Thursday, October 27, 2011
is what I am calling myself as I travel to three distinct locales to participate in four distinct sentencing events over the next 55 hours. I fear blogging will be very light during this time, though I am hoping to have a little down time to report on any major sentencing news before the weekend.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Great new Rutgers resource reviewing crim books
Via Professor Stuart Green, I am please to be able to relay this notice concerning what looks like a great new criminal justice researcher and reader resource:
Rutgers Law School-Newark and the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice are pleased to announce the launch of a new website called Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books. We aim to publish high-quality, timely, and concise on-line reviews of important and interesting new books in criminal law, criminal procedure, and criminal justice.
Among the great looking new books subject to great looking reviews are:
- Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutors Go Wrong
- The Boundaries of the Criminal Law
- Retributivism: Essays on Theory and Policy
Monday, July 04, 2011
An Independence Day open thread seeking comments on liberty and freedom in the US
Blogging has been light this holiday weekend as I have been enjoying sun, family, fireworks, tennis, golf and lots of company (not necessarily in that order). But the morning of July 4 gets me to my computer for a few minutes to link to my prior Independence Day blogging and to urge readers to use this space to comment on the state of liberty and freedom in the United States.
Prior July 4 posts:
- 2010: Celebrating our declaration of rights to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"
- 2009: What to the American imprisoned is the Fourth of July?
- 2008: Celebrating liberty in the country leading the world in incarceration rates
- 2007: House hearing planned to examine Bush commutation
- 2006: A holiday retrospective on Blakely fireworks
- 2005: Celebrating liberty, Blakely-style
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
In Massachusetts to talk about federal sentencing at my alma mater
I am about to go off-line for the day because I have the pleasure of spending the afternoon and evening in (rainy) Cambridge, Massachusetts because of a kind invitation to participate in an event organized by the Harvard Law School Chapter of the American Constitution Society." Here is the official event announcement:
Tuesday at 7PM in Ropes Gray (Second Floor of Pound Hall) at Harvard Law School:
Judge Nancy Gertner & Professor Douglas Berman
“The New Sentencing Regime — Or Not!”
Come join two amazing speakers for dinner and a conversation about the future of sentencing in the federal system, touching on issues ranging from the crack/cocaine-powder disparity to child pornography, immigration, and white collar crime. Judge Nancy Gertner is one of the nation’s leading progressive district judges and will join the HLS faculty next fall as a Professor of Practice. Professor Douglas Berman, HLS ’93, maintains the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog, edits the Federal Sentencing Reporter, and regularly participates in high-profile sentencing litigation throughout the country.
I think this event is open to the public, so if you are in Cambridge and want a sentencing-related excuse to get out of the rain, head up Mass Ave this evening.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
For those listening to the federal sentencing AFDA web program today...
apologies for the technical glitch. Apparently, too many people tried to sign on to the program at once, and we managed to crash the Adobe server (which said it could handle 500 folks). I am flattered to discover more than 500 people tried to log-on hear what I had to say with the help of the AFDA, but I am really sorry that we got cut offjust over half-way into the 90 minute program.
Thankfully, the folks at AFDA are going to put this program together again next week so I can finish discussing all topics we had planned to cover. As of this writing, the plan is to try again next week (Wednesday, Feb. 23) at 12noon EST.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Welcoming "Law and Biosciences Daily Digest" to the blogosphere
I am extremely pleased to see that Professor Nita Farahany has started this great new blog which is to provide "relevant summaries of legal opinions (civil and criminal) in which cognitive neuroscience or behavioral genetics evidence has been introduced." As Nita notes here, in recent years "at least 2-3 opinions per day are published in which cognitive neuroscience or behavioral genetics evidence has been used."
I will be checking this new blog regularly, in part because the headings from many case digest entries spotlight that a lot of this action has sentencing elements: "Brain Dysfunction and Capital Mitigation" and "Neuropsychological Testing, Civil Commitment, and Sexually Dangerous Individuals" and "Brain Dysfunction and Cruel and Unusual Punishment."
Monday, January 31, 2011
Spending the day at John Jay...
in the Big Apple to participate in the 6th Annual H.F. Guggenheim Symposium sponsored by The Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I suspect I will be off-line most of the day, but I hope to get a chance to blog about the event upon my return home tonight.
