roughly 80 cases have been referred as of mid-January, and more are expected.

"The courts are already dealing with reduced budgets and expanding case loads," said Ezekiel Perlo, ICDA Directing Attorney. "We are pleased to be able to assist the courts in handling this new influx of cases."

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