America’s Broken Legal System
February 17, 2021
Too often, the U.S. criminal justice system compels innocent people to plead guilty. It disproportionately incarcerates Black and brown Americans, often for relatively minor offenses. Meanwhile, high-level executives are rarely prosecuted or held accountable for much more serious crimes. Jed S. Rakoff, a federal trial judge and an expert on white-collar crime, examines these and other paradoxes in a new book, Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free: And Other Paradoxes of Our Broken Legal System. He was joined by Hernandez Stroud, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, to discuss the shortcomings of the country’s legal system and propose paths to reform.
This event was produced in partnership with The Brennan Center for Justice and New York University's John Brademas Center.
Hon. Jed S. Rakoff, Senior U.S. District Judge, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
Jed Rakoff has been an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School since 1988, and has served since 1996 as a federal district judge for the Southern District of New York. Judge Rakoff earned a B.A. from Swarthmore College in 1964, an M.Phil. from Oxford University in 1966, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1969.
After clerking for Judge Abraham L. Freedman on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, he was an associate at the Debevoise firm (1970-1972); a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (1973-1980), where he was chief of business and securities fraud prosecutions (1978-1980); and a "white-collar" criminal defense lawyer at two large New York firms, Mudge Rose (1980-1990) and Fried Frank (1990-1996). Since going on the bench in 1996, Rakoff has authored over 1500 judicial opinions, and has also frequently sat by designation on the 2nd, 3rd, and 9th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. He has co-authored five books, written more than 140 published articles, delivered over 600 speeches, and is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books.
Rakoff is a Commissioner on the National Commission on Forensic Science and served as co-chair of the National Academy of Science's Committee on Eyewitness Identification. He serves on the executive committee of the New York City Bar Association, where he was chair of the nominating committee, the honors committee, and criminal law committee. He previously served on Swarthmore College's Board of Managers and on the Governance Board of the MacArthur Foundation's Law and Neuroscience Initiative. He has assisted the Departments of Commerce and State in the training of judges in Baghdad, Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait, Istanbul, and Morocco. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Law Institute. He is a judicial fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers.
Hernandez Stroud, Counsel, Justice Program, Brennan Center for Justice
Hernandez Stroud is Counsel for the Justice Program of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. His areas of expertise include mass incarceration, constitutional law, and criminal procedure. He is also an affiliated fellow at Yale Law School.
A first-generation college graduate from Alabama, he received his J.D. from Washington and Lee University School of Law, his master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and his undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he was President of the Student Government Association. He clerked for Hon. O. Rogeriee Thompson of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and Hon. Madeline Hughes Haikala of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.Before joining the Brennan Center, he served as the inaugural Robert F. Drinan Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Boston College Law School, where he taught and wrote on constitutional law, education, citizenship, and federal courts. He was a visiting assistant professor of law at Washington and Lee University School of Law. He was a fellow at Yale Law School, where he studied and lectured on constitutional and criminal-law implications of governmental responses to drug addiction during pregnancy. He was also Acting Director of Policy for the Mayor of the City of New Haven, Connecticut. He has provided policy advice to lawmakers in several states.After college, he taught tenth grade history and civics at Boys' Latin of Philadelphia Charter School through Teach for America. He was named to the 2018 Forbes "30 Under 30" list for law and policy.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law provides reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. Requests for accommodations for events and services should be submitted at least two weeks before the date of the accommodation need. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-925-8728 for assistance.