The Pitfalls of Professionalized Prosecution: A Response to Josh Bowers's 'Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, and the Equitable Decision Not to Prosecute'

Columbia Law Review Sidebar, Vol. 111, Pg. 14, 2011

U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 13-9

6 Pages Posted: 23 May 2013

See all articles by Stephanos Bibas

Stephanos Bibas

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

This short essay responds to Josh Bowers’s article Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, and the Equitable Decision Not to Prosecute. While most scholars focus on the most visible injustices in the most serious cases, Bowers rightly notes that this sliver of serious felonies is dwarfed by the mountain of minor, low-visibility misdemeanors and violations. Prosecutors are reasonably good at classifying crimes based on legal guilt and administrative criteria, but are far worse at weighing all the particulars and exercising equitable discretion. Our consistent faith in prosecutors’ expertise, Bowers argues, is not only misguided but backwards; we should value outsiders’ fresh perspectives over insiders’ jaded expertise. Thorough solutions would require large structural reforms to bring laymen back into power as a check, either at charging or at sentencing. The trick will be pulling off this important task in our cash-strapped, overwhelmed criminal justice system.

Keywords: criminal law and procedure, American criminal justice system, prosecutorial discretion, criminal justice policy, punishment, sentencing, Josh Bowers

Suggested Citation

Bibas, Stephanos, The Pitfalls of Professionalized Prosecution: A Response to Josh Bowers's 'Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, and the Equitable Decision Not to Prosecute' (2011). Columbia Law Review Sidebar, Vol. 111, Pg. 14, 2011; U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 13-9. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2268671

Stephanos Bibas (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-746-2297 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.upenn.edu/cf/faculty/sbibas/

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