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June 21, 2006

Interesting new blog: "Crime and Consequences"

I have made it to beautiful San Diego, and waiting for me in my e-mail in-box was this interesting note about this interesting new criminal justice blog:

Blogs discussing crime and criminal law have, up to this point, been written largely from a criminal defense viewpoint.   The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, based in Sacramento, California, has today launched a blog to provide daily updates on current news, court rulings, commentary and research, generally reflecting a scholarly pro-law enforcement perspective.

Among the contributors are former United States Attorney General Edwin Meese, Former Harvard, UCLA and current Pepperdine Public Policy professor James Q. Wilson, Professor Joseph Bessette (Claremont McKenna College), Professor George Kelling (Rutgers), Professor Isaac Ehrlich (University of Buffalo), Professor Barry Latzer (John Jay College of Criminal Justice), former California prosecutor Douglas Pipes, Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz and CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger....

The blog is titled "Crime and Consequences" to reflect its underlying philosophy of criminal law.  People make choices, and choices have consequences.  That is true of the perpetrator’s decision to commit the crime and of society's decision regarding what to do about it. The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has helped win four United States Supreme Court decisions benefiting law enforcement and public safety during the Court's current term.

June 21, 2006 at 10:35 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I think I see a common pattern. Condemn. Condemn. Condemn. (If those people are of the lower classes.)

Posted by: S.cotus | Jun 21, 2006 10:40:20 PM

I think a see a pattern arising from the previous comment. Blind liberalism. Blind liberalism. Blind liberalism.

Posted by: SPD | Jun 22, 2006 12:29:36 AM

They have a pint about the slant of most crim law blogs. White collar Prof. Blog is the the best example. But the problem is that us Federal Prosecuters cannot blog because of our jobs. Teh internal DOJ blog is very good, but it is internal. I have my doubts that about the above but I will be interested to see the content.

Posted by: lawdevil@yahoo.com | Jun 22, 2006 8:54:39 AM

SPD, I am not a liberal. In fact, I don’t vote, and I don’t even have too many privately-held political positions.

What I do see is more disturbing.

Amongst people who practice “criminal law” on either “side” of the courtroom, I can easily divide them into two categories.

1) “Posivitists”

and

2) “true believers.”

“True believers” believe that what they are actually doing is righteous, and that their clients are righteous. In extreme cases they will defend the actions of police that illegally collect evidence and/or beat a confession out of people (happens quite frequently.) They think that what they are doing is for the greater good of society, and they see their role as defending “innocent” people against the hoards of anarchists. These people justify prison sentences under the guise of “consequences” and no matter what the circumstances are (or presented evidence is), they figure that people are better off in jail. Sometimes they tell everyone how they exercise “discretion” in charging people, but they usually don’t explain the criteria they use, so their exercise of discretion is useless. However, better-prepared defendants are usually better at convincing them to use this discretion, so it often appears that poor people (who do not have access to lawyers before being arrested) will bear the brunt of their righteous indignation. True believer prosecutors, despite their prattle about personal responsibility can never exist outside of the government. Often they are not the best litigators because although they are good at bullying and threatening, they don’t see the nuances that a jury (or a good defense attorney) would see.

But there are “true believers” on the defense side, too. They see that their clients are doing something that is good. They will often cast their client’s troubles in terms of a political argument. In extreme cases they often do things for their clients that they have no business doing (like Lynne Stewart), because they confuse trial advocacy and political activism with the criminal defense project, which is, in essence, explaining how the law requires that a client achieve a certain result. “True believer” defense attorneys, to me, are dangerous, because they would rather suffer a spectacular defeat than a quiet victory (and, to me, quiet victories are the whole point of being a lawyer.) “True believer” defense attorneys are almost useless when it comes to prospective advice and pre-indictment negotiations with the government, since they are so convinced their client, like the prosecutor’s is absolutely swell.

Positivist, on the other hand see themselves as occupying a position.

A positivist prosecutor realizes that he got his job, not because god willed it, but because the magic of attorney selection made it so. He wants to do a good job, but he realizes that there are people above him who make certain decisions, and there is a court system, and a defense attorney that is also occupying a certain position. Sometimes they will cynically say that everyone is guilty, and it is simply a political decision as to who is charged, and they will do their best to represent the state. Despite their lack of indignation, in my book, they probably understand the law better, since they don’t see it as some sort of god-given morality (both in letter and in practice) but as the work of men who, like them, occupied a position.

A positivist defense attorney, likewise, sees himself as simply representing a client. Not a class of similar-situated defendants. Not all poor people. Just one client. For example, he sees 4th amendment arguments not as being about morality and evil police, but rather about a tool that a defense attorney has in his toolbox (like the prosecutor has, I guess, the power to request a material witness warrant in many jurisdictions.)

Now, most blogs by practicing defense attorneys are definitely positivist. They see things practically, and they don’t see their clients as being necessarily sainted. Of course, since they are defense attorneys people who are “true believer” prosecutor-types consider them to be evil and, good god, “left-leaning.” (I looked, and I can’t find a “true-believer” criminal defense blog by an actual practicing attorney. This might be because they don’t want to annoy their prosecutor colleagues, but I suspect there just are not any.)

This blog seems to be nothing more than a bunch of “true-believer” prosecutor-types that want to beat the drum of how darn “moral” they are, and therefore how immoral someone accused of a crime is.

(Oh, the Internal DOJ Blog can be FOIAed, and there is nothing stopping someone from requesting it and putting it on the web.)

Posted by: S.cotus | Jun 22, 2006 9:20:59 AM

Hmm -- why bother creating a Blog / Blawg "generally reflecting a pro-law enforcement perspective"? Isn't that what judges and lawmakers are for -- why rely on powerless fora like blogs when you already have (1) the law and (2) judges on your side?

Joking aside, the more the merrier. As a PD, I welcome the chance to read more about the thoughts of the Other.

And will someone PLEASE leak the DOJ Internal Blog (I did not know of its existence until now) to the outside world?

Posted by: ycl | Jun 22, 2006 10:24:19 AM

YCL, Just FOIA the internal blog. Someone showed it to me a year or so ago, and it didn't impress.

Posted by: S.cotus | Jun 22, 2006 10:37:38 AM

Thanks for posting that, Doug. I look forward to some enlightening exchanges.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jun 22, 2006 2:11:58 PM

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In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB