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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Criminal Law Scholar Bowers to Join Virginia Law School Faculty

Josh Bowers, a legal scholar and former defense attorney who specializes in innovative examination of the real-world application of criminal law, will join the Law School this fall.

Bowers Bowers is currently a Bigelow Teaching Fellow and lecturer of law at the University of Chicago Law School. Prior to that, he spent three years as a staff attorney with The Bronx Defenders, and also was an associate at Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason & Silberberg, a white-collar criminal defense firm in New York City.

He’s published articles on the effectiveness of drug courts, the intersection of plea bargaining and innocence, and the use of low-ball plea offers as a prosecutorial tool to mute communal resistance to unpopular police policies.

“Josh is already off to an impressive start as a criminal procedure scholar,” said Professor Darryl Brown. “I think our students will really benefit from Josh's years as a criminal defense attorney, and he helps us achieve a nice balance on the criminal law faculty between those with government experience versus defense experience, and state practice versus federal practice experience.”

An undercurrent in all of his research so far is the idea that enforcement of high-stakes cases — such as high-profile felonies — is “something of a different animal” than enforcement of low-stakes  cases, which are typically misdemeanors, Bowers said.

As an example, he pointed to the ways in which prosecutors negotiate plea bargains. The conventional perspective is that the prosecutor takes on the role of a “wealth maximizer” who seeks the longest sentence on the highest charge when negotiating a plea agreement, he said.

“But that’s only half right,” Bowers said. “Prosecutors are always conviction maximizers — that’s the easiest measure of their job success — but when it comes to low-stakes cases, it’s not clear at all that they are sentence maximizers.”

Brown said Bowers’ research on the subject has already affected the way he teaches criminal adjudication at the Law School. [Mark Godsey]

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