Center for Criminal Justice Hosts Discussion on Prosecutorial Reform

Expert practitioners explored the role of prosecutors in criminal legal reform and examined recent approaches to criminal prosecution in New York City and beyond in a panel discussion, “Criminal Prosecution: Innovation & Reform,” sponsored by the Center for Criminal Justice.

“We’re in an unprecedented moment in the history of prosecution in America, where elected prosecutors are responding to community pressure not just to prosecute better but to prosecute less,” said Professor Jocelyn Simonson, who, along with Associate Dean Stacy Caplow and Professor Kate Mogulescu, serves as co-director of the Center for Criminal Justice.

Moderated by Nick Turner, President and Director of the Vera Institute of Justice, the panel of criminal justice experts included Nitin Savur, Executive Assistant District Attorney for Strategic Initiatives at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Meg Reiss, Chief of Social Justice at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, and Nicole Fortier, Advocacy & Policy Counsel at the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice. Mogulescu, who last year launched the Criminal Defense & Advocacy Clinic (CDAC), introduced the panel.

Participants discussed best practices for state and local prosecutors working under different constraints and in challenging political climates. Turner highlighted the important role that elected officials, particularly district attorneys, play in prosecutorial reform. “We’re talking about a moment in American prosecution that is quite recent,” said Turner. “Think about the 2016 elections [when] reform prosecutors were elected across the country.”

The discussion also included recent local initiatives involving the prosecution of marijuana and other misdemeanor offenses, post-conviction review, criminal record sealing, and other current efforts that have been a focal point for the Center for Criminal Justice.

“We try to look at criminal practice on the ground from the perspective of local and national leaders and push us all to think about how to make the criminal law more just and fair,” said Simonson.

The Center for Criminal Justice was launched by Brooklyn Law School in 2016 as a dynamic center that builds on the existing strengths of the school’s nationally recognized criminal law faculty and places the Law School at the center of critical conversations, education, and sharing of expertise on the most vital issues and topics in criminal justice law and policy today.

“Many students in the audience have plans to either be assistant district attorneys or public defenders after they graduate, and this was a great chance for them to engage in conversation with prominent leaders thinking about reform from the perspective of prosecution,” Simonson said.

Watch the program here.