New York University School of Law has established the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, a non-partisan advocacy organization and think tank dedicated to the promotion of good government practices in criminal matters. The Center analyzes critical issues in criminal law, particularly prosecutorial power and discretion, and uses that information to produce scholarship, to participate in important litigation, and to influence public policy.
The Centers focus on government practices in criminal cases and on the exercise of prosecutorial power and discretion, its research-based approach, and its diversity of work make it the first and only organization of its kind, said Anthony Barkow, the Centers executive director and a former federal prosecutor for 12 years.
The Centers research will be used by scholars affiliated with the Center - including its faculty director, NYU School of Law Professor Rachel Barkow, and other faculty affiliates, its executive director, and its fellows - to produce scholarship on a range of criminal justice topics. The Center will also regularly organize and sponsor conferences and panels focusing on good government practices.
The Centers litigation component involves using its research and knowledge of criminal justice and prosecution practices to assist in important criminal justice cases, primarily at the appellate level, including the U.S. Supreme Court and federal and state appellate courts. In addition, the Center participates in cases at the trial level if they raise issues of national importance and tap into the Centers expertise.
In general, the Centers litigation practice focuses on cases in which exercises of prosecutorial discretion raise significant substantive legal issues arising at any stage in the investigative or litigation process. Many of the issues the Center seeks to litigate occur in the sentencing phase, but issues arising out of plea bargaining, charging decisions, investigations, and trials are also part of the litigation strategy, which aims to create more robust substantive review of the length of non-death penalty sentences.
The primary guiding principle in selecting cases to litigate is to identify cases in which prosecutors exercised discretion to engage in overly aggressive or unwarranted interpretations of the Constitution, statutes, regulations, or policies in a way that diverges from standard prosecution practice, raises fundamental questions of defendants rights, or is a misuse of government resources in light of law enforcement priorities, particularly in cases involving victimless crimes.
The Center also defends exercises of prosecutorial discretion from unfounded criticism, when appropriate, where the discretionary decisions comported with applicable law and standard prosecution practice and are consistent with law enforcement priorities.
Much of the Centers litigation practice is conducted in partnership with law firms as part of the firms pro bono commitment. Some of the nations most prominent law firms have already partnered with the Center.
The Center also undertakes targeted efforts to reach policymakers and the media. Members of the Center testify at legislative hearings and meet with concerned members of Congress and state legislatures to discuss criminal justice proposals. Center members also meet with district attorneys and attorneys general, U.S. Attorneys and other Department of Justice executive personnel, and defender offices on criminal justice matters. The Center also handles media requests on various matters, including pending high-profile criminal cases, legislation, and policy issues.