This week’s interview is with Dr. Sanaz Alasti, a Scholar in Residence at the Law Library of Congress. Dr. Alasti is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Lamar University and an Iranian legal scholar. This interview is conducted as part of a series of interviews that introduce our scholars and summer interns to In Custodia Legis readers.
Describe your background
I was born in Tehran, Iran. I received my LL.B (Bachelor of Laws) and my LL.M (Master of Laws) in criminal law and criminology from Tehran University, and my S.J.D. (Scientiae Juridicae Doctor) from Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco, California. I’m currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at Lamar University, Texas State University System.
I am the author of seven books on various aspects of the criminal justice system. I served at the ACLU of Northern California and subsequently worked at the Habeas Corpus Resource Center on a project analyzing the relationship between sentencing outcomes and racial characteristics in homicide cases charged and sentenced in Tulare County, CA. While I was a Ph.D. student, I met some amazing legal scholars in San Francisco and Berkeley who took me under their wings and mentored me. So in the end I was able to do some cutting-edge research and I got invited to Harvard Law School as a post-doctoral fellow.
I teach and write about comparative criminal justice systems. I love teaching students. I teach courses on the death penalty and other general criminal justice issues at both undergraduate and graduate levels. I’m an anti-death penalty activist. I have written several articles and books over the years to introduce my views on capital punishment, and I saw that many human right activists found my publications useful. My hope is to strengthen the international dimension of the fight against the death penalty. My ultimate goal is to assist in bringing about the universal abolition of the death penalty. To achieve this goal I travel extensively to speak against the death penalty. What I think is more interesting is how growing up in Iran has influenced my writing on punishments. I am finishing a book about the use of the death penalty in the Middle East, and I want this book to reach the widest possible audience.
Why did you want to do research at the Law Library of Congress?
The Law Library of Congress has the largest legal collection in the world. It has been my good fortune to use the collection of the Law Library to conduct legal research, utilize my expertise to analyze Iranian legal issues, and work on topics such as presidential elections in Iran, property rights, water laws, and on legal citation formats for the Bluebook. I believe that by using the great resources of the Library of Congress I was able to produce a better quality research product. The Law Library of Congress is an ideal place to achieve excellence in the study of foreign law by providing the opportunity to extensively use the Library’s rare and special collection. Currently, I’m working on an In Custodia Legis post to highlight Iran legal sources in the Law Library for the Global Legal Collection Highlights series.
What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?
The collection of the Library of Congress is vast. That is why the Library of Congress, and for me the Law Library specifically, is a research institution where any study can be conducted with maximum efficiency. If you are a non-Farsi speaking legal researcher, an attorney, or an educational institution interested in conducting legal research about Iran, the Law Library of Congress has extensive primary and secondary sources that may be useful to you. Also, the benefit of meeting foreign law specialists from different countries is incredible. I found opportunities for networking that I would otherwise not have been able to develop. I also learned from the very impressive international scholars here at GLRC about the legal systems of other jurisdictions.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
… that I love rodeo, and I enjoy listening to Bluegrass music.