Capacity as Philosophy: A Review of Richard Lippke’s, The Ethics of Plea Bargaining
32 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2013
Date Written: June 4, 2013
Plea bargaining is a response to capacity overload in the criminal justice system. It both preserves and belies the right to trial, making possible its glorious display but only by denying it in most cases. While plea bargaining has been documented and analyzed copiously in historical, sociological and legal terms, its ethical status as an institutional practice are hazy. Richard Lippke offers an account of plea bargaining that draws on the normative debates over responsibility, culpability and desert, in aid of a holistic proposal for a morally defensible system of pre-trial adjudication. In proposing an ethical system of plea bargaining, and working through the normative challenges to this, two bigger questions become visible. These are: what are the implications of developing, in essence, an ethics of efficiency, and, how should the criminal justice system be held to account for the inequalities (and iniquities) that exist before and outside it? In this review essay, I show how these questions are constructed in the book and make some attempt at analysing them, thus engaging with the more urgent and general issue of the complicated relationship of the ideal to the real when it comes to penal practice.
Keywords: plea bargains, moral philosophy, criminal justice
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