Sharkfests and Databases: Crowdsourcing Plea Bargains

6 Texas A&M Law Review 653 (Forthcoming 2019)

Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 19-11

19 Pages Posted: 22 May 2019 Last revised: 2 Aug 2019

See all articles by Kay Levine

Kay Levine

Emory University School of Law

Ronald F. Wright

Wake Forest University - School of Law

Nancy J. King

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Marc L. Miller

University of Arizona College of Law

Date Written: May 20, 2019

Abstract

The stock image of a plea negotiation in a criminal case depicts two lawyers in frayed business suits, meeting one-on-one in a dim corner of a courtroom lobby. The defendant is somewhere nearby, ready to receive information about the prosecutor’s offer and to discuss counteroffers with his attorney and perhaps with his family. The victim or arresting officer may be available by phone, although neither has the power to veto a deal the prosecutor otherwise thinks is reasonable. In this depiction of plea bargaining, the defense attorney and the defendant form one unit, allied against another unit—comprised of the prosecutor, victim, and police officer—while remaining independent of other defense units in terms of information, interests, and goals. Each defendant’s case requires and receives individualized attention, and each case is bargained on its own terms.

In this Essay, we dive deeper into this final dimension to discuss the influence of professional networks on plea negotiations. In particular, we examine the effects of crowdsourcing tactics in the negotiation setting. Could the effects of the group negotiation setting be reproduced, institutionalized, and furthered by the creation of a database about plea negotiations and case outcomes? The individual attorneys who negotiate guilty pleas could likewise benefit from access to data beyond their individual caseloads. Crowdsourced plea-bargaining data can help attorneys to connect the dots between cases and escape the illusion that they negotiate alone.

Keywords: Plea Bargains, Sharkfest, Crowdsourcing, Defense Lawyers, Prosecutors

Suggested Citation

Levine, Kay and Wright, Ronald F. and King, Nancy J. and Miller, Marc Louis, Sharkfests and Databases: Crowdsourcing Plea Bargains (May 20, 2019). 6 Texas A&M Law Review 653 (Forthcoming 2019); Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 19-11. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3391536

Kay Levine (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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)

Nancy J. King

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
(615) 343-9836 (Phone)
(615) 322-6631 (Fax)

Marc Louis Miller

University of Arizona College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States
520-621-1498 (Phone)

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