NIU Law Professor Evan Bernick authored an article on the recent Michigan school shooting which was published in The Washington Post on December 8. The article discusses how a prosecutor charged the shooter’s parents and how this is likely to be used against black parents soon. Professor Bernick argues that when prosecutors’ powers expand broadly, implicit bias means those powers are used disproportionately against racial minorities.
On November 30, a 15-year-old Michigan student allegedly killed four of his Oxford High School classmates and wounded seven others with a handgun that his parents bought him for Christmas. Three days later, Oakland County prosecutor Karen D. McDonald made the extraordinary decision to charge his parents with involuntary manslaughter–a felony that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. No parent has ever been convicted of a homicide offense in connection with their child’s mass shooting. Professor Bernick cautions that any time that criminal law expands, it may be used to target Black Americans, already disproportionately represented in the growing U.S. prison population. He warns that holding parents responsible for their children’s felonies could contribute to the problem of racialized incarceration, and highlights alternatives approaches to preventing gun violence.
Professor Bernick joined the NIU Law faculty in 2021 where he teaches courses in constitutional law, criminal law, criminal procedure, administrative law and legislation. From 2020 to 2021, Professor Bernick was a visiting professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and the executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. Before that, he served as a clerk to Judge Diane S. Sykes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. From April 2017 to April 2019, he was a visiting lecturer at Georgetown and a resident fellow of the Center for the Constitution.
His scholarship covers a range of topics from constitutional law to philosophy of law, to social movements, to law enforcement. He has published with the Georgetown Law Journal, the Notre Dame Law Review, the William and Mary Law Review and the George Mason Law Review, among other journals. His book, The Original Meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment: Its Letter and Spirit (2021), with Randy E. Barnett, was published by Harvard University Press under its Belknap imprint “for books of long-lasting importance, superior in scholarship and physical production, chosen whether or not they might be profitable.”
Professor Bernick received his bachelor’s degree in 2008 from the University of Chicago, where he studied philosophy and graduated with honors. He received his juris doctorate in 2011 from the University of Chicago Law School.