Durbin, Collins Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Improve Fairness In Criminal Justice System

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Criminal Judicial Administration Act (CJAA), a bipartisan bill that would improve fairness in the criminal justice system by facilitating court attendance by out-of-custody indigent federal defendants. The bill would authorize federal courts to direct the United States Marshals Service (USMS) to pay for round-trip travel and subsistence for the limited number of defendants who must attend court hearings, but cannot afford to pay the costs on their own. Currently, the USMS pays only for one-way transportation, leaving some indigent defendants homeless, hungry, and stranded.

The bill would also authorize U.S. magistrate judges to hear post-conviction motions in cases in which the magistrate was the sentencing judge, instead of the post-conviction motions being assigned to a district court judge who may not be familiar with the case.

“Our bill makes a simple but impactful change in the administration of justice within federal courts. For a small annual cost, we can help hundreds of federal defendants who are presumed innocent get fair treatment and increase public safety at the same time. I thank Senator Collins for her support of this bill and I look forward to advancing it in the Senate,” Durbin said.

“Equal justice under the law is one of the fundamental principles of our criminal justice system.  Currently, however, an indigent defendant who is presumed innocent may be faced with overwhelming travel costs simply to defend themselves in court,” said Collins.  “Our bipartisan bill would strengthen our judicial system by affording judges the discretion to provide indigent defendants with the resources they need to attend court proceedings.  It would also increase efficiency by allowing federal magistrate judges to rule on post-judgment motions in cases they already presided over.  These modest and commonsense changes would help ensure that justice is carried out fairly and effectively.”

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill on the suspension calendar in June, in a bipartisan effort led by Representatives Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY-08), Chip Roy (R-TX-21), Hank Johnson (D-GA-04), Van Taylor (R-TX-03), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05).