Criminal Law Section

News from the Section

Criminal Law Section Advisors Honored by State Bar

Two Criminal Law Section Advisors - the Honorable Marguerite D. Downing, Superior Court Judge, Los Angeles County, and Terry Wiley, Deputy District Attorney, Alameda County - were given Presidential Recognition Awards at the 2015 State Bar meeting. Judge Downing was honored for her work as Chairperson of the State Bar Mentoring Taskforce. Mr. Wiley received the award on behalf of the National Bar Association for his work developing a “know your rights” program.

Terry  Wiley

Judge Marguerite D. Downing receives 2015 Presidential Recognition Award from Craig Holden, outgoing State Bar President for chairing Mentoring Taskforce.

Terry Wiley receives 2015 Presidential Recognition Award on behalf of the National Bar Association.

2015-2016 Competition for Student Papers in Criminal Law and/or Criminal Procedure

The Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of California is pleased to announce its Seventh Annual Competition for Student Papers in Criminal Law and/or Criminal Procedure. This is a nationwide competition; while the focus is on California law, past winners have included students attending schools across the country.


Grand Prize
  • $1500 cash prize
  • The Grand Prize –winning paper will be published in the Criminal Law Journal, the official quarterly publication of the Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of California
  • One-year student membership in the Criminal Law Section
The Honorable Mention Prizes:
  • $500 cash prize
  • Each of the papers awarded Honorable Mention status will be published in the Criminal Law Journal, the official quarterly publication of the Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of California
  • One-year student membership in the Criminal Law Section


To be eligible for consideration, the paper must be written solely by a student enrolled in law school at the time the author submits a paper to this Competition.

Contest Rules

The paper must pertain to criminal law and/or to criminal procedure, with a particular focus on contemporary issues of concern in the State of California. The paper should be original and scholarly. It should be appropriately and carefully annotated to reflect the authorities that support the author's opinions and findings, and upon which the author otherwise relies.

Papers should be between 1,500 and 4,500 words in length, including any citations, and should follow the citation style of The Blue Book: A Uniform System of Citation. Papers that have previously been published in a book, journal, magazine, or newspaper are not eligible.

Papers submitted to the Competition must be in Word format and sent by e-mail attachment to each of the Criminal Law Journal co-editors:

Anne Perry ( ; Lani Biafore (; Decio Rangel (

Papers submitted to the 2015-2016 Criminal Law Section Student Paper Competition must be e-mailed no later than midnight, February 29, 2016. Submissions must be accompanied by an e-mail cover letter verifying the author's current law school enrollment and authorizing the Criminal Law Section of the State Bar to publish the paper in the Criminal Law Journal.


The papers will be judged by members of the Criminal Law Executive Committee, who will evaluate the papers on their originality and informational value, as well as the quality of the author's legal research, writing and analysis. The decision of the judges is final. Papers must be of publishable quality, and the Criminal Law Section reserves the right not to award one or more of the listed prizes, if, in the sole opinion of the judges, the papers submitted in the Competition do not meet its standards.

The Criminal Law Section reserves the right to edit the papers that are selected for publication.

Upcoming Criminal Law Section Webinars

Webinar: Advanced Felony Sentencing: Guns, Gangs, and Sex Crimes

Thursday, November 12, 2015, 12:15 p.m. - 1:15 p.m. (Pacific)

This program offers 1 hour participatory MCLE credit and 1 hour legal specialization credit in Criminal Law. You must register in advance in order to participate.

California felony sentencing law includes various sentence enhancements for: 1) crimes that involve the use of a gun; 2) crimes that involve members of a street gang; and 3) sexual offenses under certain circumstances. In many cases, the sentence on the enhancement is greater than that for the underlying crime being enhanced.

This webinar will discuss the firearm use enhancements, the gang enhancements, the mandatory consecutive sentencing rules in sex cases and the "One-Strike" sex statutes.

Speaker: Albert Camacho, Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office

Webinar: Defending Financial Crimes in Federal Court -- The Basics

Thursday, December 10, 2015, 12 noon - 1 p.m. (Pacific)

This program offers 1 hour participatory MCLE credit and 1 hour legal specialization credit in Criminal Law. You must register in advance in order to participate.

This course is useful to both the criminal practitioner, new to federal court, as well as civil attorneys representing business clients.

Part one provides an overview of federal financial crimes, including mail/wire fraud, money laundering, and structuring. An understanding of the basic federal offenses is necessary to effectively advise and represent clients.

Part two highlights federal criminal procedure, including grand jury, pretrial release, trial, and sentencing.

Part three discusses retaining counsel in financial crimes, the function of counsel, common defenses, strategy, and ethical issues. This course will include a discussion of the proposed Sentencing Guidelines amendments relevant to financial crimes.


  • Timothy E. Warriner, Law Office of Timothy E. Warriner
  • Firdaus Dordi, Dordi Williams Cohen, LLP

Book Review: Ghettoside, by Jill Leovy

Reviewed by Robert A. Schwartz

Recent police shootings of unarmed African-Americans have triggered a protest slogan and a rhetorical question over whether black lives matter. The question is emphatically answered in the affirmative in Jill Leovy’s new book Ghettoside, a thorough and compelling examination of black on black homicide in South Los Angeles, and the relentless efforts of several homicide detectives to find the perpetrators, and lay the foundation for a successful prosecution.

Leovy, a Los Angeles Times reporter, was provided an office at the 77th Division precinct house, and given an insider’s access to the scene of killings, and the opportunity to interview witnesses, surviving family members, and detectives assigned to the investigations. The result is a work that is part crime novel, and part sociological treatise. The term Ghettoside, coined by a South LA gang member, refers not only to a geographical vicinity (e.g. west side, east side) but a state of mind. Leovy could have used the alternate rhyming title Ghettocide as the book at its heart addresses the often mindless cycle of homicides in south LA. Entering this picture are LAPD homicide detective John Skaggs and some of his colleagues who battle a host of obstacles -- witnesses silenced by a fear of retaliation or just simply indifference, distrust and even contempt for the police, and bureaucratic restrictions imposed by LAPD -- but relentlessly pursue investigations, in the process honoring the memories of the decedents as well as the broken hearts and wishes of their loved ones. Aggressive investigation and apprehension of killers, Leovy contends in the book, mutes extralegal violence -- the street paybacks for every new killing or attempted killing -- that keeps adding fuel to the fire of the cycle of violence.

There are always witnesses to these killings (shootings to be exact ) but the trick for detectives is to get them to talk. No witness of course wants to be labeled a snitch on the street and getting them to talk necessarily involves intimidation and subtle psychology and can be a dirty business: lying to witnesses who insist on anonymity about whether they are being recorded, leaving them feeling ultimately betrayed, is depicted as a necessary evil in the process. Leovy dutifully traces African-American suspicion of the police and the dispensation of justice to the Jim Crow Deep South, where black on black crime was treated by the police with yawning disinterest (in contrast with the vigorous even hysterical response greeting black on white crime) and where the perception was that law was the domain of whites, and the wide scale migration of blacks in the mid-20th century from the south to northern and western urban areas. Leovy notes that a sign in a 77th Division squad room reads “Louisiana Hotel.”

A subplot of the larger theme conveyed in this book revolves around the killing of the son of an LAPD detective who rejected the usual practice of officers and detectives who chose to live  in the suburbs and instead remained in the 77th Division district. The son, like so many young black homicide victims, was not a gang member although was friends with a few guys who marginally were, and unfortunately was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Leovy follows the case through jury trial. A riveting element of suspense is introduced along the way as Detective Skaggs desperately seeks to keep available, compliant but reluctant prosecution witnesses, including a wheelchair-bound man shot in a prior gang dispute who was found in possession of the murder weapon, and a sometime prostitute and drug abuser who was a passenger in the car being driven by her then boyfriend, who apparently orchestrated the event that resulted in the eventual shooter leaving the car, walking out of view, and then shooting the homicide detective’s guileless son. The woman, needy for attention and encouragement, pesters at all hours the homicide detective, who must be responsive to keep her on board for trial.

