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(see also Roundtables)

Professor Jocelyn SimonsonPolice Reform Through a Power Lens, a talk by Jocelyn Simonson, Brooklyn Law School

Joceyln Simonson presented her article "Police Reform Through a Power Lens," which was subsequently published in Yale Law Journal. The piece examines the movement focus on power-shifting in the governance of the police at both the local and national levels. Simonson writes and teaches about criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, and social change. Her scholarship explores ways in which the public participates in the criminal process and in the institutions of local governance that control policing and punishment. In particular, she studies bottom-up interventions in the criminal legal system, such as bail funds, copwatching, courtwatching, and participatory defense, asking how these real-life interventions should inform our conceptions of the design of criminal justice institutions, the discourse of constitutional rights, and the meaning of democratic justice.

Photo of Abu Ali Abdur'RahmenShining a Light on the Death Penalty: The Case of Abu Ali Abdur'Rahman

Brad MacLean has been lead attorney for Tennessee death row inmate Abu Ali Abdur'Rahman for the past 24 years as this case traveled through state and federal courts, including twice to the U.S. Supreme Court. On three occasions, courts stayed his execution date because of his claims of injustice, one time within 36 hours of his execution and most recently last month. This case - with its factual, evidentiary and procedural complexities - highlights the deep flaws in our capital punishment system.

Image from the event of Noura Jackson and Professor Terry Maroney Half Free: A conversation with Innocence Project client Noura Jackson

She was wrongly convicted as a teenager for murdering her mother, saw her conviction overturned a decade later because of gross prosecutorial misconduct, and was pressured into accepting a plea to gain her freedom. Noura Jackson, an Innocence Project client whose journey is featured in Charged, the new book by award-winning author Emily Bazelon, talks with Professor Terry Maroney about her experience of wrongful conviction, her new life, and her quest to clear her name and find her mother’s killer.


event poster imageInvestigations and Prosecutions in the Age of Trump: A Conversation with Hon. Paul J. Fishman

Cosponsored by the Energy, Environment and Land Use Program, the Criminal Justice Program, and the Program in Law and Government former U.S. Attorney and frequent media commentator Paul Fishman and Professor Michael P. Vandenbergh of Vanderbilt Law School discussed the high-profile investigations and prosecutions involving the Trump administration. He provided insights into the status of the Mueller report, other investigations, criminal procedure, and the rule of law.


Faculty Workshop: Rachel Barkow, NYU Law School, "Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration"
April 5, 2019

Big Data Criminal Justice poster“Big Data and Criminal Justice: Equity and Fairness”

Artificial intelligence, algorithms and statistical risk assessment now permeate the criminal justice system. Proponents claim that big data improves both the accuracy and efficiency of sentencing, policing and pretrial detention decisions. Opponents argue that the use of big data in criminal cases is dehumanizing, discriminatory and opaque. This panel featured the leading thinkers on these issues:

  • Andrew Ferguson, J.D., University of District Columbia Law School, author of “The Rise of Big Data Policing”
  • Megan Stevenson, J.D., Ph.D., George Mason Law School, author of “Bail Reform: New Directions for Pretrial Detention and Release”
  • Jennifer Skeem, Ph.D., University of California Berkeley Psychology, author of “Race, Risk and Recidivism: Predictive Bias and Disparate Impact”
  • Sonya Starr, J.D., University of Michigan Law School, author of “Evidence-Based Sentencing and the Scientific Rationalization of Discrimination”
  • Moderated by Christopher Slobogin, Vanderbilt University

Faculty Workshop: Larry Krasner, lead district attorney from Philadelphia
November 8, 2018

Annual Criminal Law Career Panel

Panelists included:

  • White Collar Defense Attorney Christopher Bellamy '10
  • Nashville Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore
  • Criminal Defense Attorney Ben Raybin '10
  • Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Schrader '09
  • Assistant Federal Public Defender Ron Small


poster"Habeas Corpus in Wartime," a conversation between Professor Amanda Tyler and Judge Amul Thapar, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Co-sponsored by the Branstetter Litigation and Dispute Resolution Program, Criminal Justice Program, the Criminal Law Association and the International Law Society

Faculty Workshop: Sharon Dolovich, UCLA Law School, "Eighth Amendment Use of Force Standards"
February 28, 2018

book coverPulitzer Prize-winning author Jesse Eisinger, A Lecture and Celebration of the “The Chicken***t Club; Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives

Co-sponsored by the Law and Business Program, the Criminal Law Association, the Law and Business Society and retired DOJ Fraud Section Executive Deputy Chief John Arterberry

"The Fourth Amendment and Electronic Privacy: Is Your iPhone Spying on You?" a talk by Judge Jeffrey Meyer, U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut

Co-sponsored by the Branstetter Judicial Speaker Series and the American Constitution Society

Faculty Workshop: David Sklansky, Stanford Law School, “Jurisprudence of Blood: How Law Thinks About Violence”
October 10, 2018
12:00 p.m.
Alexander Room

Faculty Workshop: Scott Sundby, Miami Law School, "The RuggedIndividual's Guide to the Fourth Amendment"
October 4, 2017
12:00 p.m.
Alexander Room

Faculty Workshop: Barry Feld, Minnesota Law School,Race, Politics, and the Criminalizing of Juvenile Justice: Changing Conceptions of Adolescents’ Competence and Culpability”
September 26, 2017
12:00 p.m.
Alexander Room

Hyatt Fund Event: Wild, Wild Tech: A Last Legal Frontier
Panel discussion, with Luke Dembosky, Chris Soghoian, Megan Stifel, Andrew Woods and Michael Collins, moderated by Christopher Slobogin
September 8, 2017

Barry Friedman, the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law at New York University, delivered the 2017 Victor S. Johnson Lecture March 14. He is one of the country’s leading authorities on constitutional law, criminal procedure and the federal courts. In his lecture, he discussed his newly released book, “Unwarranted: Policing without Permission.”

SLIDESHOW : Barry Friedman, the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law at New York University, delivered the 2017 Victor S. Johnson Lecture March 14. He is one of the country’s leading authorities on constitutional law, criminal procedure and the federal courts. In his lecture, he discussed his newly released book, Unwarranted: Policing without Permission.


Judge Amul Thapar: Indigent Criminal Defense Branstetter Judicial Speaker Series: "Indigent Criminal Defense: Thoughts on Innovative Approaches and the Perils of the Current System," a talk by Judge Amul Thapar, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky



Ray Krone, Innocence Speaks "Innocence Speaks," a talk with exoneree Ray Krone

In 2002, Ray Krone was the 100th death row inmate to be exonerated as a result of DNA evidence. He was released after serving more than a decade in prison. An Air Force veteran, Krone was arrested on Dec. 31, 1991 for the murder of Kim Ancona, the manager of a bar that sponsored some of Krone’s intramural sports teams. The case against him was based largely on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of an “expert” witness, later discredited, who claimed bite marks found on the victim matched Krone’s teeth. He was sentenced to death in 1992.

Sponsored by the George Barrett Social Justice Program, the Criminal Justice Program, and Law Students for Innocence and Prisoner Rights .

Faculty Workshop: Alice Ristroph, "The Constitution of Police Violence," Seton Hall University School of Law

Faculty Workshop: Andrea Roth, "Machine Testimony," University of California-Berkley School of Law

Professor Chritopher SloboginBeyond the Insanity Defense: Mental Health in the Criminal Justice System - The Health Law Society, in conjuction with the Vanderbilt Organization for Interprofessional Student Community Engagement (VOISCE) will be hosting a discussion on how mental health is dealt with in the criminal justice system.

The CJP welcomed Bryce Coatney, senior counsel with the Tennessee Department of Correction, who is responsible for handling inmates with severe and chronic mental illness; Judge Dan Eisenstein, who presided over Davidson County's Mental Health Court; and Assistant District Attorney Katie Ladefoged, who handles cases in the Mental Health Court for the District Attorney's Office. This panel of experts shared their experiences with and perspectives on how the criminal justice system handles mental health issues and how that handling may be improved. Moderated by Professor Christopher Slobogin.

Panel: Careers in Criminal Law

Panel: Careers in Criminal Law - Moderated by Professor Christopher Slobogin, this career development panel featured:

Dawn Deaner, Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County public defender
Glenn Funk, Nashville District Attorney General
Henry Martin ’74 (BA’71), federal public defender
Ben Raybin ’10, private defense attorney, Hollins, Raybin, & Weissman
Ben Schrader ’09, Assistant U.S. Attorney

Robert Blagojevich - My Fight for Freedom & Justice: Prosecution for My Brother's CrimesMy Fight for Freedom & Justice: Prosecution for My Brother's Crimes - Robert Blagojevich, brother of the ill-fated former Gov. of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, shared his side of the story in the United States of America v. Rod Blagojevich and Robert Blagojevich in which Robert was wrongly indicted for crimes he did not commit, and pressed hard by federal investigators to flip against his brother—all revealed in his new book Fundraiser A: My Fight for Freedom and Justice.


Hyatt Event: A Conversation on Guantanamo--Law, Psychology, and the Ethics of TotureHyatt Fund Event: A Conversation on Guantanamo -- Law, Psychology, and Ethics of Torture - A discussion with Brigadier General (retired) Stephen Xenakis, M.D. and Colonel (retired) Bill Lietzau, moderated by Professor Michael Newton. As terrorism continues to evolve and the world scrambles to respond, the Guantanamo Bay detention center remains a symbol of the challenges this struggle entails. Because the United States is a leader in the fight against terrorism, the world is watching how our nation handles the detention and prosecution of suspected terrorists in Guantanamo. Dr. Xenakis and Mr. Lietzau have worked extensively on the legal, psychological, and ethical issues surrounding Guantanamo.

Sentencing Reform: A Debate - On October 1, U.S. Charles Senator Grassley and a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, which would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders and grant judges more discretion in determining sentences for certain offenders. Proponents of the legislation argue that current sentencing guidelines are overly rigid and often impose punishments that do not fit the crime, while detractors insist that our sentencing regime is responsible for the drop-off in crime that has occurred over the last several decades.

Professor Christopher Slobogin moderated this debate between Professors Douglas Berman of Ohio State University and William Otis, blog writer of  Crime and Consequences of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation as they discuss the new legislation and, more broadly, sentencing reform's implications for our criminal justice system. Sponsored by the Federalist Society and American Constitution Society.

Wrong Side of the Wall: How the Innocent End Up in Prison, and How They (Sometimes) Get OutWrong Side of the Wall: How the Innocent End Up in Prison, and How They (Sometimes) Get Out

Co-sponsored by the Social Justice Program and Law Students for Innocence and Prisoner Rights





2015 Hyatt Event: The Business of IncarcerationHyatt Fund Event: The Business of Incarceration

Scholar and activist, Christopher Petrella, spoke to the VLS community mapping the history and current state of for-profit prisons in the U.S and discusses the relationship between race and prison privatization in the U.S.




Hyatt Fund Event: Government Surveillance in the 21st Century with Arjun Sethi

Hyatt Fund Event: Government Surveillance in the 21st Century

Arjun Sethi , policy director at Sikh Coalition and adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, explored the intersection of contemporary surveillance practices with the need to safeguard civil liberties. His talk addressed the expansion of government surveillance following the attacks of 9/11, the implications of new law enforcement technologies on civil liberty protections, the impact on minority communities and the right to privacy in an increasingly cyber- and technology-oriented world.



Professor Christopher Slobogin moderates a conversation with Fourth Circuit Senior Judge Andre Davis Evaluating the Role of Social Justice in Criminal Investigations and Procedure: A conversation with Judge Andre Davis of the Fourth Circuit

Professor Christopher Slobogin moderated a conversation with Senior Judge Andre Davis of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. This event was a part of the Branstetter Litigation and Dispute Resolution Program's Judicial Speaker Series and was cosponsored by the Black Law Students Association and OUTLaw.


Blanche B. Cook, assistant professor of law at Wayne State University Law School, will deliver a talk, "Implicit Bias and Unpacking the Deaths of Unarmed African Americans,"at noon on Feb. 2 in Flynn Auditorium of Vanderbilt Law School. Blanche B. Cook , assistant professor of law at Wayne State University Law School, delivered a talk, "Implicit Bias and Unpacking the Deaths of Unarmed African Americans," at noon on Feb. 2 in Flynn Auditorium of Vanderbilt Law School.

Co-sponsored by the Criminal Justice Program, the Social Justice Program, Black Law Students Association, American Constitution Society, and Law Students for Social Justice.


