Hofstra Law Review


On April 5–6, 2017, the Monroe H. Freedman Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics hosted its inaugural Symposium, Judicial Responsibility for Justice in Criminal Courts. This unique two-day Symposium brought together the country’s thought leaders from the bench, the academy, prosecutors’ offices, and the defense bar to engage in interactive discussion to examine the role of judges in criminal courts. The Conference goal was to propose concrete suggestions for changes in judicial role, rules, and culture to improve criminal courts.

For years, numerous organizations and individuals have focused upon aspects of the dysfunction of the criminal justice system, primarily examining overburdened defense lawyers and unmanageable caseloads, insufficient resources for prosecutors’ offices and their relationship with the police, as well as ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial conduct. As a consequence of attention to mass incarceration, there is significant concern about the causes and remedies of this dysfunction, some of which is directed toward misdemeanor practice.

But little attention has been focused upon judges and how, despite underfunded state systems, judges could do better in delivering justice to the many individuals who first encounter the judicial system in the country’s criminal courts.

The Conference aspired to begin a national conversation about these issues and to produce a report with specific recommendations for practices to improve the quality of justice delivered by judges in overburdened and underfunded state and local criminal justice systems.

The planners hope to spark interest in similar conferences in various locales around the country. This symposium issue, with provocative Essays and Articles by noted legal academics, aspires to contribute to that national conversation.

The Conference was cosponsored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Foundation for Criminal Justice, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the New York Office of Court Administration, and the Center for Court Innovation. The planning committee included members of each of these organizations as well as judges from the National Center for State Courts.

Norman Reimer, Executive Director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and a significant partner in planning this Conference, cogently describes the Conference in his introduction.4 Day one of the Conference was open to the public. Day two consisted of invitation-only working groups, described below, that grappled with difficult questions and sought to develop practical proposals for implementation.



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