1 N. Charles St., Suite 1301
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-244-5444
FAX: 410-934-3208
1
/
3
/

Our Story

Brown Law was formed with a fundamental goal: to provide high-end legal counsel with integrity. We are driven by the understanding that many of our clients face life-altering challenges. We thrive when the stakes are highest. Because of our past success, we are confident that we can deliver for you.

See more

“Mr. Brown saved my life. I owe him everything.”

B.P. (former client),

“We owe C. Justin Brown such a debt of gratitude and there is nothing I can write… that will do justice to how my family and I feel about him and the job he did in representing my brother in a recent criminal defense case.”

J.N. (former client),

“This firm is extremely good at what it does and offers an excellent professional relationship with clients by making them feel at ease even in the most dire situations. The firm rose high above my expectations…”

B.P. (former client),

“I highly recommend this firm . They put in the hard work it takes to win. They really see you as a person not just another client… They keep you well informed and explains everything clearly and listen.

P.W. (former client),

Recent blog posts

NOT GUILTY: Brown Law Wins Federal Jury Trial

January 12, 2020
Jury trials are very rare in the federal system. Acquittals are even rarer. Despite the overwhelming odds, C. Justin Brown and Lylian Romero won a hard fought “not guilty” verdict last week, vindicating their client in United States v. Johnson, CCB-19-22. Johnson was charged with federal witness retaliation, and prosecutors aggressively pursued the case. Johnson maintained his innocence from the outset. A four-day jury trial ensued in the United States District Court for Maryland, with Judge Catherine Blake presiding. Prosecutors attempted to focus the trial on prior bad acts that Johnson had committed earlier in his life, but the defense was able to fight off much of this evidence in pretrial motions litigation. Once the jury was seated, prosecutors tried to hang their case on the testimony of two cooperating witnesses, both of whom claimed that Johnson had confessed to them. The jailhouse cooperators were promised reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony. The Government proceeded in this manner despite the fact that jailhouse informants are among the least reliable witnesses. In fact, one of the Government’s cooperating witnesses had testified against two other defendants in unrelated cases, and both of those cases resulted in acquittals. (The judge, however, found that this fact was irrelevant and did not allow it into evidence in Johnson’s case). Brown and Romero defended the case by attacking the credibility of the cooperators, pointing out weaknesses in the Government’s investigation, and articulating a counter-narrative – telling the Jury what really happened. Mr. Johnson testified credibly in his own defense. After hearing all the evidence, the Jury deliberated over the course of two days. On January 10, 2020, they reached a decision and passed a note to the Judge. The courtroom deputy asked the Jury for its verdict as to count one of the indictment, and the Jury Foreman solemnly stated “Not Guilty.” While we will never know how and why the Jury reached its decision, it would appear that the Jury wisely rejected the testimony of the Government’s cooperating witnesses and sided with the more credible testimony of Mr. Johnson and other defense witnesses. *** So how hard is it to win a federal jury trial? In the most recent statistics, from 2018, less than 1 percent of federal defendants won at trial. According to the Pew Research Center, there were only 320 acquittals nationwide out of some 80,000 federal cases. This represents a fundamental flaw in our criminal justice system. The laws and rules have become so favorable to the Government that the notion of a “fair” trial is questionable. Federal judges penalize defendants so severely for going to trial that the risk often becomes untenable. Meanwhile, prosecutors, who have all the resources in the world, take advantage of this dynamic, and threaten recalcitrant defendants with sentencing enhancements and additional charges if they exercise their constitutional right to a trial. The result is that most defendants – even those who are innocent – decide to cut their losses and accept a guilty plea on

