Creation of Compassionate Release Clearinghouse COVID-19 Project

The College has been asked to support NACDL, FAMM, and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, in collaboration with the Federal Public and Community Defenders, in a partnership to recruit attorneys and other professionals to work on compassionate release motions for those prisoners most vulnerable to COVID-19: the elderly and chronically ill. The passage of the First Step Act in December 2018 expanded federal compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1), allowing prisoners to file compassionate release motions directly with their sentencing courts. Compassionate Release permits sentencing courts to reduce sentences based on "extraordinary and compelling reasons." The COVID-19 pandemic is without question an "extraordinary and compelling reason."

The project seeks attorneys to draft and file compassionate release motions for prisoners, or those who are willing to act as co-counsel or local counsel in districts where the attorney who has volunteered to prepare the motion is not admitted. Experience with federal criminal matters, especially with respect to sentencing, is desirable, as is familiarity with the local court and United States Attorney’s Office. The work will be performed pro bono. 

Fellows who volunteer to help can serve either as lead attorneys for prisoners seeking compassionate release or as resource persons in a particular jurisdiction for younger lawyer volunteers (who may not be admitted locally)  who are acting as lead counsel for the movants. To assist in this historic effort to protect the most vulnerable populations in federal prison volunteers should go to the website below to set up an account, watch the training video, and fill out the questionnaire, and the Clearinghouse will reach out to you to coordinate action.

Click through to the Project Website to sign up.

Further questions can be directed to:

Paula M. Junghans
Member, Federal Criminal Procedure Committee