Sam Rosenfeld

Sam Rosenfeld is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Harvard University and a former web editor at the Prospect.

Recent Articles

Cruel Convergence

For thousands of children with debilitating mental illnesses, the get-tough juvenile-justice culture of the 1990s could not have come at a worse time. The new punitive policies emerged in tandem with the slow breakdown of the public mental-health system, and the confluence has led to a pervasive criminalization of juvenile mental illness. The excesses of the “super-predator”–era juvenile-justice policies are well-known, but just as damaging were the shift in focus and resources they signaled. Punishment came to replace rehabilitation as the core goal of the American juvenile-justice system at the same time that our mental-health system was sinking into a sustained crisis. The failure of community-based mental-health care to meet the needs of children in the wake of national deinstitutionalization served to push mentally ill kids into the juvenile-justice system -- in effect, to reinstitutionalize them, this time into a system woefully ill-equipped to help. In the last 15 years, matters...

Always Political

Advice and Consent: The Politics of Judicial Appointments by Lee Epstein and Jeffrey A. Segal ( Oxford University Press, 192 pages, $23.00 ) When John Roberts testified before the Senate in 2003 on his nomination to a federal appellate court, he described a process that had been used to vet judicial candidates while he served in the Reagan White House. The president's team, according to Roberts, would pose hypothetical situations in which “the legal answer was A, but what this candidate might think we would regard as the politically more appealing result was B. And if that candidate said B, that would raise concerns with us because we think somebody wouldn't follow the law, but would instead follow politics.” Senator Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, was duly impressed. The exchange nicely captured one of the abiding myths that distort the current debate about judicial appointments. Supposedly, if only judges will leave politics aside, they can use chaste...

Pulling Punches

On July 5, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) bought ads in the local papers of six Republican representatives airing questions about various ethical shenanigans and corruption charges. The ad purchase amounted to a measly $36,000, but the Dems promise that this is only the beginning of a national campaign centered on Republican corruption in the run-up to the midterm elections next year. This is an obviously worthy strategy -- and God knows Dems will never lack for material to work from . But alas, some Democrats still appear ominously disinclined to emulate the great lesson of Newt Gingrich's attacks on majority congressional corruption in the early 1990s: You can't run effectively on ethics without getting your hands a bit dirty. In late June, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee held the third in its series of hearings on the sprawling casino-lobbying scandal centering on former Tom DeLay cronies Jack Abramoff and...

Disorder in the Court

On May 12, leading lights of the conservative movement threw a gala banquet at the Capital Hilton in Washington to honor House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in his moment of need. After dessert and a closing invocation by Family Research Council head Tony Perkins, the crowd of almost 800 rose up and began shuffling out of the ballroom. As DeLay shook hands and signed some autographs from his perch on the stage, a tall, sturdy man, clearly a chum of the majority leader's, approached and presented a large framed plaque. Its text was a declaration of support, and a call to arms. “As national conservative leaders,” it read, “we the undersigned decry the attacks on House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's character and the impugning of his motives. We endorse his call to rein in a runaway judiciary.” The undersigned also seconded DeLay's contention “that judicial activism has become the greatest threat confronting representative government,” finally calling on Congress to save the country “from...

Majority Bleeder

Here we are at another prescribed deadline for Bill Frist's detonation of the “nuclear option” to end judicial filibusters. And here we are, watching that deadline get postponed once more. Early last week, everyone in the know seemed sure that the majority leader would pull the trigger in the last days before the Senate begins its weeklong recess on April 29. But by yesterday, April 25, Frist aides had put out word that nuclear action would not, in fact, occur this week, so lawmakers can focus their energies on the highway bill and on conference reports for the Iraq War supplemental and the budget. This cycle of leaked reports touting nuclear action as imminent, followed by inevitable postponement, has recurred a few times during the 109th Congress. (“Senate Republican leaders have decided to begin their use of the ‘nuclear option' … about a month from now,” wrote Bob Novak -- on February 5 .) There are three reasons why the showdown keeps receding into the horizon. First, the...

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