Monday’s Wall Street Journal (May 18, 2015), raised the national understanding of the problems presented by the proliferation of the collateral consequences of criminal convictions.

The print article, published on page A3 of the Journal,  “After Prison, Landing Work is Tricky. Officials Aim to Get More Ex-inmates Back to Work,” focuses on the story of Hashim Lowndes and his struggle to become a licensed heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician after serving a three year  prison sentence for trafficing cocaine. It describes the panapoly of legal disablities  — from voting to cuting hair to providing hospice care — that persons with a record of conviction carrry in Ohio. The article also explains the explosion of the American prision population and of the collateral sanctions that convictions trigger.

It quotes Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy in explaining that these consequences can hamper the efforts of those released from prision to successfully reintegrate into a law-abiding life, asd explains that Leahy helped secure federal funding for the first-ever national study of collateral consequences.

It notes that the resulting American Bar Association study, the National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions, now largely completed, has identified more than 46,000 statutes and regulations that apply based on a record of conviction and that 60 to 70%  of these disabilities are employment-related.

And the article explains that the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act would provide some relief from collateral consequences, but rests upon the free availability of the ABA Study.

More in-depth coverage is provided by web adjuncts to the print article.

One post, “5 Things to Know About Collateral Consequences,” piths the basics of the subject. A second post, “Copyright Restrictions Spark Disagreement Over ABA Database,” explains the difficutly caused by the ABA’s assertion of copyright restrictions as to the National Inventory of Collateral Consequences web site.

In my view, the ABA deserves kudos for its important work in developing the data base, but by asserting copyright control over the data on the web, now blocks the doorway to reform.

Many thanks to Joe Palazzolo of the Wall Street Journal, for his work in bringing this subject to a new level of public consciousness.





Thank You, American Law Institute

by Rich Cassidy on April 16, 2015

2015000416.ALII learned Tuesday that I have been elected to membership in the American Law Institute. I am really very pleased to be elected.

The American Law Institute is described as “the leading independent organization in the United States producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize, and otherwise improve the law. The Institute (made up of 4000 lawyers, judges, and law professors of the highest qualifications) drafts, discusses, revises, and publishes Restatements of the Law, model statutes, and principles of law that are enormously influential in the courts and legislatures, as well as in legal scholarship and education. ALI has long been influential internationally and, in recent years, more of its work has become international in scope.”

“By participating in the Institute’s work, members have the opportunity to influence the development of the law in both existing and emerging areas, to work with other eminent lawyers, judges, and academics, to give back to a profession to which they are deeply dedicated, and to contribute to the public good.”

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog to know that improving the law and the justice system has been a life-long passion for me. I welcome the opportunity to contribute in a new and important forum.

I have long been a consumer and and an admirer of the ALI’s work. As a Uniform Law Commissioner, I work with the ALI on our shared projects, most notably including the Uniform Commercial Code.

Thank you to the ALI members who nominated me, to the Nominating Committee that approved my nomination, and to the ALI Council that elected me.

I intend to be an active member.



A Lawyers’ Canon?

March 16, 2015

The idea of a “Western Canon” is a body of books and cultural achievements that are broadly accepted as most important and influential in shaping our culture. One example is Harold Bloom’s, The Western Canon, Riverhead Books, 1994. Obviously, the idea of a canon provides endless opportunity for debate, and little potential for definitive resolution. One area […]

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“The Judge”  Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr. and the Burden of Judging

March 2, 2015

Regular readers of this blog know that I am interested in the feedback loop between popular culture and the law. Recently, I watched “The Judge,” a Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr. film.  And as I did, I wondered about the impact of the film on the public’s view of lawyers and judges. The film is […]

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Does the Requirement of a Unanimous Verdict Favor the Defense in Civil Cases? It’s Not So Clear

February 16, 2015

Over the years there have been a number of proposals to permit jury verdicts in civil cases in Vermont to be made by less than a unanimous vote. Debate over these proposals seems to largely divide the bar along the lines of the clients the debating lawyers represent: most plaintiffs’ lawyers favor such proposals, while […]

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ABA Calls for Repeal of “Stand Your Ground”

February 13, 2015

At its meeting in Houston, Texas on Monday, February 9, the American Bar Association House of Delegates called for the repeal of “Stand your Ground” laws. Some 33 states have adopted Stand Your Ground laws. At common law, individuals who were confronted with an imminent threat of deadly force in public space, had an obligation […]

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Got Link Rot? Try Permalink!

February 4, 2015

Jill Lepore’s article, The Cobweb: Can the Internet be Archived?, from last week’s The New Yorker (January 26, 2015) discusses an issue for courts and lawyers. Footnoting, a lawyerly habit, is all about documenting your proof. As the article says, the classic idea of the footnote is documentation that says, “Here is how I know this and […]

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I Guess That’s What Makes Horse Races … and Lawsuits!

January 22, 2015

If more than 30 years of practicing law has taught me anything, it is that few things are as easy as they look. That includes the practice of law itself. Let me use a recent victory to show you what I mean. In Vermont, we have a statute that regulates the hiring and firing of […]

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Help for Clients with Severe Emotional Trauma: Try A Little Yoga

January 13, 2015

From time to time, lawyers may grapple with the problem of representing individuals who have suffered significant emotional trauma. I know that I do. These clients and their cases can be particularly challenging: claims adjusters, opposing counsel, jurors, and even the courts, can be skeptical about claims in which emotional damage is a significant factor. […]

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The Pardon as Justice, not Mercy: “A Pardon Celebrates the Life of a Public Defender”

January 2, 2015

The Story of Albert Stork, a person with a record of conviction who lived an exemplary life and won a pardon.

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