Criminal Justice Reform Clinic
Students in the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic (CJRC) worked on a variety of cases and projects relating to the back end of the criminal justice system in the areas of parole, clemency, forensic science in wrongful convictions, and legal services to incarcerated youth. In addition, students were involved in legislative and amicus work focused on the death penalty, clemency, nonunanimous juries, wrongful convictions, and creating avenues to end mass incarceration and racial injustice.
CJRC’s work, particularly with regard to the Ramos Project and its earlier efforts to identify the origins of Oregon’s nonunanimous jury laws, has been featured in news media repeatedly this year.
CJRC petitioned for and received an amazing 26 commutations for its clients since March 2020, showcasing the clients’ rehabilitation and transformed lives. CJRC also made Oregon history when Governor Kate Brown ’85 commuted the clinic’s client to the Parole Board after reducing his sentence from life without parole to life—the first time such a commutation has happened in Oregon.
Ramos Project: Working With Incarcerated With Nonunanimous Jury Decisions
In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court in Ramos v. Louisiana found that nonunanimous jury convictions in state criminal courts are unconstitutional, but it denied retroactive relief in Edwards v. Vannoy in 2021, under federal law. CJRC has been working to assist petitioners affected by Ramos. Calling its work the Ramos Project, CJRC has received an overwhelming number of requests—more than 500—from incarcerated individuals. The Ramos Project also works to provide legal arguments, information, and assistance to post-conviction attorneys around the state in their Ramos cases. This year, CJRC is involved in litigation and policy work on retroactivity statewide.
Parole Project: Representing Individuals, Collecting Data to Strengthen the System
CJRC’s Parole Project represents incarcerated individuals in their parole hearings, and is engaged in a data project that will inform ways to strengthen the parole release system.
CRJC Successfully Champions Legislation
CJRC was involved in a number of bills in the Oregon legislature during the 2021 legislative session. One of the most notable was SB 819, which passed and goes into effect in January 2022. The law establishes a procedure where a district attorney and a person convicted of a felony may jointly petition the sentencing court for reconsideration of their conviction and/or sentence.
CJRC also championed bills involving pretrial discovery and discovery requirements in criminal cases, elimination of fees and court costs associated with juvenile delinquency matters, and early medical release from prison.
Students working in the CJRC this year received one or more of the following scholarships and grants: Candise DuBoff Jones Scholarship, Dean’s Scholarship, Discovery Grant, Lezak Social Justice Fellowship, Roosevelt Robinson Minority Scholarship, and Trillium Grant.