Firm Wins Post-Conviction, Reverses Murder Conviction

September 4, 2019
Brown Law won another Maryland post-conviction proceeding recently, reversing a murder conviction and winning a new trial for Mohammad Biglari, a man who has maintained his innocence for the past 27 years. This marks the seventh time the Firm has obtained an order reversing a life sentence. The Opinion can be uploaded HERE. The Baltimore City Circuit Court’s ruling granting post-conviction relief was based on ineffective assistance of trial counsel that occurred in 1994. Trial counsel at the time made an inexplicable error by not using a police report to impeach the lead investigating detective when he testified at trial. The police report memorialized the victim’s complaint that her ex-husband had previously assaulted and threatened to kill her. This established the ex-husband as strong alternative suspect. Yet, the Jury never heard this information – because trial counsel never brought it up. Instead, Biglari was convicted on weak, circumstantial evidence. Biglari, meanwhile, steadfastly asserted his innocence, and, after his first conviction was reversed on other grounds, he was tried a second and, eventually, a third time. At the third trial, new defense counsel attempted to suggest the same alternative suspect who was never brought up in the first case. Counsel attempted to do so by introducing the exculpatory contents of the police report, but he could not do so because the investigating detective had died. Without the detective, there was no viable way to introduce the evidence to the Jury, and trial counsel’s hands were tied. Biglari was then convicted a third time. The post-conviction court in its recent opinion ruled that the ineffectiveness of the first trial counsel, from 1994, could be transferred to the third trial because the deceased police detective’s testimony had been read to the Jury in the third trial. Thus, the third trial had been infected by the errors from the first trial, and Mr. Biglari had been denied his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel. The Baltimore City Circuit Court vacated Biglari’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The argument that won the post-conviction is likely the first of its kind. UPDATE: On Feb. 21, 2020, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals denied the State of Maryland’s Application for Leave to Appeal, thereby affirming the Circuit Court’s decision granting post-conviction relief. This means Mr. Biglari’s conviction is officially erased from the books and he will get a new trial!

Brown Law Wins Compassionate Release for Corey Riley

June 5, 2020
We are trying to get inmates out of unsafe prisons and jail one at a time. Today we won compassionate release for Corey Riley, who was incarcerated in California’s Lompoc prison complex. Lompoc has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection in the country. By some measures, half of the inmates there have been compromised by the virus. As a result, the prison — like most others around the country — has gone on 24-hour lockdown. The conditions for inmates like Riley have been inhumane. Social distancing is impossible; medical care is inadequate; visits have been halted; and even communication with family and lawyers is next to impossible. The prison has become a breeding ground for the coronavirus and basic human rights have been cast aside. Today a federal judge issued a written opinion granting compassionate release to Riley — over the Government’s objection. The judge’s order can be read HERE. If you are seeking compassionate relief please call Brown Law for an evaluation of your case.

COVID-19 Demonstrates Arbitrariness of Justice System

May 29, 2020
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has ground the criminal justice system to a virtual halt, there has been a chorus of calls – at both the local and national levels – for prisons to reduce their inmate populations. This is based on science: there are few places more susceptible to the spread of the virus than a prison or jail, where social distancing is nearly impossible. In fact, federal prisoners are about six times more likely to contract the virus than the general population. But how efforts to reduce the incarcerated population plays out in the real world is anything but scientific. It’s arbitrary. Take the case of a Brown Law client, “S.”, who was charged in federal court with a non-violent drug offense. While awaiting trial, and still presumed to be innocent, S. was detained at the most infected facility in the region: the D.C. jail system. The conditions at the jail were (and are) so bad that a federal judge granted in part a preliminary injunction forcing the jail to improve conditions for inmates and guards. The number of infected detainees soared above 100. There were even deaths. With respiratory problems and immune system issues, “S.” was in a particularly vulnerable position. If he contracted the virus, there was a real potential for complications. Based on the conditions in the jail, and S.’s pre-existing health problems, Brown Law filed a motion in federal court seeking his release from the jail. He proposed moving to a pre-screened location where he could self-quarantine for 14 days, then remain under house arrest, with electronic monitoring, under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services, until his trial date. In other words, he had a plan to ensure his own safety while at the same time helping others by reducing the jail population. The matter was set before a federal magistrate judge. The Government opposed S.’s plan, arguing that his health problems were insufficiently documented, and, because of his charges, he was a “danger to the community.” The judge heard all of the evidence, conducted an independent investigation, and sided with S., finding that he could stay with a family member and be sufficiently supervised to ensure the safety of the community. The judge also concluded that S. simply was not safe in the D.C. jail. So did S. get out? No. The Government appealed and the matter went before another federal judge in the same courthouse. This judge saw things differently. Based on the exact same facts that were before the other judge, and without any new evidence, the second judge sided with the Government, and ordered that S. remain in the D.C. jail. The second judge even noted confidence that “based upon the pleadings and arguments provided, that [S.] will receive adequate care by the United States Marshal Service, who oversees his pretrial detention.” Two judges; two different results. S. was forced to remain in the D.C. jail system while the virus continued to spread. Then, over Memorial Day weekend, Brown Law received

