Clustered around a table in a New York Law School (NYLS) conference room, some 20 ethics and criminal justice scholars eagerly dissected each other’s draft papers and debated strategies for reform.
The June 8–9 “Criminal Justice Ethics Schmooze” was, as the name suggests, a mix of the erudite and the informal, giving scholars from around the country an opportunity to test-drive provocative, cutting-edge ideas with fellow experts before taking them public.
The event was hosted by Professor Rebecca Roiphe—a historian, former criminal prosecutor, and ethics expert at NYLS—and co-sponsored by Fordham Law School’s Stein Center for Legal Ethics, Hofstra Law School’s Monroe H. Freedman Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics, and the Touro Law Center. NYLS has been a sponsor of the four-year-old “Schmooze” since its launch, inspired by a popular annual Constitutional Law model.
The group at NYLS included representatives from Princeton, Temple, The University of Texas, American University, Seattle University, the University of Miami, and several other law schools. Each attendee had submitted a draft paper in advance.
Discussions addressed misdemeanor sentencing, the architecture of error correction in wrongful convictions, judicial innovation in criminal reform, and other related topics. Professor Roiphe presented her working paper, “Prosecutorial Indiscretion: Is There Ever a Duty to Charge?” The paper examines an overlooked issue: the structural cost associated with underenforcement of certain types of crimes.
“This year, there was a striking energy in the room,” Professor Roiphe said. “As scholars of ethics and criminal justice reform, we have spent our careers grappling with questions of how elected officials, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges should approach their work. But now the public is growing increasingly aware of the cost of their failures, which is so exciting because it provides a new and receptive audience for our proposals.”