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Scholar-Practitioner Leads the Way


When studying the intricacies of the law, it’s best to learn from the scholars and practitioners who shape it. At Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, students have the opportunity to explore the complexities of criminal sentencing from Professor Steven Chanenson, one of the nation’s foremost experts on the matter.

For his outstanding work in the field of sentencing, Professor Chanenson recently was awarded the prestigious Richard P. Kern Memorial Award by the National Association of Sentencing Commissions (NASC). The award—named in honor of the former Director of the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission— is given by the NASC in recognition of an individual who has contributed greatly to the development of sentencing policy and research. The NASC is a non-profit organization created to facilitate the exchange and sharing of information and expertise and to educate on issues related to sentencing policies, guidelines and commissions.

At Villanova, Chanenson teaches courses on sentencing, criminal law, criminal procedure and white-collar crime. He also serves as the Director of the Villanova Sentencing Workshop and as the Faculty Director of the David F. and Constance B. Girard-diCarlo Center for Ethics, Integrity and Compliance.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania appointed Chanenson as the Chair of the Pennsylvania Suggested Standard Criminal Jury Instruction Committee, which produces jury instructions published by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute.

Chanenson writes primarily in the areas of sentencing and criminal procedure with his works having been published in such journals as the Stanford Law Review, Emory Law Journal, Waseda Proceedings of Comparative Law and Yale Law Journal Pocket Part. His scholarship and work on criminal sentencing, in particular, have gained him national recognition and he has been quoted on the subject by numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune

The Kern Award is only the most recent recognition Chanenson has received for his distinguished record of public service. A longtime policy advocate, Chanenson was a member of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing for nearly 14 years, having been appointed by three successive Governors of Pennsylvania. During his tenure with the Commission, he was its elected Chair from 2012 to 2015, served as the Chair of the Commission’s Research Committee and led the advisory committee for the Commission’s legislatively-directed study of mandatory minimum sentences as well as its Strategic Planning Work Group. Chanenson, at the appointment of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, also served on a committee that advised the Supreme Court on criminal justice reforms for the First Judicial District (Philadelphia) criminal courts.

In 2005, Chanenson received the Judge Joseph Stevens Award for Outstanding Public Service in the Field of Law on behalf of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. He was named a Truman Scholar in 1986 and has been an active member in the Truman Scholar selection process. Chanenson also served as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer in Law from 2008-09 at Xiamen University School of Law in Xiamen, Fujian Province, People’s Republic of China.

An elected member of the American Law Institute, Chanenson is the Liaison from the National Association of Sentencing Commissions to the American Law Institute regarding efforts to revise the sentencing portions of the Model Penal Code. In addition, he is a Managing Editor of and frequent contributor to the Federal Sentencing Reporter (University of California Press/Vera Institute of Justice), the leading professional journal of brief commentary on sentencing law, theory, and reform.