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8 Just. Sys. J. 157 (1983)
Burglary and Robbery Plea Bargaining in California: An Organizational Perspective

handle is hein.journals/jusj8 and id is 159 raw text is: BURGLARY AND ROBBERY PLEA BARGAINING IN CALIFORNIA:
The organizational perspective, as developed in the literature on court decisions,
alerts researchers and practitioners to the complexity of case processing and to the
interaction of environment and informal decision processes. This study applies the
perspective to robbery and burglary plea bargaining in three California counties.
Analysis of interview and quantitative case file data demonstrates that local envi-
ronments produce distinctive patterns of charge bargaining, but that the major
criteria (i.e., defendants' criminal records) affecting the severity of sentencing in
negotiated cases remain relatively stable across jurisdictions. Implications for
further research are suggested.
For more than a decade, the attempt to understand courts as organiza-
tions has been something of a movement (Mohr, 1976: 622). The emerg-
ing organizational perspective is most broadly characterized by recogni-
tion that courts, like other organizations, can be understood only
partially in terms of... formally defined substantive and procedural
goals. ...[ M]any of the routinized patterns of cooperation and ex-
change between supposed adversaries.., have suggested that the ad-
versarial 'due process' model of court operation may belie reality
(Church, 1976: 382).
Thus, the organizational perspective has brought informal 'rules of the
game' (Feeley, 1973: 413) to the fore in describing how courts actually
process cases.
The elevation of informal procedures to a central position in the study of
court operations has helped confirm that negotiation is a dominant deci-
sion style in processing criminal cases. In the introduction to their organi-
zational analysis of felony case processing in four cities, Eisenstein and
Jacob (1977: 32) flatly assert that negotiation is the most commonly used
technique in criminal courtrooms. The extent to which the resolution of
criminal cases through negotiated pleas of guilty has dominated our crim-
inal justice system is copiously documented (e.g., Alschuler, 1979; Fried-
man, 1979; Heumann, 1975). Acceptance of the process in the criminal
justice system is dramatized by the comments of a judge in a midwestern
county: trials, he argued, reflect 'a breakdown in ... negotiations'
* The author acknowledges the support and contribution of Edward R. Cohen, Director of the
Joint Committee for Reform of the Penal Code in the California Legislature, and the
valuable comments of anonymous reviewers for this journal.
**Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy Administration, University of
Missouri-St. Louis.
THE JUSTICE SYSTEM JOURNAL, Volume 8, Number 2 (1983)

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