This course explores decision-making in federal prosecution. Class sessions focus on the environments constraining and shaping the decisions made by federal prosecutors throughout the stages of investigation and prosecution. Drawing on cases, statutes, guidelines, and ethical rules,we will examine the legal, policy, practical, organizational, cultural, and ethical considerations that provide for or constrain the decisions taken by prosecutors. The course will also examine variations in these constraints in different locations, as well as the interaction among federal, state, and foreign jurisdictions as competing sovereigns in the investigation and prosecution of criminal conduct.
Students are expected to come away with:
- A deeper understanding of the organizational environments within which federal prosecution takes place, including the recognition that prosecution is very much shaped by organizations and actors with distinct agendas and distinct interests;
- A working familiarity with the basic statutory frameworks that govern federal prosecution of violent and organized crime, especially the federal racketeering laws;
- A working familiarity with the basic investigative tools used by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to investigate crime;
- An understanding of the practical significance of modern discovery obligations and the impact those have on prosecutorial decision-making; and
- An appreciation for the range of activity that takes place within federal prosecution, a goal that we meet in part by bringing in a number of guests with a wide range of experience.
While we also expect that students will come away with considerable knowledge that would be of use in preparing for criminal trial, we firmly believe that this is not a course in trial advocacy. The overall focus is instead to open students’ eyes to the entire process of federal prosecution, with an emphasis on identifying different factors that shape decision-making throughout that process.