Bulk Misdemeanor Justice

8 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2013

See all articles by Stephanos Bibas

Stephanos Bibas

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: February 11, 2013


This short essay responds to Alexandra Natapoff’s article Misdemeanors, which shines a much-needed spotlight on the mass production of criminal justice and injustice in millions of low-level cases. The prime culprit in Natapoff’s story is the hidden, informal discretion that police officers enjoy to arrest, charge, and effect convictions, abetted by prosecutors’ and judges’ abdication and defense counsel’s absence or impotence. The roots of the problem she identifies, I argue, go all the way down to the system’s professionalization and mechanization. Given the magnitude of the problem, Natapoff’s solutions are surprisingly half-hearted, masking the deeper structural problems that demand wholesale reforms. Systemic change, I argue, is a worthwhile ideal even though it is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Keywords: criminal procedure, prosecutorial discretion, criminal charging decisions, plea bargaining, police discretion, adversarial and inquisitorial models, professionalization, accountability, resource constraints, prosecutorial incentives, police incentives, Alexandra Natapoff

Suggested Citation

Bibas, Stephanos, Bulk Misdemeanor Justice (February 11, 2013). Southern California Law Review Postscript, Vol. 85, p. 101, 2013, U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 13-14, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2274181

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/

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics