Prosecutors, court communities, and policy change: The impact of internal DOJ reforms on federal prosecutorial practices

Criminology

40 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2021

See all articles by Mona Lynch

Mona Lynch

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Matt Barno

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Marisa Omori

University of Miami, Department of Sociology

Date Written: July 2021

Abstract

The current study examines how key internal U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) policy changes have been translated into front-line prosecutorial practices. Extending courts-as-communities scholarship and research on policy implementation practices, we use U.S. Sentencing Commission data from 2004 to 2019 to model outcomes for several measures of prose- cutorial discretion in federal drug trafficking cases, including the use of mandatory minimum charges and prosecutor-endorsed departures, to test the impact of the policy changes on case processing outcomes. We contrast prosecutorial measures with measures that are more impervious to discretionary manipulation, such as criminal history, and those that represent judicial and blended discretion, including judicial departures and final sentence lengths. We find a significant effect of the policy reforms on how prosecutorial tools are used across DOJ policy periods, and we find variation across districts as a function of contextual conditions, consistent with the court communities literature. We also find that a powerful driver of changes in pros- ecutorial practices during our most recent period is the confirmation of individual Trump-appointed U.S. Attorneys at the district level, suggesting an important theoretical place for midlevel actors in policy translation and implementation.

Keywords: prosecutors, federal sentencing guidelines, Department of Justice, drug cases

Suggested Citation

Lynch, Mona and Barno, Matt and Omori, Marisa, Prosecutors, court communities, and policy change: The impact of internal DOJ reforms on federal prosecutorial practices (July 2021). Criminology, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3881454

Mona Lynch (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society ( email )

2340 Social Ecology 2, RM
Irvine, CA 92697
United States

Matt Barno

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Marisa Omori

University of Miami, Department of Sociology ( email )

5202 University Drive
Merrick Bldg 120F
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
42
Abstract Views
195
PlumX Metrics