A recent article by Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that presents a scathing indictment of prosecutors and, indeed, the entire criminal justice system, has prompted a point and counterpoint in a very public debate. Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general, and other Department of Justice officials have led a full-throated rebuttal defending prosecutors’ conduct. Both the judge and the department cite facts, but the truth — in this instance — does not lie somewhere between the two opposing views. The Justice Department has the better part of this debate.>

The much admired Justice Robert Jackson, while serving in 1940 as U.S. attorney general, famously told a meeting of federal prosecutors in the Great Hall of the Justice Department headquarters in Washington: “The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous. … With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes; a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone.”

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