"CACJ is important to the criminal defense bar and to the personal rights and liberties of everyone in California. CACJ's presence in Sacramento is unmatched and often is the only voice to promote or defeat bills before the State Legislature.  CACJ provides the highest quality Seminars and Webinars to educate practitioners and to give them a sense of community. CACJ also conducts the National Trial Advocacy Competition which attracts teams from law schools all over the country."

Robert Sanger

"CACJ has represented the interests of the defense bar and our clients for almost 40 years. Our legislative efforts, educational programs, amicus support, publications, just to mention a few, have been invaluable to my practice, to our members, and for all those who represent people accused of crime"

Alex Landon

"It is an exciting time to be a part of CACJ in this changing landscape of criminal justice . The resulting sea-change is the result of budgetary woes from inflated prison sentences. I am inspired every time I attend a meeting and learn of the efforts members make on behalf of the accused without compensation or commendation to put "rehabilitation" back into the system which for so long just sought to warehouse those society deemed unsuitable. I am particularly hopeful that I can address the problems of elderly prisoners seeking compassionate release. No one should die in prison."

Oliver Cleary, Board Member

"CACJ is like a beacon in the distance through the fog and heavy mist.  It is where we will strive to meet and find our finest selves, where we will become the best lawyers we can be, and where we will work together to change the world and make it a better place for ourselves, our children, and most importantly, our clients."

John Crouch

"As criminal defense attorneys we regularly make difference in our individual clients’ lives. However, standing alone, our efforts only go that far. In order to bring about a real change to the criminal justice system, we must work together as a team. CACJ provides the framework for that cooperation. As Helen Keller once said: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Orchid Vaghti, Board Member

"For over 30 years CACJ has provided me with access to the leading criminal defense practitioners in California, and the opportunity to know about and respond to pending legislation - which I otherwise would not have had."

The Late Michael Millman, Past President

"As defense counsel is the accused's friend in court, CACJ is the accused's friend in the Legislature. By lobbying together for shorter sentences and fewer crimes, we can make our state more just, and our world more free."

Jesse Stout, Board Member

"It is such an honor to be part of CACJ and to watch the heroic efforts of CACJ members fighting to achieve fairness in our legal system.  When I first joined the Board I had no idea about the incredible efforts and success CACJ advocates make on a daily basis throughout our great state.  The collective wisdom of the outstanding attorneys that comprise the CACJ Board is inspiring and makes me a better attorney and citizen.  The efforts and support of CACJ members ensures the protection  of liberty and justice for all."

Deedra Edgar, Board Member

"Being a member of CACJ is belonging to dedicated, professional community that has a very tangible effect on the lives of our clients and the public who benefit from our efforts to keep the government accountable and works together to ensure that the citizen's privacy rights, due process and concepts of fundamental fairness are protected and strengthened. Training, outreach and legislative advocacy are cornerstones of CACJ's 40 years."

Matthew Guerrero, CACJ President

To fight the horrors of class warfare, mass incarceration, and the torture of solitary confinement, we must stand together. We do this through our membership in the CACJ, the single most powerful state-based group of criminal defense lawyers in the nation. Join us. We're making a difference.

Jacqueline Goodman, CACJ Secretary

"CACJ is a family of criminal defense lawyers. We share knowledge, experience and affection. It is a mirror in which we bond with others like us to experience the best in law and lawyers. It is a message that we are not alone."

Ephraim Margolin, Past President & Founding Member

"For 40 years, CACJ has been a powerful voice for criminal defense attorneys and their clients. It has impacted laws that protect the rights of the convicted and accused and provided defense attorneys with education, advocacy  and community. CACJ's strength, purpose and longevity make it a cornerstone of criminal justice in California."

Laurel Headley

"Strength comes from unity.  CACJ is a great criminal defense organization of public and private defense attorneys who are joined for self-education, mutual support, making our collective voices known, and continuing the historic, continuing struggle for justice for the accused."

Chuck Sevilla, Past President

"There are countless pieces of catastrophic legislation dead on the floor of the legislature as the direct result of the dedicated, articulate and dogged work, over the years, of the CACJ Legislative Committee and our lobbyists."

Jefferey R. Stein, Past President

"CACJ is the organization that is pushing back against unreasonable laws and unjust treatment for people accused of crimes. Because of the state of the law, criminal defense work is a tough, Sisyphean endeavor. My colleagues at CACJ give me the inspiration and strength I need to zealously push that boulder up a hill over and over again. Because of them, I remember that there is strength in numbers and solace in camaraderie."

Cris Lamb, CACJ Vice-President

"There is nothing better that I could do to advance the interests of the clients and the criminal defense bar than by being an active member of CACJ. "

Jefferey R. Stein, Past President

"The Brady bill is the latest example of CACJ's Leg Comm and Ignacio's group having unlimited creativity to overcome all obstacles and limitless tenacity to keep battling when lesser souls would give up on exhaustion. It is an honor and privilege to be allowed to work with all of you."

Steve Rease, CACJ Secretary

“We are the gladiators fighting to protect the liberty of the citizens who are investigated or accused of crimes. While most of us are sole practitioners, CACJ makes us into a powerful Criminal Defense law firm with the resources to even the playing field against the government. Whether it is the connections you make at the great seminars, the Brief Bank, the legislative updates and lobbying or what you learn at the seminars, it makes you a better warrior and therefore, helps your clients.”

David S. Kestenbaum, Board Member

"I have always been inspired and assisted by my colleagues in CACJ. I first got involved in CACJ by testifying and help refining the first California DNA laws almost 25 years ago, and was so moved that CACJ had taken the lead in the legislative testimony on the proposed DNA Act, I became actively involved. Our legislative and amicus presence, as well as our FORUM magazine, have only become stronger over time. I am more impressed than ever that a private organization like ours is generally the strongest voice, and often the only voice, on issues crucial to criminal defense."

Jeff Thoma, Past President 2015

"Defense attorneys are warriors - for our clients and in defense of their constitutional rights.  We fight more effectively and successfully when we band together, when we support each other through out membership in, and commitment to, CACJ.  We gain strength in our often lonely fights for our clients from the men and women who are engaged in similar struggles for other defendants.  CACJ is a vital means to support one another."

Scott Sugarman, Past President 2014

"CACJ is an essential state-wide organization for all criminal defense attorneys.  The seminars, seminar materials, and Forum magazine are outstanding, addressing the latest issues and developments in criminal law, procedure and evidence.  All of the committees are accomplished and hardworking. The Legislative Committee and Ignacio is a prime example: an important and respected voice in the legislature continually achieving impressive results."

Robert Boyce

"CACJ's great contribution to criminal justice is our work in the Legislature. As a member of the Legislative Committee since 1984, I have seen our organization become a real power for justice in the Legislature. CACJ is now a sought-after voice in the Legislature and our view on bills is given serious weight by Legislators and their staff. Yes, a lot of bad bills have become bad law. But brother, you should see the stuff CACJ has stopped. And many times, CACJ was the only organized opposition to these terrible, terrible bills. "

Steve Rease, CACJ Treasurer

"California Attorneys for Criminal Justice is the home for those attorneys in California who understand and truly appreciate the liberties and freedoms recognized by our Founding Fathers and embodied in the United States Constitution. More importantly, these women and men of the bar recognize that these inalienable rights enunciated in the Constitution will be ignored, belittled and ultimately stolen from us by the state without champions taking a stand -- this is who we are -- this is who YOU are!"

Jonathan Willis

"CACJ has been the key guide to my becoming a more effective and inventive advocate for the clients I serve, by offering the great minds and strategists of our craft as inspiring mentors."

Jefferey R. Stein, Past President

"It has been my pleasure to serve as President of CACJ. In that capacity I have met and worked with many people who are truly committed to the defense of others and the idea that there can and should be equal justice for all. Thank you for the opportunity."

Christopher Chaney, Past President

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Senator Ricardo Lara, recipient of CACJ's Co-Legislator of the Year Award, meeting with CACJ members


Senator Ricardo Lara, recipient of CACJ's Co-Legislator of the Year Award, meeting with CACJ members

CACJ is a leader in the push for reform of our criminal justice system. As a community of criminal defense attorneys, we are in the trenches fighting to ensure the legal and constitutional protections of all Californians. CACJ facilitates sharing of our collective expertise to enhance the skill set of everyone in the profession, and to provide guidance and mentorship of new lawyers.


Congratulations to Mary McComb, California’s new State Public Defender

Mary has served as supervising deputy state public defender since 2010 and was deputy state public defender from 1992 to 2010. McComb was an associate at Kelman Loria from 1990 to 1991, an attorney at the Community Law Center from 1987 to 1990 and a teacher at the Commonwealth High School from 1983 to 1984. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School. Mary was appointed in January by Governor Brown, and was confirmed today by the Senate Rules Committee. Later this summer the full Senate will confirm her appointment.

Governor Brown Announces Appointments


Several of CACJ's co-sponsored or sponsored bills passed out of their respective Public Safety committees this week

  • CACJ Sponsored AB-1909 Falsifying evidence, by Assemblywoman Lopez,amends Penal Code section 141 to create a felony for bad-acting prosecutors that intentionally violate Brady requirements.
  • CACJ Co-Sponsored SB-1052 Custodial interrogation: juveniles, by Senator Lara, adds section 625.6 to the Welfare and Institutions Code to require that juveniles have access to legal counsel before waiving their Miranda rights during a custodial interrogation.
  • CACJ Sponsored SB-1202 Sentencing, by Senator Leno, amends section 1170 of the Penal Code to provide that in felony cases the court may not impose an upper term, in its own discretion, unless aggravating facts are presented to the jury and the jury finds the facts as true beyond a reasonable doubt as required under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Cunningham v. California, 59 U.S. 270 (2007).
  • CACJ Co-Sponsored SB-1389 Interrogation: electronic recordation, by Senator Galzer, amends section 859.5 of the Penal Code to expand current protections regarding the electronic recordation of interrogations for persons suspected of committing or accused of committing murder.

The Supreme court ruled that "the ends justify the means"

In what amounts to an endorsement of racial profiling for traffic stops, the United States Supreme Court ruled that any evidence collected after an illegal stop, may nonetheless be admissible if it us uncovered that the driver has an outstanding warrant. The fact that there is no legal basis for the stop is absolved if the officer searches and identifies a current warrant.

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke out strongly against this violation of our 4th amendment: "The court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer's violation of your Fourth Amendment rights." Pointing out the effects this will have on minorities will affect us all, she said "unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives."

Read more here.


Breaking News: Peremptory challenges in misdemeanor cases to be reduced to 6 beginning in July.

Governor Brown, Judicial Council, and California Judges Association successfully lobby to reduce peremptory challenges. New law could take effect July 1.

For the past 8 years CACJ and allies have been on the front lines trying to preserve peremptory challenges in misdemeanor trials. The California Judges Association, and the Judicial Council of California have advocated every year to reduce the current number from 10 to 6. And every year, after intense lobbying, we have been able to stop the legislation.

This year the Governor officially weighed in and included the reduction in his draft budget in January. And despite the Legislature's unwillingness to adopt the proposal through earlier budget hearings, yesterday the reduction was added to the Budget committee's agenda for last night's hearing. According to statements made during the hearing, many legislators were reluctant to vote for the proposal or simply opposed it. CACJ's lobbyist spent yesterday and the evening meeting with legislators and staff discussing the proposal. Ultimately, the Governor made clear to the members of the committee that it was of the highest priority to him -- at approximately 10:30 pm last night, the budget committee approved the reduction -- though they included a sunset provision.

CACJ thanks its members and our friends for putting up such a strong fight all of these years. When the official language is released, CACJ will make it available.

This is the time we need to remain steadfast in our goals,
and our community must remain united.

Justice That Works: End the Death Penalty in California

The Justice That Works campaign submitted nearly double the required signatures to qualify their initiative to the end the death penalty in California for the November ballot. Justice That Works 2016 is gearing up for a statewide vote in November. CACJ calls on our members to end the death penalty in California by supporting the Justice that Works Act of 2016. Please support the measure by DONATING to the campaign. This is our moment to make history.

  • Eliminates the possibility of executing an innocent person
  • Saves $1 billion dollars over the next 7 years
  • Serious offenders must work and pay restitution to victim’s families

CACJ Board President Matthew Guerrero quoted in the The Bakersfield Californian

Matt Guerrero comments on scandal in Kern County involving two detectives involved in corruption and who have pleaded guilty to several charges. “One example of a common potential legal issue is that defense attorneys never had the chance to question the credibility of Diaz and Mara, because they did not know their credibility was in question. But now, after the fact, their credibility is in shambles, and those cases in which their veracity was assumed must be closely examined, said Matthew Guerrero, an attorney in San Luis Obispo County and the board president of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice.”

Read more here.


“Obie’s Law” Featured on Socal Connected

Obie Anthony was wrongfully convicted and spent 17 years in state prison until he was exonerated, largely due to the work of the Northern California Innocence Project and the California Innocence Project at Loyola Marymount. For the past two years Obie has collaborated with CACJ on successful legislation; first on our bill AB1328 to report Brady violations to the State Bar of California, and secondly on our measure, "Obie's Law" AB 672, to require reentry services for exonerated individuals. Obie received a CACJ President's Award at our most recent annual conference.

Obie founded, and is the director of, Exonerated Nation, a non-profit dedicated to help others wrongfully convicted. Both Obie and the new reentry law are featured in a story by Socal Connected, KCET television. Watch it here.

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Current Legislation

  • AB 813
  • AB 1909
  • AB 2655
  • SB 1052
  • SB 1202
  • SB 1242
  • SB 1389
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