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Federal criminal defense during Jeff Sessions’ time as attorney general

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Criminal defendants and everyone else are not in for a pretty time during Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump is no friend of the Bill of Rights and civil liberties and is likely to nominate plenty of candidates for the Supreme Court and lower federal courts who are no champions of civil liberties either.

We may see more federal prosecutorial efforts to seek and obtain death sentences in federal court, including bringing federal capital prosecutions in states that have abolished the death penalty. Trump’s presidency is going to push to narrow terrorism suspects’ Constitutional rights.  We can expect more obscenity prosecutions, including against mainstream sexual videos watched even by married couples.

No matter how much was not right with the Obama administration’s approach to criminal investigation and prosecution, the Trump administration will be much worse, probably in many ways mimicking the civil liberties-curbing efforts of the Bush I and II administrations and the Reagan administration, and likely inviting Bush I and II administration prosecutors back to action from their private sector positions. Possibly somewhat offsetting such efforts will be the career prosecutors who follow orders rather than zealously pushing for changes in prosecution priorities and approaches.

Trump has nominated as his attorney general Jeff Sessions, who is no friend of civil liberties. Left to be nominated are the remaining top Justice Department posts, and the nearly one hundred United States Attorneys — one for each federal court district — who will handle criminal prosecution and civil litigation on behalf of the federal government.

Federal felony prosecutions typically involve high stakes, starting with a slew of prosecutions with the statutory presumption of no pretrial bail. Thankfully, indigent federal criminal defendants who are fortunate to be appointed a federal public defender lawyer will get lawyers who obtain their jobs through plenty of strong competition and are paid on par with federal prosecutors. The remaining federal criminal defendants will want to obtain highly-qualified lawyers, whether they be non-public defender court-appointed lawyers or retained lawyers.

The die is cast for federal criminal defense during the dark years of Trump’s presidency.