frame

Resolved: Plea Bargaining Ought to be Abolished in the United States

Opening Argument

Position: For

JAN/FEB JUDICIAL LEGITIMACY AFF

 

I Affirm…

As the affirmative in this debate, I hold the burden of defining the resolution for the round, and definitions will be provided if clarification needs to be furthered.

 

Value: Justice

Value Criterion: Judicial Legitimacy

Our legal system is based on the principle that an independent, fair and competent judiciary will interpret and apply the laws that govern us. The role of the Judiciary is central to American concepts of justice and the rule of law.

I value Justice, and I will define justice as: each individual receives their deserved due, without any non-intrinsic interference, in essence, blind and neutral.

My value criterion for this debate shall be Judicial Legitimacy, since the term derives from the belief that judges in the United States Criminal Justice System are meant to be impartial, and their decisions in court shall not be rooted in their politics or ideology, but in the U.S Constitution. Every court in the United States should strive to attain judicial legitimacy.

In order for the negation to win this debate, they must prove, by the end of the round, that plea bargaining is not a moral injustice.

The purpose for courts in the United States is to administer Justice to those who are guilty of crimes under the supreme law of the land.

Clarification of “Legitimacy”: An institution is considered to be legitimate when it is perceived having the right or authority to make decisions and when its decisions are viewed as worthy of respect.

 

Contention 1: There is currently too much power in the hands of prosecutors.

Rakoff, Jed. “Http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/11/20/why-innocent-people-pleadguilty/.” New York Review of Books. November 20, 2014. Web. December 10, 2017. .

But what really puts the prosecutor in the driver’s seat is the fact that he—because of mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines (which, though no longer mandatory in the federal system, are still widely followed by most judges), and simply his ability to shape whatever charges are brought—can effectively dictate the sentence by how he publicly describes the offense. For example, the prosecutor can agree with the defense counsel in a federal narcotics case that, if there is a plea bargain, the defendant will only have to plead guilty to the personal sale of a few ounces of heroin, which carries no mandatory minimum and a guidelines range of less than two years.  If the defendant does not plead guilty, he will be charged with the drug conspiracy of which his sale was a small part, a conspiracy involving many kilograms of heroin, which could mean a ten-year mandatory minimum and a guidelines range of twenty years or more. Put another way, it is the prosecutor, not the judge, who effectively exercises the sentencing power, albeit cloaked as a charging decision.

 

Caldwell, H. Mitchell. “Coercive Plea Bargaining: The Unrecognized Scourge Of The Justice System.” Catholic University Law Review. 2011. Web. December 10, 2017. .

In implementing the plea-bargaining process, the state, as the prosecutor of crimes, has a powerful incentive to begin the inevitable negotiating process from a position of strength, which often results in overcharging. Yet whenever a prosecutorial agency files charges that are disproportionate or misrepresentative of the defendant’s actions, that agency runs afoul of the ethical guidelines governing prosecutors,15 abuses its prosecutorial power,16 and compromises the justice system as a whole. However, identifying the shortcomings of the plea bargaining power is less problematic than actually discovering sensible and workable solutions to those problems. Most would agree that coercive plea or sentencing bargaining is wrong. The rub, of course, is fixing the problem. With that ambitious and perhaps elusive goal in mind, this Article offers an approach to reduce, if not eradicate, coercive plea and sentence bargaining

 

1ST “A Plea for Change.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 4 Oct. 2014, www.economist.com/news/leaders/21621784-american-prosecutors-have-too-much-power-hand-some-it-judges-plea-change.

The process is open to abuse. Prosecutors hold all the cards. If a defense lawyer offers a witness $100 for a false alibi, he is guilty of bribery. But if a prosecutor offers a co-operating witness something far more valuable, the chance to avoid several years in a cell—that is just fine. With so much at stake, people sometimes tell prosecutors what they want to hear.

 

Plea bargaining, in contrast to sentence bargaining, typically involves negotiations about several .charges. These negotiations conclude with either the dismissal of some charges in exchange for a guilty plea to one or more other charges, or a downgrade of the original charge in exchange for a guilty plea to this lesser charge. Typically, even this basic plea-bargain arrangement involves some degree of sentence bargaining. In most cases, by pleading guilty to a lesser charge, the defendant subjects himself to a shorter sentence range of which the judiciary could approve. Thus, plea bargaining, as an integral component of the criminal justice system, is here to stay. Rather than complete abolition, it is the unethical abuse of the unique bargaining positions that needs to be eradicated.

 

Contention 2: Coercion in the Justice System.

Klein, Richard. “Due Process Denied: Judicial Coercion in the Plea Bargaining Process.”Http://Digitalcommons.tourolaw.edu, 2004, digitalcommons.tourolaw.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1250&context=scholarlyworks.

In the New York State Supreme Court case, People v. Derrick Smith, the judge made it clear that if the defendant were to refuse the "for today only" plea offer and choose instead to go to trial, he would, if convicted, be sentenced to the maximum prison time the law permitted.7 The defendant responded to the judge: "I'm 19 years old, your Honor .... That is terrible. ... That's terrible.” The defendant turned and told his mother, who was weeping as she sat in the courtroom, “Mom, I can't do it" and jumped to his death out of the window of the sixteenth floor courtroom. ‘The Smith case stands out, and was the object of press coverage, not because of the coercive tactics of the judge that were designed to achieve a plea," but because of the defendant's subsequent suicide. The "for today only," "this is a one-time-offer," "if you don't plead guilty you'll get the max if convicted at trial" style-of-judging is all too common to warrant tabloid headlines. 12 There was no media coverage at all when another New York State Supreme Court judge allegedly told the defendant's counsel: "Tell the defendant that if he doesn't take the 15 years to Life, I promise if he is found guilty after trial, I will give him 25 to Life for the murder and 12 and a half to 25 for the attempted murder, running consecutive."' Over the years, a pattern has emerged where judges routinely engage in practices that violate the constitutional rights of the defendants who come before them, and which run counter to the ethical conduct that we have a right to expect and demand from those empowered to engage in critical decisions concerning the liberty of our citizens

In the case of People v. Jorge Delgado. The attorney, employed by the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York, was outside of the courtroom discussing a matter with a client, when the Delgado case, which was also assigned to her, was called and ready to be heard in the courtroom.  Upon her return to the court, counsel and defendant were informed of a plea offer, and the judge told the attorney and her client: "Come on. Let's go. ''Counsel responded that she was speaking with her client about the plea offer and when the judge told her "Time up. Does he want the offer or not?" The attorney responded: "No, Your Honor. Since I don't have the time to finish completing my discussion with my client, he doesn't want to take the offer today." The judge then proceeded to tell the attorney to "leave the courtroom as soon as we are done with this. Don't come back”. The judge then vacated the attorney's assignment to the case and assigned a court-appointed counsel in her place.' Apparently, the judge only wished to have appearing before her "cooperative lawyers, who understood that the business taking place in the courtroom was to dispose of cases. Any concern for the rights of defendants would unnecessarily waste the court's time. It was clearly of no import to the judge that counsel comply with her obligation as "an officer of the court" to "render effective, quality representation. There was no indication that the judge felt any need to comply with the holding of the court in United States ex rel. Elksnis v. Gilligan that due process is violated if the plea does not represent "the considered choice of the accused. There was no adherence to the all-too-clear statement of one state's supreme court when considering disciplinary action against a judge: "'Common courtesy and considerate treatment of [others] are traits properly expected of judges. Court proceedings and all other judicial acts must be conducted with fitting dignity and decorum.'  There was absolutely no attention given to the instruction in the ABA Criminal Justice Standards on Discovery that there should exist discovery procedures that provide a defendant with "sufficient information to make an informed plea" because the "informed plea is crucial to the integrity of the criminal justice system.

It is for these reasons i urge an affirmative ballot.
yolostidebillpassedOakchairbc

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Debate Type: Lincoln-Douglas Debate


Opponent: yolostide

Time Per Round: 24 Hours Per Round

Forfeited


Arguments

  • Affirmative Constructive | Position: For
    GorbinGorbin 19 Pts

     

    JAN/FEB JUDICIAL LEGITIMACY AFF

     

    I Affirm…

    As the affirmative in this debate, I hold the burden of defining the resolution for the round, and definitions will be provided if clarification needs to be furthered.

     

    Value: Justice

    Value Criterion: Judicial Legitimacy

    Our legal system is based on the principle that an independent, fair and competent judiciary will interpret and apply the laws that govern us. The role of the Judiciary is central to American concepts of justice and the rule of law.

    I value Justice, and I will define justice as: each individual receives their deserved due, without any non-intrinsic interference, in essence, blind and neutral.