UPDATE: A liveblog summary of the great activities as this event yesterday can be found on this page at The Crime Report.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Supreme Court Justices are now doing reading on iPads and Kindles, when will law students?
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new video from a portion of a C-SPAN interview with new Justice Elena Kagan. The video is titled "Justice Kagan on Using a Kindle to Read Briefs," and in the segment Justice Kagan reports on how she uses the Kindle to read all the SCOTUS briefs, and also discusses that Justice Scalia has his briefs on an iPad. (Hat tip: How Appealing.)
In a series of posts about technology and legal education over at the blog Law School Innovation (where I am cross-posting this post), I have suggested that the advancement of new reading technologies will at some point transform legal education. I articulated the point this way in this post after first seeing the iPad in action earlier this year:
[A] casebook-friendly e-tablet is only the tip of the new media iceberg that could be facilitated by an iPad or some other tablet that becomes to casebooks what the iPod became to vinyl records. Of course, just as record companies (and some artists) resisted music being packaged and distributed via new media, casebook publishers (and some authors) may resist legal materials being packaged distributed via new media. But, as the iPod and the DVR and other digital innovations have demonstrated, a better means to distribute content digitally will eventually prevail over analog precursors. The iPad may not prove to be the casebook tipping-point technology, but it seems to me to be only a question of when, not whether, the traditional casebook will go the way of vinyl records and VCR tapes.
When traveling to speak at various conferences, I have noticed more and more lawyers with iPads and other e-readers. I expect that buzz about the Justices reading briefs on e-readers might add even more juice to the on-going digital revolution in the collection and distribution of legal materials. And if law schools do not get with the program soon, I fear we will be doing even worse than usual in training the next generation of lawyers.
Though this post fits better at my Law School Innovation blog, I have cross-posted it here because I am eager to hear from practitioners about their use of technology (and whether there are any particular technologies that a criminal law professor ought to make the focus of more student instruction). In addition, I have to assume that it is only a matter of time before we have a federal sentencing guidelines app.
Monday, November 29, 2010
SL&P honored again by ABA Journal's list of Blawg 100
I am once again very pleased and very honored to report that this blog has once again been selected as one of the ABA Journal's Blawg 100. I am grateful that ABAJ's annual list of the best of the blawgosphere has included this blog every year now for four years running. Here is how the ABA Journal describes my blog this year in its Criminal Justice category: "Ohio State University law professor Douglas Berman posts several times a day, keeping 'sentencing fans' updated on the latest news stories, commentary, cert grants, rulings, argument transcripts, research and scholarship on criminal penalties." That sounds about right.
Here is how the ABA Journal, which again has devoted its December cover story to the blawgosphere, describes its latest listing of top law blogs:
In our 4th annual Blawg 100, we organized a bit differently and created some new categories. Yet we know that many blogs defy categories. We have a "lighter fare" grouping, but you can find witty and funny blogs in any category. More of our readers had a hand in the selections this time around: We received more than 1,250 blawg amici, or friend-of-the-blawg, nominations; you'll see some of the testimonials on the pages that follow. This year, more bloggers embraced Twitter, though law profs are trailing the pack.
In addition to thanking the ABA Journal for giving me this honor each year, I want to again thank all the readers and commentors who always (and in various ways) help me find the energy (and often the insights) to keep this blog going. I genuinely believe I remain energized to maintain this blog largely because I so greatly enjoy the engagement, and still learn so much, from readers and commentators concerning the array of topics I discuss.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Off to DC to participate in ABA's "Sentencing & Reentry Institute and Criminal Justice Legal Educators Colloquium"
I am closing out a exciting (but really long) week by heading inside the Beltway this evening in order to attend and participate all day tomorrow in the the American Bar Association's "Third Annual Sentencing & Reentry Institute and Criminal Justice Legal Educators Colloquium." All the details of this amazing event can be found in this brochure, and I am hoping to learn some blog-worthy stuff while in DC.
Because I have never been very good at that whole live-blogging thing, I doubt I will have many posts about the conference until the weekend. But I am expecting to have some new insights on how the new post-election political landscape might impact directly sentencing law, policy and practice in the months ahead.
Monday, October 11, 2010
New blog examining the "intersection between criminal law and emerging technology"
I am pleased to learn about this new blog, intriguingly named "Stockycat," which is "focused non-exclusively on the intersection between criminal law and emerging technology" and says it is "[d]edicated to the idea that effective law enforcement is not incompatible with a vigorous interpretation of the Fourth Amendment."
Among the many notable features of this new blog that makes it worth watching is the public policy AND government lawyer AND prosecutorial background of its author, Joshua Engel. Here is how the author describes his background on this blog:
I am a Fellow with the Ohio State Bar Foundation. In addition, I have been honored as a recipient of a Harry S Truman Scholarship for Public Service. I recently served as Chief Legal Counsel for the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
Prior to joining the Department of Public Safety, I was one of the most respected and successful felony prosecutors in Ohio. In 2007, my work as a prosecutor was recognized by a Meritorious Service Award from the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
I began my career as a prosecutor by serving under current Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. I started my legal career at Choate, Hall & Stewart, a large Boston law firm.
Though the blog seems focused at the start on Fourth Amendment issues, I am hopeful that we will before long see posts about GPS tracking of released offenders and/or internet restrictions as a form of punishment and/or restitution as a punishment simply for downloading child porn and/or any of the many other sentencing law and policy issues that arise at the "intersection between criminal law and emerging technology."
Monday, September 06, 2010
Is blogging now officially a "mainstream medium"?The question in the title of this post is inspired by this new piece in The National Law Journal, which is headlined "Law School Report: A look at professors who have made blogging a mainstream medium." I am flattered and honored to be included among the impressive list of lawprof bloggers profiled by Leigh Jones in the article, which starts this way:
Somewhere between fusty law treatises and Twitter lie law blogs, many of them written by the top legal scholars in the country. Just five years ago, the notion of law professors delivering quick and cogent commentary to the masses — with the opportunity for instant feedback, no less — was a novel concept. Today, it is rare for law schools not to have at least two or three professors on faculty who regularly tap away at their blogs, often with their morning cup of coffee or after they've put the kids to bed at night.
The National Law Journalhas profiled some of the pioneers in law blogging. Their online endeavors keep readers current on topics ranging from Sixth Amendment rights to tax law, from faculty appointments to securities fraud. Their work has given legal scholars a greater voice in the public forum and brought recognition to the schools they represent.
I ask the question in the title of this post because I am wondering if I now need to consider myself part of the MSM. To quote a great Seinfeld episode, "Not that there is anything wrong with that."
Thursday, August 05, 2010
A comment on comments
One of my favorite real-world lawyer readers, who is also one of the most thoughtful and helpful commentors, wrote me this note via e-mail today:
Doug, is there anything you can do to eliminate comments from folks who are deterring participation on the blog? I have no enthusiasm to make a comment, knowing that some vitriolic attack will follow. Bummer, your blog is some of my favorite reading.
I trust the few bad apples that are spoiling the comments for other members of the bunch will make a real effort to play at least a bit nicer in the comments. I have very little interest in (and even less time to) police what gets said in the comments, and I know from experience that the comments can and should be a useful (and enjoyable) aspect of this blog.
I am hopeful that this comment will encourage a bit more civility in the comments. Also, I urge readers to consider using the comments to this post to express their take on whether and how the comment section of this blog adds or detracts from their reading experiences. If lots of folks say that open comments do more harm than good, I can and will shut off the blog's comment feature.
Thursday, July 08, 2010
Thanks, (slow) readers, for helping to make this blog among the very "stickiest"!To understand what the post title means, check out this post and the law prof blog rankings from Paul Caron at TaxProf Blog. And I am really grateful for all my readers (whether they read slow or fast), and also for all the commentors and those who send me materials to ensure I continue to enjoy very much being "stuck" with this blog.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
So much going on today...
I am a bit overwhelmed. My day will be consumed with the US Sentencing Commission conference in New Orleans (basics here). But I have a nagging feeling that the Supreme Court will do something notable this morning that will draw me back to the computer at some point before the day is out. (SCOTUSblog is, of course, the place to keep up with what the Justices do today.)
