National Experts Convene on Feb. 20-21 to Discuss the Future of Plea Bargaining

On Feb. 20-21, nearly two dozen of the most prominent criminal procedure scholars in the nation will convene at William & Mary Law School to discuss the future of plea bargaining in the United States. The symposium--Plea Bargaining Regulation: The Next Criminal Procedure Frontier--will focus on constitutional restrictions on plea bargaining, the importance of internal policies within prosecutors' offices, the unique role of defense lawyers in the criminal justice process, and a comparative international perspective. The event is sponsored by the Law School's Institute of Bill of Rights Law. Admission is free and the public is welcome to attend. All of the papers will be published in the William & Mary Law Review

Criminal justice experts have long recognized that plea bargaining is the engine that drives the justice system. Yet, even though plea bargains account for the vast majority of criminal convictions in America, the Supreme Court of the United States has traditionally taken a hands-off approach and imposed few limitations on the practice. Recently, in two prominent decisions--Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper--the Court at last recognized that plea bargaining "is not some adjunct to the criminal justice system; it is the criminal justice system." In doing so, the Court opened the door to imposing more rigorous procedural protections on the plea bargaining process and greater obligations on defense counsel.

While the Supreme Court signaled that it will monitor plea bargaining more closely, it left many questions about the manner and scope of that regulation unresolved. The William & Mary symposium calls on the nation's leading experts to begin analyzing how courts, legislatures, and prosecutors' offices should regulate the process.

View the symposium agenda.

The symposium participants include former federal prosecutors, current and former public defenders, comparative scholars, empiricists, experts on wrongful convictions, scholars at the intersection of criminal law and immigration, and experts on the ramifications of excessive caseloads. Speakers include:

Stephanos Bibas (University of Pennsylvania)
Josh Bowers (University of Virginia)
Carol Brook (Federal Defender Program)
Darryl Brown (University of Virginia)
Bennett Capers (Brooklyn Law School)
Gabriel Chin (University of California, Davis)
Donald Dripps (University of San Diego)
Roger Fairfax (George Washington University)
Brandon Garrett (University of Virginia)
Nancy King (Vanderbilt)
Susan Klein (University of Texas)
Paul Marcus (William & Mary)
Jenny Roberts (American University)
Christopher Slobogin (Vanderbilt)
Jenia Turner (Southern Methodist University)
Ronald Wright (Wake Forest)

According to William & Mary law professors Jeffrey Bellin and Adam Gershowitz, who organized the event, the symposium brings together the nation's leading authorities on plea bargaining in the United States. Professor Gershowitz, who has written about how excessive prosecutor caseloads effect plea bargaining (SSRN), explained that "We are fortunate to have gathered an incredible group of scholars who are able to not only explain the complicated state of the criminal justice system, but also to offer concrete solutions for moving forward."  Professor Bellin, who recently published an essay highlighting the importance of plea bargaining in divergent outcomes received by murder defendants represented by different types of attorneys (SSRN), also noted that the symposium "brings together different voices from across the academy who are uniquely situated to offer constructive guidance for a better functioning criminal justice system." Jillian Schultz, J.D. '15,  the editor-in-chief of the William & Mary Law Review explained that "the Law Review is excited to publish articles that will help to shape the debate and influence law and policy on such an important and evolving topic."

For more information, contact Colleen Smith at [[e|csmith02]].

Editor's Note: No registration is required for the conference.  Seating is limited, so please plan on coming early.

About William & Mary Law School

Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.