Here is an alert to a new and interesting podcast addressing criminal justice issues. As described by its creator, Professor David Harris, Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of law:
“Created with production help from WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR station, the Criminal (In)justice Podcast covers the issues in criminal justice that have taken center stage over the last year and a half: everything from police body cameras to police use of force to implicit racial bias.” Prof. Harris’s goal is to offer discussion and interviews with nationally prominent guests from law enforcement, civil rights, prosecution and government.
The first season is planned to have 8 episodes, each released on a Tuesday. The first episode was published on March 29, 2016 addressing the issue of police body cams. There are 7 more episodes to look forward to. Learn more about the creative team. Anyone interested can directly subscribe to the podcast.
POST WRITTEN BY: Michael B. Mushlin, Professor of Law at Pace Law School, Scholar, and Renowned Expert on Prisoners’ Rights.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) sets up roadblocks for prisoners in civil rights cases that are uniquely harsh including a requirement that prisoners must exhaust all available administrative remedies. This exhaustion requirement, which is not imposed on other civil rights litigants, often keeps litigants with meritorious claims out of court. Recently, in Ross v. Blake, No. 15-339, the Supreme Court took a Maryland case from the Fourth Circuit holding that the exhaustion requirement should be excused if the inmate makes a “reasonable mistake” about whether a particular administrative remedy is, in fact, available.
However, during oral argument last week the Court learned that this issue may not be presented by this case at all. This is because in papers filed with the Court before the case was argued it appeared that Maryland’s complicated and confusing administrative remedies were probably, in fact, unavailable to the inmate after all. Thus, there was no “reasonable mistake” after all. And no need to decide whether if there were such a mistake that would excuse the inmate from the obligation to exhaust.
Based on this new information it appears from the oral argument of the case that the Court will either remand the case or dismiss the case as improvidently granted for review. But even if the case is dismissed or remanded the case has value because the oral argument record available here reveals dramatically the Kafkaesque world of confusing remedies that prisoners must confront and overcome to achieve their day in court. If one needs proof of the lack of wisdom of the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement, and the need to repeal it, look no further.
An inspiring editorial, Refusing to Defend Unjust Laws: Prosecutorial Discretion or Prosecutorial Nullification?, by Professor Bennett L. Gershman of Pace Law School has shed light on the national importance of Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent attempt to address state laws that may be unjust or unconstitutional. In past weeks, Holder has led the charge to denounce such laws by directing state attorneys general that it is within their discretion to refuse to defend such laws.
Professor Gershman, who is a nationally recognized authority in the field of constitutional law and well renowned expert on prosecutorial misconduct, highlights this development in both national politics and law, explaining that Holder’s directive is both an important and well principled exercise of a prosecutor’s discretion. He points out that Holder’s position may play a pivotal role in the nation’s ability to address the defining civil rights challenges of our time, including state laws that ban gay marriages. Some critics, including a number of Republican state attorneys general, have criticized Holder’s position as an impermissible exercise of “prosecutorial nullification,” and violative of their duty to enforce all laws, including those that may be unconstitutional. However, Professor Gershman explains that Holder’s directive is a well-settled exercise of prosecutorial authority, as “discretion is at the heart of the prosecutor’s function, it is virtually unlimited, and virtually unreviewable.”
Professor Gershman further explains that “[p]rosectors decide every day – -as a matter of policy and justice– whether and to what extent to use their limited resources to enforce the law. And the kinds of determinations that prosecutors make every day is whether it would be unjust to enforce or defend certain laws, especially if the prosecutor believes in good faith that the law is invalid, unworkable, or unconstitutional.” He points out that “defending  [unjust] laws, as the Republican attorneys general claim they must do, may be a principled exercise of discretion, but a foolish and irrational one.”