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Is Your Lawyer a Lemon? Incentives and Selection in the Public Provision of Criminal Defense

Author

Listed:
  • Amanda Agan

    (Rutgers University)

  • Matthew Freedman

    (University of California - Irvine)

  • Emily Owens

    (University of California - Irvine)

Abstract

Governments in the U.S. must offer free legal services to low-income people accused of crimes. These services are frequently provided by assigned counsel, who handle cases for indigent defendants on a contract basis. Court-assigned attorneys generally garner worse case outcomes than privately retained attorneys. Using detailed court records from one large jurisdiction in Texas, we find that the disparities in outcomes are primarily attributable to case characteristics and within-attorney differences across cases in which they are assigned versus retained. The selection of low-quality lawyers into assigned counsel and endogenous matching in the private market contribute less to the disparities.

Suggested Citation

  • Amanda Agan & Matthew Freedman & Emily Owens, 2017. "Is Your Lawyer a Lemon? Incentives and Selection in the Public Provision of Criminal Defense," Working Papers 613, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:613
    as

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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Devah Pager, 2003. "The mark of a criminal record," Natural Field Experiments 00319, The Field Experiments Website.
    2. Lovenheim, Michael F. & Owens, Emily G., 2014. "Does federal financial aid affect college enrollment? Evidence from drug offenders and the Higher Education Act of 1998," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 1-13.
    3. Jonah B. Gelbach, 2016. "When Do Covariates Matter? And Which Ones, and How Much?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(2), pages 509-543.
    4. Radha Iyengar, 2007. "An Analysis of the Performance of Federal Indigent Defense Counsel," NBER Working Papers 13187, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Anna Aizer & Joseph J. Doyle, 2015. "Juvenile Incarceration, Human Capital, and Future Crime: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(2), pages 759-803.
    6. Amanda Agan & Sonja Starr, 2016. "Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Statistical Discrimination: A Field Experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00539, The Field Experiments Website.
    7. Paul Beaudry & David A. Green & Benjamin Sand, 2012. "Does Industrial Composition Matter for Wages? A Test of Search and Bargaining Theory," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 80(3), pages 1063-1104, May.
    8. Thomas S. Dee, 2004. "Teachers, Race, and Student Achievement in a Randomized Experiment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 195-210, February.
    9. Justin McCrary, 2007. "The Effect of Court-Ordered Hiring Quotas on the Composition and Quality of Police," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 318-353, March.
    10. Michael A. Roach, 2014. "Indigent Defense Counsel, Attorney Quality, and Defendant Outcomes," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(2), pages 577-619.
    11. Hjalmarsson, Randi, 2008. "Criminal justice involvement and high school completion," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 613-630, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H44 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Publicly Provided Goods: Mixed Markets
    • H76 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Other Expenditure Categories
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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