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    02.07.19 In the Columbia Law Review and The Nation, Professor Jocelyn Simonson Examines Idea of “The People” in the Criminal Legal System
    Brooklyn Law School - Professor Jocelyn Simonson

    In a recently published article in Columbia Law Review, 119 Columbia Law Review 249 (2019), “The Place of ‘The People’ in Criminal Procedure,” Professor Jocelyn Simonson examined the use of the term “The People” as synonymous with the prosecution in a criminal case, i.e., “The People of the State of X v. John Doe.” The term, which is used in many jurisdictions, Simonson wrote, is problematic because it implies that the prosecution is the neutral party, while defendants are marginalized and excluded.

    However, “marginalized groups have pursued methods of popular participation outside of the formal mechanisms of voting and jury service, through tactics such as community bail funds, participatory defense, and courtwatching,” she wrote. “But rarely are these bottom-up acts of participation recognized as a legitimate part of our work of seeing justice done; rarely do we acknowledge in any formal manner that the arrest and prosecution of an individual can run against the interests of local community members.”

    Simonson expanded on this theme in an op-ed in The Nation, pointing out that Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor, was misguided in her use of “for the People” as a campaign slogan for her recently announced presidential bid. “By all means, [Harris] should aspire to be a presidential candidate who acts ‘for the people’ at all times,” Simonson wrote. “But she should also recognize that she did not represent all people when she was a prosecutor…Harris, and all of the candidates, should aim to expand their visions of who is worthy of representation: As presidential hopefuls, they should aspire to represent us all.”

    At the Law School, Professor Simonson teaches courses in criminal law and evidence. She is co-director of the Center for Criminal Justice. Her schol­arship explores ways in which the public participates in criminal justice processes and how that participation has the potential to lead to broader changes in the justice system. She recently spoke about bail reform during the January Dean’s Law & Policy Series program. Her articles have also appeared or are forthcoming in the Harvard Law ReviewCalifornia Law ReviewGeorgetown Law Journal, and NYU Review of Law & Social Change.

    Read the Columbia Law Review article here

    Read The Nation article here