Author: Jules Epstein

Parental Visitation Rights and Tragic Outcomes

The outcry over a decision that let a child have a weekend visit with her father, an action that led to the child’s death, includes cries for the judge’s removal and a call from the Governor for an inquiry by the Judicial Conduct Board. As we show below, this response misses the boat in two regards – the protection of judicial independence and the need to change the law.   Professor Jules Epstein addresses the former; Professor Sarah Katz the latter. JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE We live in a world where the judiciary is under attack, with cries that “our legal system is broken” and that judicial decisions put our country “in peril.”  But we want and need judges to make tough decisions without looking over their shoulders.  And we want lawyers to be able to go into court on new cases without fearing that the judge will make a harsh decision to ‘look tough’ and appease the critics. Judicial misconduct warrants sanctions.  Lying, stealing, doing favors; not showing up for work; or being racist, sexist or otherwise hostile …

Dontia Patterson –Innocence or Injustice?

The May 16 news report that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has dropped charges against Dontia Patterson (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/crime/judge-approves-philly-das-request-clears-man-of-murder-after-11-years-behind-bars-20180516.html ) because he was wrongfully convicted and is actually innocent prompted a retort from the original prosecutor that this is a “horrific travesty of justice.”  The case raised claims of actual innocence and of the failure to reveal to the defense information in the police file of an alternative suspect. I write here not to address the latter but to respond to the claim that this is a travesty of justice and that the conviction is valid because the case against Patterson “was not weak” and  two witnesses identified him.  What the prosecutor omitted is that neither witness could actually see the face of the shooter. How can this be, and how could a jury have convicted in such circumstances?  I was asked by the Pennsylvania Innocence Project to review Mr. Patterson’s case to see whether, based on the science of eyewitness perception and memory, it was possible that an innocent man had been convicted.  In a case …