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The Future Regulation of Plea Bargaining Examined at National Symposium

Legal scholars, judges and practitioners will convene at Duquesne University to explore the significance and impact of two recent landmark decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court that reiterated a criminal defendant's Sixth Amendment right to having an effective lawyer during plea-bargain negotiations.

The School of Law will present Plea Bargaining After Lafler and Frye, a national symposium, on Thursday, Feb. 28, and Friday, March 1, at Duquesne University.

"Prior to the Supreme Court's decisions Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye, defendants had a right to counsel during the plea bargaining process, but they were not guaranteed a competent lawyer during this phase of the proceedings," said Associate Law Professor Wes Oliver, director of the law school's Criminal Justice Program. 

"This is ironic given that 95 percent of all criminal convictions are the result of a guilty plea."

The Supreme Court's rulings raise a number of questions, such as "What does it mean to be a competent negotiator?" and "What remedy should a defendant receive when his client has been represented by a less than competent plea bargainer?" among others. 

"These rulings may be more important as they foreshadow future regulation of plea bargaining," Oliver explained.

A keynote speech by the Hon. W. Louis Sands of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, will kick off the symposium at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday in the School of Law. The Hon. Frank Easterbrook of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will present opening remarks at 9 a.m. on Friday, which will be followed by panel discussions on topics including changes in the plea process; evaluating the effectiveness of a criminal negotiator; and whether plea bargaining is legitimate. Scholars from a dozen law schools and universities will serve as panelists, with prominent Pittsburgh jurists serving as moderators.

"We are honored to host one of the most significant symposia ever held on this important topic," said Law Dean Ken Gormley. "The event is attracting national attention among lawyers, judges and experts in the field of criminal justice and the plea bargaining process."

Co-sponsors for the symposium include the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section White Collar Crime Committee, Mid-Atlantic Region, and Wolters Kluwer.

Plea Bargaining After Lafler and Frye is open to the legal community. Six hours of continuing legal education credits are available for March 1. For cost information, a detailed symposium schedule and to register, visit www.duq.edu/law/pleabargaining.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.