Austin Sarat Lecture

"How Americans Think About Capital Punishment: Revenge, Anger, and Punishment," a lecture by Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College, and author of Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America's Death Penalty. November 3, 2014



"From Blackacre to the Windy City: Perspectives on Law Enforcement from U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon '92 (BA'88)"

2014 Victor S. Johnson Lecture - "From Blackacre to the Windy City: Perspectives on Law Enforcement from U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon '92 (BA'88)"

Zachary Fardon ’92 (BA’88) was confirmed as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in October 2013. His appointment gained the unanimous approval of the U.S. Senate and was announced in statement from U.S. Senators Mark Kirk and Richard Durbin.

Nina Morrison"Wrongful Convictions and What Lawyers Can Do About Them" (co-sponsored with Social Justice) -  A talk featuring Nina Morrison, Senior Staff Attorney, The Innocence Project

"Death, Desuetude, and Original Meaning" - John Stinneford, University of Florida Law School, faculty workshop

"No Runs, No Hits, and Many Errors: Street Stops, Bias and Proactive Policing" - Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia Law School, faculty workshop

"Authorizing the Police" - Barry Friedman, NYU Law School, faculty workshop

"Social Justice: A Mixed Theory of Punishment" - Joseph Kennedy, University of North Carolina, faculty workshop

The Criminal Law Society and the Criminal Justice Program sponsored a panel on jobs in criminal justice - The Program is also facilitated a Law-for-Prisoners initiative in which Vanderbilt students taught criminal and civil law to prisoners at the state prison at Riverside.

Professor Bradley MacLeanBradley MacLean discussed the clemency case of Abu Ali Abdur'Rahman, currently on death row - A presentation for students and faculty




Reed Brodsky '95Reed Brodsky '95 discussed insider trading and the cases of U.S. v. Raj Rajaratnam and U.S. v Rajat Gupta (which he helped prosecute) - View a slideshow of the event



Marsha Levick"Miller v. Alabama: Recent Developments in Juvenile Justice and Its Future Before the Supreme Court" - Marsha Levick, Co-Founder, Deputy Director and Chief Counsel, Juvenile Law Center


"Legitimacy and the Exercise of Legal Authority" - Tom Tyler, Yale Law School, faculty workshop

"The German International Criminal Code and the Principles of Participation and Accountability to the International Community" - Maximo Langer, UCLA Law School, faculty workshop

"Killing McVeigh: The Death Penalty and the Myth of Closure" - Jody Madeira, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, presented research from her new book

Criminal Justice Rountable on Reducing the Criminal Justice System's Reliance on Incarceration - Vanderbilt University Law School's Criminal Justice Program was asked by the ABA to sponsor a roundtable to discuss policies surrounding the criminal justice system's reliance on incarceration and how they, or some variant of them, might be implemented in the state of Tennessee. Similar roundtables took place in ten other states. The roundtables brought together key policymakers and participants in the criminal justice system to start a dialogue about these policies. The ultimate goal was to provide information on successful criminal justice programs to those who can help get them started and to set up a mechanism for promoting them.

Professor Terry Maroney with Anne-Marie Moyes '02, Ndume Olatushani, and Nina MorrisonPerseverance: The Long Fight to Free an Innocent Man from Tennessee's Death Row - Featuring exoneree Ndume Olatushani and his lawyer, Anne-Marie Moyes '02

"Why Comply with International Law?" - A talk by Shima Baradaran, Associate Professor of Law, Brigham Young University Law School

Criminal Justice Roundtable on Responses to 9-11 - Participants included: Diane Marie Amann (Georgia Law School); Norman Abrams (UCLA School of Law); Robert Chesney (University of Texas School of Law); Monica Hakimi (University of Michigan Law School); Peter Marguilies (Roger Williams University School of Law); Deborah Pearlstein (Princeton University); Harvey Rishikof (National War College); Stephen Vladeck (American University College of Law); Matthew Waxman (Columbia Law School); Benjamin Wittes (Brookings Institution), and members of Vanderbilt's criminal justice and international law faculty. Co-sponsored with the International Legal Studies Program.

Habeas for the 21st Century, Nancy KingHabeas for the 21st Century released in March 2011 by University of Chicago Press - A discussion of Nancy King's new book, Habeas for the Twenty-First Century: Uses, Abuses and the Future of the Great Writ (University of Chicago Press), coauthored with Joseph Hoffmann, featured comments from Professor King, Vanderbilt's Lee S. & Charles A. Speir Professor of Law, Barry Friedman, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law at NYU Law School, and Judge William H. Pryor, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Professor Hoffmann, the Harry Pratter Professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, responded to the comments.

Professor Terry Maroney with John Restiva and Nina Morrison"Wrongly Convicted: An Exoneree, His Lawyer, and Tales from the Front Lines of the Innocence Revolution," - Nina Morrison, staff attorney, Innocence Project, and John Restivo, an exoneree, gave a talk about wrongful convictions and the work of the Innocence Project. View a slideshow of pictures from the event.

"Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong" - Workshop by Brandon L. Garrett, Professor of Law at the University of Virginia Law School.

The Third Annual Criminal Justice Roundtable - Featured Orin Kerr (G.W. Law School), An Equilibrium-Adjustment Theory of the Fourth Amendment, with commentator Chris Slobogin (Vanderbilt); Jeffrey Fagan (Columbia), "Profiling and Consent: Stops, Searches and Seizures after Soto," with commentator Nancy King (Vanderbilt); Wayne Logan (F.S.U.), "Police Mistakes of Law" with commentator James Coleman (Duke); Adam Benforado (Drexel), "Judging the Goring Ox: Examining Intuitions About Punishing Animals to Better Understand the Retributive Motive" with commentator Sara Beale (Duke); Doron Teichman (Hebrew University), "The Probative Function of Punishment: Criminal Sanctions In Defense of Innocent Defendants," with commentator Richard Bonnie (Virginia); and Carol Steiker (Harvard), "Capital Punishment: 100 Years of Discontinuous Debate," with commentator Scott Sundby (Miami).

“Culture and Risk: Is Nanotechnology Different? How About Synthetic Biology?” - Workshop by Dan M. Kahan, Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

Professor Chris Slobogin“The Future of the Death Penalty” - Ten experts on the death penalty, including representatives from the legal system, the correctional system, victims' organizations, religious organizations, and advocacy groups gathered for this panel. Christopher Slobogin, Milton Underwood Professor of Law, Vanderbilt, played the role of governor of a new state considering whether to adopt the death penalty and questioned panelists about their views.

“Roundtable on the American Bar Association's draft revisions of the Prosecution and defense Function Standards” - The American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section chose Vanderbilt as one of six schools to co-sponsor a roundtable devoted to soliciting input from members of the local bar on a draft revision of important standards including the right to jury trial, discovery and sentencing.

"Guantanamo Bay: Discussion of Current Issues and the Way Forward” (co-sponsored with International Legal Studies Program) - The detention center at Guantanamo Bay has spurred a tremendous amount of litigation, with a number of cases ending up in the United States Supreme Court. This panel examined topics including the relevance of international law and treaties to American jurisprudence, the scope of preventive detention, the rights of enemy combatants, and the habeas jurisdiction of the federal courts.

Young Scholars Roundtable - Vanderbilt's Criminal Justice Program sponsored a roundtable for criminal faculty who are early in their careers. Participants included: Laura Appelman (Willamette), Josh Bowers (Virginia), Eve Brensike (Michigan), Samuel Buell (Washington University), Bennett Capers (Hofstra), Roger Fairfax (George Washington), Barbara Fedders (North Carolina), Lea Johnston (Florida), Erin Murphy (Berkeley), James J. Prescott (Michigan), Alice Ristroph (Seton Hall) along with Christopher Slobogin, Nancy King, Nita Farahany, Terry Maroney and Sue Kay of Vanderbilt.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces - The Court heard arguments in one case, United States v. Durbin, which involved the issue of a Military Rule of Evidence 504 claim of spousal privilege in the context of a Air Force court-martial proceeding for possession of child pornography. The Appellate Litigation Clinic appeared as amicus curiae in support of Technical Sergeant Durbin, and one clinic student argued before the Court.

Inaugural Roundtable - Six provocative papers were presented at the program's first roundtable in September. Participants included Douglas Berman (Ohio State), Stephanos Bibas (Penn), Dan Kahan (Yale), Tracey Meares (Yale), Joan Petersilia (Stanford), Kevin Reitz (Minnesota), Daniel Richman (Columbia), David Sklansky (Berkeley), Kate Stith (Yale), and Robert Weisberg (Stanford), as well as Vanderbilt's criminal law & procedure faculty.