Transparency and Participation in Criminal Procedure

53 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2005 Last revised: 3 Apr 2009

See all articles by Stephanos Bibas

Stephanos Bibas

University of Pennsylvania Law School


The insiders who run the criminal justice system - judges, police, and especially prosecutors - have information, power, and self-interests that greatly influence the criminal justice process and outcomes. Outsiders - crime victims, bystanders, and most of the general public - find the system frustratingly opaque, insular, and unconcerned with proper retribution. As a result, a spiral ensues: insiders twist rules as they see fit, outsiders try to constrain them, and insiders find new ways to evade or manipulate the new rules. The gulf between insiders and outsiders undercuts the instrumental, moral, and expressive efficacy of criminal procedure in serving the criminal law's substantive goals. The gulf clouds the law's deterrent and expressive message and efficacy in healing victims; it impairs trust in and the legitimacy of the law; it provokes increasingly Draconian reactions by outsiders; and it hinders public monitoring of agency costs. The most promising solutions are to better inform crime victims and other affected locals and to give them larger roles in criminal justice. It might be possible to better monitor and check insiders, but the prospects for empowering and educating the general public are dim.

Keywords: criminal procedure, criminal justice, prosecutors, police, transparency, participation, punishment, trust, legitimacy, monitoring, agency costs

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Bibas, Stephanos, Transparency and Participation in Criminal Procedure. New York University Law Review, Vol. 86, p. 911, 2006, U of Penn Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 06-28, U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-30, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 117, Available at SSRN:

Stephanos Bibas (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-746-2297 (Phone)


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