Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is expected to pursue at least two major pieces of criminal-justice legislation during the new Congressional session, a reauthorization of the 2004 Justice For All Act and a bill that would create a forensic science board to propose national standards on the subject. Judiciary Commitee staff members Chan Park and Liz Aloi told a meeting of criminal justice organization representives yesterday in Washington they hope that the measures will gain bipartisan support. Relatively little criminal justice legislation was enacted in the last Congress, in part because some Republicans consistently opposed measures that would involve significant new spending.
Leahy introduced a Justice for All reauthorization late in the last congressional session. It would have made modest reforms in the way the death penalty is used in the criminal justice system, improved support services for crime victims, and provided aid to help state and local governments use DNA evidence to convict guilty offenders and exonerate the innocent. Various provisions of the current law help state and local governments collect and process DNA evidence. The forensic sciences bill is an outgrowth of a report two years ago by a National Academy of Sciences panel that called for a federal agency to deal with forensic sciences. Such an agency is not likely to be backed by Leahy and other senators, congressional aides said. Other anticrime bills in the committee's jurisdiction, such as a reauthorization of the federal law setting standards on juvenile justice and providing aid to states, are likely to get close attention as Congress considers ways to rein in federal spending, Leahy's aides told the criminal justice groups.