Clinical Professor Wendy Kaplan Publishes in Massachusetts Law Review

06.29.10

Professor Wendy Kaplan
Professor Wendy Kaplan

Professor Wendy Kaplan’s latest publication tackles the dynamic world of sentencing practice in the Massachusetts district courts. The article lays out the foundational concepts of sentencing practice and provides an overview of sentencing options available in the district court.

“Too often, sentencing practice is ignored during case preparation because the advocate is concentrating on the legal issues, not the dispositional ones.  A zealous advocate must consider the potential sentencing decisions as well as the trial decisions,” said Professor Kaplan. “Sentencing should never be considered as an afterthought or a boilerplate argument.  We are dealing with individuals and not all sentences are appropriate for every person.  This article will help practitioners and judges  engage in more enlightened sentencing practice by understanding the range of sentencing options and where the areas of discretion are allowed.”

The article highlights the collateral consequences of a conviction.  A conviction can affect eligibility for public housing benefits, educational scholarship assistance, and professional licensing, to name a few. “Sometimes we see an 18-19 year old who gets branded for life because of some  minor criminal infraction that we would not find reprehensible.  Even though the actual sentence might be light, the collateral consequences of the conviction have the potential to punish the young adult in perpetuity.”

Professor Kaplan teaches in BU Law’s Criminal Law Clinic. The Clinic teaches students to prepare two parallel tracks for each case: the legal argument  and the sentencing argument. Although in practice the disposition phase often gets short shrift, BU Clinic students learn early on to always prepare well thought-out sentencing recommendations.

“Ultimately, the goal is to individualize the defendant before the court so that the judge has a broad picture of the person standing there,” said Professor Kaplan.  “Not only is this approach more humane, but we do a disservice to defendants and to society by adopting a one-size-fits-all approach that punishes defendants without considering their contributions, their potential, and their life circumstances.”

For the full text of the article, click here.