March 19, 2010
Professor David Sonenshein of the Temple Law School delivered the 39th annual Lou Ashe Symposium Lecture on March 17, 2010, to a standing-room-only crowd in the McGeorge courtroom.
Sonenshein, who has earned a reputation as one of the preeminent American legal scholars on the subject of Evidence, spoke on how "The Misuse of Other-Acts Evidence Obliterates The Rule Against Convicting on Propensity." Federal Rule of Evidence 404 bans propensity evidence -- the use of an actor's other acts to prove his character and, thereby, "action in conformity therewith." Informally, this is known as the "he's done it before, so that's the kind of guy he is, so he must have done it here" rule. Sonensheim discussed the ways in which the safe harbor of Rule 404(b) -- the use of other acts "for other purposes, such as motive, opportunity, intent" -- threatens to swallow the overall rule banning propensity convictions.
Sonenshein is serving as the Distinguished Advocate in Residence this week at McGeorge. His schedule includes a faculty colloquium on March 18, a luncheon presentation to local attorneys on March 19, and his participation as a judge in the law school's three-day National Ethics Trial Competition that concludes the following day.
Sonenshein has had a distinguished teaching career. He began his career at Boston University and has also taught at DePaul University and George Washington University, where he was the Lyle T. Alverson Professor of Law. At Temple, he was named the I. Herman Stern Professor of Law in 1992. He is co-author with the late Irving Younger and Michael Goldsmith of the casebook Principles of Evidence. He has also co-authored ten other books on Evidence as well as a number of articles on Evidence and Civil Procedure.
The Lou Ashe Lecture Series was named after the late Melvin Belli's law partner, Lou Ashe, who funded an annual practical legal symposium in 1972. Ashe was a leading medical malpractice attorney in his own right and a member of McGeorge's advisory board in the 1970s. Other well-known presenters in the series have included Gloria Allred, Robert Shapiro, Marvin Mitchelson, Richard Haynes, Vincent Bugliosi, Pierce O'Donnell and Tony Serra.