The Pace Law Review

The Pace Law Review at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University invites submissions for an interdisciplinary conference on the theme of  “Game-changing Reforms in the NYS Criminal Justice System and How to Implement Them” to be held on March 20, 2020 at the NYS Judicial Institute on the campus of the law school.

In the last few years, culminating in the last legislative session, the New York State Legislature, the New York State courts, as well as the government of New York City, have enacted a number of far reaching reforms in criminal procedure and related criminal justice issues.  These changes include (but are not limited to) the following: raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years; comprehensive bail reform; discovery reform; major changes in the speedy trial statute; the anticipated closing of the Rikers Island detention and correctional facilities; significant changes in the imposition of solitary confinement of state prisoners; the expansion of the use of desk appearance tickets (and the consequent reduction of the number of custodial overnight detentions); expansion of the use of video-recorded police interrogations; expanded use of police body cameras in NYC; proliferation of conviction integrity programs in New York State district attorney’s offices; creation of a Prosecutorial Conduct Commission; and the large increase in funding of public defender offices statewide as part of the Hurrell-Harring case settlement.  Each of these reforms deserve considered analysis and debate.

This symposium will provide a forum for policymakers, jurists, academics, criminal law practitioners (on both the prosecution and defense side), students and concerned citizens to engage in a thorough discussion of criminal justice reform.  These changes share some common themes—an overall trend towards decarceration, increased use of modern technology in street policing, and increased emphasis on the prosecutorial obligation to share information, accelerate the process, avoid misconduct and prevent or correct wrongful convictions.

These changes in New York State reflect national trends in favor of bail and discovery reform, decarceration, and increased concern about wrongful convictions.  They also reflect changes in the modern prosecutor’s role and a 21st century model of organized policing.  Fixing a close gaze on New York and both its upstate and downstate counties, will provide insight for our national discussion about how we should create and maintain a just criminal process.

New York is one of the largest states in the nation and has an enormous criminal justice system.  Major changes in the law like those listed above will have significant effects in other states as well.  The far reaching impact of these reforms might include changes in policy, distribution of resources, rethinking what we mean by fairness and due process in criminal matters, and the proper balance between social control and individual liberty—all are implicated in these reforms.  Our federal system contemplates the various states as “laboratories” of justice.  With these reforms, New York once again is coming to the forefront in that role.  A Pace Law Review symposium issue containing excellent and insightful scholarship on matters of criminal justice policy, procedure, practice and jurisprudence would be a valuable resource both locally and nationally.

The Pace Law Review and the Pace Criminal Justice Institute invite you to be a part of that discussion.

We welcome full-length traditional law review articles with a maximum of 65 pages, as well as shorter essays and commentaries with a minimum of 10 pages.  Authors will be selected based on brief abstracts of their articles, essays or commentaries. We are looking for different perspectives on the goals and challenges of implementing the historic criminal justice reforms throughout New York State.

To submit, please send:

  1. Your name, title and professional affiliation
  2. Your curriculum vitae/resume
  3. Your contact details, including phone number and email address
  4. A two-three page abstract summarizing your article or essay and indicating what your expected page length will be.

Please submit your abstract for consideration to: Managing Editor Mellis Bakir at: mbakir@law.pace.edu.

Submission Deadlines

Abstract Deadline: November 25, 2019

Selection Notification Date: December 13, 2019

Article/Essay Deadline: February 28, 2020

If you have any questions about this call for papers, please contact Mellis Bakir at: mbakir@law.pace.edu or Carol Barry (Director of the Pace Criminal Justice Institute) at: cbarry@law.pace.edu.




Closing Rikers Island By Michael B. Mushlin, Professor of Law, Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

The vote by the New York City Council to approve a plan to close Rikers Island by building four local jails in the boroughs close to the courts and the communities from which detainees come is as welcome as it is long overdue. Over four decades ago I was the head of the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the NYC Legal Aid Society.  We were a small office charged with the task of using our legal skills to address appalling conditions of confinement in New York City Jails and to attempt to bring the rule of law to the operation of our penal institutions. The constitution of our country guarantees that people held in penal facilities are entitled to be held in conditions that do not threaten their safety and that do not destroy their lives.  Sadly, that was not the case in New York then and hasn’t been for many years since.

In our work, we saw Rikers Island up close and personal.  We saw a remote place where horrible things happened to people who are held there as well as people who work there. Rikers is poorly designed, expensive to operate, distant from courts, attorneys, families, and communities to which the overwhelming number of people who are held there will inevitably return.  There is a culture on that island of brutality, meanness, and violence.

Rikers harms not only the people who go there; it harms the millions who don’t.  It does nothing to uplift anyone or to make us safer.  What we saw is a stain on a great city. So Rikers must be closed.  But accomplishing that as is often the case when one is trying to do the right thing is not easy.  But it is worth the effort.  That is why the vote by the New York City Council to close this horrible place is so welcome.  When the day comes that Rikers is finally shuttered,  New York City will be a better city; it will be a safer city;it will be an American city that we can take pride in.

Pace Law’s First Annual Opening Statement Competition for 1Ls

On Saturday, February 10, 2018, the Pace Law Advocacy Program held its first-annual 1L Opening Statement Competition. The walk-on competition afforded 1Ls the opportunity to experience a mock courtroom with a mock jury. In the preliminary rounds, the students delivered openings for both sides of a homicide case with an identity issue. The fact pattern was from a previous Queens District Attorney’s Office Mock Trial competition, and was used with permission of  that office. The jurors and evaluators were all Pace alumni and current criminal defense attorneys, assistant district attorneys, and civil litigators. Each of the top four students won a Kaplan bar review gift card. The top four students, in order of placement, were Scott Trivella, Erin Donovan, Vanessa Neal, and Nisha Desai.

How Do Prosecutors Prepare to Interview President Trump

Pace Law’s Distinguished Fellow in Criminal Justice and former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah recently spoke with Brian Williams on “the 11th Hour” about the possible interview of President Trump by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and how prosecutors plan for such an interview. Check it out here!

The Use of Cooperating Witnesses in Federal Prosecutions

Pace Law’s Distinguished Fellow in Criminal Justice Mimi Rocah recently appeared on the “Law & Crime” network to discuss the government’s use of a cooperating witness with host Caroline Polisi. Ms. Rocah explained the process of using a cooperating witness in a federal prosecution. Although a cooperator must first plead guilty to the highest possible crime (and possibly other unrelated crimes), the incentive to cooperate in a federal investigation is significant. If the government finds that the cooperator has information against more culpable parties and they testify truthfully, the government will ask the judge to sentence the cooperator below the mandatory minimum under the sentencing guidelines. See the interview here.