Open Access. Powered by Scholars. Published by Universities.®

Law Commons

Open Access. Powered by Scholars. Published by Universities.®

Articles 1 - 30 of 119

Full-Text Articles in Law

Why We Should Stop Talking About Violent Offenders: Storytelling And Decarceration, Mira Edmonds May 2024

Why We Should Stop Talking About Violent Offenders: Storytelling And Decarceration, Mira Edmonds

Articles

The movement to decarcerate risks foundering because of its failure to grapple with so-called violent offenders, who make up nearly half of U.S. prisoners. The treatment of people serving sentences for offenses categorized as violent is a primary reason for the continued problem of mass incarceration, despite widespread awareness of the phenomenon and significant bipartisan interest in its reduction. People convicted of “violent offenses” are serving historically anomalous and excessively long sentences, are generally denied clemency and compassionate release, and are excluded from a wide array of legal reform and policy changes with decarceral aims. Keeping these people in prison …


Collusive Prosecution, Ben A. Mcjunkin, J.J. Prescott Jan 2023

Collusive Prosecution, Ben A. Mcjunkin, J.J. Prescott

Articles

In this Article, we argue that increasingly harsh collateral consequences have surfaced an underappreciated and undertheorized dynamic of criminal plea bargaining. Collateral consequences that mostly or entirely benefit third parties (such as other communities or other states) create an interest asymmetry that prosecutors and defendants can exploit in plea negotiations. In particular, if a prosecutor and a defendant can control the offense of conviction (often through what some term a “fictional plea”), they can work together to evade otherwise applicable collateral consequences, such as deportation or sex-offender registration and notification. Both parties arguably benefit: Prosecutors can leverage collateral consequences to …


Limiting Access To Remedies: Select Criminal Law And Procedure Cases From The Supreme Court's 2021-22 Term, Eve Brensike Primus, Justin Hill Jan 2022

Limiting Access To Remedies: Select Criminal Law And Procedure Cases From The Supreme Court's 2021-22 Term, Eve Brensike Primus, Justin Hill

Articles

Although the most memorable cases from the Supreme Court’s 2021-22 Term were on the civil side of its docket, the Court addressed significant cases on the criminal side involving the Confrontation Clause, capital punishment, double jeopardy, criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country, and important statutory interpretation principles, such as the mens rea presumption and the scope of the rule of lenity. Looking back, the Court’s decisions limiting individuals’ access to remedies for violations of their constitutional criminal procedure rights stand out. Shinn v. Ramirez and Shoop v. Twyford drastically limit the ability of persons incarcerated in state facilities to challenge the …


Antiracist Remedial Approaches In Judge Gregory’S Jurisprudence, Leah M. Litman Jul 2021

Antiracist Remedial Approaches In Judge Gregory’S Jurisprudence, Leah M. Litman

Articles

This piece uses the idea of antiracism to highlight parallels between school desegregation cases and cases concerning errors in the criminal justice system. There remain stark, pervasive disparities in both school composition and the criminal justice system. Yet even though judicial remedies are an integral part of rooting out systemic inequality and the vestiges of discrimination, courts have been reticent to use the tools at their disposal to adopt proactive remedial approaches to address these disparities. This piece uses two examples from Judge Roger Gregory’s jurisprudence to illustrate how an antiracist approach to judicial remedies might work.


The Problem With Assumptions: Revisiting “The Dark Figure Of Sexual Recidivism”, Tamara Rice Lave, Jj Prescott, Grady Bridges Jun 2021

The Problem With Assumptions: Revisiting “The Dark Figure Of Sexual Recidivism”, Tamara Rice Lave, Jj Prescott, Grady Bridges

Articles

What is the actual rate of sexual recidivism given the well‐ known fact that many crimes go unreported? This is a difficult and important problem, and in “The dark figure of sexual recidivism,” Nicholas Scurich and Richard S. John (2019) attempt to make progress on it by “estimat[ing] actual recidivism rates . . . given observed rates of reoffending” (p. 171). In this article, we show that the math in their probabilistic model is flawed, but more importantly, we demonstrate that their conclusions follow ineluctably from their empirical assumptions and the unrepresentative empirical research they cite to benchmark their calculations. …


