CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Sunday, May 21, 2006

New Article Spotlight: Criminal Justice Collapse: The Constitution after Hurricane Katrina

Brandon L. Garrett of Virginia and Tania Tetlow of Tulane have posted the above-titled article, forthcoming in the Duke Law Journal, on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The New Orleans criminal justice system collapsed after Hurricane Katrina, resulting in a constitutional crisis. Eight thousand people, mostly indigent and charged with misdemeanors such as public drunkenness or failure to pay traffic tickets, languished indefinitely in state prisons. For months the court system shut its doors, the police department fell into disarray, few prosecutors remained, and a handful of public defenders could not meet with, much less represent, the thousands detained. We present a narrative of the collapse of the New Orleans area criminal system after Hurricane Katrina, based in part on a series of interviews conducted with officials at all levels of the New Orleans criminal system. Not only did this perfect storm illuminate how unprepared our local criminal systems remain for a severe natural disaster or terrorist attack, but it raised unique and unexplored constitutional questions. We argue that the roles of constitutional criminal procedure and doctrines of federalism invert during such an emergency. Criminal procedure rules served less to constrain local criminal justice actors than to preserve normalcy, while deferential rules rooted in federalism had the unanticipated effect of hindering provision of critical federal emergency assistance. We conclude by imagining systems designed to safeguard the provision of local criminal justice during emergencies.

To obtain the paper, click here.  [Mark Godsey]

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