Oct 1, 2007

In the United States, plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust: the November-December Lincoln-Douglas resolution

At long last, the November-December resolution has arrived.
Resolved: In the United States, plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust.
Analysis, links, observations, rants, discussions, and controversies. This is the first resolution we take into competition, so I'm pretty excited about it. LDers, watch this space--and be sure to join in the conversation. (Update 11/11: here's a place to post arguments you hear in rounds.)

Update 12/1: The January-February nuclear weapons resolution is now available.

Crucial Definitions
This resolution is surprisingly simple. On the aff, define "plea bargaining," explain how the resolution limits it to exchanges for testimony, and define justice, probably as your value. On the neg, I'd imagine most definitions of "plea bargaining" would be fairly non-contentious. "Justice" will be the major sticking point.

Useful Search Terms
plea bargaining
due process
sentencing guidelines
speedy trial
Sixth Amendment
prosecutorial discretion
substantial assistance
downward departure

Potential Values
Aff: Justice. Criteria: due process, right to a fair trial, the rule of law

Neg: Justice. Criteria: retribution, due process, equal treatment under the law, the rule of law.... Hmm... what would Kant say?

Update: I go over some initial reasons plea bargaining in exchange for testimony can be considered unjust. I also point out some things to consider when copping a plea.

Update 10/2: I somehow connect the resolution and Superman. Also, e-note's intro to plea bargaining is a clear and useful explanation. When you're ready, check out the federal sentencing guidelines related to plea bargaining.

Update 10/3: A sample affirmative case--a retribution case--for your critique.

Update 10/4 Now, a sample Neg structure focused on due process.

Update 10/10: Defining justice the professional way.

Update 10/13: Blog neighbor Josh applies Foucault to the resolution. And, for free, a Foucault analysis by Nancy J. Holland in ""Truth as Force": Michel Foucault on Religion, State Power, and the Law," from the Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 18, No. 1. (2002 - 2003):
In this age of plea bargaining, and the often public displays of remorse it sometimes involves, we can see an intriguing confluence of an earlier (and unfortunately often ritual) insistence on the congruence between human and divine law (to knowingly punish the innocent for any reason remains, in the political ideology of the United States, unthinkable), the incorporation of psychotherapeutic practices (e.g., the cathartic effect of taking responsibility for one's actions) into the legal process, and something very much like exomologesis, both in the role that those harmed by the defendant now play in sentencing procedures and in the almost ritual display of leg irons and chains in some jurisdiction.
In other words, plea bargaining is a form of ritualized confession. Ah, but is it good for the soul?

Update 10/15: A Texas judge offers an insider's perspective on plea bargaining.

Update 10/18: I show an affirmative argument that "pre-turns" an important Neg claim.

Update 10/19: Here's an older post on some issues related to using the criterion in Lincoln-Douglas debate.

Update 10/21: For beginners (or for anyone, really): a handy guide to moral theories [pdf].

Update 10/23: A look at the "McDonaldization" of justice, and the role of plea bargaining in the process, with implications for Aff and Neg.

Update 10/25: A closer look at federal sentencing guidelines, which play an important role in the putative justice or injustice of plea bargaining in the United States. (If you haven't studied up on USSG 5K1, this is a must-read.)

Update 10/28: I note some trends in state court felony conviction rates. I also provide some evidence regarding the morality of plea bargaining.

Update 11/2: Another must-read: crucial statistics on "substantial assistance" pleas, which cover many (if not most) PBET scenarios.

Update 11/6: I show how utilitarianism might work on the Aff.

Update 11/8: What role does discrimination play? I look at some statistics.

Update 11/26: After a holiday hiatus, I'm back with a new criterion for a case: virtue ethics.


okiedebater said...

It's great to be back to LD! I wondered what it would be like if the NFL released the topic at midnight. I for some reason got this Halo 3 type picture of thousands of debaters nationwide pressing their refresh buttons at the same time, but I digress.

From the vast amount of time I have been able to spend analyzing today, the main thought I had for each side was equality.

The Aff could argue that there should be equal punishment for equal crime. If the same action is committed, why should one person be treated differently than another?

The Neg could respond to said argument with motivation and remorse. Just as motivation played a key role in the Domestic Violence/Deliberate Deadly Force resolution, I see it being pretty important with this argument.

Another main difference I see between the Aff and Neg is that the Aff could argue more for protection of individual rights while the Neg seems more based on the common good.

One final thought:
The phrase "In the United States" seems like it would give priority to American philosophers (ex: Jefferson) or those who were influential in Revolutionary America (ex: Locke). Is that a reasonable assumption?

Jim Anderson said...

I will confess, that was exactly what I did. At midnight Eastern and Central, 9 and 10 here on the West Coast. I was greatly disappointed at the delay.

To your equality argument, could the Neg respond that everyone has an equal opportunity to plea bargain? Or, in the case of capital punishment, that you die once whether you kill ten or a hundred people, so "equal punishment" is already moot?

I don't know if you have to prefer American philosophers, but you at least have to discuss the American framework. Not all countries allow plea bargaining. It might mean having to justify the practice according to the Constitution and federal law, though, if that's the criterion for justice.

TheTachyix said...

I see no way to bring in Thomas Hobbes. :(.

Angelides said...

I am not a fan of this topic but I see a few arguements trickled here and there.

I think there is going to be debate over the sixth amendment (right to speedy trial, ect) obviously as a stock arguement.

for the american philosophers thing, i think it will unfortunately have to be them but observers of America too (British critiques of US, ect).

yet again i see that theres going to be mess over political corruption and unjustness on the side of the US government which will get messy in debate.

i think the whole arguement of arbitrary "just" is going to take a huge effect.

this is just my thoughts

Jim Anderson said...

angelides, thanks for sharing.

For those who think this has to be all about American philosophizin', consider:

1. Contemporary scholars from all over the globe study and critique American jurisprudence.

2. Principles of justice underlying this debate are older and deeper than the Constitution.

If someone were to argue that this debate is all about Constitutionality, that's fine--but also requires warranting. The Constitution isn't set in stone, and is not the be-all end-all of "justice American style."

Angelides said...

i think the words United States doesnt have to mean USA hehe :). nah but i just thought of something else. they dont limit to the american philosophers and stuff b/c the word "unjust" has infinite limits :)

Anonymous said...

hey...ima high skool student doing LD debate on this topic! i currently have no idea what to talk about (affand neg).....email me !


Angelides said...

hey jim anderson, got any ideas for strong non-stock cases for either side? i like to run non-stock cases so good debaters that are quick on their feet are the only ones that can respond. any ideas, if you got some post here or email me at philipangelides@hotmail.com

Jim Anderson said...


I'm still mulling over the topic. I'll be sure to post out-there ideas as they arrive.

One of the tough things about this resolution is its narrowness. Much of the academic discussion on plea bargaining is general, sometimes totally ignoring the moral calculus involved in the bargain-for-testimony exchange. I'm automatically suspicious of cards that attack "plea bargaining" as coercive--they seem to forget that in PBET, the defendant is sometimes assuming quite the risk to testify. It's just not the same as a standard plea bargain.

seahawkfan474 said...

One thing you guys are forgetting about the six amendment is that would only conflict if it was plea barganing in exchange for the defendent to plea guilty but it is in exchange for testimony they still can have their trial. also what do you guys think of putting deontology for an aff criterion saying that the means of lowering one persons sentence is unjust so the ends even if you get two people will also eb unjust.

Jim Anderson said...

seahawksfan, I agree that a deontological position seems to track well with the Aff.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say a plea bargainer (in exchange for testimony) still has to stand trial. How / why?

seahawkfan474 said...

Well when a person plea bargains he waives his own right to trial. It is his own decision. I mean what can we do when it is his own choice.

Anonymous said...

This debate can't be simply about constitutionality, can it? Just because a law is currently the status quo doesn't make it just. Slavery was constitutional and legal at some point, but no one will argue that it is just. Correct me if i'm wrong, but i don't see how one can effectively argue for constitutionality. Now, I'm a novice LD debater, I've never actually gone to a tournament yet, and i'm not sure what to argue for my Neg. I can see that you could use societal protection and or welfare on the Aff, but i'm unclear on how to argue that plea bargaining is just. If anyone has any feedback, I'd love to hear it.
Oh, and I think the deontology arguement is great, but the typical response will just be teleology, right? You cite Kant and say that the means have to justify the ends, they cite machiavelli and say that the ends justify the means. How do you prove that deontology is more applicable than teleology?

