CrimProf Blog

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

Monday, August 31, 2009

Featured Download: Miller on Putting Practice into Criminal Procedure Theory

Miller_eric Eric J. Miller (Saint Louis University - School of Law) has posted an ambituous assessment of criminal procedure doctrine and scholarship on SSRN entitled Putting the Practice into Theory. Here is the abstract:

Modern criminal procedure, or especially at the Supreme Court level, rests upon a variety of untested regulatory assumptions about the ways in which the police do and ought to interact with the public. These regulatory assumptions depend upon underlying models of police administration that often determine the outcome of cases. Nonetheless, these assumptions are fictional, meaning that they lack any basis in descriptive criminology or social science. Yet they control the development of judicial and academic understandings of what policing is and ought to be about in our modern, fragmented, pluralist democracy. My prescription, at least for the academy, is that we should start examining the criminological evidence to determine whether and how it might support or undermine the Court’s social science speculations.

Constitutional law has always been somewhat marginal in the regulatory universe. Executive branch officials control most of what happens in the criminal justice system. They act according to departmental policies or institutional practices. Though they might have one eye on the courts and the Constitution, they are more concerned with norms of professional ethics or institutional organization. Attending to regulation tilts criminal procedure off its court-centered axis and reminds us just how ineffective we legal scholars may be in setting its terms.

My goal is to trace some of the ways in which criminal procedure doctrine engages with criminology, particularly in its more hermeneutic form. As a starting point, I consider Robert Weisberg’s and David Sklansky’s very different but deeply thoughtful discussions of the relation between criminal procedure, on the one hand, and criminology and social science, more generally, on the other.

His assessment at the end of the piece, about whehter the Court has sufficient evidence to justify its reliance on police-training programs in cases like Leon and Hudson, is particularly interesting.


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