Open Access. Powered by Scholars. Published by Universities.®

Law Commons

Open Access. Powered by Scholars. Published by Universities.®

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Criminal Procedure

Prosecutorial discretion

Publication Year

Articles 1 - 5 of 5

Full-Text Articles in Law

Constitutionally Tailoring Punishment, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas Dec 2013

Constitutionally Tailoring Punishment, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Since the turn of the century, the Supreme Court has begun to regulate non-capital sentencing under the Sixth Amendment in the Apprendi line of cases (requiring jury findings of fact to justify sentence enhancements) as well as under the Eighth Amendment in the Miller and Graham line of cases (forbidding mandatory life imprisonment for juvenile defendants). Though both lines of authority sound in individual rights, in fact they are fundamentally about the structures of criminal justice. These two seemingly disparate lines of doctrine respond to structural imbalances in non-capital sentencing by promoting morally appropriate punishment judgments that are based on ...


Bulk Misdemeanor Justice, Stephanos Bibas Feb 2013

Bulk Misdemeanor Justice, Stephanos Bibas

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This short essay responds to Alexandra Natapoff’s article Misdemeanors, which shines a much-needed spotlight on the mass production of criminal justice and injustice in millions of low-level cases. The prime culprit in Natapoff’s story is the hidden, informal discretion that police officers enjoy to arrest, charge, and effect convictions, abetted by prosecutors’ and judges’ abdication and defense counsel’s absence or impotence. The roots of the problem she identifies, I argue, go all the way down to the system’s professionalization and mechanization. Given the magnitude of the problem, Natapoff’s solutions are surprisingly half-hearted, masking the deeper ...


Taming Negotiated Justice, Stephanos Bibas Jun 2012

Taming Negotiated Justice, Stephanos Bibas

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

After four decades of neglecting laissez-faire plea bargaining, the Supreme Court got it right. In Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper, the Court recognized that the Sixth Amendment regulates plea bargaining. Thus, the Court held that criminal defendants can challenge deficient advice that causes them to reject favorable plea bargains and receive heavier sentences after trial. Finally, the Court has brought law to the shadowy plea-bargaining bazaar.

Writing in dissent, Justice Scalia argued that the majority’s opinion “opens a whole new boutique of constitutional jurisprudence (‘plea-bargaining law’).” To which I say: it is about time the Court developed ...


Sacrificing Quantity For Quality: Better Focusing Prosecutors' Scarce Resources, Stephanos Bibas Apr 2011

Sacrificing Quantity For Quality: Better Focusing Prosecutors' Scarce Resources, Stephanos Bibas

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This short essay responds to Adam Gershowitz’s and Laura Killinger’s article The State (Never) Rests: How Excessive Prosecutorial Caseloads Harm Criminal Defendants. The authors rightly argue that prosecutorial overwork harms justice in any number of ways: it delays cases, frustrates victims, makes it harder to spot and free innocent defendants, and impedes lowering punishments for sympathetic defendants. The root problem, however, is less about underfunding than about skewed priorities and metrics of success. Too often, prosecutors do not think strategically about using their discretion to proactively set priorities and focus on system-wide tradeoffs. Throwing money at the problem ...


The Pitfalls Of Professionalized Prosecution: A Response To Josh Bowers's "Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, And The Equitable Decision Not To Prosecute", Stephanos Bibas Jan 2011

The Pitfalls Of Professionalized Prosecution: A Response To Josh Bowers's "Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, And The Equitable Decision Not To Prosecute", Stephanos Bibas

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This short essay responds to Josh Bowers’ article Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, and the Equitable Decision Not to Prosecute. While most scholars focus on the most visible injustices in the most serious cases, Bowers rightly notes that this sliver of serious felonies is dwarfed by the mountain of minor, low-visibility misdemeanors and violations. Prosecutors are reasonably good at classifying crimes based on legal guilt and administrative criteria, but are far worse at weighing all the particulars and exercising equitable discretion. Our consistent faith in prosecutors’ expertise, Bowers argues, is not only misguided but backwards; we should value outsiders’ fresh perspectives ...