Criminal Prosecutors: Experts or Elected Officials?
Forthcoming in J. Ryberg and J. Roberts, Popular Punishment: On the Normative Significance of Public Opinion for Penal Theory (OUP)
34 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2014
Date Written: January 6, 2014
Prosecutors make an array of decisions impacting the lives of citizens. Should their decisions be subjected to popular oversight and control though democratic election or should prosecutors be members of professional bureaucracies insulated from the electorate? The evidence concerning the election of prosecutors suggests that the public is ill-served by them: Most incumbent chief prosecutors run unopposed, most incumbents who are opposed win, and the elections are mostly popularity contests. Elections might be improved, but having prosecutors trained and overseen by other officials knowledgeable about the demands of due process and committed to its values seems a better alternative. However, rule by prosecutorial experts itself raises a variety of questions, especially in democratic societies. Though I favor the expertise model, I concede that some of the decisions made by prosecutors are ones about which citizens in democratic societies ought to have input.
Keywords: prosecutors, due process, democracy, expertise, elections
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