Department of Justice Guidelines: Balancing 'Discretionary Justice'

36 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2008

See all articles by Ellen S. Podgor

Ellen S. Podgor

Stetson University College of Law


Prosecutors are afforded enormous discretion in a multitude of decisions. Internal guidelines of the Department of Justice (DOJ) assist federal prosecutors in making the decisions that fall within their discretionary realm. Although these guidelines are policy statements and not legislative rules, they offer an element of consistency to the decision-making process, provide education for newcomers to the department, and can serve as a restraint on prosecutorial discretion.

Prosecutors do not always adhere to these internal guidelines. This article studies ways to achieve better compliance. It examines remedies that achieve a balance between continuing the practice of having guidelines and yet also having meaningful policies that are adhered to by department employees.

Keywords: DOJ, white collar crime, guidelines, federal criminal law, criminal law, administrative policy

JEL Classification: K14, K22, K23, K42, K49

Suggested Citation

Podgor, Ellen S., Department of Justice Guidelines: Balancing 'Discretionary Justice'. 13 Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy 167 (2004), Available at SSRN:

Ellen S. Podgor (Contact Author)

Stetson University College of Law ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707
United States
727 562 7348 (Phone)


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