California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice


The Report of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice on “Remedies for the Exonerated”

Created by the California State Senate to examine the causes of wrongful convictions and make recommendations and proposals to further insure that the administration of criminal justice in California is just, fair and accurate, this commission on Friday released an important report and set of recommendations addressing the problems faced by the exonerated, and reintegration into society for all those released from custody after their convictions have been set aside. 

The report and recommendation is 18 pages. All who care about liberty should read this and insist that the legislature act on its recommendations.

Reintegration into society should be a goal of the California penal system. This is especially true for those who have established their innocence after conviction of a crime who should be compensation for their wrongful imprisonment. 

This report lays out the obstacles that those found innocent of crimes face and makes specific recommendations that the California legislature should consider. These recommendations have the full support of all twenty-two members of the Commission. The Commission is chaired by former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp, and includes a broad spectrum of prosecution, defense, police and victim representatives. 

Recommendations include: 

• That services to assist with reintegration into society be available to all those released from custody. This would include assistance in locating housing, a cash allowance, clothing, and employment counseling.

• Changing the period of time to file a claim for compensation from six months to two years because of problems and challenges faced by those upon release.

• That the court granting judicial relief upon a claim of innocence be required to notify the petitioner of the availability of compensation and the time limits for the filing of such claims.

• That the law requiring a claimant to prove that he or she did not, by any act or omission either intentionally or negligently, contribute to the bringing about of his or her arrest or conviction be changed to not exclude innocent persons who were victims of false confessions or improperly induced guilty pleas and that this requirement be limited to a showing that the claimant did not intentionally subvert the judicial process. 

• That the level of compensation be substantially increased, at least to the level available under the federal system of compensation. 

• That the requirement that innocent persons who are released from prison must file a separate legal action for expungement of their conviction before they are fully restored to all the rights of citizenship and relieved of the disabilities imposed by a prior conviction be changed—to provide for automatic expungement whenever a final judgment of conviction is set aside or vacated and the Court makes a finding of the actual innocence of the defendant. 

• That State funding for the Northern California Innocence Project and the California Innocence Project be restored.

In addition to the report, you may examine the testimony and evidence considered by the Commission on this topic.

Posted on February 25, 2008 

The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice was created by Senate Resolution No. 44 of the 2003-04 Session of the California State Senate, adopted on August 27, 2004. S.R. 44 provides: 

WHEREAS, Since legislation was enacted in 2000 that allows convicted persons to obtain postconviction DNA testing in California, a number of people have been exonerated and released from prison after serving several years in prison, and more than 100 American sentenced to death have subsequently been exonerated and freed from death row based on DNA testing; and 

WHEREAS, Thorough, unbiased study and review in other states has resulted in recommendations for significant reforms to the criminal justice system in order to avoid wrongful convictions and executions, and California has not engaged in any such review of the state's criminal justice system, now, therefore, be it 

Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, That the Members hereby establish the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice and be it further 

Resolved, That the Commission shall have the following duties: 

 (1)  To study and review the administration of criminal justice in California to determine the extent to which that process has failed in the past, resulting in wrongful executions or the wrongful conviction of innocent persons. 

(2)  To examine ways of providing safeguards and making improvements in the way the criminal justice system functions. 
(3)  To make any recommendations and proposals designed to further ensure that the application and administration of criminal justice in California is just, fair, and accurate; and be it further 

Resolved, That the commission shall consist of members to be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules, which shall also designate the chair. The commission shall meet regularly, establish a staff, hold public hearings, review existing research, commission new research, and solicit public comment from scholars, judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, private defense lawyers, public defenders, elected officials, victims' organizations, authorities in the criminal justice system, and members of the public; and be it further 

Resolved, That the members of the commission shall not receive compensation, but shall be reimbursed for necessary travel expenses for the purpose of attending meetings of the commission, including such public meetings as the commission shall schedule, and the commission shall be funded by private sources; and be it further 

Resolved, That the commission shall meet and make recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor no later than December 31, 2007, on recommendations on the administration of justice, addressing the matters set forth herein. 

Click here to view SR 10, extending the Commission through June 30, 2008 

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