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Penn Law selects groundbreaking researcher Paul Heaton of RAND as Academic Director for Quattrone Center

June 22, 2015

Paul Heaton, a leading scholar of the criminal justice system and economist at the RAND Corporation, has been appointed as the Academic Director of the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, a national research and policy hub created to catalyze long term structural improvements to the U.S. criminal justice system.

Heaton comes to Penn Law from his position as the Director of the RAND Institute for Civil Justice, a national forerunner in the empirical study of the legal system. He was also a Senior Economist at the RAND Corporation and a Professor at Pardee RAND Graduate School.  He specializes in data-driven studies of crime, courts, and legal policy, applying methods that complement the Quattrone Center’s interdisciplinary, “systems approach” to reducing criminal justice errors.

“We are incredibly pleased that Paul Heaton will be joining the Quattrone Center, and we welcome him to the Penn community,” said Wendell Pritchett, Interim Dean of Penn Law and Presidential Professor. “Paul’s groundbreaking approaches to addressing issues in criminal justice are vital to understanding how to improve and ensure the fair administration of justice.”

Heaton’s research on outcomes in the criminal justice system provides unique insight into the true impact of criminal justice policies, practices, and reforms. For example, in a 2012 paper in the Yale Law Journal with co-author James Anderson, Heaton showed that defendants who were represented by public defenders from the Philadelphia Defenders’ Association were 19 percent less likely to be convicted of murder and 62 percent less likely to receive a life sentence, as compared with otherwise similar defendants with court-appointed counsel. Public defenders also reduced expected time served in prison by 24 percent. Heaton’s research was ultimately used by David Rudovsky, a Senior Fellow at Penn, in litigation that resulted in significant improvements to Philadelphia’s system of compensating appointed counsel. Other work by Heaton has been published in leading scholarly journals in law, medicine, public health, and economics.

Heaton’s awards and honors include a RAND Gold Medal Award and the Huddleson Outstanding Teacher Award from Pardee RAND Graduate School. He was also the Stephen J. Carroll Distinguished Scholar in Insurance and Liability Policy and a Robert Pike Distinguished Scholar at RAND.  His research has been supported by grants from the National Institute for Justice, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Consortium on Violence Research.

Heaton earned his BA in economics from Brigham Young University and an MA and PhD in economics from the University of Chicago.

“Paul’s expertise as an economist and scholar will provide us with significant insights into how our criminal justice system works and how it could be working more fairly,” said John Hollway, Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Quattrone Center. “Paul is a national thought-leader in the field of criminal justice, and his skills are perfect to enhance the interdisciplinary, systems approach we’re committed to at the Quattrone Center.”

Founded in 2013, the Quattrone Center has pioneered a “systems approach” to criminal justice, using data and evaluative techniques from other complex systems to engage in collaborations with criminal justice practitioners designed to identify, address, and evaluate the largest causes of errors in the criminal justice system. 

Most recently, the Center paired with the Montgomery County (PA) District Attorney’s Office to use root cause analysis on a criminal case where a significant investigative error occurred. The partnership earned the Quattrone Center and the District Attorney’s Office an “Innovations in Criminal Justice” Award from the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. The Center has also initiated a first-of-its-kind study into plea bargaining outcomes with the San Francisco Public Defenders’ Office and is collaborating with the San Francisco DA, Police Department, and Public Defender on a review of DNA evidence policies and procedures.