COVID-19 and Early Release

April 6, 2020
We at Brown Law are doing everything in our power to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and ensure the safety of our clients who are in prisons and jails in Maryland and across the country. It is our belief that no detained person is safe in confinement – where medical care is inadequate and where it is impossible to practice “social distancing.” As such we are aggressively seeking ways to move our clients out of prisons and into home confinement – or even early release. We are also seeking bail for those who are detained and awaiting trial. Not everyone will be eligible for compassionate release under the First Step Act or other remedies, but we are trying to gain relief for as many individuals as possible. We are aware that this is a rapidly changing process and we are proud to be on the front lines to press prison officials and the courts to do the right thing and ensure the safety of our clients. We will do our best to provide updates on this page: http://cjbrownlaw.com/covid-19-release/ If you need help in this process — on behalf of yourself, a family member or a friend — please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.   — C. Justin Brown  

Fourth Circuit’s Huge Pro-Defendant Ruling: US v. Gary

March 25, 2020
The Fourth Circuit today issued a significant ruling that could help a large number of federal inmates who pleaded guilty to being a “felon in possession of a firearm,” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). The decision from the Fourth Circuit today stems from the Supreme Court’s decision last summer in Rehaif v. United States. In that case, the Supreme Court held that the Government must prove that a defendant charged under § 922(g) not only possessed a firearm, but that they were aware of their status as a person who was not allowed to possess a gun. In United States v. Gary, the Fourth Circuit held that the error to inform a defendant of that element of the charge during the guilty plea is a structural error that invalidates the conviction. A defendant cannot knowingly and intelligently plead guilty to a crime without proper notice of all of the elements of the offense. When a court fails to inform a defendant of an element – in this case the Government’s burden to prove defendant’s knowledge of their status as a prohibited person – the guilty plea cannot be valid. In Gary, a case originating in North Carolina, the Fourth Circuit rejected the Government’s argument that the evidence was “overwhelming” that the defendant knew he was a prohibited person. Significantly, the Court held that the evidence didn’t matter – and the defendant did not need to prove prejudice – because a person has a fundamental right to be informed of the charges against him, making the failure to do so structural. A structural error is one that affects a defendant’s substantial rights, thus broadening the implications of the error. Even prior to the decision in Gary, the Supreme Court’s decision in Rehaif opened up potential avenues of relief to inmates. This decision strengthens those claims greatly. Any defendant who pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession could potentially be entitled to relief, which may include a possible vacatur of the § 922(g) conviction. This is yet another sign that the Fourth Circuit has turned into a panel that takes the rights of criminal defendants very seriously. In a circuit where 96.4% of cases result in pleas, a ruling like this is impactful. It seems likely, however, that the Government will appeal the decision, potentially up to the Supreme Court. If you or a someone you know pleaded guilty to a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, relief may be possible under Rehaif and, now, Gary. But be warned: there is a strict deadline for filing a motion for relief under 28 U.S.C § 2255, and the clock is already running. Please contact an attorney immediately.