Beyond Aaron’s Law: Reining in Prosecutorial Overreach

Beyond Aaron’s Law: Reining in Prosecutorial Overreach

Session Type(s): Panel

Starts: Saturday, Jun. 22 6:00 PM (Eastern)

Ends: Saturday, Jun. 22 7:15 PM (Eastern)

Room: 212 BD

Aaron Swartz’ death awakened the Netroots community to two things: the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act permits prosecutors to criminalize activist activities, and prosecutorial tactics often deliver injustice. This panel will address the second problem: exposing how pervasive those tactics are, what kind of injustices result, how it rots our democracy and what we might do about it. While this panel will review three troubling cases brought by Carmen Ortiz (Swartz’ prosecutor) including Swartz’, it will also show how similar abuses happen all over the country. They happen disproportionately to people of color and the poor, largely in the name of fighting drugs and terror. The panel will discuss what—beyond fighting such tactics in the courtroom—activists can do to reverse this trend.


Marcy Wheeler


Marcy writes about national security and civil liberties her site,, and for the Guardian, Salon, and the Nation. She is best known for live-blogging the Scooter Libby trial and reporting the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded. In 2009 she won the Hillman Prize for blog journalism.

Other sessions: What We Can Do to Expose "Red, White and Blue-Washing"

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Shayana Kadidal

Shayana Kadidal

Shayana Kadidal is senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo project at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City. He is a 1994 graduate of Yale Law School, a former law clerk to Judge Kermit Lipez, and taught at Michigan Law School this spring. In his 12 years at the center, he has worked on a number of significant cases in the wake of 9/11, including challenges to the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay (among them torture victims Mohammed al Qahtani and former CIA ghost detainee Majid Khan), which have twice reached the U.S. Supreme Court, to the “material support” statute (Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, decided by the Supreme Court in 2010), to the low rates of black firefighter hiring in New York City, and to the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program. Along with others at the center, he currently serves as counsel to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.

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Elliot Peters


Elliot R. Peters, Partner, Keker & Van Nest LLP: For three decades Elliot Peters has litigated, tried and advised clients in some of the nation’s most high-profile, high-stakes complex commercial and white collar criminal cases. Mr. Peters has tried more than 50 cases on behalf of CEOs, leading law firms, and major corporations. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He has also been named Attorney of the Year by California Lawyer and The Recorder, the Litigator of the Week by The American Lawyer, and one of the Top 100 Attorneys in California by the Daily Journal. Mr. Peters was representing Aaron Swartz against criminal charges filed against him by the United States Attorney in Boston at the time of Aaron’s suicide.

Jonathan Simon

I’m a criminologist and legal scholar with broad interests in criminalization, mass incarceration, and the sociology of law. My current work concerns what I consider the “end game” of mass incarceration. Many Americans now agree that too many people are in prison and that prisons cost too much. But too few recognize the depth of the human rights crisis mass incarceration created, or the challenge to human dignity that remains in place.

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