Prosecutors and Their Legislatures, Legislatures and Their Prosecutors

Oxford Handbook of Prosecutors and Prosecution (2020 Forthcoming)

U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3588799

41 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2020 Last revised: 4 Sep 2020

See all articles by Russell M. Gold

Russell M. Gold

University of Alabama School of Law

Date Written: April 29, 2020

Abstract

This chapter explores the often-pathological relationship between prosecutors and legislatures and considers fiscal pressure as an important antidote to the pathology. Institutional incentives between prosecutors and legislatures align in a way quite different than the classic separation-of-powers story. Rather, legislatures are well served to empower prosecutors as much as possible by making criminal law broad and deep. And with respect to substantive criminal law, prosecutors have been enormously empowered. Prosecutors are not merely passive recipients of such power but indeed actively lobby for it — often quite successfully. But fiscal pressures can provide a cross-cutting pressure for legislatures, particularly at the state level where many governments must balance their budgets. Thus, sentencing law sometimes finds legislatures refusing prosecutors’ requests for ever longer or mandatory minimum sentences because longer sentences are expensive; this is especially true where sentencing commissions provide legislatures with meaningful data on costs of particular proposals. Criminal procedure has recently found progressive prosecutors leading the way toward defendant-friendly reforms such as using unaffordable cash bail less frequently and providing defendants with more discovery than is required by law. In these spaces, county prosecutors have provided laboratories of experimentation that led the way toward broader statewide reforms.

Keywords: Mandatory minimums, political economy, pathological politics, correctional free lunch, lobbying, sentencing law, bail, discovery, progressive prosecutors

Suggested Citation

Gold, Russell M., Prosecutors and Their Legislatures, Legislatures and Their Prosecutors (April 29, 2020). Oxford Handbook of Prosecutors and Prosecution (2020 Forthcoming), U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3588799, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3588799

Russell M. Gold (Contact Author)

University of Alabama School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States
205-348-1139 (Phone)

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