Starting next week, I’m shifting from a Tuesday, Friday schedule for new posts to Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I’ve also added a plug-in to facilitate viewing of this blog on mobile devices.
I’ve added three new pages to this blog (see right-hand column). First, “Articles I Like” collects links to scholarly articles that I have found especially insightful. I have a handful of articles there now to get started; I’ll add more periodically. Unfortunately, it seems that quite a few of the articles I would like to list are only available through subscription databases like Westlaw. I am only listing articles from journals that make their content freely available.
Second, I’ve added a page of resources for my course “Crime and Punishment in American History.” I’ll add more links from time to time over the next couple of months. In addition to my students, legal history buffs may find some of the material of interest.
Finally, the “My Articles” page offers links to an almost-complete set of my papers on sentencing, criminal procedure, and related topics, dating back to 1997. There are lists of most recent and most downloaded articles, as well as topical lists.
Along with my colleagues Dan Blinka, Dean Strang, and Gordon Hylton, I’ve been organizing a conference at Marquette Law School on the Wickersham Commssion, America’s first national crime commission. Appointed by President Hoover and including many legal luminaries of the day, the Wickersham Commission produced an extraordinary series of reports in 1931 that examined in great detail the causes of crime and the operation of the American criminal-justice system. Perhaps best remembered for the critical light it cast on extreme police interrogation tactics, the Commission’s work might also be thought of as the coming-of-age of American criminology, as a progenitor of the contemporary “evidence-based decision making” movement, and as a centerpiece of the first presidential effort to craft a comprehensive federal crime-control policy.
The conference will kick off at 4:30 on October 4 with a keynote address by one of my favorite authors on crime policy, Professor Frank Zimring of Berkeley. Registration information for the keynote is here.
The conference will continue with a series of panels beginning at 8:30 on October 5. Speakers will include distinguished historians, law professors, and criminologists. Additional details and registration information are available here.
In the past year, I’ve enjoyed an extended correspondence with a federal inmate named Adam Bentley Clausen (see website here). He is working hard to promote public awareness of the problems with 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). He sent me the following analysis, which I think nicely articulates the case for reform:
Save 4 Billion Taxpayer Dollars by Amending 18 U.S.C. 924(c)
- I received 213 YEARS for multiple 924(c) “use of a firearm” convictions
- No one was killed nor seriously injured during any of my crimes
- The average male life expectancy is 77 years
- My “life” incarceration will cost taxpayers at least 2 million dollars
- The maximum sentence for my underlying crime(s), Hobbs Act Robbery, was 20 years
- Had I received the 20 year max my incarceration would have cost taxpayers $475,000
-There are approximately 3000 cases similar to mine nationwide each costing taxpayers 2 million dollars, or cumulatively costing 6 BILLION DOLLARS
- A retroactive amendment to statute 924(c) could reduce each “life” sentence down to a more reasonable 20 years (on avg. at resentencing) and thus allow taxpayers to SAVE OVER 4 BILLION DOLLARS
***(Estimated total savings can be compounded once future job earnings and tax contributions of each inmate released after 20 years is considered. Possibly 1 Billion ADDITIONAL Dollars of savings)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Updates tracks new decisions by the Seventh Circuit in criminal cases. The authors are four up-and-coming Wisconsin-based criminal defense lawyers and yours truly. I’ll cross-post most or all of my contributions here.
Cybercrime Review, authored by two 3L law students with strong technology backgrounds, explores “new technology, recent legal developments, and interesting arguments at the intersection of computers and the law.”
Both blogs are off to a strong start. (I think I can say that without being too self-serving, since I only have one post up so far at Seventh Circuit Updates.)
I see the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has proposed new legislation imposing heightened disclosure obligations on federal prosecutors. What I find particularly appealing about the proposal is that it so clearly takes a pretrial perspective. Brady doctrine has developed in perverse ways because it has been written by appellate courts operating in a post-conviction setting. As appellate courts confront disclosure issues, the question is almost always framed as whether a convicted defendant should be given a new trial, with finality interests weighing heavily on the negative side of the balance. Developed from the post-conviction perspective, Brady only requires disclosure of “material” information, that is, information offering a reasonable probability of a different outcome at trial.
But this is an odd standard if one instead assumes the perspective of a prosecutor before trial. It can never be known with certainty how the evidence will come in at trial, and, in the heat of pretrial preparations, we shouldn’t be surprised if prosecutors often take an overly optimistic view of things — which might lead to the suppression of information that would, in fact, prove quite helpful to the defense. Then, too, there is the problem of plea bargaining: what must be disclosed to the defendant before the consummation of a deal? Materiality determinations are apt to be especially speculative and unreliable during plea bargaining, which may occur before investigations are complete, let alone pretrial preparations.
The NACDL proposal provides a statutory fix.
Some visitors to this site may be aware that many of the posts here also appear on the Marquette Law School Faculty Blog, of which I am one of the editors. The Marquette blog targets a general audience of law students and lawyers. I cross post items that seem potentially of interest to such a generalist audience, such as any posts on new Supreme Court decisions. Other items on this blog strike me as being of interest only to those with a special expertise or interest in criminal law, or some aspect of criminal law; these I normally do not cross post. I would estimate that somewhat less than half of the content on this site also appears on the Marquette site.