January 08, 2015

Very excited (and a bit overwhelmed) for another blog reboot for another semester of Sentencing Law

Welcome to the FIFTH(!) re-launch of this blogging adventure. This blog started eight years ago (with the uninspired title of Death Penalty Course @ Moritz College of Law) to facilitate student engagement in the Spring 2007 course on the death penalty that I taught at OSU's Moritz College of Law.

Though I closed this blog down not long after that course ended, I was pleased to see all the students' hard work as reflected in the archives still generating significant traffic and much of the posts remain timely. Consequently, when I geared up for teaching Sentencing in Spring 2009 at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and again when visiting in Spring 2010 at Fordham School of Law and again back at the Moritz College of Law in Fall 2011 and yet again in Spring 2014, I decided to reboot this blog to allow the new course to build (indirectly) in this space on materials covered before. In all of these classes, I was generally pleased with how this blog helped promote a new type of student engagement with on-line media and materials. (For the record, OSU students engaged with the blog much more and better with Fordham students. Go bucks!)

Now, circa January 2015, we all now get to work together again on Sentencing Law at the Moritz College of Law. T his time around, I am especially excited (and more than a bit overwhelmed) by all the interesting, high-profile and on-going sentencing cases, developments and projects that we will discuss and perhaps get directly involved with in  the months ahead. To highlight why I am so excited (and overwhelmed), I am going to list here just an abridged set of on-going stories we will be following on this blog and in the classroom:

Concerning the modern death penalty:

1. The federal capital trial of the Boston Marathon Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has just begun. This case will provide a great focal point for theoretical and practical discussions of death penalty decision-making (and plea bargaining).

2. A federal court-ordered moratorium on executions in Ohio is due to expire next week and the Ohio General Assembly recently enacted a controversial new law to allow the state to acquire execution drugs in secret for future executions. These matters will provide a basis for discussing state laws and policies (and federal litigation) over administration of the death penalty.

3. I have been asked by federal and UK lawyers to help with efforts to review cases of Pakistan defendants scheduled to be executed. This project will provide an opportunity for students interesting in international/comparative death penalty work.

Concerning Eighth Amendment jurisprudence:

4. The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) recently took up the issue of whether its 2012 Miller v. Alabama Eighth Amendment ruling declaring unconstitutional mandatory life without parole (LWOP) for juvenile murderers should be applied retroactively. I am working on an amicus brief to be filed with the Court and welcome students to help with this effort.

5. The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral argument next month concern whether the SCOTUS 2010 Graham v. Florida Eighth Amendment ruling declaring unconstitutional LWOP for juvenile non-homicide offenses should applied to a lengthy term-of-year sentence. I worked on an amicus brief filed in this case and hope to attend the oral argument (with students, if interested).

6. The Sixth Circuit recently rejected the claim that a 15-year mandatory federal sentence for an ex-felon's possession of shotgun shells was unconstitutional. I am working on an amicus brief to support a SCOTUS cert petition and welcome students to help with this effort.

Concerning the federal sentencing law and developments:

7. Many bipartisan bills for federal statutory sentencing reform stalled in the last Congress, and there is reason to suspect that some of these bills may get renewed attention in the new Congress. These matters will provide a basis for discussing the legislative role in sentencing law and policy.

8. Hearings for new Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch are likely to take place in the next few weeks, and she is sure to be asked about various criminal justice policies and practices of the Obama Administration. These matters will provide a basis for discussing the executive role sentencing law and policy (as well as some federalism issues).

9. The US Sentencing Commission is proposing new revisions to the federal sentencing guideline and continues to monitor federal sentencing patterns a decade after the US Supreme Court made these guidelines only advisory rather than mandatory. These matters will provide a basis for discussing the judiciary's role in sentencing policy and practice.

Concerning Ohio sentencing law and developments:

10. Despite statutory reforms a few years ago, Ohio's prison chief is warning about severe overcrowding in our prisons and is suggesting emergency release of prisoners might soon be required. These matters will provide a basis for discussing the costs and consequences of heavy reliance on incarceration in states.