And, of course, tonight we have the rare event of a NBA Final's Game 7, and the US Open gets going at Pebble Beach. My cup runneth over.
Monday, June 07, 2010
"[M]ost law reviews are simply a waste of trees"The title of this post (which is cross-posted at LSI) comes from the last phrase of this amusing and effective commentary by Professor Gerald Uelmen in the June 2010 issue of the California Lawyer. (Hat tip: C&C.) The piece is titled "The Wit, Wisdom, and Worthlessness of Law Reviews," and here are a few snippets:
During California's legal "golden era" of the Gibson and Traynor Courts in the 1950s and '60s, law reviews were cited with increasing frequency. In a classic study of the authorities cited in California Supreme Court opinions, Stanford law professor John H. Merryman counted 164 law review citations in the court's 1970 opinions, a "sharp increase" over previous years (Merryman, "Toward a Theory of Citations," 50 S. CAL. L. REV. 381 (1977)).
I did my own count recently of the California Supreme Court opinions published during the past five years that relied on law reviews as authority: There were just six. This despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that law reviews have tripled in number since the 1970s. The 20 ABA-accredited law schools in California now publish a total of 82 law reviews. UC Berkeley's alone publishes 14, while Stanford and UC Hastings each publish 9. Both law professors seeking tenure and law students seeking employment at elite law firms eagerly fill these volumes. But who reads them now? Surely not the judges who decide the law. And not practicing lawyers either.
As Adam Liptak of the New York Times observed a few years ago, "Articles in law reviews have certainly become more obscure in recent decades. Many law professors seem to think they are under no obligation to say anything useful or to say anything well. They take pride in the theoretical and in working in disciplines other than their own. They seem to think the analysis of actual statutes and court decisions — which is to say the practice of law — is beneath them."...
Of course, there are still a few law professors who would rather publish for practicing lawyers and judges than just for other professors. But given the way the academic game is played these days, they do so at their peril — particularly if they are seeking tenure. Still, law reviews are in no danger of disappearing anytime soon. After all, big law firms and elitist judges continue to demand "law review experience" as a prerequisite for hiring. The publication of student notes also provides a vehicle to enhance badly needed writing skills for barely literate law students. But in terms of contributing to the profession, most law reviews are simply a waste of trees.
To put a little sentencing spin on this effective attack on modern law reviews, I wonder how many of the "20 ABA-accredited law schools in California [that] now publish a total of 82 law reviews" have produced articles discussing the dysfunctionality of California's state sentencing system or the profound legal issues that surround its long-lasting prison over-crowding problems. I know of a few strong "local" pieces on California's three strikes law and other local topics, but not as many as are justified or needed for the legislators, courts and practitioners struggling daily with these issues.
As readers of this blog know, there are an array of interesting and important (and theoretically sophisticated and challenging) issues surrounding California's sentencing law and policy that merit extended and repeated coverage in law reviews. And I am proud to note that one of the law reviews that I edit, the Federal Sentencing Reporter, has this new issue on "California's Corrections Crisis." I am thus glad that Professor Uelmen says only that "most" not "all" law reviews are a waste of trees. (And, of course, no trees were killed or even hurt in the production of this blog post.)
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Does anyone have any experience with the BlogWorld conference?
I just got an e-mail inviting me to take advantage of early bird registration for the 2010 BlogWorld & New Media Expo and Conference taking place this October in Las Vegas. Since I am always eager to have an excuse to go to Vegas and since I am also eager to figure out a way to take my law blogging to another level (whatever that means), I am thinking seriously about trying to make it to this event.
I am a bit concerned, however, that this BlogWorld event may be more geared to techies and others more interested in marketing than in content creation and dissemination. Consequently, I am posting here (and in some other blog locales) this bleg for information and feedback on the BlogWorld experience. Relatedly, I filled out a form to offer to be a speaker at the BlogWorld event (which would make registration free and likely could have other benefits), and I would love to hear from anyone as to whether trying to speak at this event sounds like a sensible idea.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Going back, going back...
Among the many reasons I have been pleased with the last thee Supreme Court nominees is the interesting common fact that they all graduated from Princeton University, which just happens to all be my alma mater. Indeed, I am very soon to be going back to Old Nassau for a long weekend of festivities. Though I hope to be on-line every so often, blogging will likely be light until Tuesday.
I have the honor to be on an Alumni-Faculty forum panel on the topic of "Civil Liberties in the Obama Administration" taking place starting at 10:30am on Saturday, May 29 in McCosh 28 on the Princeton University campus. I plan at that forum to continue complaining about President Obama's failure to make any use of his historic clemency powers and to lament more generally the very little amount of "hope and change" that the Obama Administration has so far brought to modern federal criminal justice system.
Rumor has it that Mrs. Michelle Obama, who this year is due to celebrate her 25th reunion from Princeton University, is not making it up to New Jersey to join in the traditional Princeton reunion festivities. Too bad, as I was eager to see what it would be like to see members of the US Secret Service marching in the (in)famous P-rade.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Great coverage of sentencing issues at FAMM's new blog, SentenceSpeak
I am pleased to seem that the folks at Families Against Mandatory Minimums have their new blog, SentenceSpeak, up and running and it looks like it is on a steady path to being a daily must-read for all sentencing fans. As described to me by one of the progenitors, FAMM's goal "is to create a forum where we can talk about mandatory minimums and other sentencing policies and invite others to participate in that discussion ... and to reach out to people who may know nothing about sentencing, or who may be 'unlikely allies' in the sentencing reform effort."
Here are links to some of the interesting early posts on this new blog:
- Where's the Clemency, Mr. President?
- Stupid is as California Does
- Court Rejects Prosecutors End Run Around Jury
- Sentencing Nerds Unite!
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Blogging's virture (and partisanship's vice) given the value of "ideas having sex"This terrific piece in the Wall Street Journal, which is headlined "Humans: Why They Triumphed," provides an enjoyable and stimulating read. The piece is full of fascinating ideas about human progress and intellectual evolution, while also coining my latest favorite term "ideas having sex." Here are snippets from the start and end of the piece that showcase its key ideas:
Human evolution presents a puzzle. Nothing seems to explain the sudden takeoff of the last 45,000 years — the conversion of just another rare predatory ape into a planet dominator with rapidly progressing technologies. Once "progress" started to produce new tools, different ways of life and burgeoning populations, it accelerated all over the world, culminating in agriculture, cities, literacy and all the rest. Yet all the ingredients of human success — tool making, big brains, culture, fire, even language — seem to have been in place half a million years before and nothing happened. Tools were made to the same monotonous design for hundreds of thousands of years and the ecological impact of people was minimal. Then suddenly — bang! — culture exploded, starting in Africa. Why then, why there?
The answer lies in a new idea, borrowed from economics, known as collective intelligence: the notion that what determines the inventiveness and rate of cultural change of a population is the amount of interaction between individuals. Even as it explains very old patterns in prehistory, this idea holds out hope that the human race will prosper mightily in the years ahead — because ideas are having sex with each other as never before....
There's a cheery modern lesson in this theory about ancient events. Given that progress is inexorable, cumulative and collective if human beings exchange and specialize, then globalization and the Internet are bound to ensure furious economic progress in the coming century — despite the usual setbacks from recessions, wars, spendthrift governments and natural disasters.
The process of cumulative innovation that has doubled life span, cut child mortality by three-quarters and multiplied per capita income ninefold — world-wide — in little more than a century is driven by ideas having sex. And things like the search engine, the mobile phone and container shipping just made ideas a whole lot more promiscuous still.
Though this WSJ piece can be assessed and explored in many ways, my first follow-up thoughts produced the title of this post. In light of this provocative article, I would contend that a chief virtue of sophisticated blogging (and maybe even unsophisticated blogging) is that it provides a convenient setting and cost-effective means for ideas having sex. Relatedly, I would contend that a chief vice of partisanship and group-think is that it can impede ideas from having sex (and can make it seem politically unsafe for ideas from warring factions to have sex). Continuing the sexual metaphor, I may start calling blogging Viagra for ideas (and start calling partisanship idea VD).