CrimProf Blog

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

Friday, April 12, 2019

"How Do We Know If Prosecutors Are Doing A Good Job?"

Jeffrey Bellin (William & Mary) has this piece at Law360. In part:

Sometimes prosecutors get criticized because they deserve it. Other times, the criticism comes from the fact that the American criminal justice system is flawed and complex, and prosecutors are its most misunderstood component. Even among experts, there is little agreement about how we should evaluate prosecutor performance.

The traditional view is that prosecutors are dull public servants, with little role in making policy. Their job is to enforce the law. Mueller is an example of an old-school, “enforce the law” prosecutor. If he talked to the media (old-school prosecutors don’t), he would dismiss all the fuss, saying that his team focused on its assigned task, pausing only to address any law-breaking it uncovered along the way. For those on the other side of the political aisle, Jeff Sessions is the model. While progressive prosecutors rush to dismiss marijuana cases, Sessions, our former attorney general, wanted to federally prosecute marijuana offenses even in states that decriminalized the drug.

But the prosecutors-enforce-the-law narrative has always been too simplistic.

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