Saturday, November 27, 2004
"I was born in New York, the oldest of three children, and spent my summers growing up working in Dad's restaurants (like every other Greek-American kid, it seems). Starting in high school, I became very involved in debate and public speaking and enjoyed constructing and analyzing arguments. I continued to develop my public speaking/debate skills through Parliamentary Debate at Columbia University, which proved to be a rewarding experience in many ways. I took these skills with me to Oxford University where I earned my Masters in jurisprudence and a 1st place Speaker Award in the World Debate Championships. It was throughout college that I started thinking about teaching law. But, since I had no lawyers in my family, it took me a while to figure out what kind of law I would want to do.
I headed off to law school at Yale where I was the Symposium Editor for the Yale Law Journal and very involved in Moot Court. I decided to clerk directly out of law school in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, but after two years, I moved from Dallas to Washington, D.C. to become a litigation associate at Covington & Burling. I litigated predominately white-collar criminal defense, appeals, First Amendment, employment discrimination, toxic torts, and insurance cases. But after a few years with the firm, I didn't let the chance to clerk for Justice Kennedy of the US Supreme Court pass me by.
After clerking for Justice Kennedy, I went off to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York to gain some trial experience and become a real lawyer. And it was there that I discovered I loved criminal law. The human drama, the fast-paced excitement, the morality play, and the tragedies in victims' and defendants' lives all fascinated me.
There, I saw a lot of things that professors and appellate judges missed. Litigation on the ground looks a lot different from litigation viewed from the ivory tower. The parties are most certainly not fully informed, rational actors. Poverty, variable lawyer quality, intelligence, and myriad other factors influenced the way cases came out. And very few cases involved trials; most of the action was in charging, plea bargaining, and sentencing. The process of plea bargaining, moreover, looked a lot different from the abstract models that economists hypothesized.
When I left prosecuting and went to Yale for a research fellowship, to prepare for the teaching market, I began writing my first article about Apprendi v. New Jersey and all of these ideas began to jell. I saw that everyone had been proposing and analyzing rules suited for an ideal world of jury trials, in part because cases that are tried are the ones that are appealed and result in appellate precedents. But in the real world of guilty pleas, where 95% of cases are plea-bargained, these rules looked very different. So that's how I started to focus on the rules of charging, plea bargaining, and sentencing, examining how the actors used their power to manipulate these rules to serve their interests."
For a list of Bibas' forthcoming articles and published articles with links, click here.
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