11. The Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission (OCSC) has a new director who is eager to give this body a refreshed agenda. I will be asking you, quite soon, to write a short memo to the OCSC director giving advice about what this Commission should be doing.

12. There are already three distinct groups talking seriously about bringing major marijuana reform proposals to the ballot in the coming years. These realities will provide a basis for discussing the drug prohibitions and its sentencing impact as well as the virtues and vices of direct democracy as a means of criminal justice reform.

Believe it or not, I could readily list a few dozen more topics that we likely will be discussing in the days ahead on substantive topics ranging from white-collar fraud sentencing to sex offender registration laws to  victim's rights to receive restitution at sentencing and on procedural topics ranging from mandatory minimum sentencing provisions to plea bargaining to jury sentencing procedures.  But I trust the dozen issues noted above provides you a sense of why I am so execited (and more than a bit overwhelmed) by all the stuff we can be working on in this class.

At this stage, I am most interested in getting your input ASAP about which of these various topics (or other topics) interest you the most going forward.  Consequently, I would be eager to hear in the comments to this post which of the issues mentioned above are of greater interest (or of least interest) to you as students in this class.  If there is some rough consensus among students about the topics of greatest interest, we will be sure to spend more time on these topics.

 

WELCOME!

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January 8, 2015 in About this blog, Class activities | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

January 08, 2014

Welcome yet again to another reboot of this blog for another semester of Sentencing Law

Welcome to the FOURTH re-launch of this blogging adventure. This blog started over seven years ago (with the uninspired title of Death Penalty Course @ Moritz College of Law) to facilitate student engagement in the Spring 2007 course on the death penalty that I taught at OSU's Moritz College of Law.

Though I closed this blog down not long after that course ended, I was pleased to see all the students' hard work as reflected in the archives still generating significant traffic and much of the posts remain timely. Consequently, as when I geared up for teaching Criminal Punishment & Sentencing in Spring 2009 at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and again when visiting in Spring 2010 at Fordham School of Law and again back at the Moritz College of Law in Fall 2011, I decided to reboot this blog to allow the new course to build indirectly in this space on some of the materials covered before. In all of these classes, I was generally pleased with how this blog helped promote a new type of student engagement with on-line media and materials. (For the record, OSU students engaged with the blog much more and better with Fordham students.)

Now, circa January 2014, I am Sentencing Law again at the Moritz College of Law. Because we have a new revised version of the casebook for the 2014 class, I am not yet sure how much of a role this blog will play in course activities. But, especially because a lot of new exciting sentencing developments seem likely in the weeks and months ahead, I suspect this space will stay active just by trying to keep up with current events (as well as as a place to post information about class activities and plans and assignments).

WELCOME!

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January 8, 2014 in About this blog, Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 12, 2011

Plans for me and the blog during the exam period

Just a quick post to note (1) I should be in or around my office most late afternoons during the exam period, though a quick e-mail to set up a meeting time (or happy hour plans) is always recommended if you want to be sure to find me, and (2) I expect to do a few substantive posts during the period, in part because I want everyone to be able to continue to earn class participation credit via thoughtful comments to postings.

And for anyone who is extra interested in earning some extra sentencing excitement during the exam period, here is an offer: I will give extra credit to anyone who sends me high-quality, cut-and-paste-ready material for this blog (or for my main blog).  The key to earning credit is this (vague) adjective "high-quality".  Though all blog-oriented materials sent my way will earn my respect, extra credit will only be earned by those who prepare and present "top-flight" guest-post content.

December 12, 2011 in About this blog, Class activities | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 29, 2011

Thoughts on use (or misuse or better use) of the class blog so far

As I mentioned in class, I am eager during the break to hear any and all feedback on the ways in which I have so far used this blog space to supplement/enhance class experiences and discussion.  In the second half of the semester, I could:

  1. blog a lot more (or perhaps even less)
  2. provide more links to blogs/articles/cases we would not have time to discuss in class
  3. enable and encourage (or even require) some student blogging
  4. enable and encourage guest-blogging by real lawyers/judges working on sentencing issues
  5. be a lot more creative in this space (e.g., make more use of videos and other media)

Please let me know if you would find any of these kinds of changes to be especially intriguing or exciting And please know that I will interpret a lack of comments on this topic as a sign of contentment (and even great happiness) with the bloggy status quo.

September 29, 2011 in About this blog, Class activities | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

August 18, 2011

Welcome yet again to another reboot of this blog for another semester of Criminal Punishment & Sentencing

Welcome to the THIRD re-launch of this blogging adventure.  This blog started over four years ago (with the uninspired title of Death Penalty Course @ Moritz College of Law) to facilitate student engagement in the Spring 2007 course on the death penalty that I taught at OSU's Moritz College of Law. 

Though I closed this blog down not long after that course ended, I was pleased to see all the students' hard work as reflected in the archives still generating significant traffic and much of the posts remain timely.  Consequently, as when I geared up for teaching Criminal Punishment & Sentencing in Spring 2009 at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and again when visiting in Spring 2010 at Fordham School of Law, I decided to reboot this blog to allow the new course to build indirectly in this space on some of the materials covered before.  In all of these classes, I was generally pleased with how this blog helped promote a new type of student engagement with on-line media and materials.  (For the record, OSU students engaged with the blog much more and better with Fordham students.)

Now, circa August 2011, I am gearing up for teaching Criminal Punishment & Sentencing again.  Because we have a traditional text for our 2011 class, I am not yet sure how much of a role this blog will play in course activities.  But, especially because a lot of new exciting sentencing developments seem likely in in the weeks and months ahead, I suspect this space will stay active just by trying to keep up with current events (as well as as a place to post information about class activities and plans and assignments).

WELCOME!

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UPDATE:  The on-line supplement referenced in the course description is available at this link.

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August 18, 2011 in About this blog, Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 26, 2007

This course is closed, but call DPIC for teaching this topic

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As the absence of recent posts reveals, the course that was the focal point of this blog ended during the first part of 2007 and I have not had occassion to post anything new in this space for many months (even though I have lots and lots of capital coverage on my home blog).  Still, in part because this website keeps generating a bit of traffic, I am going to keep it active (and may still link here from my Sentencing Law and Policy blog because of the great resources my students helped me asemble in this space).

On the topic of great resources, folks at the Death Penalty Information Center sensibly suggested that I link over to its teaching project, known as Capital Punishment in Context, as I close up shop here.  Through links and other terrific resources, this DPIC project incorporates detailed teaching notes, sample syllabi, and a variety of supplementary materials to support instructors from multiple disciplines such as sociology, criminology, legal studies, literature, writing, statistics, and religion.  Anyone seriously interesting in any number of capital punishment topics should be sure to check out Capital Punishment in Context.

December 26, 2007 in About this blog | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 10, 2007

Welcome and let's get ready to innovate

Welcome to the launch of a new blogging adventure: Death Penalty Course @ Moritz College of Law.  This uninspiring title (which we can shorten to DP @ M) is meant to make clear the focus of this blog is the Death Penalty Course that I am teaching this semester at OSU's Moritz College of Law. 

Though the title is uninspired, I hope that both the contents and very construct of this blog will inspire a new type of engagement with the death penalty and with on-line media for students.  Even after nearly three years of focused blogging at my main blog, I continue to be amazed by what I learn from others and by the substantive insights I gain through the process of blogging.  Consequently, I have decided to try making this blog a focal point for my Death Penalty Course this semester.

As I gear up for my initial class today, my tentative plan is to be the main instructor and main blogger for the first few weeks of class.  During this period, I hope to be able to give the students an effective and enticing overview of the modern law, policy, practice and practicalities of the death penalty in the United States.  I will thereafter assign groups of students to select topics of interest for future classes, and they will be expected to post readings and class discussion ideas on this blog.

I am making this blog "open to the public" in order to encourage persons other than my students to engage with the blog and to use the comments to provide views on whether this new blog adventure seems like a good idea.  If there is encouraging feedback from my students and others, I'll probably invest (too much) energy in this new project; if the feedback is less encouraging, this blog may wither away as the weather starts warming up and other interests draw my attention.

Posted by Professor Douglas Berman

January 10, 2007 in About this blog | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack