Bureaucratic Discretion, Agency Structure, and Democratic Responsiveness: The Case of the United States Attorneys
Posted: 4 Jun 2005
Structural choices have fundamental and continuing effects on the democratic responsiveness of public agencies. In contrast to popular accounts of the United States Attorneys' "splendid isolation," I provide structural evidence of routes to the national political oversight of the prosecution of federal crimes in the field. Examining U.S. Attorneys' data on the prosecution of regulatory crimes, I present statistical tests of local justice, lone justice, and overhead democratic control accounts of prosecutorial behavior. While due to their field location, the U.S. Attorneys' prosecution reflects local and internal office factors, I also find a surprising degree of responsivness to national political trends, where this structure-induced responsiveness depends on the stage of the prosecutorial process. Together these results provide support for a design approach to understanding how public agencies respond to calls for democratic responsiveness.
Keywords: Prosecution, Regulation, Political Control
JEL Classification: D73, G18, K2, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation