Author archives

Ken Strutin (JD, MLS) is an experienced law librarian, criminal defense attorney, and well-known writer and speaker. He is the author of The Insider's Guide: Criminal Justice Resources on the Internet, and has lectured extensively about the benefits of using the Internet for legal research at national and local CLE training programs. Mr. Strutin also wrote ALI-ABA's Practice Checklist Manual on Representing Criminal Defendants, and co-authored the award winning Legal Research Methodology computer tutorial, published by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI). He has contributed chapters to several books and written many articles concerning knowledge management, legal research and criminal law. Mr. Strutin has taught courses in Advanced Legal Research and Law Office Management. He is also listed in Who's Who in American Law. Currently, Mr. Strutin is the Director of Legal Information Services at the New York State Defenders Association and writes a column for the New York Law Journal.

Report – President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Casts Doubt on Criminal Forensics

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) stated in their report – “Among the more than 2.2 million inmates in U.S. prisons and jails, countless may have been convicted using unreliable or fabricated forensic science. The U.S. has an abiding and unfulfilled moral obligation to free citizens who were imprisoned by such questionable means.” Ken Strutin’s article features information about the PCAST Report, its reception by advocates and critics, and related articles, publications and developments concerning the science of innocence.

Subjects: Civil Liberties, Courts & Technology, Criminal Law, Government Resources, Human Rights, Legal Education, Legal Research, Legal Technology

Prison Affected People: Punished to the Margins of Life

Ken Strutin’s expansive scholarship, acumen, commitment to and comprehensive knowledge of criminal law and justice is fully articulated and shared in his new guide. He robustly argues and supports his reasoning that retribution is at odds with medical reality for conviction alone and does not make someone fit for incarceration. He believes and defends the position that disease, infirmity, trauma and the damage that life terms inflict are judgments without appeal and rarely considered at sentencing. Strutin articulates the significant yet insufficiently acknowledged fact that despite all the money spent on prisons, little attention is devoted to humanizing the admission decision. Meanwhile, penal institutions are becoming society’s punitive safety net, arrogating the roles of psychiatric wards and old age homes. This comprehensive, extensively and accurately researched and documented guide encompasses selected reports, scholarly research and news stories about the unseen punishments created by sentencing laws and prison administration that ignore fitness for incarceration.

Subjects: Civil Liberties

Mecha Justice: When Machines Think Like Lawyers

Most workplaces, whether public, private, academic – within the government, legal, education, news, or advocacy sectors – are increasingly focused on how to define, implement and position the use of ‘Big Data,’ data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and even robotics, into respective organizational missions that are under increasing pressure to innovate faster. Ken Strutin’s comprehensive, insightful and expertly documented article is a critical read to assist all of us in the legal environment, regardless of our role, in understanding key cases, issues, science, technology and applications, and potential as well as actual outcomes. As Strutin writes, the term “Mecha” envisions a futuristic artificial intelligence wrapped in human likeness and seamlessly woven into the activities of society. It represents a time when the aggrandizement of our species will depend on technology that looks and thinks like us. Today, the prototype of attorney mechas are emerging from advances in computer reasoning and big data. The demands of increasingly complex legal transactions, sophisticated consumers, and the momentum of technology are putting pressures on the practice of law that only computer assistance can relieve. This compilation of notable news articles, scientific studies and legal scholarship highlights the progress of rights, responsibilities and roles of legal professionals and thinking machines.

Subjects: Legal Research

Pain Science and the Administration of Justice

Ken Strutin’s article is a survey of legal scholarship and medical research concerning the study of pain and its significance for the administration of civil and criminal justice. The complexity of pain’s impact on each individual’s life is increasingly relevant in the context of the administration of civil and criminal justice. Strutin’s subject matter expertise in issues of law and justice is further articulated in this this article as he undertakes a timely review of an increasingly relevant issue that impacts the lives of defendants and complainants alike.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Human Rights, Legal Ethics, Medical Research, Publishing & Publishers (Legal)

Evolutions in DNA Forensics

Criminal law expert Ken Strutin’s new article is yet another research tour de force – a collection of recent and notable developments concerning DNA as forensic science, metric of guilt, herald of innocence, and its emerging place in the debate over privacy and surveillance. The increasing use of DNA evidence to support assumptions of an individual’s guilt and less frequently as a tool to prove the innocence of prisoners wrongly convicted, reflects many facets of the changing fabric of the American criminal justice, the role of the Fourth Amendment and the increasing collection of a wide range of biological evidence from crime scenes whose metadata then is searchable within the national DNA database.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Discovery, Legal Research

