The Due Process Institute is a bipartisan nonprofit that works to honor, preserve, and restore principles of fairness in the criminal legal system.
Founded by a public policy professional with 20 years of project management, lobbying, legal defense, and teaching experience, guided by a bipartisan Board of Directors, and supported by bipartisan staff, the Due Process Institute creates and supports achievable bipartisan solutions for challenging criminal legal policy concerns through advocacy, litigation, and education.
We are lobbyists for the Constitution, working with an incredibly diverse coalition of lawmakers, public policy organizations, lawyers, business leaders, the formerly incarcerated and their families, and the public to help bring more fairness to the criminal legal system.
The Due Process Institute joined a cross-ideological letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee asking it to investigate the FBI for potential surveillance abuse, as the FBI may be targeting groups that support greater 4th Amendment protections.
DPI co-hosted a community event, "Pretrial Justice: Examining the Need for Pretrial & Criminal Discovery Reform in Virginia" at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA. NACDL, VACDL, Americans for Prosperity, and Legal Aid Justice Center joined us in running four different panels on important issues affecting the criminal justice system in the Commonwealth. The final panel, on effective citizen advocacy, was moderated by Joe Luppino-Esposito and featured Congressman Bobby Scott (VA) and Virginia Delegate Steve Heretick.
The Due Process Institute has been actively working in Virginia to improve criminal discovery. Joe has weighed in on the importance of including sanctions for prosecutors who fail in their discovery duty, and has also suggested reform solutions that would put Virginia in line with its neighbor North Carolina.
A statement from Due Process Institute Founder and President Shana-Tara O’Toole on the first anniversary of the signing of the First Step Act into law.
In 40 states, as well as under federal law, a jury can find you not guilty of a criminal charge but a judge can still sentence you to jail for many years based on the facts underlying the acquitted charge. This is known as acquitted conduct sentencing, and the Due Process Institute is leading the movement to end the practice. Director, Rule of Law Initiatives Joe Luppino-Esposito delivered a presentation on the constitutional flaws with acquitted conduct sentencing to the Criminal Justice Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council States and Nation Policy Summit in early December 2019.
“Attorney-client privilege is essential to an effective representation of criminal defendants,” said Shana-Tara O’Toole, President of the Due Process Institute. “The Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act establishes the necessary constitutional protections to electronic messages between incarcerated clients and their attorneys. This bipartisan, commonsense reform brings Bureau of Prisons policy into the 21st century and applies the norm of confidentiality to one of the most prevalent forms of communication today.”
“The Due Process Institute views the Fair Chance Act as a law that will hopefully continue the momentum of providing meaningful second chances to those who need them,” said Shana-Tara O’Toole, President of the Due Process Institute. “And we continue to encourage Congress to consider additional much-needed important next steps—supported by Members on both sides of the aisle—to improve the criminal legal system.”
After passing the House with a unanimous voice vote, H.R. 4018, which fixes an oversight in an Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program, is now moving in the U.S. Senate. The Due Process Institute reiterated its support for this reform, which will help to fully implement one of the many goals of the First Step Act.
The leading Florida newspaper the Sun Sentinel quotes the amicus brief of the Due Process Institute to highlight the legal support for Robert Kraft in his pursuit to strike improper video recordings made by police.
Director of Rule of Law Initiatives Joe Luppino-Esposito was quoted in the Danville Register & Bee discussing the push towards discovery reform in Virginia and around the country.
“A lot of prosecutors aren’t going to know what’s material to a defendant’s case because they don’t know what a defendant’s case is going to be,” he said.
Along with 30+ other organizations, the Due Process Institute is calling on Congress to correct a drafting error that would improperly limit the eligibility of federal inmates for the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program. A vote is expected in November.
Due Process Institute joined a bipartisan letter telling Congress to take notice of reports regarding how the federal government engaged in "wrongful use of this powerful tool for personal purposes, queries that violated both the statute and the Fourth Amendment, and efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to evade laws designed to access how often this tool is turned against people in the United States."
The Due Process Institute joined a bipartisan coalition of advocates who support the Inspector General Access Act (S. 685). This bill would shift investigations of professional responsibility to the Department of Justice's Inspector General, rather than the current DOJ apparatus that exists today, which is internal to the department. This independent oversight would be more effective in ensuring that the attorneys representing the federal government are held to high standards for professional conduct.
The House companion bill has already passed in that chamber.
October 1, 2019--The Hill published an opinion article by DPI President Shana O'Toole encouraging both chambers of Congress and both parties to turn their focus to abolishing acquitted conduct sentencing.
"Justice is not a partisan issue and every American wants a fair and effective criminal justice system. That requires respect for due process, restoring the primacy of the citizen jury, and adhering to the core principles of our Constitution. We applaud Grassley and Durbin for leading the effort to reach across the aisle in a difficult political environment to affirm that Americans should not serve prison time for crimes they did not commit."
September 27, 2019--"The DOJ is comprised of the people that put these people behind bars in the first place," said Joe Luppino-Esposito, the director of Rule of Law initiatives at the Due Process Institute. "It's a little odd the clemency process happens within the same department."
The Due Process Institute has also joined 130 organizations and prominent individuals who have called for clemency for Ross Ulbricht. See the list here.
September 26, 2019 Statement of Due Process Institute President + Founder Shana-Tara O'Toole
“The Due Process Institute is proud to endorse the bipartisan Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act of 2019 (S. 2566). The Act will abolish acquitted conduct sentencing in federal criminal cases and thus restore to the people, sitting together as a jury, the exclusive power to decide guilt or innocence.
In conjunction with the bill’s introduction, the Due Process Institute has initiated a #JuriesDecide education, advocacy, and litigation campaign.
Everyone learns in grade school that juries decide who is guilty of crimes and who is not. In recent decades, misguided tough-on-crime policies have eroded this fundamental American principle of justice, resulting in vastly longer prison sentences that are based on accusations that juries in fact rejected. We are thrilled that Congress is taking a significant step today to begin to fix our failing criminal justice system.
It is important that we recognize the fundamental principle that juries decide guilt or innocence. Along with the First Step Act, which the Due Process Institute also worked to pass, this bill takes another step toward ending our incarceration epidemic. This is why a large and diverse group of people and organizations from across the ideological spectrum has joined the Due Process Institute’s campaign to abolish acquitted conduct sentencing.
We applaud Senators Durbin and Grassley for once again serving as lead sponsors of a landmark bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, as well as co-sponsors Senators Leahy, Lee, Booker, and Tillis, for putting their political differences aside and working together for the good of the country.”
Learn more about acquitted conduct sentencing and the Due Process Institute’s reform campaign by visiting www.idueprocess.org/juriesdecide and following the #JuriesDecide hashtag on social media.
September 17, 2019--DPI's Shana O'Toole has prepared a Brief Guide to the recently decided and upcoming US Supreme Court criminal law cases who find this sort of stuff to be fun, informative, or compelling (like us!).
September 10, 2019--"Research indicates that approximately 97% of people incarcerated within the BOP will one day return home to the community. It is important that time spent while incarcerated is rehabilitative and prepares people for successful reentry. Congress made a firm commitment to criminal justice reform when it passed the First Step Act — it is time for Congress to reaffirm this commitment by fulling funding its implementation."
media coverage here
August 1, 2019--DPI supports the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884) because it would de-schedule marijuana, removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, and would provide a process for courts to expunge marijuana convictions and re-sentence people with marijuana convictions.
July 19, 2019--The Due Process Institute supports reasonable and necessary measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, but oppose those efforts that undermine due process rights, privacy protections, the attorney-client privilege, and other sound public policies. We hope lawmakers share our concerns and work to make meaningful improvements to the draft legislation before it is introduced.
July 8, 2019--In our opinion, the existing statutory framework of Section 314 and its implementing regulations already give significant cause for concern and fail to adequately protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment and privacy rights. Previous attempts to expand this program through statutory or regulatory means are even more concerning. It is our hope that FinCEN will reevaluate the necessity and efficacy of the Section 314 program and ultimately abandon the practice of warrantless bulk searches and seizures of financial records, or at the very least, adopt clear legal standards and procedural measures consistent with our foundational Constitutional rights. It is also our hope that FinCEN will discontinue its attempts to expand this program by lobbying Congress to amend the authorizing statute or via pursuing additional rulemaking.
Former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley addressed the Senate in December to recognize the imminent passage of the First Step Act, the most significant criminal justice reform legislation passed in a decade. The Due Process Institute was among the core organizations responsible for the bill's ultimate success. Senator Grassley explained:
"A diverse group and a broad coalition of other groups, from the ACLU to the American Conservative Union, supported this bill. I can't list all the groups that offered their key support, but they include FreedomWorks, Justice Action Network, Americans for Tax Reform, Heritage Action, the Due Process Institute, Faith & Freedom Coalition, R Street, Right on Crime, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Prison Fellowship, and members of the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition."
The Due Process Institute is proud to be recognized for our efforts, and prouder still that we were part of such an impactful, bipartisan piece of legislation.
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