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November 1, 2007

Why all law professors should pay more attention to criminal justice issues

I have such a passion for criminal law issues because so many interesting, dynamic and transcendent philosophical, structural, procedural and practical legal issues arise in the operation of criminal justice systems.  My blogging recently about lethal injection issues (archive here) and about the new crack guidelines (archive here) seeks to reveal some of these issues, but I am really only able to scratch the surface in blog posts.  Relatedly, many of my recent law review articles about the Supreme Court's work in Blakely, and Booker and Rita and other sentencing issues aspire to locate the Court's modern constitutional jurisprudence in broader theoretical and structural contexts.

As I recently suggested here, I am sometimes disappointed and surprised that many high-profile law professor bloggers rarely discuss the transcendent issues that many criminal justice cases implicate.  But today I am pleased to see two thoughtful blog assessments of two cases that show why even seemingly small criminal cases can be so revealing for anyone really interested in legal ideas:

  • At Althouse, this post by Ann confirms my belief that in Danforth v. Minnesota may be the most interesting case of the term for true law geeks like me.  In fact, Ann calls Danforth, "perhaps the most interesting case I've seen in 20 years."  Wow.
  • At Concurring Opinions, this post by guest blogger Anita Krishnakumar highlights that "the little-noticed case [of Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prisons] raises fascinating questions of statutory interpretation."

Kudos to Ann and Anita for spotlighting that there is a lot more to learn from and about the Supreme Court's work and the Justices than what a lot of the tired partisan commentary tends to suggest.

UPDATE:  I now see that Orin Kerr has this long new post on Danforth.

November 1, 2007 at 10:39 AM | Permalink

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Comments

so many interesting, dynamic and transcendent philosophical, structural, procedural and practical legal issues arise in the operation of criminal justice systems.

The same is true of any field, once you get deeply enough into it. The case for not spending time studying criminal law is probably that it's substantively unique in a few important ways, like the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the rule of lenity, the lack of finality for judgments, the absolute right of defendants to a jury trial (e.g. no directed verdicts allowed) and the role that emotion plays in the decisionmaking process.

I find criminal law fascinating and an an interesting point of comparison to other fields, but I can understand why others might disagree.

Posted by: | Nov 1, 2007 11:33:40 AM

My thought is that more lawyers and law professors might be at least acquainting themselves with the developments in Fifth and Sixth Amendment jurisprudence.

Posted by: M. P. Bastian | Nov 4, 2007 5:55:52 AM

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