CrimProf Blog

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

Friday, July 3, 2020

Pohlman on Prosecutors and Catholic Social Teaching

Zachary B. Pohlman (Notre Dame Law School) has posted Catholic Social Teaching and the Role of the Prosecutor (54 Creighton Law Review, Forthcoming 2021) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Prosecutors wield a tremendous amount of power. As the community’s chief law enforcement officials, their investigatory, charging, and trial decisions have a direct impact on the liberty of the criminal defendant on the other side. Catholic Social Teaching, among other important values, seeks to uphold the dignity of all human persons—dignity which includes the freedom to shape one’s life. Therefore, the sweeping power that prosecutors exercise through their prosecutorial discretion at least raises the question: Is being a prosecutor consistent with the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching?

In this Article, I argue that the answer is a resounding “yes.”
While the Catholic Church has clearly defended the State’s legitimate power to punish criminals through the judicial system, the Catholic Social Teaching literature has not directly explicated the prosecutor’s legitimate duties and attendant responsibilities within the State’s criminal justice apparatus. This Article undertakes that task. Building upon and synthesizing the Church’s views on the personalist principle, the inherent value of work, and the legitimate power of the State in fostering peace and justice, this Article shows that despite—and in fact, because of—the immense power and discretion that prosecutors hold, prosecutors can be a true force for the common good within the Catholic Social Teaching framework.

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