Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Foreword

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Foreword

Article excerpt

Five years ago, the Albany Law Review invited a distinguished group of legal scholars, social scientists, policy advocates, and justice practitioners to address the problematic issue of wrongful convictions. The symposium issue that resulted, Wrongful Convictions: Understanding and Addressing Criminal Injustice, (1) set the stage for a conversation among the original participants about a more extensive agenda of research and legal inquiry. That conversation culminated in a partnership between the Albany Law Review and the University at Albany's School of Criminal Justice and a commitment to collaboration on the publication of an annual law review issue devoted to both legal and social science scholarship on topical themes involving miscarriages of justice of many kinds. (2)

This issue is the fifth book in that series, which is cause for some reflection on the value of the enterprise as well as the challenges of maintaining it. Legal scholars study the law by tracing its origins, tracking its evolution, comparing its philosophical and practical underpinnings, and speculating on the ways in which it may (or ought to) be changed. They typically write for audiences of other legal scholars but quietly hope that a judge, an appellate justice, or a legislator may find their work useful and informative. Social scientists study human behavior by systematically analyzing data about how individuals make decisions, how groups interact, how organizations evolve, and how politicians make laws. They typically write for other social scientists, perhaps quietly hoping that their findings may someday be useful to policy makers or practitioners in their fields. Law scholars have permission, indeed invitation, to investigate the values underlying legal debates; social scientists are, on most days, expected to stick to high standards of objectivity rather than advocacy. Legal researchers tend to finish their papers with firm conclusions, but social scientists nearly always wrap things up by qualifying their findings and telling their readers that "more research is needed."

These two genres of scholarship would seem therefore to have different audiences, customs, styles, and even intellectual dialects. Yet the questions that the Miscarriages of Justice issues have examined over the past five years transcend differences in academic traditions and conventions. Without an understanding of the law, we cannot confidently understand the formal contexts within which criminal justice agencies make policies and adopt practices, within which offenders' culpability is judged, within which victims experience justice or injustice, and within which mistakes are (or are not) remedied. At the same time, without an understanding of the behavioral patterns that result from social, economic, and political opportunities and constraints, we cannot develop informed recommendations for practices or forecast the likely outcomes of legal reforms.

The articles in this book illustrate this diversity of research conventions, as well as the potential payoff from continuing to list these different types of scholarship in the same tables of contents. The publication of our fifth book seems like an appropriate moment to think about how these differences inform the development of knowledge and the implications of what we learn from these genres for social change. Hence, I speak to the articles published in the first section of this issue, those addressing miscarriages of justice that reflect potentially problematic social, cultural, and legal definitions of gender. (My colleague Andrew Davies addresses this point in his introduction to the second section, which focuses on the challenges of maintaining high standards of justice in the realm of indigent defense.) (3)

The authors in this issue address the alignment (or misalignment) of sex, gender, identity, and sexuality with law and adjudication. They come from diverse academic and practice backgrounds. …

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