Testing the Impact of a Law Limiting Plea Bargaining
Outsiders and insiders perceive plea bargaining differently. The lay citizenry apparently believes that plea bargaining is actual barter, while attorneys and judges think it is agreement based on technical assessments of what will probably happen to cases if they proceed to trial. Neither of these versions entirely matches the sociological version of plea bargaining, which views the courthouse work group as an interdependent community with common cognitive categories into which cases are fit.
Arthur Rosett and Donald R. Cressey have nicely summarized the point. "There are important differences between what an outsider thinks courthouse people do, what courthouse people think and say they do, and what, in fact, they do."1 For the present purposes, this statement could be reformulated: "There is a difference between what outsiders think legal reforms do to plea bargaining, what court professionals think they do, and what, in fact, they do." This impact study examines the effect of Proposition 8 on plea bargaining in California by examining the reform from these three perspectives: the outsiders, the legal professionals, and statistical reports about "what, in fact," occurred under the new law.
The three perspectives will be examined in the next three chapters. Their organization, however, does not follow Rossett and Cressey; rather than heeding the old admonition of "first things first," the impact study initially explores in Chapter 5 the quantitative indicators of "what, in fact," happened under Proposition 8. Chapter 6 then presents the results of a qualitative examination of what legal professionals thought and said about the new law -- useful, logically, not only as a measure of the law's impact but as a real-life explanation of the statistics presented in Chapter 5. Finally, Chapter 7 returns to the