The Moral Ambiguity Of Public Prosecution, Gabriel S. Mendlow Mar 2021

The Moral Ambiguity Of Public Prosecution, Gabriel S. Mendlow

Articles

Classic crimes like theft and assault are in the first instance wrongs against individuals, not against the state or the polity that it represents. Yet our legal system denies crime victims the right to initiate or intervene in the criminal process, relegating them to the roles of witness or bystander—even as the system treats prosecution as an institutional analog of the interpersonal processes of moral blame and accountability, which give pride of place to those most directly wronged. Public prosecution reigns supreme, with the state claiming primary and exclusive moral standing to call offenders to account for their wrongs. Although …


Beyond Plea Bargaining: A Theory Of Criminal Settlement, Richard Lorren Jolly, J.J. Prescott Jan 2021

Beyond Plea Bargaining: A Theory Of Criminal Settlement, Richard Lorren Jolly, J.J. Prescott

Articles

Settlement is a term rarely used in criminal law. Instead, people speak almost exclusively of plea bargaining—i.e., enforceable agreements in which a defendant promises to plead guilty in exchange for a prosecutor’s promise to seek leniency in charging or at sentencing. But a traditional plea agreement is just the most visible instance of a much broader class of possible criminal settlement agreements. In terms of their fundamentals, criminal settlements are indistinguishable from their civil counterparts: through either an atomized or comprehensive bargain, parties exchange what they have for what they want, advancing their respective interests in cost minimization, risk mitigation, …


Reconsidering Ross: The Interplay Of Aedpa, Criminal Appeals, And The Right To Counsel, Kimberly A. Thomas Jan 2021

Reconsidering Ross: The Interplay Of Aedpa, Criminal Appeals, And The Right To Counsel, Kimberly A. Thomas

Articles

This piece highlights features of our current law that converge to say that we should reconsider Ross: (1) the utility of counsel on discretionary review, which has been underexplored, both before and after Ross; (2) the increased importance, in modern criminal law, of direct appeals; and relatedly, the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of AEDPA that has moved most of the significant windows for substantive criminal law change into the direct appeal; and, finally, (3) perhaps an increased sliver of doctrinal sunlight in which to think about chipping away at Ross. Given the first two developments, the possible window to think …


Homes, History, And Shadows: Select Criminal Law And Procedure Cases From The Supreme Court’S 2020-21 Term, Eve Brensike Primus, Lily Sawyer-Kaplan Jan 2021

Homes, History, And Shadows: Select Criminal Law And Procedure Cases From The Supreme Court’S 2020-21 Term, Eve Brensike Primus, Lily Sawyer-Kaplan

Articles

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September 2020 and the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to replace her solidified a 6-3 majority on the Court for Republican appointees and is already affecting how the Court approaches and decides its criminal law and procedure cases. Justice Ginsburg, a strong advocate for equality and fair treatment, generally construed criminal statutes narrowly and stressed the importance of defendants’ procedural rights. Justice Barrett is an originalist who will look to history to seek answers on the scope of criminal procedure amendments. The combined appointments of Justice Gorsuch and Justice Barrett mean …


Incorporating Social Science Into Criminal Defense Practice, Eve Brensike Primus Nov 2020

Incorporating Social Science Into Criminal Defense Practice, Eve Brensike Primus

Articles

In recent decades, social scientists have created a treasure trove of empirical and sociological data that defenders can and should use to help their clients. Evidence rules, criminal law, and criminal procedure are filled with concepts informed by social science. When is evidence likely to unfairly prejudice a defendant in the eyes of a jury? Do police interact differently with members of minority populations and how should that inform concepts of reasonableness? How easy or difficult is it for people to identify individuals they see during high-stress criminal episodes? How effective are police interrogation tactics at getting at the truth …


The Power Of A Clean Slate, J.J. Prescott, Sonja B. Starr Jul 2020

The Power Of A Clean Slate, J.J. Prescott, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

Tens of millions of Americans have criminal records, including about 20 million with felony convictions. Conviction records automatically trigger countless collateral legal consequences, such as occupational restrictions that bar employers from hiring qualified candidates. Moreover, research overwhelmingly shows that bearing a criminal record raises significant barriers to employment, housing, and various other opportunities. These persistent obstacles can overwhelm an individual’s efforts at reintegration and can aggravate poverty, inequality, and racial disparities in our society. And because factors like unemployment and housing instability contribute to crime risk, these effects in turn make society less safe.


