Next 'Hot Topics: Cool Talk' Forum Friday will offer Two Perspectives on Punishment Theory

Two distinct perspectives on punishment theory -- one from a law professor and another from a federal judge – will be presented at the next “Hot Topics: Cool Talk” forum that will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 20, in the Schulze Grand Atrium of the University of St. Thomas’ School of Law, located on the university’s downtown Minneapolis campus.

U.S. Judge Richard Sullivan

Free and open to the public, the Hot Topics: Cool Talk series is sponsored by St. Thomas’ Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy.

The forum’s speakers are U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan, from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and Marc DeGirolami, a member of the faculty at St. John’s University School of Law in New York.

Sullivan, a 1990 graduate of Yale University Law School, was appointed a federal judge in 2007. The Southern District of New York, where he serves, is influential in part because of its jurisdiction over the city’s financial centers.

Marc DeGirolami

DeGirolami, who holds degrees from Harvard University, Boston University School of Law and Columbia University School of Law, teaches courses in criminal law and religion and law. He is the author of Tragedy and History: The Quality of Religious Liberty and has written on the topic of punishment theory.

“What this combination offers is two very distinct perspectives,” explained Mark Osler, a professor at St. Thomas’ School of Law. A former federal prosecutor whose work has consistently confronted the problem of inflexibility in sentencing and corrections, Osler will moderate the April 20 program.

“Judge Sullivan has more experience with tough federal cases than nearly anyone his age in the United States,” Osler said. “Professor DeGirolami is a leading theorist on punishment theory, who writes about the ideals and principles behind exactly what it is that Judge Sullivan does every week: Mete out punishment to those convicted of serious crimes."

Mark Osler

Osler describes Sullivan as a “brilliant young judge who already issued several significant rulings from his chambers in the Southern District of New York. Before taking the bench, he was a leading narcotics prosecutor in New York and now has wrestled with proper punishment from before and behind the bench. His views on punishment have been honed through hundreds of real-life cases.”

DeGirolami, meanwhile, possesses “a comprehensive and academic sense of the theory of punishment outside of any one case. His work is forthright and compelling, drawing from the deep well of Catholic scholarship,” Osler said.

The April 20 program is the eighth in a nine-part series that provides a forum for dialogue on current political issues in a context divorced from the heat of a political campaign. Each program features two or more experts respectfully engaging in a civil discourse on a policy issue important to the 2012 election.

A complimentary lunch will be provided to those who register for the forum online. For more information about the series, and to register for the April 20 forum, visit the Murphy Institute website. An application for continuing-legal-education credits has been submitted.

The forum is co-sponsored by the St. Thomas Law Journal and is part of its spring symposium, “Sentence Commutation and the Executive Pardon Power.”

The remaining forum, on May 3, deals with responsible citizenship.