Professsor Ryan Sakoda is studying how representation by a Federal Defender impacts the criminal charges, convictions, and sentences of federal criminal defendants.
Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Ryan Sakoda, associate professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, is currently working on an empirical analysis of crime and criminal justice policy, criminal law and procedure, and law and economics. He has recently written on the use of solitary confinement and the effects of post-release supervision and probation.

We caught up with Professor Ryan Sakoda to learn more about his research:

Can you tell us about a research topic you are working on this summer?  

My research focuses on the empirical analysis of the criminal legal system.

One of the research topics I will work on this summer is an empirical study of Federal Defenders (federal public defenders). Specifically, using federal criminal case data, I plan to study how representation by a Federal Defender impacts the criminal charges, convictions, and sentences of federal criminal defendants.


How does the research strengthen the area of law you are in? 

Legal and social science scholarship on the institutions surrounding the criminal legal system, including legal representation, helps inform policy and identify areas for productive reform. Studying different forms of indigent defense will help improve our understanding of how to strengthen public defense systems across the country.


What are emerging trends you are seeing in this area of legal research?

There is an increasing trend among legal scholars to make use of mixed methodologies to study legal issues. For example, research that employs sophisticated empirical techniques in conjunction with more traditional forms of legal scholarship has accelerated in recent years, and the growing interest and emphasis among law schools and law journals in interdisciplinary scholarship has provided more opportunities for collaboration between legal scholars and scholars in other disciplines. This trend has had productive impacts in many areas of law.


Where do you see opportunities for more research in this field?  

With respect to indigent criminal defense, there are many opportunities for more research.

Models of indigent criminal defense vary greatly between jurisdictions. For example, a model that has gained a lot of attention in recent decades is the holistic model of criminal defense, which provides support to clients, not only for their criminal case, but for other areas where they may face difficult life circumstances such as housing, employment, education, mental health, and immigration.

This model has the promise of positively impacting client outcomes and reducing the risk of future contact with the criminal legal system. Additional research on the impact of holistic defense and other forms of indigent defense would be a valuable direction for future research.