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.

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

Shaken Baby Syndrome: A Differential Diagnosis of Justice

Ken Strutin’s article is a comprehensive examination of how the concept of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) has become a battleground where medical evidence and legal presumptions clash, testing the limits of judicial wisdom. Strutin presents a collection of recent and select court decisions, law reviews and news articles that explore the ongoing scientific and legal arguments about the definition and exclusivity of shaken baby syndrome evidence.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Legal Research

Cameras in the Streets: Focus on Justice

2014 has been a watershed for the national and international role of citizen photo journalists who have impacted in myriad ways events which have in turn sparked debate, protests, and legal action – increasing the scrutiny of activity conducted by groups including law enforcement. Ken Strutin’s timely, informative and significant article collects noteworthy news, litigation, and legal analyses concerning civilians and journalists photo-documenting the activities of law enforcement as well as police use of cameras to record their work.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Free Speech, Internet Trends, Privacy, Social Media

Clients and Suicide: The Lawyer’s Dilemma

Ken Strutin’s article discusses an increasingly visible issue, suicide, here in the specific context of criminal law. He reviews how the stress of prosecution or litigation, whether it means risking a prison term, unemployment, bankruptcy, eviction, broken family relations, isolation, or other serious consequences can create or exacerbate a vulnerable and dangerous state of mind in a client. Client suicidal thoughts, attempts or actions expose the intimacies of human autonomy and test the limits of the attorney-client relationship. They cross a range of legal, moral and medical contexts: professional responsibility, client confidentiality, effective assistance of counsel, legal malpractice, criminal liability, and end of life issues. So it is that attorneys confronted with signs of suicidal intentions in their clients need to be conscious of their legal and ethical responsibilities. Strutin’s article is a significant guide for researchers, as it collects notable materials on this complex and sensitive topic, including ethics opinions, law reviews, bibliographies and other resources.

Subjects: Criminal Law

Case Law in an Era of Heightened Scrutiny

Ken Strutin’s documents the scope of sources that encompass a critical issue that has recently repeatedly surfaced in mass media and the legal press – the fact that judicial decisions are believed to embody legal reasoning, societal values and support the foundations of our legal system. For scholars, lawyers and librarians there are three essential components: decision-making, opinion writing and publication. Recently, scrutiny of Supreme Court opinions and the work habits of the courts in general has been drawing attention to the entirety of judicial work that is at the heart of precedent. This article collects a range of pertinent guides, manuals, treatises, law reviews, studies and newsworthy mentions that address significant issues in judicial decision-making, opinion writing and case law publishing.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Legal Profession, Legal Research, Legal Research Training

Comforting Witnesses, Discomforting Due Process

Many of us are aware of, and have had contact with various types of therapy dogs, in places that range from the workplace to our public transportation systems. But we may not be aware of the growing use and integration into the legal system of therapeutic “comfort dogs” or therapy dogs in several aspects of criminal proceedings, including victim-offender mediation. Ken Strutin lays the groundwork for analysis of how “dog therapy” techniques are well suited to this type of mediation by discussing the psychological dynamics of victim-offender mediation, including how the mediator must confront and deal with them. Of special interest and importance is the changing role of the mediator, who is often called upon to wear different hats. Of importance in this article are the jobs of “therapist” and “magician.” Strutin describes the “therapist” role as it focuses on the therapeutic effect that a dog’s presence will have on victim-offender mediation, namely the psychological benefits for the participants. He explores the “magician” role through a discussion of how the mediator will use the dog’s presence to aid in the process of discussing and resolving conflict, with both parties’ emotional needs receiving equal attention. And finally, Strutin discusses the training required by mediators who wish to employ therapy dogs in their practice. These new “mediator-handlers,” as these types of mediators are known, will have a challenging task in specializing in this type of mediation, but one that can be truly rewarding.” The research and commentary provided here are seminal to understanding how dogs are engaged in increasingly critical roles in the lives of people in many facets of social and legal interaction with critical implications for all involved.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Legal Research

Unwarranted DNA Sampling: The Legacy of Maryland v. King

Criminal law expert Ken Strutin’s article addresses how DNA forensics is about information, privacy and the presumption of innocence. It has become the determinant for identification, solving cold cases and exonerating the innocent. Strutin describes that at its core, it is an inestimable library of personal data. Due to the increasingly important role of Personally identifiable information (PII), courts and legislatures have been attempting to balance the interests of the individual in protecting their genetic information with the usefulness and necessity of that same data for criminal investigation. Strutin notes clearly that any DNA or forensic database is a composite of intertwined informational and legal values that pose competing and conflicting questions about the analytics (accuracy, reliability and validity) of the data and the lawfulness (constitutionality) of its gathering. His article collects recent notable decisions and scholarship appearing in the aftermath of Maryland v. King.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Data Mining, Features, Privacy, Public Records
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