The “anchoring effect” is a cognitive bias by which people evaluate numbers by focusing on a reference point—an anchor—and adjusting up or down. Unfortunately, people usually do not sufficiently adjust away from their anchors, so the initial choice of anchors has an inordinate effect on their final estimates. More than ninety percent of all criminal cases are resolved by plea bargains. In the vast majority of those cases, the prosecutor makes the initial plea offer, and prosecutors often make high initial offers. Assuming that the prosecutor’s opening offer operates as an anchor, nearly all criminal cases in this country produce unjust results based upon an unconscious cognitive bias. This Article proposes a solution that most jurisdictions have rejected: Judges should be able to participate in the plea discussions. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1) and most state counterparts strictly preclude judges from participating in plea discussions, but a few jurisdictions permit judicial participation. In these jurisdictions, plea discussions commence with the prosecution and defense laying out their cases and asking for particular dispositions and the judge responding with the expected post-plea sentence. This Article contends that this type of judicial participation would reduce the anchoring effect.
BCLR Releases Vol. LV No. 3
The Boston College Law Review is pleased to publish the May 2014 issue. Here are summaries of this issue’s Articles and Notes: […]
Volume LVI Board of Editors Announced
We are pleased to announce the Board of Editors for the 2014-2015 academic year: Volume 56 Board of Editors […]
BCLR Releases Vol. LV No. 2
The Boston College Law Review is pleased to publish the March 2014 issue. Here are summaries of this issue’s Articles and […]