ACLR’S 2022 Symposium: Reform-Minded Prosecution

This year, ACLR’s symposium will be focused on reform-minded prosecution, and more broadly, prosecutorial innovations. We believe a focus on the broader issue of reform-minded prosecutors is important. Many prosecutors are left out of the “progressive prosecution” conversation because of their personal political ideologies and the political ideologies of their communities. However, despite not being labeled “progressive prosecutors,” these prosecutors also have an interest in implementing reforms to make the criminal justice system fairer. Therefore, we want to ensure that we do not exclude these prosecutors and their communities from our conversation.

In addition to providing a platform for conversations and fresh perspectives about some of the longstanding debates around reform-minded prosecution—such as bail and declination policies, diversion, conviction integrity units, and more—we expect our panelists will address at least three key emerging issues.

First, federal and state confrontations over prosecutions. During the Trump administration, federal prosecutors sometimes undercut the efforts of reform-minded prosecutors by prosecuting offenders that state and local prosecutors would have prosecuted less aggressively or not prosecuted at all. This practice has diminished during the Biden administration, and our speakers are interested in the implications of this. They are also interested in discussing what reform-minded prosecution might look like if implemented at the federal level—a question that is especially timely considering the recent appointment of former Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.

Second, defunding prosecution. Some activists and scholars have suggested that growing calls to defund the police should be extended to prosecutors. Our panelists are interested in discussing this issue as well, exploring, for instance, the potential tension between requests by reform-minded prosecutors for expanded budgets to fund reformist interventions such as diversion programs, on one hand, and movement demands to reduce criminal justice funding and capacity across the board.

Lastly, a focus on correcting past injustices. Apart from the limited (but valuable) intervention of forming conviction integrity units, the decarceral efforts of reform-oriented prosecutors have focused primarily on prospective damage control, but there is growing interest among some of these prosecutors in rectifying unduly harsh sentences and liberating people from the many burdens of criminal records as well. Our panelists would like to explore these developments and identify promising second-look mechanisms that prosecutors can create or improve.

Symposium Sponsor

Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP) has agreed to sponsor our symposium. FJP is a nonprofit organization with the mission of creating a more equitable, compassionate, and fiscally responsible justice system. FJP works with elected reform-minded prosecutors across the country to implement criminal justice reform policies.

Speakers

ACLR is delighted to welcome our Symposium speakers. Currently, the speakers will be organized into four panels of participants, with three speakers and one moderator in each panel. Confirmed speakers are listed below, with speakers who will also be publishing in our symposium edition appearing with an asterisk.

  1. *Justin Murray, New York Law
  2. *Maybell Romero, Tulane Law
  3. *Cynthia Godsoe, Brooklyn Law
  4. *Bruce Green, Fordham Law
  5. *Steven Zeidman, CUNY School of Law
  6. Ellen S. Podgor, Stetson Law
  7. *Brooks Holland, Gonzaga Law
  8. Abbe Smith, Georgetown University Law Center
  9. *Taleed El-Sabawi, Elon Law
  10. *Laurie Levenson, Loyola Law
  11. Catherine Hancock, Tulane Law
  12. *Rebecca Roiphe, New York Law
  13. *Shon Hopwood, Georgetown University Law Center