Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Call for Papers: International Law and American Exceptionalism

Edited by
Professor Julian Killingley and Dr Jon Yorke
BCU Centre for American Legal Studies

Ashgate Series: Controversies in American Constitutional Law

Call for Contributors

President Barack Obama stated,

I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions,”
The President’s Address to the US Military Academy, West Point, May 28, 2014.

International Law and American Exceptionalism engages with the controversies surrounding the relationship of international law and American domestic law. It deals with a variety of approaches to the use/restriction/rejection of international law by Congress and the American courts through engaging with international legislation (in both “hard” and “soft” forms) and the increasingly important discourse on international judicial dialogue. It will analyse the processes of constitutional cross-fertilization in judicial constitutional-to-constitutional court dialogue and constitutional-to-regional court dialogue. The overarching theme of the collection is to investigate to what extent America is part of/abstaining from/contributing to, the globalization of legal principles. The perpetual pressures upon the various global agendas necessitates that the concept of “American exceptionalism” requires further critique to determine the boundaries of American sovereignty.    

The collection will bring together scholarship from different disciplines in analysing this issue, and we encourage contributions from both sides of the American political spectrum. We want to provide a platform for both conservative and liberal approaches to the issue of the utility of international law. The critique supplied can be multidisciplinary, including: legal, sociological, political, psychological and philosophical inquiry.

All areas of law will be considered for inclusion within the collection, from, inter alia, interpretations of Congressional powers under U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Sec. 8, “[t]o punish…Offences against the Law of Nations,” through to the consideration of the U.N. Convention Against Torture in immigration proceedings, to Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights in patent cases, to the consideration of the status of the fetus in the Organization of American States, and to the use of international climate change law.

We give discretion to contributors to identify your area of interest in the intersection of international and American law.

Submissions information:

To submit, please send your proposed title and a short synopsis of up to 400 words to: Dr. Jon Yorke, Director of the Centre for American Legal Studies, BCU Law School, Birmingham City University, UK, at: jon.yorke@bcu.ac.uk

Submissions decisions will be made by 10 August 2014.

Chapter submissions are 12,000 words, including footnotes. Bluebook citations are used for footnotes.

The deadline date for chapter submissions is 31 January 2015. Author proofs checking will be March 2015, and publication will be July 2015.   

Ashgate Series: Controversies in American Constitutional Law        

If you have any questions, please contact Jon Yorke at the above email address.          

Call for Papers: Controversies in Criminal Evidence

Edited by
Sarah Lucy Cooper
BCU Centre for American Legal Studies

Ashgate Series: Controversies in American Constitutional Law

Call for Contributors

Birmingham City University’s Centre for American Legal Studies in the United Kingdom is developing a multi-volume series entitled “Controversies in American Constitutional Law” with Ashgate Publishing Ltd. The volumes, each of which will be led by the Centre’s faculty, will include edited collections on equal protection law, death penalty law and international law. The first collection in the series, Controversies in Innocence Cases in America, led by Sarah Lucy Cooper was published in May, 2014. Founders of the American Innocence Movement, Peter J. Neufeld and Barry C. Scheck, commented that “Anyone who cares about miscarriages of justice and thinks critically about the system as a whole will find this collection to be a provocative, insightful, and valuable resource.” More information about this title can be found here: http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409463542

Ms. Cooper’s second collection Controversies in Criminal Evidence will comprise at least twelve chapters, and bring together leading experts on the theory, application and scholarly analysis of evidence law in America, from a variety of legal, scientific, policy and ethical perspectives. The contributors will investigate contemporary questions concerning the issues presented by criminal evidence. The chapters will be placed within a multi-disciplinary perspective to provide cogent observations and recommendations for the effective application and development of criminal evidence law.

The topics to be included (but not limited to) are:
1)      Theory and criminal evidence.
2)      Basic principles and criminal evidence.
3)      Burdens, presumptions and procedural aspects.
4)      General constitutional law principles.
5)      Perspectives are major federal and state admissibility frameworks such as the Federal Rules of Evidence.
6)      Expert evidence, including scientific, forensic and medical evidence in criminal cases.
7)      Circumstantial, character, hearsay and impeachment evidence.
8)      Integrity issues and criminal evidence.
9)      Judicial notice, privileges and trial procedure.
10)  Current legislative and policy reforms in evidence law.
11)  International perspectives and/or comparative discussions.

Submissions Information
If you are interested in contributing to this edited collection you may wish to focus upon one of the above topics or submit a different issue to be analysed. Chapters should be approximately 12,000 words, including footnotes. Footnotes should be Bluebook compliant, but chapters should otherwise be in line with the Ashgate house-style. The submission deadline for abstracts (Max. 400 words) is December, 12, 2014. After this, a proposal will be formed and forwarded to Ashgate for approval. The provisional deadline for first drafts is August 1, 2015.

If you have any questions or you would like to discuss an alternative topic to the ones identified above, please contact me at: sarah.cooper@bcu.ac.uk

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Friday, 13 June 2014

Controversies in Innocence Cases in America: Editor’s Review

by Sarah Lucy Cooper, Senior Lecturer in Law, BCU Law School; Fellow, Arizona Justice Project

In 2010 I joined the Arizona Justice Project – a non-profit organization that represents Arizona inmates with significant claims of innocence and ‘manifest injustice’ -- as an Adjunct Fellow. The Justice Project is the fifth oldest member of the Innocence Network, which brings together over 60 such projects worldwide. 

As a Fellow, I started to engage with the many and varied controversies of innocence work at a time when the American Innocence Movement had found its stride, with around 1000 exonerations to its name. These controversies ranged from the impact of restricted resources and antipathetic attitudes towards reform, to the difficulties of investigating common causes of wrong convictions such as false confessions, eyewitness misidentification and flawed forensic evidence, and the challenges of navigating complex and stringent post-conviction relief rules. 

In the heat of the Justice Project trenches, further exploration often led to more questions than answers.  Luckily, however, in 2011 Ashgate Publishing Ltd commissioned the Centre for American Legal Studies at Birmingham City University to produce an edited collection series -- Controversies in American Constitutional Law -- and presented me with the opportunity to provide some answers.

My collection is titled Controversies in Innocence Cases in America and the final line up of contributors includes some of America’s finest ‘innocence’ scholars and lawyers.  This includes frontline members of the Innocence Network Keith Findley and Jacqueline McMurtrie, and scholars at the forefront of innocence associated research, namely Jules Epstein, Richard A. Leo, Deborah Davies, Lissa Griffin, Marvin Zalman, Nancy Marion, Michael J. Williams, Carrie Leonetti and Francine Banner, as well as scholars working live innocence cases daily, namely D. Michael Risinger and Lesley C. Risinger at Seton Hall’s Last Resort Exoneration Project and Carrie Sperling the Co-Director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. 

With this diversity of perspective and experience, the collection naturally formed into anthology that provides a 360 degree view of controversies associated with the American Innocence Movement. Moreover, to underscore the practical significant of the collection, the Arizona Justice Project provides a foreword intertwining the collection’s themes with its real-life experiences.

The collection is presented in four sections. Below I discuss some of the highlights across the collection.


Part I charts the rise of the American Innocence Movement from the unique perspectives of Keith Findley, the President of the Innocence Network, and Jacqueline McMurtrie, the Director of the Innocence Project Northwest and founding member of the Innocence Network. 

Findley considers the Innocence Movement as the “new revolution” in American criminal justice, whereas McMurtrie approaches the journey of the Innocence Network “from beginning to branding,” considering notions of collaborative governance and future research about developing an Innocence Network brand. As such, these accounts of the development of this crucial era of American criminal justice are unrivalled.


Part II explores some of the most common causes of wrongful convictions in America, providing a clear insight on how innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit. In chapter 3, Jules Epstein considers the “conundrum” of eyewitness misidentification, the most common cause of wrongful convictions in America with research showing around 75% of the DNA exonerations are attributable to such errors. More information about this pervasive issue can be found here: http://www.innocenceproject.org/understand/Eyewitness-Misidentification.php

In Chapter 4, Deborah Davis, Richard A. Leo and Michael J. Williams, examine the issue of false confession, with a particular concentration on interrogation-induced false confessions. They conclude a “real overhaul” of core interrogation techniques is required to resolve this problem.  The cases of John Watkins and Eddie Joe Lloyd showcase the need for this research. See:  http://www.innocenceproject.org/understand/False-Confessions.php.  

In Chapter 5, Lissa Griffin tackles the issue of the suppression of exculpatory evidence by prosecutors. Griffin explores the Brady doctrine from its conception in the United States Supreme Court to notions of formalised reform. She concludes that Brady has not provided “meaningful” protection for innocents. 

Finally, in a bespoke, Chapter 6, Carrie Leonetti considers the largely untouched issue of America’s contribution to wrongful convictions abroad via foreign aid programmes that provide far more extensive resources for prosecution bodies than defense. Leonetti concludes that America needs to “foster a domestic conversation” about the end goal of American rule of law programs, boldly stating “blindly doing more of the same will not work.”


In their foreword, leaders of the Arizona Justice Project state this section of the collection “largely reflects the debates and challenges we engage in daily.” They note familiarity with the “innocence lawyer” role discussed by D. Michael Risinger and Lesley C. Risinger in Chapter 7. 

The Risingers argue the emerging role of ‘innocence lawyer’ is different from the traditional criminal defense role, and warrants different ethical considerations. They say this role involves signalling a “well-warranted belief in actual innocence, or at least the gross unsafety of the verdict in regard to actual guilt.” They conclude that this role should be supported by any “mature legal system calling itself a system of individual justice.” 

In Chapter 8, Carrie Sperling – by highlighting the myriad of complex and stringent post-conviction procedures faced by a hypothetical innocent inmate – cleverly narrates the difficulties that result when finality and innocence collide. The Arizona Justice Project label the problems faced by the hypothetical inmate as “all too familiar.” 

Finally, in Chapter 9, Francine Banner critically examines the contemporary post-conviction innocence standard in light of the rise of DNA evidence; a crucial discussion in any anthology dedicated to innocence issues. To date, 316 people have been exonerated by post-conviction DNA evidence in America and access to DNA testing has been labelled a priority issue by the Innocence Network’s most famous member, The Innocence Project. The Innocence Project’s recommendations about access to DNA statutes can be found here: http://www.innocenceproject.org/fix/DNA-Testing-Access.php.


The final section of the collection looks at how the Innocence Movement has encouraged reform across the American criminal justice system. In Chapter 11 I focus on the concept and development of innocence commissions across America since the new millennium. The chapter highlights how these bodies face tensions with traditional facets of the criminal justice system, framing issues, complex group dynamics and a lack of legitimacy and resources, which has, generally, prevented them from successfully integrating into the criminal justice system, as mechanisms for reducing the likelihood of wrongful convictions. 

In Chapter 10, Marvin Zalman and Nancy Marian take a wider, more eclectic approach to reform, exploring the policy work of the Innocence Movement in light existing policy making theories. They suggest innocence reform can be explained by borrowing elements from various existing theories, but no single theory. They conclude by encouraging scholars to engage in further research.

The collection has been described as a “provocative, insightful and valuable resource” by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld, the widely recognised God-fathers of the Innocence Movement. Similarly, Professor Daniel Medwed has described the collection as a “thoughtful and wide-ranging treatment of the topic and a major addition to the academic literature.” Larry Hammond, former President of the American Judicature Society, hails the “Hall of Fame” of contributors and describes the collection as a “roadmap” that might help “us more unerringly to convict the guilty and to free the innocent.”

Admittedly, the collection is not exhaustive, but it would be impossible to – no pun intended -- ‘do justice’ to such a vast, complex and ever-evolving area of discourse in a single collection. To that end, it has been a privilege to bring together a discussion of some of the most important issues in the world of innocence from the perspectives of people who engage with it in the most meaningful ways.

Controversies in Innocence Cases in America can be purchased at: http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409463542