John R. Hughley III
CRJS359: The Judicial Process
1. Describe assembly-line justice. Is it a problem? Why or why not? Explain your answer in a 1 page paper.
Assembly-line justice is defined as “the operation of any segment of the criminal justice system in which excessive work-loads result in decisions being made with such speed and impersonality that defendants are treated as objects to be processed rather than human beings”, according to the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1967, p. 31). With assembly-line justice, very few cases seen in court receive the individual treatment they require to be successfully resolved. An example of assembly-line justice in the modern court system would be the war on drugs, which has greatly increased in the caseload in the past few years. Consequently, judges feel pressured to move cases out of the courtroom as quickly as possible and all of the cases do not necessarily get the representation in court necessary for the judge to reach a reasonable verdict. This is an issue, first and foremost, because the court system treats defendants as if their cases are not of the utmost importance. This is also an issue because some of the cases heard in court may not receive the representation they need.
President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. 1967. Task Force Report: The Courts. Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office.
2. What is discretion in the courtroom? Who has discretion, and how is it expressed? Is it possible to remove discretion? If so, would it be a good idea? If not, why not? Discuss these issues on the classroom forum.
Discretion in the courtroom is best described as “the lawful ability of an agent of government to exercise choice in making a decision. Discretion can be further divided into three major subcomponents: legal judgements, policy priorities, and personal philosophies” (Cole, 1970; Kim, Spohn, & Hedberg, 2015; Stith, 2008). Decisions made on a discretionary basis are made on the basis of legal judgement, so legal defenders (i.e., prosecutors) have discretion in the courtroom. It is possible to remove discretion in the courtroom because discretion must be selectively enforced. I do not think that it would be a wise idea to remove discretion from a court room because that would eliminate the ability for people to understand personal values and attitudes.
Cole, G. (1970). The Decision to Prosecute. Law and Society Review, 4. pp. 313-343.
Kim, B., Spohn, C. C., Hedberg, E. C. (2015). Federal Sentencing as a Complex Collaborative Process: Judges, Prosecutors, Judge – Prosecutor Dyads, and Disparity in Sentencing. Criminology, 53(4): pp. 597-623.
Stith, K. (2008). The Arc of the Pendulum: Judges, Prosecutors, and the Exercise of Discretion. Yale Law Journal, 117: pp. 1420-1496.
3. Should prosecutors be subject to civil liability when they engage in misconduct?
I do think that prosecutors should be subject to civil liability when they engage in misconduct because they should be held to the highest extent of the law possible. Prosecutorial misconduct should be taken seriously so that prosecutors can continue to do their job and be held in the highest regard of correctly sentencing people.