Anonymous said...

I haven't read any of the posts yet-- but...

On Aff. I think you can use the third categorical imperative and show that plea bargaining is unjust because you are using people as a means, when truly, they are inherently ends.


Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, you can make that argument--but be careful. You have to explain how PBET uses someone as a means. Simply having someone aid in an investigation isn't "using" them, even by Kantian principles. What about PBET is exploitative?

Anonymous said...

I do need to make my argument crystal:

PBET is explotation because an accused person is using the crimes of another to achieve their own ends of being let free. Or getting a lesser sentence. Or getting not being convicted for as strong of a crime.

So, hypothetically, the Justice system isn't unjust for using PBET. The people who plea bargain are denying justice.

Raishin said...

I feel the argument is hideously outweighed toward the affirmative... trying to come up with a unique negative argument is difficult, especially since all I can think of are reasons associated with economics. I'll just hope I don't end up using my negative argument too much, because even though I'll have one, it's probably gonna be weak.

Thanks for the links by the way. Much help. ♥

Jim Anderson said...

raishin, Thanks for visiting. I hope you don't despair too much. The resolution is purposefully narrow because "in exchange for testimony" is a unique form of plea bargaining. It means that the defendant has something of value to society--something that will help provide justice (as I describe in a utilitarian way elsewhere). If we define justice in a more communitarian framework--as Gerard Bradley does, which I'll link to soon--then the Neg has ample ground.

Anonymous said...

what about using utilitarianism for this topic?

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, a sketch of one way utility comes into play is made in this article.

Anonymous said...

This resolution seems to lean heavily toward aff. do you have any ideas for a neg arguement?

Jim Anderson said...

I disagree that it leans Aff. Plea bargaining in exchange for testimony might result in a lighter sentence, but only because it has materially affected the outcome of another trial, since PBET is conditional on the validity and timeliness of the testimony.

Also, defendants who testify can place themselves at great risk. Even someone who gets off lightly may face retribution or have to live in the Witness Protection Program. It's not exactly a rose garden.

NPPFalcon said...

What is the difference between the critrion and contentions????????

Eileen Wang said...

this is my first time to do LD debate. one of the reason i do this is my brother was a greate debater of LD when he was in high school. :D

Anonymous said...

I think the main issue that people will run into, especially in novice rounds, is the interpretation of the resolution. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Does the resolution ask about the justness of plea bargaining or the exchange that takes place? all the arguments I've heard combat plea bargaining itself, not the exchange for testimony. Input?

Jim Anderson said...

NPPFalcon, I've written about the criterion here. Contentions are your main points.

anonymous, If the Aff can show that plea bargaining of any kind is unjust, then they can argue that, consequently, PBET is also unjust. They have to be careful, though, since some of the reasons for the injustice of plea bargaining seem to ignore the "good" that comes out of PBET, which may tip the scales of justice.

So, in essence, look at any piece of evidence with a critical eye, and ask, "Does this still make sense when applied to PBET?"

Anonymous said...

It's so easy for neg to say that PBET is just because it can bring down crime circles, and it helps get a higher number of people in jail. this arg. is only relevant because of the specific resolution. even if aff proves PB unjust in and of itself, neg can still claim that that doesn't make the exchange itself unjust or immoral, right? I thought that aff would be the easier side, but now i'm not so sure. Does anyone have any insight or response to this?

Anonymous said...

I think this resolution is going to come down to deontology vs. utilitarianism. Do you know of any good spot to research both sides or have any stock responses as to why one is more just?

Bailie said...

I realize that the Affirmative can make the connection that if plea bargaining is unjust then plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust.

1. Too many times this leads to people just skating around the WHOLE resolution. I mean, I literally had a whole CX round where my opponent tried to get me to only talk about plea bargaining so that he could pin me down... and I wouldn't go for it.

2. There is definitely a Neg argument that the resolution is talking about the exchange of PB for testimony and that this exchange makes something that is potentially unjust-- because of it's bias towards wealthy criminals with rock-star lawyers-- just.

3. Also, let's use an analogy:
Most would agree that killing is unjust.
But, some of these people may believe that capital punishment is just.
These same people would say that abortion is unjust. (That's a bit stickier because not everyone believes that it's killing.)
And, most of these people who say killing is unjust would make an exception in times of war.
So, carrying this over to PB, just because PB is unjust doesn't mean PBET is.

Sorry so long, I had a lot to say.

Bailie said...

On the Federal Guidelines for Plea Bargaining...

It seemed as though that wasn't applicable to the states, so is there any evidence that would show that most states have adopted similar guidelines?

Also, is there any evidence you have found showing that when PBET is used, it is only used with weight?

My debate coach insists that I rely on Law and Order as a credible source... I'm not so fond of that idea. Nor will my Judges.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to LD and i'm unsure of what criterion and contentions are and how do we choose criterion that relate to our resolution?

Heidi said...

On the neg side of plea bargaining, I am using am using a "Big Fish" case. I want to flush it with philosophy of "the ends justify the means." Aside from Machiavelli, who advocates this? Thanks!

Jim Anderson said...


I'd use federal guidelines for two reasons. 1. It simplifies an otherwise impossibly messy debate, with 50 potentially different standards and 2. Federal guidelines are "advisory" for all the states.

What do you mean by "used with weight?"

That's the summary of a moral position called "consequentialism." (Plenty of philosophers discussing it out there besides Machiavelli.) Here's a link to a handy introduction to several moral theories, including consequentialism.

bailie said...

When I say "used w/ weight" I mean that a murderer wouldn't be used to testify against a violent theif because the violent theif committed a "lesser offense".

Some things are just logical knowledege and I realize that this is one of those things, but in OK-- our debaters and judges will get you on evidentiary support.

Jim Anderson said...


Thanks for clarifying. I never thought anyone would need evidence that PBET is used "with weight," just because it strikes me as intuitive.

I don't know of any empirical evidence offhand, but I'll look into it. If you needed, you could always interview a local prosecuting attorney about it--I'm sure they'll back up the intuition.

Anonymous said...

PBET is neccessary in our society to infiltrate drug trafficking circles, and other crime cirles. So PBET is societaly beneficial. If one takes this stance on neg, then what would a good value and criterion be? I know that using utilitarianism is good, but i'm not sure whether i make it my criterion for justice, or whether to make it my value overall. If so, what would my criterion be?

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, you'd define justice in a social framework or as morality and use utilitarianism as a criterion. You'd have to show why PBET brings more to justice, an argument I raise here (toward the end). Utilitarianism isn't a value--it's one way to approach justice and morality.

bailie said...

Actually (this brings in the reference to Law and Order), my debate coach insists that it isn't used with weight and since she's convinced, naturally any argument I bring up in class tied to weight is discredited w/out evidence just because she says it is.
And I quote: "Just watch Law and Order."

But, thanks for the advice about the prosecutor interview. Actually, the district attorney is coming to the school in about a week so, I can ask him.

Jim Anderson said...


Hope that turns out well for you. And when your debate coach says "watch Law and Order," come back with, "try The Wire instead."

Another thing for folks to consider: there are extraneous pressures on prosecutors. Why would a DA go after a "small fry" drug offender, when testimony from the small-timer would help convict the sexy, politically advantageous "big fry?" The public demands action. This is a democracy.

Anonymous said...

Hey! I'm new to LD and i need a little help my aff value is equality, my first and second contnetions are inequality among victims, and treatment among criminals is unequal. I need a third contention can somebody help me?

Anonymous said...

If your value is equality, what is your criterion? Just out of curiousity, would it work to have your value be justice, and your criterion equality? also, arguing inequality sounds good, but i guess i'm not quite sure how you would set up those contentions to do that. Can you explain?

rag9100 said...

thanks for all the help,

where do you find all your information/research...i notice that you have a lot of quotes, docs etc.

can they be accessed online?

Jim Anderson said...

rag9100, and thanks for stopping by. I use ProQuest an online database which I can access through my school library or the public library, and JSTOR, which requires campus access at a local university.

Talk to your school librarian about getting to ProQuest--it's extremely useful, allowing you to filter your results to academic journals with fully available text.

Lily said...

Can you please help my find a story in which someone commited perjury because of PBET?

Jim Anderson said...

Lily, could you clarify the question? US federal sentencing guidelines state that if a defendant who agrees to testify doesn't offer valid testimony, the deal collapses.

Lily said...

i am trying to do an aff case which states that "Coercing testimony with bribes may produce evidence that is unreliable." i just want a example news story or statistic saying someone lied to get a plea bargain.

Jim Anderson said...

Lily, gotcha. But that's why it's so hard to find a story like that: the guidelines require testimony to be true. There may be testimony that slips through the cracks, but it's unlikely we'll know much about it.

It seems like that argument would work as a subpoint to a larger contention about the injustice of coerced guilty pleas.

Anonymous said...

Where can I go to find an explanation of deontology? It sounds like the Kantian theory I ran across at http://ld-debate.blogspot.com/ is close, but what other theories are out there?

Sylvänus said...

Lily, at http://ld-debate-arguments.blogspot.com/ theres a list of args, and I think one of them was about your argument

Lily said...

Thank you for all your help!

Anonymous said...

for my neg case, i know i want to use justice for my value and societal protection as my criteria, but i'm having trouble the two just right.

And is their any flaws with these choices so far?

Jessica said...

what is a good rebuttal if someone states that "PBET deters crimes" and "PBET increases the probability that guilty criminals will be convicted"?

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, how does societal protection lead to or link to justice? It seems you're using a utilitarian criterion (PBET either makes us safer, or doesn't, in some utilitarian sense). Am I right?

If so, you might be interested in Jessica's questions, which I'll try to answer:

1. "PBET deters crimes"
a. Perhaps deterrence doesn't justify punishment. Just because torture, for example, might deter crime, wouldn't make it just to use torture.

b. PBET might reduce deterrence, because criminals know that if they're caught, they'll get a reduced sentence if they cooperate. They walk around carrying a "Get out of Jail Early" card.

2. "PBET increases the probability that guilty criminals will be convicted."
a. So would an Orwellian police state; that doesn't mean that whatever works is just.

b. That newly uilty criminal is actually more likely to cop a standard plea (since about 95% of all convictions are based on guilty pleas), and will thus escape true justice anyway.

Other responses are out there, and depend on your criterion.

Anonymous said...

Would a good V/Vc to use the equality of rights upheld by lockes social contract?

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, it could work, insofar as...

1. You can warrant why Locke's SC is most applicable to the resolution. (Shouldn't be too much of a problem, since it's set "In the United States," which is based in part on Lockean principles).

2. You can clearly show how PBET upholds--or doesn't uphold--the rights guaranteed under Locke's SC.

Anonymous said...

how would I show that it doesnt uphold the rights guarenteed in Lockes Sc?

Anonymous said...

Hello, all. I was wondering how stupid I would appear if I argued the following for my neg case (keep in mind that I'm a novice and this is the first case I've ever written:

value = justice
Criteria = constitutionality (?)

Terms I evaluate are:

- "In the U.S."; we must note that unjustness can only be applicable to the resolution in terms of the U.S. (if PBET viotates justice by a widely accepted deffinition of justice, then we don't affirm the resolution because the resolution specifies "in the U.S. So, we must evaluate, or define, justice in terms of what is considered just by the U.S.'s standards)

- "Plea bargaining in exchange for testimony"; A person who has comitted a lesser crime pleads guilty and shares information about a greater crime in exchange for a lesser sentence of punishment.

- Justice (by widely accepted deffinition); Giving each their due.

- Justice (By U.S's definition; Something that is lawfull or in accordance with the constitution)

- Unjust; something that lacks characturistics of justice.


I thought that I could state that the U.S. is unjust by the standard interpretation of justice, and I would use slavery as an example. Slavery was once considered just in the U.S., but slavery strips someone of their humanity because it involvs treating someone like an object rather than a human so it would not be considered just by the standard interpretation of justice. When slavery was finaly accepted as unjust in the U.S., it was abolished. So, one can determine whether something is just in the U.S. by whether it is legal or not.

