November 8, 2022


Carissa Byrne HessickMILWAUKEE — University of North Carolina law professor Carissa Byrne Hessick will host the Marquette University Law School’s Baroque Lecture on Criminal Law on Tuesday, November 15 at 4:30 p.m. at Eckstein Hall, 1215 W. Michigan St keep.

In a separate event on the same day, Marquette Law School professor Michael M. O’Hear will moderate a lunchtime discussion at 12:15 p.m. with Hessick and three current or former Wisconsin prosecutors, including Milwaukee County Attorney John Chisholm. The session is titled “Prosecutors and Politics: A Conversation About – and With – Prosecutors”.

Registration is required for both events. Media interested in attending either event should contact Kevin Conway, Associate Director of University Communication, at [email protected]

For the Baroque Lecture, Hessick — who is Anne Shea Ransdell and William Garland “Buck” Ransdell, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law at UNC — will present “Democracy in the Criminal Justice System: An Assessment.” In theory, the American criminal justice system is highly democratic: whether through the appointment of juries and grand juries, the election of local prosecutors and sheriffs, or the constant revision of criminal laws, the United States gives its citizens a significant contribution not only to general criminal justice policy, but even results in specific ones cases. In practice, however, it is very different: Very few criminal cases come to court; most prosecutors and sheriffs run unopposed; and when asked to vote, most Americans are uninformed or misinformed on even the most basic criminal justice issues.

The lecture will suggest that we can improve this bleak picture of criminal justice democracy – but only with a significant investment of time and attention from both the legal community and society at large.

Hessick is Director of the Prosecutors and Politics Project at UNC. Her teaching and research interests focus on criminal law, the structure of the criminal justice system, and criminal sentencing, and she has taught and written extensively in these areas. Hessick holds a JD from Yale University and a BA from Columbia University. Before entering the teaching profession, she practiced law and worked for the Hon. Barbara S. Jones (SDNY) and Hon. A. Raymond Randolph (DC Cir.).

The Barrock Lecture is supported by a legacy from the late Mary Barrock Bonfield to honor her parents, George and Margaret Barrock. George Barrock graduated from Law School in 1931.

Prosecutors and Politics: A conversation about – and with – prosecutors

District attorneys are attorneys, but in Wisconsin and most other states they are also elected officials, which can add a political flavor to their role. In recent years, the political dimension of law enforcement has received greater attention in some major cities with the emergence of the phenomenon of “progressive prosecution”. In any case, given the central role of the prosecutor in the American criminal justice system, the question of how politics and law enforcement intersect is undoubtedly significant.

Few researchers have devoted themselves to this question as intensively as Hessick. Recent reports from the UNC Prosecutors and Politics Project have focused on issues such as campaign contributions in prosecutor elections, prosecutor lobbying, and campaigning against incumbent prosecutors. Hessick will present some of her latest research and will be approached for comment by Chisholm, Marathon County District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon, and Christian Gossett, former Winnebago County District Attorney.

About Marquette University Law School

Through public programs such as the Marquette Law School poll, “On the Issues” conversations with newsmakers, public speaking engagements by leading scholars, conferences on issues of public concern, and the work of the Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education, Marquette Law School serves as an important site for civil discourse on legal and public affairs in this region.

About Marquette University

Marquette University is a Catholic Jesuit university located near the heart of downtown Milwaukee that offers a comprehensive range of majors in 11 nationally and internationally recognized colleges and schools. By educating hearts and minds, Marquette prepares our 11,100 undergraduate, graduate, graduate, and professionals to lead, excel, and serve as agents of positive change. And we deliver results. Marquette is ranked in the top 20% of national universities and is recognized as the sixth best university in the country for placement for undergraduate education, innovation and career preparation. Our focus on student success and immersive, personalized learning experiences encourages students to think critically and engage with the world around them. When students graduate with a Marquette degree, they are truly prepared and called to make a difference.


About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is Associate Director of College Communications in the Office of College Relations. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or [email protected]