CrimProf Blog

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

Friday, June 24, 2022

Hessick on Prosecutor Lobbying

Carissa Byrne Hessick (University of North Carolina School of Law) has posted The Prosecutors and Politics Project: Prosecutor Lobbying in the States, 2015-2018 on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This report presents the findings of a national study of prosecutor lobbying in state legislatures. American prosecutors are active lobbyists who routinely support making the criminal law harsher. During the years 2015 to 2018, state and local prosecutors were involved in more than 25% of all criminal-justice-related bills introduced in the 50 state legislatures. Prosecutors were nearly twice as likely to lobby in favor of a law that created a new crime or otherwise increased the scope of criminal law than a law that would create a defense, decriminalize conduct, or otherwise narrow the scope of criminal law. And when state prosecutors lobbied in favor of a bill, it was more than twice as likely to pass than an average bill.

Prosecutors appeared to have more success when they lobbied in favor of a bill than when they opposed a bill. Although bills with prosecutor support were twice as likely to pass, prosecutor opposition to a bill did not reduce its likelihood of passing.

Notably, prosecutors were more successful when they supported criminal justice reform bills than when they supported traditional law-and-order bills. Approximately 60% of bills that narrowed the scope of criminal law and 55% of bills that decreased punishment passed when supported by prosecutors. In contrast, when prosecutors supported bills that increased the scope of criminal law, only 40% of those bills passed; and bills that increased punishments did not fare much better, passing only 42% of the time.

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