Cognitive Reality and the Administration of Justice

Ken Strutin writes in his latest article as follows -“science has much to say about how individual behavior and group wide phenomena influence the core issues of criminal justice. From self-incrimination to self-representation, from prosecuting to judging, from trial to punishment the law recognizes that there are subtle psychologics at work. Indeed, there is one long continuum of cognitive realities that pervade every precinct of criminal justice. And now, scientific study and legal scholarship has uncovered hidden biases in the deliberations of justice as well as overt barriers to cognitive functioning associated with confinement. This article is a collection of research into the cognitive nature of criminal justice participants, the constraints of confinement, and the administration of justice.”

Subjects: Criminal Law

Solitary Confinement: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Ken Strutin’s article surveys notable legal developments, new scholarship, and recent scientific research concerning the administration and effects of solitary confinement. Strutin describes solitary confinement as punishment’s punishment. He states that solitary is where the mind is worn out by pacing the same floor, viewing the same walls, tuning in to the same sounds without relief. He documents how extreme isolation has devastating psychological and physical consequences, collectively described as “SHU syndrome.” Strutin delivers illumination to the heart of legal challenges and legislative reforms now supported by an expanding body of research into the harmfulness of prolonged human isolation.

Subjects: Civil Liberties, Criminal Law, Legal Research

Animal Rights on the Road to Personhood

Ken Strutin’s paper addresses a seminal issue that has been an integral part of the personal and collective ethic of diverse peoples around the world. As Strutin states, when life is classified biologically, it is also defined legally. Thus is formed the tension between the natural and juridical worlds. Whether animal rights can ever fall within the ambit of personhood will depend as much on the findings of cognitive science as on the evolution of legal remedies. Indeed, the foundations for nonhuman personhood are being laid in a growing body of litigation and scholarship at the borderlands of science and civil justice.

Subjects: Animals and the Law, Ethics, Human Rights, Legal Ethics, Legal Research

Cut and Paste Opinions: A Turing Test for Judicial Decision-Making

Ken Strutin argues that cut-and-paste is a laudable method for reducing transcription errors in copying citations and quotations. However, he identifies that a problem arises when it is used to lift verbatim sections of a party’s arguments into a case decision. Stipulations and proposed orders from counsel for both parties might be enviable and practicable, but judgment and fact-finding are solely in the province of the court. This has been a long standing issue that has spanned technologies from shears and paste-pot to typewriters and computers, and which might culminate in a Turing Test for case law.

Subjects: Case Management, Court Resources, Courts & Technology, KM, Legal Profession

Amicus Curiae: Information in the Service of Justice

From Ken Strutin’s introduction to this guide: In the legal system, such intonements have taken on the form of specialized briefs called amicus curiae (“friend of the court”). And through extension and by complement they have appeared in the form of law reviews, media articles, exposes, and books. Indeed, there is an oscillating relationship between amici and law reviews, which has been beneficial for scholarship and public discourse. In the end, it is the passion for justice that drives individuals, governments, academics, lawyers, journalists and other interested groups to befriend the courts. The amicus has the power to speak to many audiences simultaneously. In the courtroom, it is the honest broker; in the public media, it is the educator; in academia, it is scholarly analysis and historical perspective. Bounded by common law, court rules, and the conventions of publishing (briefs, articles or books), the amicus can yet move knowledge into venues where it is most needed. An amicus can serve as an “oral shepardizer,” expert witness, or quasi-litigant that extends the range of judicial notice and culls, concentrates and vets information into a case-specific resource. Still, there is a tension between the role of the amicus as independent expert offering facts and a party arguing an agenda, which can ultimately impact the quality and constitutionality of decision-making. Indeed, there are concerns that unregulated amicus practice can undermine development of case law by opening the door to issues and arguments beyond the threshold of standing and jurisdiction. Lastly, the free range of amicus briefs can exacerbate already problematic judicial information seeking behavior. Roman legal tradition fashioned the amicus into an interlocutor, an explainer in all kinds of cases. Today, their roles are circumscribed by court rule and common law. However, the scope of this article is confined to a discrete precinct of the amicus universe, criminal justice.

Subjects: Reference Services
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