Unbundling Criminal Trial Rights

25 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2014 Last revised: 4 Sep 2015

See all articles by John Rappaport

John Rappaport

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: January 9, 2015


The notion that criminal defendants are put to an all-or-nothing choice between the guilty plea and full-blown jury trial is both pervasive and wrong. Defendants can, and sometimes do, “unbundle” their jury-trial rights and trade them piecemeal, consenting to streamlined trial procedures to reduce their sentencing exposure. This Article explores what happens if, once and for all, we eschew the all-or-nothing framework and actually encourage these “unbundled bargains.” The parties could then tailor court procedures by agreement. Defendants, for example, could bargain for sentencing leniency by consenting to a six-person jury. Or the parties could agree to submit a case to private arbitration. Would such a world be better or worse than the one we have now? This Article takes a first cut at this question, making the uneasy case that the benefits of unbundled bargaining plausibly outweigh the costs.

Keywords: criminal procedure, criminal, bargaining, plea bargaining, waiver, trial, adjudication

JEL Classification: K14, K41

Suggested Citation

Rappaport, John, Unbundling Criminal Trial Rights (January 9, 2015). University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 82, pp. 181-199, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 483, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2479554

John Rappaport (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/rappaport

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