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Groundbreaking Conference Hosted at Hofstra Issues Report: ‘Judicial Responsibility for Justice in Criminal Courts’

Generic photo of judge striking a gavel that was used in publicity for the conference "Judicial Responsibility for Justice in Criminal Courts" that was hosted at Hofstra in April 2017

On April 6-7, 2017, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), the Foundation for Criminal Justice, the Monroe H. Freedman Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics at Hofstra Law, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Center for Court Innovation, and the State of New York Unified Court System convened a conference designed to explore the impediments to and reforms needed to ensure effective justice in all stages of the criminal process, with a particular focus on the judicial role in high-volume misdemeanor courts.

The conference, which took place at Hofstra University, assembled judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, scholars, and criminal justice policy experts to identify practical reforms to improve the quality of justice in state and local criminal justice systems.

The conference report, Judicial Responsibility for Justice in Criminal Courts, shares discussions and recommendations that emerged from the presentations, panels, and work groups. The recommendations address many areas, including:

• Procedural Justice
• Judicial Control Over Bail
• Pleas at Initial Appearance
• Collateral Consequences
• Courts Without Counsel
• Implicit Bias
• Judicial Intervention in Charging Decisions
• Judicial Involvement in Plea Bargaining and Discovery
• Control over Conduct of Counsel
• Bench and Jury Trial Issues
• Sentencing
• Changing Court Culture

“We are optimistic that this groundbreaking conference will set the stage for similar conferences around the nation,” said Professor Ellen Yaroshefsky, the Howard Lichtenstein Distinguished Professor of Legal Ethics, executive director of the Freedman Institute, and a member of the conference planning committee, in a Dec. 7 NACDL press release about the publication of the report. “And we hope that this report will help begin a national conversation about the issues and specific recommendations in the report to improve the quality of justice delivered by judges, even in overburdened and underfunded state and local criminal justice systems.”

The report was prepared by Professor Andrea M. Marsh of the University of Texas School of Law. It is available for download on the NACDL website.

“NACDL has long been committed to working with all stakeholders in the criminal justice system in order to ensure the protection of the constitutional rights of all persons accused of criminal wrongdoing in our nation’s courts,” said NACDL President Rick Jones in the press release. “This unique and groundbreaking conference, and the critically important conference report that is being released today, represents exactly the type of collaboration among stakeholders that can have tangible, meaningful, and lasting effects that will improve the quality of justice in the nation’s criminal courts.”

Read the full press release on the NACDL website.