New Year’s Resolutions

Still trying to decide what you should commit to doing in the new year? Regular programming returns tomorrow, but for today, I thought that I would suggest some possible criminal-law-related resolutions:

1. Read Jamie’s book. Jamie’s book on the Justice Reinvestment Act is available for purchase here, but many readers — judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and probation officers, among others — will get a free copy courtesy of the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Regardless of how you get it, resolve to read it in the new year. Like Christmas fudge, it is dense and packed with nuggets of goodness. It will tell you everything you need to know about the JRA.

2. Improve your mastery of technology. Commit to learning how to use tools that can help you be more effective. Lawyers and judges, become LEXIS power users with LEXIS’s free online tutorials. Attorneys, consider some of these recommended technology tools, most of which are free. Prosecutors, tap into the Prosecutors’ Encyclopedia. Officers, get smart about computer forensics and digital investigation.

3. Volunteer. For attorneys, the Rules of Professional Conduct call on you to “render public interest legal service and provide civic leadership.” But other participants in the criminal justice system should also consider volunteering and civic engagement, whether by pro bono legal service or through work in your church or charity of choice.

4. Promote professionalism and professional courtesy. The Winter 2012 issue of the North Carolina State Bar Journal contains an article by Superior Court Judge Clifton Everett about professionalism and civility in the legal profession. It’s not the first article on point and it won’t be the last, because we all know that there’s room for improvement in that area. Work to treat your adversaries as you would want to be treated, and cultivate across-the-aisle relationships outside of the courtroom.

5. Believe that you can make a difference. Sometimes it is hard to believe that things are getting better. Officers and prosecutors see terrible crimes on a daily basis. Defense attorneys know that there are wrongful convictions and systemic biases. But for all its shortcomings, our criminal justice system is a model for the rest of the world, and crime rates continue to fall. These positive developments are the result of the hard work of many individuals. So whatever your role and your calling, resolve to maintain a sense of optimism and hope in 2013.

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