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  • Government Name: Eric Van Buren
  • Register Number: 11044-068
  • Age:42
  • Time Served:14 years
  • Home Town:Washington D.C.
  • Sentence:LIFE
  • Current Charge:Drug Conspiracy
  • Alias:Big Erk, Freckle Face, Beezer
  • Release Date:Clemency Candidate
  • Prison Affiliation:Another Chance 4 Legal (AC4L)
  • Circle of Influence:Marcus Martin, Another Chance 4 Legal
  • Institution:USP Canaan
  • There is no honor in coming to prison. It does NOT make you a man.

Criminal Justice Reform and the Obama Administration

This blog post is to give a heads up about what is good on the legal front. All prisoners who came to prison after 2008 should NOT listen to those who criticize the Obama Administration for doing NOTHING.

All the jail house lawyers will tell you the biggest difference in law now is that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) claims filings do not take 12-36 months to be answered. Moreover, the most sentencing reform in history has been effected during the tenure of the Obama Administration. I know Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) takes a lot of credit for this but, to be certain, it wasn’t until the Obama Administration was in office that the culture of the judicial and legislative branches began to change. Do not be fooled.

Also any jail house lawyer will tell you that before 2008 there was not as many people leaving prison as there are today. This is statistically proven. Lastly, when Obama took office FOIA-reform, sentencing reform and prison reform were posted on the White House’s official website as civil objectives on the administration’s to-do list.

After 2008, we have seen a lot of good in law – Peugh, Alleyne, Miller, Riley, Johnson, DescampsLafler, and Frye – all Supreme Court decisions . . . I could go on. Most recently I have written about Montgomery v. Louisiana, a great case that has the opportunity to change how lower courts deal with habeas claims. Lastly, several U.S. District Courts have stood up against prosecutorial misconduct and even filed legal opinions on the epidemic of BRADY violations in today’s justice system.

We even had unprecedented comments from Eric Holder saying we are a society that “over-incarcerates” and that hands out “draconian sentences”. The talk from the Attorney General during the Bush Administration was just the opposite. In fact, even though the Supreme Court fell one step short of calling today’s drug laws unconstitutional, for reasons of racial bias, the Bush Administration still argued against any reductions, whereas Eric Holder argued for reductions. And, oh yes, forensic evidence has changed. The degree of certainty previously assigned to forensic science has come under great scrutiny since 2008. FAMM and others seem to forget these facts, but I do not.

As of today, President Obama has commuted 240+ sentences and looks to increase that number, an unprecedented and historic benchmark. Also, there is substantial movement with juvenile justice reform. Scientifically, the age of 25 should be the threshold to distinguish juveniles and adults. There is so much talk that in Connecticut their legislature is investigating whether to raise the legal age for juveniles to 21. Also, Alleyne made McMillan non-controlling, effecting many sentences. Per Montgomery, there is plenty to argue per the 5th Amendment for cases that are final or successive as well as the 6th Amendment for cases that are not final.

The U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives seem poised to pass a bill pointed at prison and sentencing reform. Although I may have stated “this bill stinks” it is still all good for those it will affect. There is also clemency. There are also a lot of issues to argue per  the HOBBS ACT (nexus), RICO, VICAR Section 848, sentencing for white collar crimes, and the list goes on. Before 2008, none of these opportunities existed, and the U.S. District Courts could have cared less about allowing relief in cases that were final. All this has changed.

Remember, per The Art of Winning Litigation Foundation’s study, 85% of prisoners have been convicted of greater offenses than the evidence in their case does supports or have sentences that are greater than necessary to achieve the ends of justice. The U.S. District Courts won’t admit it, but today they better understand how to use the mechanisms under Section 2255(f) & (h).

To wrap this up, this past week during an oral argument in a case called Welch, Justice Breyer stated it was “hard to believe” that once the Supreme Court determined that a statute was no longer Constitutional, most defendants adversely effected by the statute, still remained in prison. You tell me what’s good. Either there is a disconnect between the SCOTUS and the Lower Courts or someone is determined keep people in prison. Welch was a pro se petitioner. He filed, he did not stop or get discouraged. He kept the torch lit and filed a pro se Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, after the District Court and the Circuit Court told him he was WRONG! He decided to press the issue! The Solicitor General agrees he is right.

Freedom is worth fighting for!

Eric Van Buren
Post-Conviction Strategist/Consultant
Author of The Art of Winning Litigation

Consultant to:
Another Chance 4 Legal
Bitt of Law
Raise UP Media
The Feldman Group
Investa P.I. Group


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