Chairman Nadler Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 2694, the Criminal Judicial Administration Act of 2021
Washington, June 22, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following statement on the House floor in support of H.R. 2694, the Criminal Judicial Administration Act of 2021:
"H.R. 2694, the 'Criminal Judicial Administration Act of 2021,' is bipartisan legislation that makes two modest, but important amendments to current law, promoting the efficient, effective, and fair administration of justice.
"The first part of this bill concerns out-of-custody criminal defendants, particularly those who are released pending trial to live in communities that are located far from the courthouse where their cases are being heard.
"Most federal criminal defendants are detained pending trial. The U.S. Marshals Service is responsible for housing and transporting them to court hearings, including trial. Under current law, the court may order the Marshals to provide funds for a criminal defendant who is released pending trial but who cannot afford the cost of travel to the location of the courthouse for required court proceedings.
"However, defendants must fund their own way back home, and defendants in this position are not able to receive financial support from the Marshals for subsistence, such as lodging and meals. For an indigent defendant, these costs are sometimes insurmountable.
"For years, federal courts have struggled with how to assist indigent defendants when they find themselves in these difficult situations. Unfortunately, the courts’ efforts have come up against the text of the statute.
"This bill would authorize courts, in the interests of justice, to order the U.S. Marshals to cover roundtrip travel and subsistence for defendants who must attend court hearings but who cannot afford to pay this on their own. The Judicial Conference of the United States has urged us to correct this grave unfairness, and I am pleased to see that we are finally doing so with this bill.
"The second part of this bill, concerning federal magistrate judges, is also supported by the Judicial Conference. Magistrate judges have trial jurisdiction over certain misdemeanors, except for Class A misdemeanors, for which the maximum sentence is up to one year in custody. With a defendant’s consent, however, a magistrate judge may exercise trial jurisdiction over a case involving a Class A misdemeanor. Magistrate judges frequently do so, and often hear Class A misdemeanor cases all the way through judgment and sentencing.
"Under current law, a magistrate judge’s jurisdiction ends after judgment is entered in a misdemeanor case and post-judgment jurisdiction reverts to the district court. Indeed, magistrate judges are not authorized to hear post-judgment motions—such as motions to vacate a sentence—even though they are the ones that handled the entire matter at the trial level and are best equipped to hear such post-judgment motions.
"Among other things, this bill would authorize a magistrate judge to hear post-judgment motions in misdemeanor cases in which he or she exercised trial jurisdiction. This amendment clearly improves judicial economy and makes perfect sense.
"This is a straightforward and bipartisan measure that will help our criminal justice system operate in a more effective and fair manner. I thank Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Roy for sponsoring this legislation, and I urge all Members to support it."I reserve the balance of my time."