Roberts Leads Prior Conviction Impeachment Discussion at AALS

The AALS has selected a discussion group co-created by Professor Anna Roberts for the 2022 AALS Annual Meeting, which will be held virtually, and which will have the theme of “Freedom, Equality, and the Common Good.”

The discussion group is entitled “Critical Evidence Reform: How Do we Change Prior Conviction Impeachment in the U.S.?”

Confirmed participants include co-organizer Julia Simon-Kerr, John Blume, Bennett Capers, Montré Carodine, Jasmine Gonzales Rose, and Lisa Kern Griffin.

The proposal described the session’s focus as follows:

This discussion group will build on the momentum for reform of various facets of the criminal law to focus attention on the problem of prior conviction impeachment. Evidence law in almost every U.S. jurisdiction now permits witnesses’ prior convictions to be introduced as evidence in order to impeach their credibility. This practice of impeachment by prior conviction has been critiqued on many grounds, many of which are relevant to this year’s theme. Freedom is implicated by the use of convictions to bring about other convictions, often via improper means. Equality is implicated by the way in which longstanding biases along lines of race, in particular, are perpetuated. And the common good is implicated, because of this practice’s detachment from truth-seeking, and its tendency to chill essential testimony from defendants. The session aims to bring together scholars, practitioners and judges to continue efforts begun in early 2021 to organize around this issue and to think systematically about the way forward. How might we bring about long-awaited change in this area? We hope for a broad conversation among the participants and audience-members that will encompass aspects of federal and state practice in both criminal and civil contexts, and that will strengthen a concentrated effort at reform.

Anna Roberts
Professor of Law