Last updated on: 8/15/2008 | Author:

James S. Liebman, PhD Biography

Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law at Columbia University School of Law
Not Clearly Pro or Con to the question "Should the Death Penalty Be Legal?"

“In some states, costs and frustration levels associated with the death penalty may be so high that a more reliable solution to the problem of chronic capital error and its attendant costs and risks may be demanded. In those places, one option is to stop using the death penalty altogether. Another option is to limit its use to a small number of offenses as to which there is close to a social consensus that only the death penalty will serve. The state and case level results underlying our major finding reveal the wisdom of these views [the death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst], and the need to enforce the ‘worst of the worst’ principle strictly in order to bring serious capital error under some sort of control. Now that a range of options are available to respond to the high levels of error in capital sentencing, it is time to either fix it or end it.”

“Getting to Death: Fairness and Efficiency in the Processing and Conclusion of Death Penalty Cases After Furman, Final Technical Report,” National Institute of Justice, Feb. 2004

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law, Columbia University School of Law, 1998-present
  • Member, Executive Committee, Columbia Human Rights Institute, 1999-present
  • Recipient, Champion of Justice Award, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2002
  • Founder and Executive Director, Death Penalty Dialogue Project, 2000-2002
  • Co-chair and then Chair, Appointments Committee, Columbia Law School, 1997-2000
  • Vice Dean, Columbia Law School, 1991-1992
  • Associate Professor of Law, Columbia Law School, 1986-1990
  • Adjunct Faculty, Law, Columbia University, 1985-1986
  • Assistant counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 1979-1985
  • Law Clerk to Justice John Paul Stevens, US Supreme Court, 1978-1979
  • Law Clerk to Judge Carl McGowan, US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1977-1978
  • President, Stanford Law Review, 1976-1977
  • JD, Stanford Law School, 1977
  • BA, summa cum laude, American History, Yale College, 1974
  • None found