Can the ACLU and John Legend Make Prosecutorial Elections Matter?

Or Does America Need to Change Its System?

When John Legend partnered with the ACLU of California to help bring public awareness to district attorney’s races, he was seeking to draw attention to the fact that prosecutors do more than just prosecute the law. He wanted to remind people that prosecutor’s control and influence a vast portion of the criminal justice system, including two prevalent issues: cash bail and mass incarceration. Given modern movements towards criminal justice reform, it may be time for a reexamination of how lead prosecutors come into their power. Ideally, elected prosecutors would tailor their platforms in response to public need; however, the ACLU has pointed out that many modern district attorneys are out of step with their constituents, choosing to focus on “tough on crime” mantras over the more positive “end mass incarceration” slogans. What may be worse is that the public seems apathetic towards district attorney elections, allowing for this the gap between lead prosecutors and constituents to widen. This Note ultimately argues that modern circumstances tilt towards appointing state prosecutors, rather than electing them. Given a diversifying society with different needs, appointments would ensure that prosecutors are insulated against corruption and that public needs are protected.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.