Jed S. Rakoff is a United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. (May 2016)


Neuroscience and the Law: Don’t Rush In

‘Deer, Boy’; drawing by James Edward Deeds Jr. from an album of nearly three hundred drawings that he made during his thirty-seven years as an inmate at a psychiatric hospital in Nevada, Missouri, starting in 1936. The drawings are collected in The Electric Pencil: Drawings from Inside State Hospital No. 3, with an introduction by Richard Goodman and a foreword by Harris Diamant, just published by Princeton Architectural Press.
As you sit reading this, you probably experience an internal voice, unheard by any outsider, that verbally repeats the words you see on the page. That voice (which, in your case, speaks perfect English) is part of what we call your conscious mind. And the physical organ that causes what …

The Magna Carta Betrayed?

King John of England approving the Magna Carta in 1215; illustration by John Leech, 1875
The year 2015 marked the eight hundredth anniversary of one of the most celebrated, and least read, of the world’s legal texts: the Magna Carta. The great twentieth-century British jurist Lord Denning described the Magna Carta as “the greatest constitutional document of all times—the foundation of the freedom of the …

A Fear of Foreign Law

Stephen Breyer

The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities

by Stephen Breyer
Perhaps no other member of the US Supreme Court has such an affinity for matters foreign as Justice Stephen Breyer. Married to a British clinical psychologist, and himself a member of France’s exclusive Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, Justice Breyer has thought long and hard about the relationship between …

The Cure for Corporate Wrongdoing: Class Actions vs. Individual Prosecutions

Lithograph by Honoré Daumier, 1847

Entrepreneurial Litigation: Its Rise, Fall, and Future

by John C. Coffee Jr.
Class actions are among the most controversial forms of litigation in the United States today. To their advocates, they provide an opportunity for interested private citizens to have a meaningful role in combating corporate misconduct, supplementing or even substituting for inadequate regulatory oversight. To their detractors, however, class actions are not much more than a racket.

Mass Incarceration: The Silence of the Judges

Chris Gage, an inmate at Louisiana State Penitentiary—where a majority of inmates are serving life sentences without parole, many of them for nonviolent crimes—and three-time winner of the ‘guts and glory’ event at the semiannual Angola Prison Rodeo, in which prisoners try to grab a red poker chip that has been tied to the head of a bull, October 2014. Proceeds from the rodeo go to the Inmate Welfare Fund, which provides for educational and recreational supplies within the prison.

What Caused the Crime Decline?

a report by Oliver Roeder, Lauren-Brooke Eisen, and Julia Bowling, with a foreword by Joseph E. Stiglitz and an executive summary by Inimai Chettiar
For too long, too many judges have been too quiet about an evil of which we are a part: the mass incarceration of people in the United States today. It is time that more of us spoke out.

Justice Deferred Is Justice Denied

Brandon Garrett, author of Too Big to Jail, a detailed investigation of deferred corporate prosecutions and their failure to achieve ‘meaningful structural or ethical reform’ within the companies that receive them, Charlottesville, Virginia, April 2012

Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations

by Brandon L. Garrett
At bottom, corporate fraud amounts to little more than executives lying for business purposes, and prosecution depends on proving that the lies were intentional. Are the changes forced upon companies by deferred prosecution agreements likely to materially change the decision of these individuals to lie when it suits their goals?