Category: Articles of Interest

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.

Let’s Keep the Conversation About Gun Control Going

WRITTEN BY: Mimi Rocah, a former Federal Prosecutor and Pace Law Distinguished Criminal Justice Fellow

It was great to see such an amazing turnout at the November 6 talk with former ATF Mike Burke about guns and gun violence. Please keep reading and talking about the issues. Here are some good follow-up reads: