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Penn Law’s Quattrone Center and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys hold Innovation in Prosecution Summit

November 26, 2018

On November 15 and 16, Penn Law hosted the 5th Innovation in Prosecution Summit, presented by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys in partnership with the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice. The summit discussed emerging issues for prosecutors and allowed attendees to share initiatives aimed at improving the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

John Hollway, Executive Director of the Quattrone Center, opened the symposium by talking about the changing role of the prosecutor and its importance. His introduction summed up the increasing calls for “personalized and utilitarian justice,” and argued that prosecutors must adjust to communities that are now defining what justice means to them. He stressed the work that the Quattrone Center does to improve quality in the criminal justice system by designing, implementing, and evaluating new approaches.

The Executive Director of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), Dave LaBahn, described the summit as an opportunity to talk through new innovations. He then introduced Dan Satterberg, chair of the APA’s Board of Directors, who delivered the keynote address, entitled “Emerging Issues and a Changing Profession?”

Satterberg began his address by sharing how his own perspective on his job has changed over the course of his practice. Explaining that he used to think enforcing the law was the same as doing justice, he described his job now as using his discretion to decide a path to justice that is both legal and the right thing to do.

 “Our superpower is our discretion, and it comes to us because of the elected nature of our work,” he said, pointing to discretion as the most important tool that prosecutors have. He was recently re-elected as the King County Prosecuting Attorney in Seattle, Washington, a position he has held since 2007.

Satterberg addressed the various issues plaguing criminal justice reform, focusing on racism and domestic violence. “We can’t really talk about criminal justice reform and innovations in a vacuum without first talking about racial justice issues in America,” he said. He highlighted the importance of mandatory trainings on implicit bias and cultural competency. “The most dangerous cohort in America are my angry white brothers, and we have to figure out why,” Satterberg added. He also spoke about the work his office does in trying to address juvenile and domestic violence at the earliest possible stage, before it results in incarceration.

“Criminal justice reform is fundamentally about building alternatives to the courthouse, and about envisioning things that aren’t there and working with communities and finding the money to create a curriculum that’s going to be more appropriate, more just, and get the buy-in of the community that we serve,” he said. He called this shared discretion “community justice.”

He described initiatives that his own office has taken to make this happen, including a project called “Choose 180” in which juveniles who have had a brush with the law attend community-run workshops at the Seattle University Law School instead of being arrested.

“Developing teenage brains do stupid things and come to us, and we really don’t have a good solution in the court other than to brand them as a defendant, give them a criminal conviction and send them on their way. Instead, in the community justice model, we take our power [as prosecutors] and our problems, and share it with the community,” he said.

As a prosecutor working toward criminal justice reform, he said, “[y]ou have to be more than a cheerleader. You have to be a visionary and a financier, and you have to pick really good partners to stick with it, and make it a job for people,” he explained.

The prosecutor’s role, Satterberg emphasized, has expanded to include various tasks. He laid out five ways in which the prosecutors’ offices can help communities, which include diverting people away from crime, building treatment options for behavioral health disorders, criminal justice reform and firearm removal, prison programming, and helping people re-enter society from prison.

“The sandbox you play in is not the courthouse, it’s your entire community,” Satterberg concluded.

After the keynote, the summit broke out into various panels. The first day included panels on “Conviction Integrity Units,” “Working with the Defense Towards Innovative Practices,” and “Risk Assessments.” The second day included sessions on “Brady and Ethics in Plea Negotiations,” “Recording Interrogation,” “Forensics and Crime Labs,” and “Body Worn Cameras.” The last session of the summit addressed officer involved shootings.