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ALI at CCJ/COSCA Conference

ALI at CCJ/COSCA Conference

The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) met in Philadelphia from August 5 to 9. The CCJ provides an opportunity for the highest judicial officers of the states to meet and discuss matters of importance in improving the administration of justice, rules and methods of procedure, and the organization and operation of state courts and judicial systems, and to make recommendations and bring about improvements on such matters. The COSCA is dedicated to the improvement of state court systems, and provides a national forum to assist state court administrators in the development of a more just, effective, and efficient system of justice.

Members of the ALI community addressed attendees during the four-day event. Among the speakers was Kermit Roosevelt III, Reporter for the Conflict of Laws Project. Professor Roosevelt addressed the relationship between literature and the law. His most recent book, the legal thriller Allegiance, plunges readers into the debate within the U.S. government surrounding the imprisonment of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Stephanie Middleton and Margaret Love met with the criminal justice committee of the Conference of Chief Justices on August 7 to report that ALI members’ approved the Proposed Final Draft of the Model Penal Code: Sentencing, explaining that the project proposes lasting reforms, including institutional arrangements, with explanations of evidence based best practices. 

The project replaces approximately two thirds of the 1962 MPC and covers incarceration, economic penalties, and civil disabilities.

Some black letter highlights include:

  • a strong preference for determinate sentencing;
  • various means to deal with prison release within a determinate sentence system;
  • a recommendation that states charter a permanent, balanced sentencing commission with specified duties, including promulgating guidelines and conducting research and data collection;
  • opposition to mandatory minimums, along with ways to mute the impact of mandatory penalty provisions in states that have mandatory penalties;
  • a structure for the common law of sentencing by the courts;
  • delineation of powers that should be allocated to or exercised by legislatures, sentencing commissions;
  • trial courts, appellate courts, department of corrections, prison releasing authorities, and community corrections agencies;
  • a statement that revenue generation is not a legitimate purpose of criminal sentencing;
  • explanation that sentences should not impose payments that push defendants below subsistence and a means to meet family obligation;
  • guidance on sentencing of juvenile offenders in adult criminal court;
  • procedures and protections for states that want to experiment with restorative justice; and
  • suggestions on prioritizing of correctional resources at the front end and back end.  

ALI also hopes to work with the National Conference of State Legislatures and other organizations that are exploring ways to address the issues of mass punishment and collateral consequences of criminal conviction, and we encourage ALI members and others to download and distribute the black letter. The editing process continues on the comments and Reporters Notes produced during the nearly 15 years we worked on the MPC: Sentencing, but significant edits to the black letter are not expected.   

The black letter of MPC: Sentencing, along with an introduction by Kevin R. Reitz and Cecilia M. Klingele, will be available on the ALI website for free download at the end of August 2017. 

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