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.

Detainers, Detention and Deportation: From Presence to Personhood

Ken Strutin’s latest guide on criminal law is an expansive, extensively documented, expert work that provides researchers, scholars, lawyers, judges, advocates for criminal justice, librarians, students, and Americans, a timely and essential guide to seminal issues that are currently the subject of widespread debate – in Congress, in states and local communities across the country – and litigation – in America’s courts, the court of public opinion, and on social media. Strutin takes up the immense challenge of these volatile subjects with his first statement: “There is no such thing as an “illegal” person. For the virtues of citizenship are not exclusive to law books, but found in the dignity of individuals. Ancient peoples who made the first journeys to new lands quickly discovered that humanity is a flower that can bloom anywhere. Since then, lines on maps have served to separate people from personhood. He continues – “Immigration laws and policies have the power to conflate race, ethnicity and national origin with lawbreaking, economic rivalry, and terrorism. A targeted noncitizen occupies an indissoluble bubble of isolation and obloquy that separates them from the moral force of state laws, the integrity of its officials, and the decency of its citizens. For them America is an inside out prison comprised of sensitive locations, sanctuary cities, and degrading confinement. If the immigration system bears a resemblance to criminal justice, it is because they share a forge upon which people are hammered out.” Through the outstanding scholarship Strutin offers here, it is my hope that readers will engage with these issues that are intrinsically connected to Democracy and respect for human rights.

Subjects: Civil Liberties, Court Resources, Criminal Law, Government Resources, Legal Education, Legal Research, United States Law

Caged Humanity: Conditions of Confinement and Death in Custody

“Unseen, confinement is where society’s unspent rage takes its toll on human lives. It reduces existence to a room that grows smaller with each degradation. A house of pain and trauma, its concrete walls and steel doors enclose people in jails and prisons, juvenile facilities, solitary, immigration detention and civil commitment. Incarceration intersects punishment, dignity, and end of life. And fear of its horrors are the bludgeon of interrogations, plea bargaining, and retributive justice.” This comprehensive, deeply researched and significant article by Ken Strutin compiles recent and notable reports, scholarship and news concerning the devastating spectrum of prison life and mortality. Through the perspective, insights and voluminous documentation of this leading expert on criminal justice we are given a deeper, more encompassing and meaningful understanding of a complex institutional structure that impacts the lives of millions of Americans. Strutin’s article is not only a critical legal resource but it is also a body of knowledge that calls out for understanding as well as action to ensure that civil liberties, social justice, and our belief in a just society includes the incarcerated, their families, and all of our communities.

Subjects: Civil Liberties, Criminal Law, Legal Research, United States Law

Bail in Justice: Innocence, Indigence and Incarceration

Ken Strutin’s exemplary research once again advances our understanding of critical issues pertaining to our justice system in the United States. According to Strutin: ‘the number of innocent people in post-conviction confinement is counted in the thousands, the pre-trial population of the unconvicted is in the millions. Every accused has constitutional rights to liberty, dignity and innocence, and yet, confinement often arrives before conviction. Money bail has the unfortunate effect of monetizing personal liberty and alchemizing human beings into negotiable instruments. This is the slippery slope of criminal justice, the erosion of liberty and due process. So it is that excessive bail bars the way to fully realize constitutional rights and increases the risk of wrongful conviction. Present efforts to improve pretrial release and detention practices have inspired some legislative and policy changes as well as bail funds and advocacy programs. This guide and annotated bibliography covers noteworthy legislation, court decisions, reports and guides, news articles and other sources concerning bail reforms and practices.”

Subjects: Civil Liberties, Court Resources, Criminal Law, Legal Research, United States Law

Fingerprint Forensics: From Lore to Law

Notable developments in courtrooms, academia and government institutions, both state and federal, are laying the groundwork for challenges to fingerprint matching. This extensively researched, comprehensive annotated bibliography by Ken Strutin includes new and noteworthy materials such as key opinions, significant articles and online resources concerning accuracy, reliability, validity as well as authenticity of fingerprint evidence. It also includes information on scientific and technological developments that are pushing the frontiers of biometric analysis.

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

Automatic Justice: Shaping the Legal Mind of Tomorrow

Smart computing is changing the nature of legal work even as the profession struggles to understand its scope. Machines sophisticated enough to communicate intelligibly and naturally with human hosts, technology with the processing power to wrangle big data are enhancing the way attorneys do their jobs and affecting the way they think. Law practices are now set up in paperless offices, cases litigated in hi-tech courtrooms, research done almost exclusively online, demanding higher levels of technical competency and professional responsibility. The vocabulary of technology is filling the legal landscape: algorithms, analytics, artificial intelligence (A.I.), automated decision-making, avatars, big data, cloud computing, code, cognitive computing, computer-aided, computer-generated, creative computing, cyborg, data driven, data mining, data science, data trails, deep learning, electronic discovery (e-discovery), expert systems, machine learning, metadata, mobile technology, mosaic theory, natural language, neural networks, paperless and virtual offices, pattern matching, predictive analytics, robotics, self-replicating technologies, smart data, smart technology, source code, and supercomputers. So, time worn lexicons and practice libraries are infiltrated with the latest computer terminologies and technical manuals. The work of lawyers, judges and government officials increasingly relies on the processing power of microchips. So, the Bartleby of tomorrow is taking shape today. From document assembly to document drafting, the borderlands of decision-making, data analysis, and communication will mark the progress of law and raise new questions for the administration of justice. And the breadth of information competence will need to expand with each new generation of technology. This article by Ken Strutin is a significant, comprehensive and expert guide to recent and notable works on the automation of lawyering, the administration of law and legal thinking.

Subjects: AI, Legal Marketing, Legal Profession, Legal Research, Legal Technology

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
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