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What Do Prosecutors Maximize? Evidence from the Careers of U.S. Attorneys

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  • Richard T. Boylan

Abstract

This study examines the performance of chief federal prosecutors (U.S. attorneys) and their subsequent careers. In a sample of 570 attorneys in office from 1969 to 2000, the length of prison sentences is positively related to subsequent favorable career outcomes for U.S. attorneys. In contrast, conviction rates do not appear to affect the careers of U.S. attorneys. These results are consistent with longer total prison sentences' being personally beneficial to prosecutors, and prosecutors' maximizing the length of prison sentences. Overall, the results suggest that sentence length, as opposed to convictions rates, is the relevant performance metric. Copyright 2005, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard T. Boylan, 2005. "What Do Prosecutors Maximize? Evidence from the Careers of U.S. Attorneys," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 379-402.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:7:y:2005:i:2:p:379-402
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/aler/ahi016
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    Cited by:

    1. Mongrain, Steeve & Roberts, Joanne, 2009. "Plea bargaining with budgetary constraints," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 8-12, March.
    2. Garoupa, Nuno, 2009. "Some reflections on the economics of prosecutors: Mandatory vs. selective prosecution," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 25-28, March.
    3. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Bryan McCannon, 2014. "The effect of the election of prosecutors on criminal trials," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 161(1), pages 141-156, October.
    4. Grace, Martin F. & Phillips, Richard D., 2008. "Regulator performance, regulatory environment and outcomes: An examination of insurance regulator career incentives on state insurance markets," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 116-133, January.
    5. Christian Almer & Timo Goeschl, 2011. "The political economy of the environmental criminal justice system: a production function approach," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 148(3), pages 611-630, September.
    6. SIDDHARTHA BANDYOPADHYAY & BRYAN C. McCANNON, 2015. "Prosecutorial Retention: Signaling by Trial," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 17(2), pages 219-256, April.
    7. Andrew F. Daughety & Reinganum F. Reinganum, 2014. "Settlement and Trial: Selected Analyses of the Bargaining Environment," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 14-00005, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    8. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Bryan C McCannon, 2014. "Queuing Up For Justice: Elections and Case Backlogs," Discussion Papers 14-10, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    9. repec:kap:pubcho:v:175:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11127-018-0525-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Libman Alexander & Schultz André & Graeber Thomas, 2016. "Tax Return as a Political Statement," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 12(2), pages 377-445, July.
    11. Eric Rasmusen & Manu Raghav & Mark Ramseyer, 2009. "Convictions versus Conviction Rates: The Prosecutor's Choice," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 47-78.
    12. repec:clg:wpaper:2009-05 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. James E. Alt & David Dreyer Lassen, 2008. "Inequality and Corruption: Evidence from US States," EPRU Working Paper Series 08-02, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    14. Orzach, Ram & Spurr, Stephen J., 2008. "Lesser-included offenses," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 239-245, December.
    15. Bond Philip, 2009. "Contracting in the Presence of Judicial Agency," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-34, November.

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