Best Practices meeting highlights partnership with prosecutors and Richmond Law

February 8, 2016

Washington, D.C. – A unique collaboration between Virginia’s prosecutors and the University of Richmond School of Law was highlighted recently at a nationwide meeting of statewide Best Practices Committees in Washington, D.C.

Best Practices Committees are non-partisan bodies of prosecutors that include elected and senior prosecutors from urban, suburban, and rural districts throughout a state. Virginia’s panel, called the Committee on Justice and Professionalism, is part of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys (VACA) and was launched in 2014 to provide a venue for education, improvement, and collaboration to insure that criminal prosecutions are conducted in a fair, ethical, and principled manner, according to La Bravia Jenkins, Fredericksburg Commonwealth’s Attorney and VACA President.

Last month, Virginia prosecutors, in conjunction with the University of Richmond Law School, launched The Prosecution Project, a semester-long policy clinic aimed at introducing students to the professional roles of prosecutors, their ethical responsibilities, and the challenges they face in today’s criminal justice arena. In addition, the students are conducting research and analysis on various topics of importance to prosecutors and the public.

The law school collaboration – among the first in the nation – was outlined at the national meeting by Justice and Professionalism co-chair, Theo Stamos, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church. “Most law schools tend to partner with defense attorneys and organizations such as The Innocence Project,” said Stamos. “Our goal with this collaboration was to train the next generation of prosecutors who will continue to serve the public interest in making sure our system works fairly, ethically, and professionally.”

Stamos said the law school initiative was well-received by the national prosecutor group. “A number of attendees asked for copies of the course curriculum and were excited about the prospect of doing a similar collaboration in their own jurisdictions,” she said.

The Prosecution Project is led by Richmond Law professor John Douglass. “The project is off to a great start,” said Douglass. “The VACA Committee on Justice and Professionalism has been an able and enthusiastic partner.” Douglass described the student experience: “Our students ask great questions in weekly small-group discussion with experienced prosecutors, judges, police, and defense attorneys. Those guests have been candid in sharing stories and insights on a variety of topics, including prosecutors’ ethical responsibilities in dealing with police, victims, witnesses, defense counsel, and the media. The students have begun research on emerging practices in Virginia and nationally, and will share their research with the VACA Committee and at VACA’s annual Spring Institute in April.”

The national Best Practices meeting brought prosecutors together from 20 states. Participants shared the ways in which their jobs have evolved in recent years, including increased community outreach, alternatives to incarceration, and intelligence-driven prosecution.