Courtroom Workgroups

Topics: Criminal law, Lawyer, Criminal justice Pages: 3 (749 words) Published: April 28, 2014
In The United States criminal justice system the informal arrangement between a criminal prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and the judicial officeris called a courtroom work group. The courtroom workgroup was proposed by Eisenstein and Jacob in 1977 to explain their observations of the ways courts, especially lower level courts, actually come to decisions. This foundational concept in the academic discipline of criminal justice identifies the seemingly opposing courtroom participants as collaborators in "doing justice."

Efficient courtroom workgroups seek to process cases rather than dispense justice. Because the courtroom workgroup deviates from the public idea of how justice works, it has developed a irregular set of virtues to continue its work and ease daily life for its participants. The academic theory of the courtroom workgroup has four cornerstone concepts that recognize this fact: Speed, Pragmatic Cynicism, Collegiality, and Secrecy. This has been proved to greater and lesser extents in different courts. Defendants are assumed to be guilty. The procedural merits of the case are the true determinative factors of an outcome. Prosecutors and defense attorneys engage in a comparison of charges against possible procedural flaws and possible defenses to determine at the going rate for a crime. These factors are used to figure out how much punishment the plea bargain will offer. For example, group relationships and the desire to "keep" a healthy working relationship are important to group members. The workings of the courtroom group and the "going rate" for given crimes are not matters for public disclosure. Estimates can be given to clients, but usually uttered in terms of the prosecution's willingness to negotiate. (Summarized by O'Connor, T.R., 2005)

The courtroom workgroup is a tool for prosecutorial discretion. Many different techniques are used to convince the defendant that the evidence against him or her is overwhelming. The defendant may be...
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