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First of Minow Debates on Prosecutorial Overreach

Time to rein in prosecutors? Leading lawyers, former prosecutors take opposite sides

  • Northwestern Law hosts first Minow Debate Series Nov. 10
  • Debate by leading lawyers: Paul Butler, Nancy Gertner, David Hoffman and Reid Schar
  • Debate series honors Newt Minow’s contributions to public and civic life
  • Debate to be broadcast live on public radio stations and streamed live online nationwide 

CHICAGO --- Does prosecutorial abuse threaten our legal system and democracy itself? The answer very much depends on your perspective. Leading lawyers will argue opposite sides in a debate titled “U.S. Prosecutors Have Too Much Power.”  

The debate is the first of the Newt and Jo Minow Debate Series, presented in partnership with Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates. Hosted by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, it will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, in the Law School’s Thorne Auditorium, 375 E. Chicago Ave., in Chicago. 

The debate will be recorded live for broadcast on public radio stations and streamed live online for audiences nationwide on Fora.tv.

The debate is free and open to the public, but registration is requested. It is approved for 1.5 Professional Responsibility CLE credits.

Newton N. Minow, a 1950 graduate of Northwestern Law, is the originator of the televised U.S. presidential debates, which inspired the idea to honor his legacy with a permanent debate program at his alma mater. 

Critics insist an epidemic of prosecutorial abuse, encouraged by an opacity and lack of accountability, is in critical need of being addressed. Others argue that when the system works well, prosecutors are able to effectively try crimes of great complexity. 

The lawyers who will argue that prosecutors have too much power will be Paul Butler, professor at Georgetown Law, former U.S. federal prosecutor and author of “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice,” and Nancy Gertner, senior lecturer at Harvard Law School and former U.S. federal judge. Opposing perspectives will be presented by David Hoffman, a partner at Sidley Austin LLP and former U.S. federal prosecutor, and Reid Schar ’97 JD, a partner at Jenner & Block and former U.S. federal prosecutor. Schar prosecuted former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The Minow Debate Series is made possible by friends and colleagues of Minow, who donated funds to honor his numerous contributions to public and civic life by establishing an endowment to support a series of debates that engage outside experts, law school faculty and students on important and timely legal topics.

Appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1960s, Minow drafted legislation that expanded the broadcast spectrum and promoted the implementation of communication satellite technology.

Minow also served as law clerk to the Honorable Fred M. Vinson, chief justice of the United States; assistant counsel to Ill. Gov. Adlai Stevenson; and chairman and director of the Public Broadcasting Service. He also co-chaired the 1976 and 1980 U.S. presidential debates. He was a partner at Sidley Austin from 1965 to 1991. 

Currently the Walter Annenberg Professor Emeritus at Northwestern, Minow earned both his bachelor’s degree (1949) and his J.D. (1950) from the University. He joined the Northwestern University Board of Trustees in 1975 and became a Life Trustee in 1987. 

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