May The State Punish What It May Not Prevent?, Gabriel S. Mendlow Jul 2020

May The State Punish What It May Not Prevent?, Gabriel S. Mendlow

Articles

In Why Is It Wrong To Punish Thought? I defended an overlooked principle of criminalization that I called the Enforceability Constraint. The Enforceability Constraint holds that the state may punish transgressions of a given type only if the state in principle may forcibly disrupt such transgressions on the ground that they are criminal wrongs. As I argued in the essay, the reason why the state is forbidden from punishing thought is that the state is forbidden from forcibly disrupting a person’s mental states on the ground that they are criminally wrongful (as opposed to, say, on the ground that they …


May The State Punish What It May Not Prevent?, Gabriel S. Mendlow Jun 2020

May The State Punish What It May Not Prevent?, Gabriel S. Mendlow

Articles

In Why Is It Wrong To Punish Thought? I defended an overlooked principle of criminalization that I called the Enforceability Constraint. The Enforceability Constraint holds that the state may punish transgressions of a given type only if the state in principle may forcibly disrupt such transgressions on the ground that they are criminal wrongs. As I argued in the essay, the reason why the state is forbidden from punishing thought is that the state is forbidden from forcibly disrupting a person’s mental states on the ground that they are criminally wrongful (as opposed to, say, on the ground that they …


Medical Marijuana, Taxation, And Internal Revenue Code Section 280e, Douglas A. Kahn, Howard J. Bromberg Jun 2020

Medical Marijuana, Taxation, And Internal Revenue Code Section 280e, Douglas A. Kahn, Howard J. Bromberg

Articles

Congress enacted § 280E of the Internal Revenue Code in 1982 to punish businesses engaged in illegal drug trafficking, including marijuana. Section 280E denies all credits and deductions, including ordinary business expenses, from gross income of businesses illegally trafficking in a Schedule I or II controlled substance. This provision violates the principle that the tax code should foster a consistent treatment of income, regardless of source; and that the income tax is ill-used for punitive measures. Now that marijuana has been legalized in some form in at least 46 states for therapeutic purposes, this federal tax penalty transgresses principles of …


Expungement Of Criminal Convictions: An Empirical Study, J.J. Prescott, Sonja B. Starr May 2020

Expungement Of Criminal Convictions: An Empirical Study, J.J. Prescott, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

Laws permitting the expungement of criminal convictions are a key component of modern criminal justice reform efforts and have been the subject of a recent upsurge in legislative activity. This debate has been almost entirely devoid of evidence about the laws’ effects, in part because the necessary data (such as sealed records themselves) have been unavailable. We were able to obtain access to de-identified data that overcome that problem, and we use it to carry out a comprehensive statewide study of expungement recipients and comparable nonrecipients in Michigan. We offer three key sets of empirical findings. First, among those legally …


Understanding Violent-Crime Recidivism, J.J. Prescott, Benjamin Pyle, Sonja B. Starr May 2020

Understanding Violent-Crime Recidivism, J.J. Prescott, Benjamin Pyle, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

People convicted of violent crimes constitute a majority of the imprisoned population but are generally ignored by existing policies aimed at reducing mass incarceration. Serious efforts to shrink the large footprint of the prison system will need to recognize this fact. This point is especially pressing at the time of this writing, as states and the federal system consider large-scale prison releases motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those convicted of violent crimes constitute a large majority of older prisoners, who are extremely vulnerable to the spread of the virus behind bars. Excluding them from protective measures will deeply undermine those …


Before The Cell Door Shuts: Justice Reform Efforts Should Focus On Steps Besides Sentencing, Barbara L. Mcquade Jan 2020

Before The Cell Door Shuts: Justice Reform Efforts Should Focus On Steps Besides Sentencing, Barbara L. Mcquade

Articles

Mark Osler writes that criminal justice reform efforts have been hampered by what he calls “the slows.” He explains that despite bipartisan support, which resulted in the First Step Act of 2018,2 criminal justice reform remains elusive. He then offers some insightful suggestions for how to increase the pace.


