Friday, March 18, 2022

Dan Canon's "Pleading Out"

Dan Canon is a civil rights lawyer and a law professor at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. In his practice, he has served as counsel for plaintiffs in the US Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which brought marriage equality to all fifty states, and in a number of other high-profile cases. He lives in southern Indiana.

Canon applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Pleading Out: How Plea Bargaining Creates a Permanent Criminal Class, and reported the following:
Smack-dab in the middle of page 99 of my book is this paragraph:
Without a doubt, plea bargaining is a chief enabler of bad policing. US cops, tasked with enforcing an enormous number of criminal laws, are driven by arrest quotas to make criminals out of an unprecedented number of people. Prosecutors and judges can’t closely examine every arrest, and they know that the result of nearly every charge is going to be a guilty plea anyway. As such, no one polices the police. In this way, widespread plea bargaining, which by its very nature shrouds criminal proceedings in secrecy, allows even the worst police misconduct to go undetected. What stops an officer from overcharging someone, exaggerating the facts, or even totally inventing the circumstances that led to an arrest?
As much as I'd like to say "no way could a reader get the gist of a book as complex as mine in a single paragraph," this passage does sum up a central theme that runs throughout. Namely: the need for speed, enabled by the ubiquitous use of plea bargaining, has replaced any broader "search for truth" in the criminal justice system, and that this state of affairs has led to all kinds of awful consequences. As a browser's shortcut to understanding my book, I'd give the Page 99 Test a solid 'B.'
Visit Dan Canon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue