CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

McCannon on Prosecutor and Public Defender Elections

Bryan C. McCannon (West Virginia University - College of Business & Economics) has posted Debundling Accountability: Prosecutor and Public Defender Elections in Florida on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
I explore the impact of public defender and prosecutor elections using caseload data from Florida. While most states within the U.S. use popular elections to select and retain prosecutors, public defenders are typically appointed positions. Florida is novel in that for both positions popular, partisan elections are used to select the office's leader. I first document important distortions in pre-trial case handling. A public defender re-election is associated with an increase in the proportion of cases resolved via plea bargaining, while prosecutor re-elections are associated with less plea bargaining. At the trial phase, I present evidence that public defender re-elections are associated with a decrease in the proportion of jury trials that result in a conviction, while a prosecutor re-election coincides with an increase in the conviction rate. The results are consistent with voters holding both of these elected officials accountable for doing their job. Public defenders are able to obtain plea bargains at a higher rate and secure acquittals for their clients when up for re-election. Prosecutors do not plea bargain as much and win at trial when up for re-election.

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