Whether one is a prosecutor or a criminal defense attorney, the practice of criminal law raises a number of difficult moral issues. In this seminar, we will address several of these issues. Two sessions will deal with prosecutors, one session with criminal defense lawyers, and another with a variety of ethical conundrums that arise in criminal practice generally. Seminar students will together choose the topic for the final session. Discussions of criminal justice ethics are often abstracted from the realities of the criminal justice system and the modern prison experience. In this seminar, we will take these realities as our starting point, and consider what it means to practice criminal law in an era of mass incarceration, and in which the burdens of both crime and punishment fall disproportionately on poor people and people of color. We will also bear in mind the need for a functioning criminal system to vindicate society’s interest in protecting people from being victimized and generally ensuring public safety. One guiding question for our discussions will be extent to which the professional roles of prosecutors and public defenders as currently conceived contribute to or detract from the various public values (fairness, nondiscrimination, accuracy, public safety, etc.) the criminal system is supposed to realize.
This course will meet 8/23, 9/6, 1/30, 2/20 and 3/13. All sessions to take place 6:15-8:45pm at the law school, with food ordered in. (Poll will be taken for food preferences!)