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Article Title

Virtuous Prosecutors?

Publication Date

Winter 2022

Abstract

A movement is building for President Biden to rewrite the book on judicial appointments and look to civil rights lawyers and public defenders instead of the usual crop of federal prosecutors.While the movement is grounded in the need to diversify the breadth of experience on the bench, it could also be interpreted as, or lead to, an effort to reexamine the exalted role of the prosecutor. Prosecutors were historically seen as noble and righteous protectors of virtue and morality. Their prominence led to increased resources, power, and influence and over time they began to fill the ranks of the judiciary, government, and big law firms. To this day, prosecutors regularly use their jobs as stepping stones to higher office or the judiciary. Over the past many decades, the noble crime-fighter reputation remained in place even as prosecutorial work dramatically changed. No longer is the prosecutor’s role to fight the few notorious figures, but rather to pursue large swaths of the population in the war on drugs, immigration enforcement, and aggressive prosecution of minor crimes. However, these qualitative and quantitative changes in prosecution have not, at least not yet, adversely affected the prosecutor’s esteemed reputation or vast power.

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