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John Salsberg

  • Inside our secret courts

    October 1, 2018

    Every year, tens of thousands of cases wind up in secret court sessions — formally known as “show cause hearings” — that are presided over by court clerks and usually held for suspects who haven’t been arrested and don’t pose a flight risk or danger to others. People are generally entitled to these hearings for misdemeanors, but police can request them for felonies as well. The quality of justice behind the clerks’ closed doors can depend on where the hearing is held, who you know, or the color of your skin, according to a Spotlight Team investigation...Criminal defense attorney John Salsberg said he has seen countless cases that have been correctly resolved in clerks’ hearings — cases that should never have gone into the regular criminal justice system. Since the 1980s, he has worked as a supervising attorney with the Harvard Defenders, a Harvard Law School organization that represents individuals at these criminal proceedings. “Just because something’s a crime doesn’t mean it needs to be prosecuted,” Salsberg said. “And I think the clerks have enough experience to know which complaints should end up issuing and which shouldn’t.”

  • A group of 8 people seated around a table engaged in conversation

    Harvard Defenders: 65 years of legal service to the community

    October 9, 2015

    85 Harvard Law students participate each year in Harvard Defenders, a student practice organization in which they represent low-income clients in criminal show-cause hearings.