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Calling Your Bluff: How Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys Adapt Plea Bargaining Strategies to Increased Formalization

Justice Quarterly, Vol. 26, 2009

40 Pages Posted: 5 May 2008 Last revised: 17 Feb 2012

Deirdre M. Bowen, J.D., Ph.D.

Seattle University School of Law

Abstract

This ethnographic work examines the inner workings of a highly formalized plea bargaining unit in a large urban prosecutor's office from the lawyers' point of view. Observations of forty two plea negotiations between prosecutors and defense attorneys along with both formal and informal interviews reveal how the legal actors adapt to institutional rules in the pursuit of the both efficiency and justice. In the face of ever increasing prosecutorial power, defense attorneys find ways to equalize the balance when cases don't fit the 'normal crimes' model. Examination of negotiating strategy and discourse give further insight into whether prosecutors and defense attorneys behave differently under highly rationalized systems of plea-bargaining compared with traditional models previously studied.

Keywords: plea bargaining, defense attorneys, prosecutors, criminal justice system

Suggested Citation

Bowen, J.D., Ph.D., Deirdre M., Calling Your Bluff: How Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys Adapt Plea Bargaining Strategies to Increased Formalization. Justice Quarterly, Vol. 26, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1128409

Deirdre M. Bowen (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

206.398.4289 (Phone)

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