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“The Process is the Punishment”

by Colin Rule
May 2013

Novo Justice Blog by Colin Rule, article by William Glaberson, NYT

Colin Rule

William Glaberson, NYT:

“Court delays of as long as five years in felony cases have pushed the Bronx criminal courts into the bottom ranks of courts nationally, reaching what even the judges call crisis levels.

But that backlog has a less-noted companion. The courts are so dysfunctional that those accused of minor offenses — misdemeanors like trespassing or driving with a suspended license — have all but lost the fundamental guarantee of the American legal system: the right to a trial.

The case of Mr. Zapata would usually be overlooked in the flood of 50,000 Bronx misdemeanor filings a year. But he was part of a special legal-defense effort led by the Bronx Defenders, which provides legal representation to poor Bronx residents charged with crimes. That effort tested the borough’s courts by trying to bring 54 misdemeanor marijuana possession cases to trial for clients who had been arrested as part of New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk program and wanted to fight the charges.

Instead, these defendants got a through-the-looking glass criminal justice system where charges that were punishable by a maximum sentence of three months in jail could take many times that just winding toward an always elusive trial. And when the increasingly elastic speedy-trial rules of the Bronx were finally stretched too far by delay after delay, prosecutors would sometimes drop the cases as if they were never quite worth their time anyway…”

Biography


Colin Rule has worked at the intersection of technology and conflict resolution for the last two decades. He is CEO of Modria.com, an online dispute resolution service provider in Silicon Valley, and a non-resident Fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. From 2003 to 2011, he served as eBay and PayPal's first director of Online Dispute Resolution, designing and implementing systems that now resolve more than 60 million disputes each year. Mr. Rule is the author of Online Dispute Resolution for Business, published by Jossey-Bass in September 2002. He has presented and trained around the world for organizations including the U.S. Department of State, UNCITRAL, the International Chamber of Commerce, and the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution, as well as teaching at UMass-Amherst, Stanford, Southern Methodist University, and Hastings College of the Law. He has written and been interviewed extensively about the Internet since 1999, with columns and articles appearing in ACResolution, Consensus, Dispute Resolution Magazine, and Peace Review. He holds a master's degree from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in conflict resolution and technology, a B.A. in peace studies from Haverford College, and he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Eritrea from 1995-1997.



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Website: www.modria.com

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