Lawyer to focus on the criminal justice system for Constitution Day event
Riverside, Calif. (Sept. 13, 2023) – The Department of History and Government at California Baptist University is holding a Constitution Day event on Sept. 14. The annual observance marks the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.
The talk will feature Matthew T. Martens, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who has served as a law clerk for the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney during his nearly 30-year career.
His talk is titled “Christian Criminal Justice." We asked him about the topic.
What will your talk be about?
My talk is about how we as Christians should think about the American criminal justice system. I want to provide a Christian framework for thinking about the issue and the way the framers of our country designed the criminal justice system through our Constitution.
Why is this topic important to you?
I have worked as a criminal lawyer, both as a prosecutor and as a defense lawyer, for 20+ years handling virtually every type of case imaginable, from capital murder to bank robbery to drug trafficking to securities fraud to tax evasion. I’ve seen up close how crime and the criminal justice system impact victims, defendants and the families of both. But I didn’t start thinking early enough how to approach being a criminal lawyer in a distinctively Christian way. I want to help other Christians learn from my belated thinking about the moral and ethical issues our justice system presents.
What do you want the audience to get from your talk?
I hope people take away from my talk that Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves applies to our neighbors who are both victims and perpetrators of crime. I want to provide concrete ways to think about how to love those neighbors better. The core of what it means to love our neighbors – in the context of criminal justice – means judging accurately, which depends on due process. But what we profess isn’t always what we uphold. I want the audience to understand the ways in which we are failing as a country to live up to our constitutional commitment to due process.
Constitution Day Event
3:30-5 p.m. Sept. 14
Yeager Center D223A (Copenbarger Room)