Ian Weinstein, professor of law and director of clinical education, is a former staff attorney for the Federal Defender Services Unit of the Legal Aid Society for the Southern District of New York. He intends to use his faculty fellowship period to research the weight of law as opposed to the weight of procedure.
The idea for his project, which is still being developed, comes in large part from his work supervising Fordham Law students in the clinical program in Manhattan Criminal Court.
“In lower courts, there is a vast number of cases that are resolved through litigation focused almost entirely on procedural questions,” Weinstein said. “In very, very few of the cases is there really any examination of what happened, who might have been harmed and how that harm should be redressed.”
While some say this is because of the sheer volume of cases in the system, Weinstein said he has observed ways in which the courts are resistant to greater efficiency and in which players in the system continually revert back to procedural issues and shy away from factual issues.
“This permits the system to function with very little input from law enforcement and a variety of witnesses,” he said. “In one light, there’s a kind of efficiency in that, but in another light, it means that really important voices and interests are simply ignored.
“So our lower criminal courts end up resolving many, many cases for ease and convenience and self-identity of the particular players in the system with almost no reference to what those affected by the original transgression might want.”