The Prosecutor Lobby

69 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2022

See all articles by Carissa Byrne Hessick

Carissa Byrne Hessick

University of North Carolina School of Law

Ronald F. Wright

Wake Forest University - School of Law

Jessica Pishko

Independent

Date Written: April 13, 2022

Abstract

Prosecutors shape the use of the criminal law at many points during criminal proceedings, but there is also an earlier point in the process where prosecutors have influence: during the legislative process. The conventional wisdom in the legal literature is that prosecutors are powerful and successful lobbyists who routinely support laws that make the criminal law more punitive and oppose criminal justice reform. In this article, we test that narrative with an empirical assessment of prosecutor lobbying in America. Using an original dataset of four years of legislative activity from all 50 states, we analyze how often prosecutors lobbied, the issues on which they lobbied, the positions they took, and how often they succeeded.

Our data tell a complex story of partial success for the prosecutor lobby. Prosecutors are less successful than expected when lobbying against bills, and they are most successful when lobbying in favor of criminal justice reform. By analyzing not only national data, but also data from each state, we document that prosecutorial success is correlated with Republican control of the state legislature. We further conclude that perceived expertise does not drive prosecutorial lobbying success, and that legislatures in some contexts respond to the prosecutor lobby much as they would to any other self-interested rent-seeking lobbyists.

Keywords: Prosecutors, Crime Politics, Crime Legislation, Legislative Lobbying

JEL Classification: H70, H72, K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Hessick, Carissa Byrne and Wright, Ronald F. and Pishko, Jessica, The Prosecutor Lobby (April 13, 2022). Washington and Lee Law Review, Forthcoming, UNC Legal Studies Research Paper , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4082497 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4082497

Carissa Byrne Hessick (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
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)

Jessica Pishko

Independent ( email )

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