Professors Robert Blecker and Dan Gitner
With 90% of criminal convictions resulting from plea bargains, sentencing is the pivotal event in the criminal process, driving the administration of criminal justice from investigation through incarceration. This course, while of general interest, is designed to help future defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judicial law clerks navigate the complex federal sentencing guidelines. Contrasting New York’s newly revised state sentencing scheme to the federal system, it highlights differences in approach for advocates operating within each and explores the sentencing game as played, emphasizing common methods by which prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges apply and circumvent the formal scheme to "do justice" and keep the system functioning. Given the proximity of NYLS to the federal and state courts, students are required to attend at least three sentencing hearings and a plea allocution as their individual schedules allow, recording their reactions. The course also includes taped excerpts from conversations with key players—federal agents and New York City police, probation officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges—suggesting strategies and pitfalls in sentencing negotiation and advocacy.