    My standard for this debate shall be Judicial Legitimacy, since the term derives from the belief that judges in the United States Criminal Justice System are meant to be impartial, and their decisions in court shall not be rooted in their politics or ideology, but in the U.S Constitution. Every court in the United States should strive to attain judicial legitimacy.

    In order for the negation to win this debate, they must prove, by the end of the round, that plea bargaining is not a moral injustice.

    The purpose for courts in the United States is to administer Justice to those who are guilty of crimes under the supreme law of the land.

    Clarification of “Legitimacy”: An institution is considered to be legitimate when it is perceived having the right or authority to make decisions and when its decisions are viewed as worthy of respect.

     

    Contention 1: There is currently too much power in the hands of prosecutors.

    Rakoff, Jed. “Http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/11/20/why-innocent-people-pleadguilty/.” New York Review of Books. November 20, 2014. Web. December 10, 2017. .

    But what really puts the prosecutor in the driver’s seat is the fact that he—because of mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines (which, though no longer mandatory in the federal system, are still widely followed by most judges), and simply his ability to shape whatever charges are brought—can effectively dictate the sentence by how he publicly describes the offense. For example, the prosecutor can agree with the defense counsel in a federal narcotics case that, if there is a plea bargain, the defendant will only have to plead guilty to the personal sale of a few ounces of heroin, which carries no mandatory minimum and a guidelines range of less than two years.  If the defendant does not plead guilty, he will be charged with the drug conspiracy of which his sale was a small part, a conspiracy involving many kilograms of heroin, which could mean a ten-year mandatory minimum and a guidelines range of twenty years or more. Put another way, it is the prosecutor, not the judge, who effectively exercises the sentencing power, albeit cloaked as a charging decision.

     

    Caldwell, H. Mitchell. “Coercive Plea Bargaining: The Unrecognized Scourge Of The Justice System.” Catholic University Law Review. 2011. Web. December 10, 2017. .

    In implementing the plea-bargaining process, the state, as the prosecutor of crimes, has a powerful incentive to begin the inevitable negotiating process from a position of strength, which often results in overcharging. Yet whenever a prosecutorial agency files charges that are disproportionate or misrepresentative of the defendant’s actions, that agency runs afoul of the ethical guidelines governing prosecutors,15 abuses its prosecutorial power,16 and compromises the justice system as a whole. However, identifying the shortcomings of the plea bargaining power is less problematic than actually discovering sensible and workable solutions to those problems. Most would agree that coercive plea or sentencing bargaining is wrong. The rub, of course, is fixing the problem. With that ambitious and perhaps elusive goal in mind, this Article offers an approach to reduce, if not eradicate, coercive plea and sentence bargaining

     

    1ST “A Plea for Change.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 4 Oct. 2014, www.economist.com/news/leaders/21621784-american-prosecutors-have-too-much-power-hand-some-it-judges-plea-change.

    The process is open to abuse. Prosecutors hold all the cards. If a defense lawyer offers a witness $100 for a false alibi, he is guilty of bribery. But if a prosecutor offers a co-operating witness something far more valuable, the chance to avoid several years in a cell—that is just fine. With so much at stake, people sometimes tell prosecutors what they want to hear.

     

     

    Contention 2: Coercion in the Justice System.

    Klein, Richard. “Due Process Denied: Judicial Coercion in the Plea Bargaining Process.”Http://Digitalcommons.tourolaw.edu, 2004, digitalcommons.tourolaw.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1250&context=scholarlyworks.

    In the New York State Supreme Court case, People v. Derrick Smith, the judge made it clear that if the defendant were to refuse the "for today only" plea offer and choose instead to go to trial, he would, if convicted, be sentenced to the maximum prison time the law permitted.7 The defendant responded to the judge: "I'm 19 years old, your Honor .... That is terrible. ... That's terrible.” The defendant turned and told his mother, who was weeping as she sat in the courtroom, “Mom, I can't do it" and jumped to his death out of the window of the sixteenth floor courtroom. ‘The Smith case stands out, and was the object of press coverage, not because of the coercive tactics of the judge that were designed to achieve a plea," but because of the defendant's subsequent suicide. The "for today only," "this is a one-time-offer," "if you don't plead guilty you'll get the max if convicted at trial" style-of-judging is all too common to warrant tabloid headlines. 12 There was no media coverage at all when another New York State Supreme Court judge allegedly told the defendant's counsel: "Tell the defendant that if he doesn't take the 15 years to Life, I promise if he is found guilty after trial, I will give him 25 to Life for the murder and 12 and a half to 25 for the attempted murder, running consecutive."' Over the years, a pattern has emerged where judges routinely engage in practices that violate the constitutional rights of the defendants who come before them, and which run counter to the ethical conduct that we have a right to expect and demand from those empowered to engage in critical decisions concerning the liberty of our citizens

    In the case of People v. Jorge Delgado. The attorney, employed by the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York, was outside of the courtroom discussing a matter with a client, when the Delgado case, which was also assigned to her, was called and ready to be heard in the courtroom.  Upon her return to the court, counsel and defendant were informed of a plea offer, and the judge told the attorney and her client: "Come on. Let's go. ''Counsel responded that she was speaking with her client about the plea offer and when the judge told her "Time up. Does he want the offer or not?" The attorney responded: "No, Your Honor. Since I don't have the time to finish completing my discussion with my client, he doesn't want to take the offer today." The judge then proceeded to tell the attorney to "leave the courtroom as soon as we are done with this. Don't come back”. The judge then vacated the attorney's assignment to the case and assigned a court-appointed counsel in her place.' Apparently, the judge only wished to have appearing before her "cooperative lawyers, who understood that the business taking place in the courtroom was to dispose of cases. Any concern for the rights of defendants would unnecessarily waste the court's time. It was clearly of no import to the judge that counsel comply with her obligation as "an officer of the court" to "render effective, quality representation. There was no indication that the judge felt any need to comply with the holding of the court in United States ex rel. Elksnis v. Gilligan that due process is violated if the plea does not represent "the considered choice of the accused. There was no adherence to the all-too-clear statement of one state's supreme court when considering disciplinary action against a judge: "'Common courtesy and considerate treatment of [others] are traits properly expected of judges. Court proceedings and all other judicial acts must be conducted with fitting dignity and decorum.'  There was absolutely no attention given to the instruction in the ABA Criminal Justice Standards on Discovery that there should exist discovery procedures that provide a defendant with "sufficient information to make an informed plea" because the "informed plea is crucial to the integrity of the criminal justice system
    billpassedyolostide
  • Cross Examination - Affirmative | Position: Against
    I would like to thank @Gorbin (Affirmative) for creating this Debate and look forward to a great and productive Debate. 

    The United States judicial department uses plea bargaining as a way to convict others who committed crimes.

    This may help the person who could give information to the judicial department by reducing their sentence, while the US can gain intel which may lead to a conviction. 

    1) This technique helps advance cases.

    2) May be lawful or legal in the United States and possibly other countries.

    3) Helps both sides (Plantiff and Defendant) in the case.

    The Justice System of Justice Department could have had many cases where that technique has worked and led to a conviction/s.
    billpassed
  • Negative Constructive | Position: Against

    Plea bargaining should be allowed.


    1. It helps deal with case loads. 
    In plea bargaining, the state and the court are aided in dealing with case loads. Also, the process decreases the prosecutors’ work load by letting them prepare for more serious cases by leaving effortless and petty charges in order to settle through.

    2. It makes trial scheduling uncongested. 
    For the judge, the key benefit of accepting a plea bargain agreement is that he can alleviate the need to schedule and hold the trial on a docket that is already overcrowded. Judges are also aware of overcrowding in jails, so they might be receptive to process out offenders who are unlikely to do much jail time anyway. This means cases will be closed much quicker, which is good for the society as the method de-clogs court systems for more serious cases. 

    3. It hastens the process of trials. 
    Plea bargains are a significant factor in restructuring offenders by letting them agree to the blame for their trial and by letting them voluntarily submit before the law—without having expensive and time-consuming trials.

    4. It eliminates a case’s uncertainty. 
    From the criminal defense’s perspective, the most useful benefit of this type of agreement is its ability to remove the uncertainty of a trial. It helps defendants with making sure they will not receive more serious charges for the criminal acts filed against them.


    Sources -

    1) https://connectusfund.org/15-serious-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-plea-bargaining

  • Cross Examination - Negative | Position: For
    GorbinGorbin 19 Pts
    1. In your first contention, you state it decreases the prosecutors workload by allowing them to prepare for more serious cases. This does not really respond to the point I made about the prosecutors having to much power. Prosecutors can still use their power to abuse the criminal justice system by pressuring defendants to take a plea bargains. In my Rakoff card in my 1st contention, look to the situation of the narcotics case. This happens and more than people think. Every citizen has a right to trial, and prosecutors using their power to make defendants feel pressured to take plea bargains seemingly takes this right away from them.
    2. You stated that, for the judge, the key benefit of accepting a plea bargain agreement is that he can alleviate the need to schedule and hold the trial on a docket that is already overcrowded. Not every docket every judge has is overcrowded, and, going to my response to your first contention, every citizen in the united the RIGHT to trial by jury, and often, prosecutors pressure them into taking deals, which is unconstitutional, as stated in my Klein card. DE-clogging may be a reason, but it misses the underlying issue. 
    3. You state, plea bargains are a significant factor in restructuring offenders by letting them agree to the blame for their trial and by letting them voluntarily submit before the law—without having expensive and time-consuming trials. This reason leads to the assumption that all defendants are guilty, which is obviously not true. In the united states constitution, you are innocent until proven guilty, and by saying plea bargaining lets people submit to the law, which is simply false. This may be true for guilty defendants, who again, have a constitutional right to trial, which is often forced away from them by prosecutors.Not every person in the court system needs to submit to the law, since not all are guilty.
    4.This almost concedes to my entire first contention. Prosecutors show a clear abuse of power by molding the charges to fit how the defendant responds to an offer, look to the Rakoff card and the Klein card. Prosecutors, as well as judges, abuse their power in thi way, and would be gone if the united saw an end to the current system of plea bargaining.

    Thank you.
  • First Affirmative Rebuttal | Position: For
    GorbinGorbin 19 Pts
    1. In your first contention, you state it decreases the prosecutors workload by allowing them to prepare for more serious cases. This does not really respond to the point I made about the prosecutors having to much power. Prosecutors can still use their power to abuse the criminal justice system by pressuring defendants to take a plea bargains. In my Rakoff card in my 1st contention, look to the situation of the narcotics case. This happens and more than people think. Every citizen has a right to trial, and prosecutors using their power to make defendants feel pressured to take plea bargains seemingly takes this right away from them.
    2. You stated that, for the judge, the key benefit of accepting a plea bargain agreement is that he can alleviate the need to schedule and hold the trial on a docket that is already overcrowded. Not every docket every judge has is overcrowded, and, going to my response to your first contention, every citizen in the united the RIGHT to trial by jury, and often, prosecutors pressure them into taking deals, which is unconstitutional, as stated in my Klein card. DE-clogging may be a reason, but it misses the underlying issue. 
    3. You state, plea bargains are a significant factor in restructuring offenders by letting them agree to the blame for their trial and by letting them voluntarily submit before the law—without having expensive and time-consuming trials. This reason leads to the assumption that all defendants are guilty, which is obviously not true. In the united states constitution, you are innocent until proven guilty, and by saying plea bargaining lets people submit to the law, which is simply false. This may be true for guilty defendants, who again, have a constitutional right to trial, which is often forced away from them by prosecutors.Not every person in the court system needs to submit to the law, since not all are guilty.
    4.This almost concedes to my entire first contention. Prosecutors show a clear abuse of power by molding the charges to fit how the defendant responds to an offer, look to the Rakoff card and the Klein card. Prosecutors, as well as judges, abuse their power in this way, and would be gone if the united saw an end to the current system of plea bargaining.


    I mistakenly posted my rebuttal of your argument as cx, my bad.
  • The Negative Rebuttal | Position: Against
    Prosecutors don’t have too much power and should be allowed to plea bargain.

    It brings great possibility to find the accused guilty. 

    When it does happen that the prosecution is feeble or that the court wants proper witnesses or evidence, and the outcome is likely acquittal, it is possible that the prosecuting party will still find the accused guilty.

    It prevents a case from getting worse. 
    When a charged individual takes a plea bargain, he will not have to go through trial. This means that some crimes, which may have been committed, and any damning evidence are not going to be discovered.

    7. It does not allow maximum sentence. 
    One of the biggest reasons why many people opt for plea bargaining is the fact that they cannot receive maximum sentences for their crimes.

    8. It may allow for aiding larger cases. 
    In a plea bargaining agreement, prosecutors will often roll other conditions for the defendants to testify against a co-defendant, which might help solve larger cases in a prosecution.

    9. It lets the justice system breathe. 
    If all criminal cases should make it to a trial by jury, then our justice systems would not be able to sustain themselves. Courts will probably be backed up by months or even years.


    Sources -
    1) https://connectusfund.org/15-serious-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-plea-bargaining 
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