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Strategic Behavior and Prosecutorial Agenda Setting in United States Attorneys' Offices: The Role of U.S. Attorneys and Their Assistants

NCJ Number
The Justice System Journal Volume: 23 Issue: 3 Dated: 2002 Pages: 271-294
Todd Lochner
Date Published
24 pages
This article discusses the strategic behaviors of assistant United States attorneys focusing on approaches for monitoring and motivating these assistants.
After arguing that American prosecutors have traditionally received little monitoring concerning their decision making, the author compares American prosecutorial decision making with that of France, Germany, and Japan. Contending that Federal prosecutors often behave strategically when exercising discretion, the author describes the personal interviews and statistical analyses used to analyze the agenda-setting dynamic of Federal prosecutors. The author found that many United States attorneys are often motivated by promoting their own careers in government or judicial service and are keenly aware of how their job performance affects future government prospects. Focusing on assistant United States attorneys, specifically, the author found that career employment greatly impacts the personal motivations of these assistants. The author maintains that because many career assistants know that they will outlast both their United States attorney and the present administration, most are unwilling to invest the time and energy needed to learn how to effectively prosecute according to the priorities of their present employers. The author suggests that United States attorneys can effectively influence their assistant’s behaviors by restricting office hierarchies, creating and enforcing office-wide declination policies, offering to reassign assistants to other case areas, and/or offering either salary bonuses or media attention. Reference


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