Monday, April 13, 2015

National Academies reports - Growth of Incarceration

The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (2014), packed with research and analysis from social scientists and policy experts, is available as a free PDF from the National Academies Press.

This animated video summarizes the findings:

And this video summarizes it without the graphics:


Other National Academies publications in Law and Justice address topics such as:
  • eyewitness identification
  • the illicit tobacco market
  • juvenile justice reform
  • sex trafficking
  • forensic evidence

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Evidence-Based Practice in Criminal Defense

This interesting paper was recently posted on SSRN:

Jennifer E. Laurin, Gideon by the Numbers: The Emergence of Evidence-Based Practice in Indigent Defense,  Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Forthcoming 2015

Abstract: A widespread consensus understands Gideon’s promise to be largely, sadly, unfulfilled. Yet in truth, we possess precious little hard evidence about the state of indigent defense nationally or the actual impact of indigent defense policies on the quality of representation received. A burgeoning but little-noted trend in the field could alter that state of affairs: the push toward adoption of evidence-based practice. Put most simply, evidence-based practice is a paradigm that aims to tether decision-making to empirical, rather than intuitive or experiential, evaluations of practice or policy options. Originating in medicine and already taking hold in isolated sectors of criminal justice policy, evidence-based practice is sprouting in the indigent defense field, spurred on by legislative reform, shifts in federal funding priorities, and the concerted energy of thought leaders in a number of states. The Essay shines a light on this trend through close examination of three states — North Carolina, Texas, and New York — in which indigent defense oversight commissions have placed the development of evidence-based practice at the front and center of their missions. Critically assessing the prospects for evidence-based indigent defense policymaking, the Essay shares in some of the enthusiasm evinced by evidence-based practice’s promoters, but also enumerates significant barriers to a full flowering of the paradigm, and cautions that an expanded evidence base might, ironically, pose barriers to furthering Gideon’s promise of equal access to counsel for the indigent. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Conviction Reversed Because Expert Testimony re Eyewitness ID Excluded

Interesting case from New York: Joel Stashenko, Conviction Reversed as Expert Barred from Testifying, N.Y.L.J., April 3, 2015.

The case is People v. McCullough, 11-01614 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., App. Div. March 27, 2015), link to court website

Federal Appellate Brief Word Limit to Change?

proposed change to Rule 32 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure would put appellate briefs on an enforced diet:

  • a principal brief would max out at 12,500 words (rather than the current 14,000 words)
  • a reply brief would have half that.
Because the Judicial Conference uses, you can read the comments that have been submitted.

Some of the comments are from individuals. Many are from organizations, for example
  • Seth Waxman submitted a letter on behalf of the appellate practice groups of several large law firms (including his own firm, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP).
  • EarthJustice, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and Western Environmental Law Center submitted joint comments.
  • The American Academy of Appellate Lawyers also weighed in, approving changes to other rules but not Rule 32.
  • Judge Frank Easterbrook (7th Cir.) wrote supporting the current, 14,000-word limit, and also explaining its origin. 
Most of the comments are against the change, but some support it. See Mark Wilson, FRAP 32: Do Federal Appellate Briefs Need to Be Shorter?, Strategist (Feb. 17, 2015).

By the way, the corresponding rule in Washington (RAP 10.4) limits brief length in terms of pages, not words. Its limit is 50 pages for a principal brief, which might work out to be about the same as 14,000 words. Judge Easterbrook says that the old federal rule was 50 pages; to change to a word count, he calculated the number of words in 50-page briefs and found an average of just under 40,000 words.