Place Matters in Prosecution

30 Pages Posted: 3 May 2017 Last revised: 22 May 2017

See all articles by Ronald F. Wright

Ronald F. Wright

Wake Forest University - School of Law

Kay Levine

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: 2017


In this essay, we argue that scholarship about prosecution often overlooks the importance of place as a variable affecting how prosecution works. Our citation ranking of the empirical scholarship about prosecutors, published over the last half century, demonstrates that scholars have focused disproportionately on the largest urban offices and have drawn conclusions about prosecution based on those sites. We believe that those large urban offices are not typical of the working environment for most state prosecutors. Compared to smaller and less urban offices, the largest offices produce persistently different case outcomes, experience relatively high turnover rates, and tend to be only weakly influenced by courtroom workgroups. Researchers and readers should therefore tread cautiously before they generalize about American prosecutor behavior based on studies of single large offices. Instead, we should think about prosecution offices as a collection of types, where each group is characterized by a set of default presumptions based on a recurring set of features, with some features common to all groups, others that are more group-specific, and still other features that are site-specific. The reference list of empirical scholarship about American prosecutors that we generated is included as an appendix to the essay.

Keywords: Criminal Law and Procedure

Suggested Citation

Wright, Ronald F. and Levine, Kay, Place Matters in Prosecution (2017). Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 14, No. 675, 2017, Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-432, Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN:

Ronald F. Wright

Wake Forest University - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States
336-758-5727 (Phone)
336-758-4496 (Fax)

Kay Levine (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics