For shame : the public humiliation of prosecutors by judges to correct wrongful convictions

Wrongful Convictions Blog

29 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 305 Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics Spring, 2016

Lara Bazelon


Shaming sanctions have a long history in the United States. In the colonial era, judges routinely subjected criminal offenders to a variety of public humiliations that included branding and even maiming. These punishments were designed to exact retribution, deter future misdeeds, and to impress upon the offender the importance of adhering to community norms. Shaming sanctions largely disappeared in the early 1800s with the rise of the prison industrial complex, only to reappear in courtrooms across the country in the early 1990s, when trial judges began to demand that offenders write public apologies, mop streets they had desecrated, and wear signs proclaiming their offenses to the world.

Now, a new shame sanction is on the horizon with a wholly unexpected cast of characters. The shamers are federal appellate judges; the shamed are prosecutors who…

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