Select Criminal Law And Procedure Cases From The U.S. Supreme Court's 2018-2019 Term, Eve Brensike Primus, Kristin Froehle Dec 2019

Select Criminal Law And Procedure Cases From The U.S. Supreme Court's 2018-2019 Term, Eve Brensike Primus, Kristin Froehle

Articles

Although the 2018-19 Term at the Supreme Court did not include any blockbuster rulings like Carpenter v. United States, the Court issued a number of significant criminal law and procedure rulings. It addressed warrantless blood-alcohol testing, the dual-sovereignty doctrine, the right to trial by jury, ineffective assistance of trial counsel, questions of incorporation, prisoners' competence to be executed, permissible methods of execution, and some important statutory interpretation questions. Looking back on the Term, Justice Gorsuch clearly solidified his position as the libertarian "swing" vote in criminal procedure cases. He joined the liberals to uphold a defendant's right to trial …


The Elusive Object Of Punishment, Gabriel S. Mendlow Jun 2019

The Elusive Object Of Punishment, Gabriel S. Mendlow

Articles

All observers of our legal system recognize that criminal statutes can be complex and obscure. But statutory obscurity often takes a particular form that most observers have overlooked: uncertainty about the identity of the wrong a statute aims to punish. It is not uncommon for parties to disagree about the identity of the underlying wrong even as they agree on the statute’s elements. Hidden in plain sight, these unexamined disagreements underlie or exacerbate an assortment of familiar disputes—about venue, vagueness, and mens rea; about DUI and statutory rape; about hate crimes, child pornography, and counterterrorism laws; about proportionality in punishment; …


Equitable Gateways: Toward Expanded Federal Habeas Corpus Review Of State Court Criminal Convictions, Eve Brensike Primus Apr 2019

Equitable Gateways: Toward Expanded Federal Habeas Corpus Review Of State Court Criminal Convictions, Eve Brensike Primus

Articles

State prisoners who file federal habeas corpus petitions face a maze of procedural and substantive restrictions that effectively prevent almost all prisoners from obtaining meaningful review of their convictions. But it is a mistake to think that habeas litigation is just a Kafkaesque nightmare with no constructive potential. Federal courts do sometimes cut through the doctrinal morass to consider state prisoners’ claims, relying on what this Articleterms "equitable gateways" to federal habeas relief. Litigants and courts generally underestimate the potential these gateways offer, with the result that habeas litigation does not focus on them as often as it should. Here …


Reckless Juveniles, Kimberly Thomas Feb 2019

Reckless Juveniles, Kimberly Thomas

Articles

Modern doctrine and scholarship largely take it for granted that offenders should be criminally punished for reckless acts.1 Yet, developments in our understanding of human behavior can shed light on how we define and attribute criminal liability, or at least force us to grapple with the categories that have existed for so long. This Article examines recklessness and related doctrines in light of the shifts in understanding of adolescent behavior and its biological roots, to see what insights we might attain, or what challenges these understandings pose to this foundational mens rea doctrine. Over the past decade, the U.S. Supreme …


Targeting Poverty In The Courts: Improving The Measurement Of Ability To Pay Fines, Meghan M. O'Neil, J.J. Prescott Jan 2019

Targeting Poverty In The Courts: Improving The Measurement Of Ability To Pay Fines, Meghan M. O'Neil, J.J. Prescott

Articles

Ability-to-pay determinations are essential when governments use money-based alternative sanctions, like fines, to enforce laws. One longstanding difficulty in the U.S. has been the extreme lack of guidance on how courts are to determine a litigant’s ability to pay. The result has been a seat-of-the-pants approach that is inefficient and inaccurate, and, as a consequence, very socially costly. Fortunately, online platform technology presents a promising avenue for reform. In particular, platform technology offers the potential to increase litigant access, reduce costs, and ensure consistent and fair treatment—all of which should lead to more accurate sanctions. We use interviews, surveys, and …


Prosecutors And Voters Are Becoming Smart On Crime, Barbara L. Mcquade Jan 2019

Prosecutors And Voters Are Becoming Smart On Crime, Barbara L. Mcquade

Articles

How to explain the recent trend of electing reform-minded local prosecutors? It may be that voters are seeing through tough talk to embrace smarter strategies to reduce crime.


