January 15, 2005
CrimProf Spotlight: Chase Law's Michael J.Z. Mannheimer
"For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in constitutional law, and was a fierce proponent of civil liberties. When I was sixteen, I wrote a letter to my local newspaper criticizing the then-recent Supreme Court decision in T.L.O. v. New Jersey. A blurb about me in my high school newspaper when I graduated stated that my career goal was to be a “constitutional lawyer.”
I received a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science in 1991 from the State University of New York at Binghamton. I went on to Columbia Law School, where I was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar all three years and became Writing & Research Editor of the Columbia Law Review, receiving my J.D. in 1994. Along the way, I realized two important things: first, there is no such thing as a “constitutional lawyer”; and second, the interpretation of the Constitution that leads to the greatest amount of individual liberty is not always the correct one. Both of these realizations led me to decide that I would do the next best thing to becoming a “constitutional lawyer” and become a constitutional law professor.
But first, I needed to get some experience under my belt. After a brief stint with the Criminal Appeals Bureau of the Legal Aid Society in New York City, I clerked from May 1995 to July 1996 for the Hon. Sidney H. Stein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern Division of New York. Then, from August 1996 to July 1997, I clerked for the Hon. Robert E. Cowen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. At the end of my second clerkship, I decided to give the big-firm life a try, so from 1997 to 1999, I was a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York City. I again delved into the intricacies of constitutional law when I had the opportunity to assist the late Hon. A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., who was of counsel to the firm, with his testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee with regard to the proposed Articles of Impeachment against then-President Clinton in 1998, on the issue of whether the commission of perjury in all instances constitutes a “high crime and misdemeanor.”
When I tired of big-firm life, I decided to go back to doing criminal appeals. In 1999, I joined the Center for Appellate Litigation, a non-profit group in New York City representing indigent criminal defendants on appeal from their convictions and in collateral proceedings. There, I briefed and/or argued over forty appeals in the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, the New York Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. I had the opportunity to represent clients at every level of the state and federal judiciaries, from handling sentencing proceedings, motions, and hearings in the New York trial courts to filing a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court.
My experience doing criminal appeals was at once challenging and supremely frustrating. It was challenging because of the interesting and complex legal issues that arose in nearly every case I handled. It was frustrating because that complexity was often not fully grasped by the attorneys who had tried the cases, who therefore sometimes left me with a less-than-optimal record on appeal, or by the state appellate judges who heard the appeals, who were institutionally opposed to reversing convictions, even when the alternative was to disregard the record or ignore the rule of law. But my five years in this line of work both introduced me to many of the unresolved issues in the field of constitutional criminal procedure and afforded me enough time to research and write about some of these issues, allowing me to publish an article on coerced confessions [Coerced Confessions and the Fourth Amendment, 30 Hastings Const. L. Q. 57 (2002)], which, in turn, helped me to land my current position at Chase.
Currently, I teach criminal law, criminal procedure, and a seminar on the death penalty. My current scholarship focuses on the Self-Incrimination Clause. Specifically, I am looking at how the Supreme Court has uniformly permitted the litigation of disputes over claims of the privilege without distinguishing among the differing fora in which the privilege is raised, despite the Clause’s limitation to “criminal case[s].” I hope to publish the results as a pair of articles entitled “Ripeness of Self-Incrimination Clause Disputes” and “The Self-Incrimination Clause in the Grand Jury Room.” I am also working on a piece on the federal death penalty, tentatively entitled “When the Federal Death Penalty Is ‘Cruel and Unusual’: A Neo-Federalist Approach,” which will address whether the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause would be interpreted more stringently in this context than when a state death penalty statute is concerned. My other published works are Equal Protection Principles and the Establishment Clause: Equal Participation in the Community as the Central Link, 69 Temp. L. Rev. 95 (1996), and Note, The Fighting Words Doctrine, 93 Colum. L. Rev.1527 (1993)."
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