Discretion, dispensation and mitigation

Discretion in the U.S. criminal justice system was at one time defined by Roscoe Pound, a legal scholar and educator (1960) as follows: “an authority conferred by law to act in certain conditions or situations in accordance with an official’s or an official agency’s own considered judgment and conscience.” Discuss the following:

  • Do you think there is too much discretion in the criminal justice system? Explain.
  • Are there certain jobs or roles in the criminal trial process (from investigation through appeal) that have more discretion than other jobs or roles?
  • Is there too great a concentration of discretion in particular jobs or roles in the criminal justice system?
  • Do you think it would be desirable to limit the amount of discretion in the criminal justice system? If so, how would you do this? What might be the effects?

Reference

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Pound, R. (1960). Discretion, dispensation and mitigation: The problem of the individual special case. New York University Law Review 35. 925, 926.

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