Institutional Coordination and Sentencing Reform

Daniel C. Richman, Columbia Law School


Generally, treatments of prosecutorial discretion in the sentencing context tend to focus on its challenge to horizontal equity and judicial discretion within sentencing regimes. The goal in this symposium piece is to reverse the arrow, and, using an internal executive perspective, start looking at how sentencing regimes and judicial enforcement of those regimes can be used as tools for the hierarchical control of line prosecutors. It first considers a problem arising out of ostensibly successful regulation within a prosecutor's offices - in this case, an effort to control plea bargaining in New Orleans. It then considers issues relating to regulation from outside the office, to see how judicial supervision of plea bargaining through factually intensive sentencing inquiries can reflect (and perhaps occur because of) the interest of a centralized prosecutorial authority in controlling its own minions.