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William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

One of my favorite law school classes was Phil Halpern's Criminal Procedure. A smallish group of first year, second semester students took it-- it was really an upper division course, and we were all warned that the material was demanding, and that the workload was going to be intense, but we went for it anyway. Most classes at UB back then were three credit hours, but this was four. The reading was demanding, and Professor Halpern showed no quarter. He's a big guy-- we used to see him using the card catalog in the library, where he'd pull out the drawer and put it on top of the cabinet to riff through it. He has a deep, resonant voice, and he was very, very Socratic. We were all in absolute awe, and killed ourselves trying to keep up. (When he wanted a quick right answer he'd call on our friend Paula Lynch-- now Chief Administrative Justice for the Eighth Judicial Department Paula Feroleto.)

Crim Pro is, basically, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment jurisprudence. It's a lot of ground to cover, and we rode at a gallop for the whole term. It's stuff that has stayed with me, which is a tribute to Professor Halpern. I can't say that I have pet cases from every course I took in law school, but the Crim Pro stuff was thrilling. One of the decisions I have always had a warm spot for is Mapp v. Ohio, which held that the same exclusionary rules that federal Fourth Amendment jurisprudence required were also binding on state law enforcement. The local heat entered Dollree Mapp's house looking for a criminal suspect, and while they were there they found porn (!). It seemed a shame to not arrest her for it, so that's what they did. I had not realized that the case found its way to the Supreme Court on a First Amendment theory, but that's the story. Justice Tom Clark saw the case as an opportunity to make Fourth Amendment law consistent, explaining that "a federal prosecutor may make no use of evidence illegally seized, but a state's attorney across the street may, although he supposedly is operating under the enforceable prohibitions of the same Amendment." Alexander Wohl has a good piece on the decision, its background, and the attacks on it, past and present.

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