Divine Justice And The Library Of Babel: Or, Was Al Capone Really Punished For Tax Evasion?, Gabriel Mendlow Oct 2018

Divine Justice And The Library Of Babel: Or, Was Al Capone Really Punished For Tax Evasion?, Gabriel Mendlow

Articles

A criminal defendant enjoys an array of legal rights. These include the right not to be punished for an offense unless charged, tried, and proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; the right not to be punished disproportionately; and the right not to be punished for the same offense more than once. I contend that the design of our criminal legal system imperils these rights in ways few observers appreciate. Because criminal codes describe misconduct imprecisely and prohibit more misconduct than any legislature actually aspires to punish, prosecutors decide which violations of the code merit punishment, and judges decide how much …


Why Is It Wrong To Punish Thought?, Gabriel S. Mendlow Jun 2018

Why Is It Wrong To Punish Thought?, Gabriel S. Mendlow

Articles

It’s a venerable maxim of criminal jurisprudence that the state must never punish people for their mere thoughts—for their beliefs, desires, fantasies, and unexecuted intentions. This maxim is all but unquestioned, yet its true justification is something of a mystery. In this Essay, I argue that each of the prevailing justifications is deficient, and I conclude by proposing a novel one. The proposed justification captures the widely shared intuition that punishing a person for her mere thoughts isn’t simply disfavored by the balance of reasons but is morally wrongful in itself, an intrinsic (i.e., consequence-independent) injustice to the person punished. …


Errors In Misdemeanor Adjudication, Samuel R. Gross May 2018

Errors In Misdemeanor Adjudication, Samuel R. Gross

Articles

Millions of defendants are convicted of misdemeanors in the United States each year but almost none obtain exonerations, primarily because ordinarily exoneration is far too costly and time consuming to pursue for anything less than years of imprisonment. The National Registry of Exonerations lists all known exonerations in the United States since 1989 — 2,145 cases, as of the end of 2017; only 85 are misdemeanors, 4%. In all but one of these misdemeanor exonerations the defendants were convicted of crimes that never happened; by comparison, more than three-quarters of felony exonerees were convicted of actual crimes that other people …


From Grace To Grids: Rethinking Due Process Protections For Parole., Kimberly A. Thomas, Paul D. Reingold May 2017

From Grace To Grids: Rethinking Due Process Protections For Parole., Kimberly A. Thomas, Paul D. Reingold

Articles

Current due process law gives little protection to prisoners at the point of parole, even though the parole decision, like sentencing, determines whether or not a person will serve more time or will go free. The doctrine regarding parole, which developed mostly in the late 1970s, was based on a judicial understanding of parole as an experimental, subjective, and largely standardless art—rooted in assessing the individual “character” of the potential parolee. In this Article we examine the foundations of the doctrine, and conclude that the due process inquiry at the point of parole should take into account the stark changes …


Random If Not "Rare"? The Eighth Amendment Weaknesses Of Post-Miller Legislation, Kimberly Thomas Mar 2017

Random If Not "Rare"? The Eighth Amendment Weaknesses Of Post-Miller Legislation, Kimberly Thomas

Articles

First, this Article surveys the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to analogize life without parole for juveniles to the death penalty for adults, and discusses the Eighth Amendment law regarding the parameters around death penalty statutory schemes. Second, this Article examines the state legislative response to Miller, and scrutinizes it with the Court's Eighth Amendment death penalty law-and the states' responses to this case law-in mind. This Article highlights the failure of juvenile homicide sentencing provisions to: 1) narrow offenses that are eligible for life without parole sentences; 2) further limit, once a guilty finding is made, the categories of …


What We Think, What We Know And What We Think We Know About False Convictions, Samuel Gross Jan 2017

What We Think, What We Know And What We Think We Know About False Convictions, Samuel Gross

Articles

False convictions are notoriously difficult to study because they can neither be observed when they occur nor identified after the fact by any plausible research strategy. Our best shot is to collect data on those that come to light in legal proceedings that result in the exoneration of the convicted defendants. In May 2012, the National Registry of Exonerations released its first report, covering 873 exonerations from January 1989 through February 2012. By October 15, 2016, we had added 1,027 cases: 599 exonerations since March 1, 2012, and 428 that had already happened when we issued our initial report but …


How The Sentencing Commission Does And Does Not Matter In Beckles V. United States, Leah Litman, Luke C. Beasley Oct 2016

How The Sentencing Commission Does And Does Not Matter In Beckles V. United States, Leah Litman, Luke C. Beasley

Articles

Two years ago, in Johnson v. United States, the Supreme Court held that the so-called “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) is unconstitutionally vague. Last spring, the Court made this rule retroactive in Welch v. United States. Then in June, the Court granted certiorari in Beckles v. United States to resolve two questions that have split lower courts in the wake of Johnson and Welch: (1) whether an identically worded “residual clause” in a U.S. Sentencing Guideline—known as the career offender Guideline—is unconstitutionally void for vagueness; and (2) if so, whether the rule invalidating the Guideline’s residual …