The Firm was instrumental in helping to achieve the following results:
Criminal Justice Reform
- On March 6, 2014, compromise legislation authored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a strong bipartisan vote of 15-2. The Whitehouse-Cornyn legislation was offered as a substitute to S. 1675, the Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act, introduced by Senators Whitehouse and Rob Portman (R-OH), and combines elements of that bill and S. 1783, the Federal Prison Reform Act, introduced by Senator Cornyn, along with Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). It would build on federal prison reforms that have proven successful at the state level.
- On December 9, 2013, S. 1783, the Federal Prison Reform Act of 2013, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Cornyn and 3 original co-sponsors: Senators Lee, Hatch, and Grassley.
- On September 19, 2013, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations held a hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.” http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/113th/hear_09192013.html
- On September 18, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “Reevaluating the Effectiveness of Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences.”
- On July 11, 2013, H.R. 2656, The Public Safety Enhancement Act of 2013, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Bobby Scott (D-VA) and 5 other original co-sponsors: Tom Marino (R-PA), Howard Coble (R-NC), John Conyers (D-MI), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). This bill now has 18 cosponsors. http://chaffetz.house.gov/press-release/chaffetz-scott-work-improve-federal-prison-system
International Religious Freedom
- On January 22, 2014, 24 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to the Secretary of State and congressional leaders to urge them to coordinate with each other and members of the faith-based community in order to protect the interests of those who have become victims of the violence that has plagued the Central African Republic (CAR) since 2012. We also asked Congress to assist USAID in promoting interreligious dialogue and conflict resolution at the local level. In addition to reversing the spiral of violence in the CAR, these steps can begin the process of a successful Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement program in the long run.
- On January 14, 2014, 26 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to the State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Eritrea, the Organizations for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), to urge them all to put pressure on the Eritrean government to enhance the conditions of religious freedom within the country and to raise these issues during Eritrea’s next Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on February 3, 2014. For more than two decades, the Eritrean regime has committed several flagrant human rights violations with no consequences. While the violations are broad, perhaps no community has suffered more thoroughly and completely than the numerous adherents of religious communities that are deemed unacceptable by the government.
- On December 2, 2013, 22 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to U.S. government leaders to urge them to start a meaningful dialogue with us on how we can all work together to make international religious freedom relevant in the U.S. government and the world. We shared practical ideas on civil society and government collaboration so that we may all increase the impact of our efforts to advance freedom of religion or belief at home and abroad.
- On November 13, 2013, 44 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to the President to urge him to appoint a new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom as soon as possible, and to consider specific criteria as he reviews nominees for the position. To begin, the candidate should view freedom of religion, thought, conscience and belief as far more than a faith-state issue, a social challenge, or a security concern that simply needs to be reported on and managed. The nominee should understand international religious freedom as a multidisciplinary issue that cuts across human rights, economics, security, counter-terrorism, media, academia, business, and other relevant sectors. Further, we urged the appointment of a high-profile Ambassador with a demonstrated expertise in foreign policy and religious freedom, and to consider elevating the position within the State Department so that the IRF Ambassador reports directly to the Secretary of State. We trust that a high-profile IRF Ambassador can help the U.S. government institutionalize religious freedom as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security, integrating it into the promotion of democracy, governance, rule of law, and citizenship, as well as the fight against religious-based extremism and violence.
- On October 2, 2013, 20 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to the Secretary of State to bring to his attention serious violations of religious freedom in Malaysia, and to urge him to highlight the importance of freedom of religion and expression during his upcoming visit. Malaysia’s fragile political consensus is threatened by the government’s active promotion of only one form of Sunni Islam. Religious minorities face societal abuse, limits on religious expression, discrimination, and the demolition of unregistered places of worship.
- On September 26, 2013, 18 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to U.S. government leaders to recommend specific U.S. government actions to more effectively address the crackdown on civil society and serious setbacks in religious freedom conditions in Russia. Russia’s actions against civil society cannot be countenanced under UN and OSCE standards, including the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Helsinki Accords. Further, Russias anti-democratic domestic policies combine with a foreign policy that is aggressive and hardline at the expense of human rights in the countries of several regions, including the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. We urged leaders to take decisive actions to more effectively press the leaders of the Russian government to reverse course, make good on Russian guarantees of freedom of religion and association for every individual and religious community, and honor Russias international human rights obligations and commitments.
- On July 8, 2013, 52 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to U.S. government leaders to make recommendations on how the U.S. can strengthen its international religious freedom (IRF) policy such that freedom of religion, conscience, and belief − the foundation of human dignity − is protected and promoted, resulting in reduced persecution and repression, as well as greater security and stability worldwide. We urged these leaders to take a hard look at how we engage religious communities worldwide, and at America’s IRF policy and the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), seeking to strengthen both. As part of strengthening IRFA, Congress and the State Department should reinvigorate U.S. leadership on IRF in U.S. and multilateral institutions, and strengthen three vital mechanisms established by IRFA, to ensure that the Ambassador-at-Large for IRF reports directly to the Secretary of State; training in religious freedom for Foreign Service Officers is mandatory; and increased funding is available for IRF programmatic grants, which should support religious and secular NGOs around the world that seek to advance religious freedom as part of democratic development. With stronger religious engagement and IRF policies, the United States will have a much greater opportunity to reduce the high levels of religious repression, persecution, violence, and terrorism around the world. And we will all be safer as a result.
- On June 5, 2013, 29 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to congressional leaders to support the time-sensitive Internet freedom recommendations contained in a congressional letter to members and senior staff of the Board of Broadcast Governors (BBG). The BBG initiative called for by the congressional letter to bypass the Internet firewalls of today’s closed society regimes can greatly and peacefully advance the cause of freedom throughout the world. Repeated statements and actions of closed society regimes confirm that today’s Internet firewall systems are 21st century equivalents of the brick and barbed wire Berlin Walls of the 20th century. As such, the congressional letter is a call to achieve peaceful, historic change on behalf of political, cultural and religious freedom.
- On June 5, 2013, 30 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to the President, and organized a successful press conference, to urge him to call for the release of a list of 16 prisoners of conscience during his bilateral summit with the President of China. The “China 16” leaders whose cases we cite are representative of thousands of men and women in China who, at great cost and peril to themselves and their families, have courageously spoken for the freedom of all – in China and, as a result, for the world at large. By raising the cases of these 16, we believe the President will increase their chances for freedom, and will greatly enhance the prospects for freedom of similarly situated prisoners of conscience.
- On April 23, 2013, 15 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to congressional leaders to express profound concern over the recent escalating violence and intolerance towards religious minorities in Bangladesh, and to request congressional hearings on the ongoing persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh. These hearings would address the mounting violence in Bangladesh in an effort to generate awareness about this issue. We firmly believe that promoting religious freedom and human rights must be an essential component of U.S. engagement with Bangladesh.
- On April 16, 2013, 14 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to the Secretary of State to express concern about religious freedom in Greece, and to urge the Secretary to call upon Greece to ratify the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and to actively and in good faith secure religious freedom for all religious minorities in Greece.
- On February 13, 2013, 27 organizations and individuals signed a multi-faith letter to the Secretary of State to express deep concern about the imprisonment and trial of American citizen Saeed Abedini, who was wrongfully detained in Iran and was recently convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. We understand that 12 Senators and 37 Representatives signed letters to the Secretary of State in mid January, and that a new letter is being addressed. We joined these members of Congress in urging the Secretary of State and the State Department to exhaust every possible option to ensure Mr. Abedini is fully and immediately released.