Roberts Appointed Fellow on Criminal Justice Task Force, Presents at Connecticut Faculty Workshop & ABA-AALS Roundtables, and Receives Accolades for Two Articles

Professor Anna Roberts has been appointed as a Fellow for the inaugural year of the Justice Collaborative Institute, a new criminal justice task force.


In addition, Professor Roberts’ article, Arrests as Guilt, was named a “must-read” for courts and practitioners by the Advisory Board of the Getting Scholarship into Court Project. Another article, Convictions as Guilt, was featured in the blog of the John Howard Society of Canada, an organization that aims to “understand and respond to problems of crime and the criminal justice system.”

Finally, Professor Roberts presented a work-in-progress, Victims, Right?, at the University of Connecticut School of Law’s Faculty Workshop and at the ABA-AALS Criminal Justice Section’s Academic Roundtables. Here is the abstract:

In criminal contexts, the predominant legal definition of “victim” is someone who has been harmed by a crime. Yet in many legal contexts the word “victim” appears before the adjudication of whether a crime has occurred. Each U.S. state guarantees “victims’ rights,” including some that apply pre-adjudication; ongoing “Marsy’s Law” efforts seek to expand and constitutionalize them nationwide. In the courtroom, all relevant players—judges, prosecutors, witnesses, defense attorneys—use “victim” in contexts in which the existence or not of crime (and thus of a crime victim) is the very thing to be decided. This usage matters in part because of its possible consequences: like other language uses, it conditions its audience to downplay the adjudicative process. Language reform efforts do not solve the problem, however: the prevalence of this usage, particularly when seen in tandem with usages such as the widespread pre-adjudication use of “offender,” springs from widely-shared impulses that will outlast any language reform. When channeled into a criminal system those impulses will recur as pre-judgments of crime, in ways that threaten defendants’ constitutional protections. But we can frame and channel them in a more hopeful way. Perhaps we turn prematurely to the word “victim” in part because of impulses, upon hearing of harm, rapidly to acknowledge and decry it; perhaps we rush to “offender” because of a concomitant desire for accountability and answers. Abolitionist work suggests that there are ways—better ways­—to meet those impulses beyond our criminal system.

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