Even veteran trial attorneys, prosecutor and defense attorney alike, will draw from this book several nuggets, including Leovy’s section on firearms examination relating to the discovery and testing of the murder weapon here, a revolver. Although most of the homicides referenced in this book are the work of gang members, Leovy’s expression of the thoughts of homicide detectives debunks one of the courtroom myths perpetrated by gang experts -- that all violent crimes committed by gang members are intended to benefit the gang.  In fact, Leovy notes, many such crimes are strictly personal -- a conflict over a woman or a perceived personal slight, to give just two examples. This book is a must read for everyone who works in the criminal justice system and is hard to put down.

6 Hours of Self-Study CLE in the Specialty Areas -- Complimentary for Members of the Criminal Law Section!

As a 2015 benefit of Section membership, we are pleased to offer six hours of MCLE credit, offering credit in all of the MCLE subfields.

The Criminal Law Section Thanks You for Your Membership.  Member Benefit: 6 hours MCLE creditIf you were purchasing these courses individually in our Online Catalog, they would cost $210 -- so that's your Section membership more than paid for, and then some!

Just watch these programs, and keep a record of having done so in the event you're audited for MCLE compliance.

You can access these programs and the accompanying written materials any time this year in the Members Only Area.

limination of Bias in the Legal Profession

  • Understanding the Role of the Interpreter – One More Way to Eliminate Bias in the Courtroom

Competency Issues (formally known as Detection & Prevention of Substance Abuse)

  • Staying Healthy and Mentally Competent Throughout a Long Legal Career

Legal Ethics

  • Advertising Your Expertise and Experience: What Can You Do to Build Your Practice While Meeting Your Ethical Obligations?
  • Conflicts of Interest and Disqualification Arising from Prior Client Representation: What are the Rules?
  • Ethics Update 2014: Significant Development in the Law of Lawyering 
  • Lawyering on the Outside: Electronic Communications & Social Networking vs. Ethics & Professional Responsibility

Articles from the Criminal Law E-Bulletin

The Criminal Law E-Bulletin is sent each month to members of the Section. The E-Bulletin often includes articles of lasting interest, and we have compiled some of these from 2012 on and posted them in the Members Only Area. Section members can access the articles by clicking on the link and signing in to My State Bar Profile.

The Sections and CYLA Are on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn

Social media, anyone? The Sections and the California Young Lawyers Association (CYLA) now have pages on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn where we can keep you up-to-date on our latest news and events.

We're also looking forward to interacting with a wider community and reaching out to people who are not currently members.

We invite you to "Like" us and follow our "Tweets."

And by the way, the CYLA definition of "young" is any California attorney under the age of 36 or in their first five years of practice.


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Get Online Participatory MCLE Credit from the Criminal Law Section

Get your MCLEs online! View Criminal Law Section programs over the internet for participatory MCLE credit. Choose from 45 Criminal Law programs at both modem and broadband connection speeds. These can be downloaded at

Save Money with CEB

CEB Discount Program for Section MembersContinuing Education of the Bar, California (CEB) is extending some special discount offers to our section. As a member of the Criminal Law Section, you're eligible for:

  • 10% off selected CEB print or online books
  • rebate on your section dues that can be applied to the cost of a CEB Gold CLE Passport or a CLE program ticket

 A complete list of the products eligible for a discount is available on a CEB web page accessible through our Members Only Area. Information about the section dues rebate program can be found on the CEB Web site.

Contact Us

Criminal Law Section
The State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-1639
415/538-2368 fax