I could carry on to say that even if PBET could be considered unjust because it is not in accordance with the standard interpretation of justice, you must negate if it is in accordance with the U.S.'s definition of justice because of the specificity of the resolution.

I don't know what burdens I'm going to place on the affirmative. (I need help here)

Then, it will be my sole contention that PBET is legal and is in accordance with the constitution and is, consequintly, just in the U.S. I found a warrent supporting this that I will use.


Please, tell me what I would need to do to perfect this idea.

Can someone help me word my burdens?

Also, please, for the love of God, tell me if I sound like a complete idiot.


Anonymous said...

Well, to argue against your criterion I could state that slavery was once constitutional and does that make it just?

Anonymous said...

Yes, it would be considered just in terms of the resolution because when slavery was legal, it was deemed just in the U.S.; likewise, when they abolished slavery, it was deemed unjust in the U.S. The extrapolation of this is, as long as something is lawfull or in accordance with the constitution, it is considered just within the U.S. When something is deemed unjust in the U.S., the U.S. will remove it. So, we can use this as a sort of weighing mechinism... if it is legal, it is just within the U.S., if it is illegal, it is deemed unjust in the U.S.


Anonymous said...

what could I use as my burden?


Anonymous said...

So basically you are saying slavery was just at the time. Then you have to ask yourself, is the united states a just society?

Anonymous said...

The U.S. is a just society by its own standards. It may not be considered just by the widely accepted interpretation of Justice (giving each their die) but the specificity of the resolution requires us to weigh what is just based on what is just in the U.S. The U.S. is by the people for the people, whatever is legal is believed to be the best thing for the people of the U.S. and is considered just.

-cough-cough- I repeat.... help with burdens?


Anonymous said...

sorry, I had a typo that greatly changes the meaning of my post. What I meant to say was due*

Justice is defined as giving each their due...not die


Anonymous said...

Okay, so I'm a novice, and i just went to my first tournament yesterday. i got into the final round, and got runner up in the tournament. my neg case v/c was justice and societal protection and benefit, and it worked pretty well. i ran it five times (granted, one of my judges accused my criterion of being fascist, but he still voted for me, so it's okay). I go on to talk about dismantling larger criminal orgainizations and how it's a trade-off that is beneficial to society. i was sort of disappointed when i lost with that case in the finals, so do you have any ideas for improvement? Or how I could/should reword it to be less "facist?"

Jim Anderson said...

shana, I don't know why you'd go to the trouble to spell out a counterattack to your position in your own case, but at least you have reasons to defend it.

I think you need to use the phrase "evolving standard of justice" somewhere to describe what you're talking about. By its very nature, the Constitution is a flexible document, ready to be changed via democratic processes. It may not be perfectly just in a grand metaphysical sense, but in our American democracy, it's the best we can hope for, a tangible and defensible criterion.

As to burdens you want to lay on the Aff, I'm not sure--perhaps you'd want to make them demonstrate why their conception of justice is uniquely American, and fits in the current justice system. Have a resolutional analysis focusing on the word "is," perhaps.

You might also use the phrase "bright line." Your criterion is crystal-clear; you should challenge the Aff to provide an equally clear standard.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, without seeing your entire case, it's difficult to know what makes it "fascist." Could you give an outline of your contentions, at least?

Anonymous said...

isn't something that is facist oppresive or leads to a dictatorship or something?

bailie said...

I just thought I should throw this out there:

Twice at tournament this weekend, I heard the marketplace of ideas. I personally think it's incredibly naive to think that the most just ideas will always rise to the top, but apparently my judges had never heard of the Holocaust or slavery.

Basically the case was that offering plea bargaining gives rise to the marketplace of ideas by offering a choice to defendants (which inherently makes no sense?) and the decision to use plea bargaining is the most just since it is used 90-95% of the time.

I want to say it was the most abusive case I've ever heard. EVER.

Jim Anderson said...

That is a pretty weird case, bailie. If you see it again, you might argue that the justice system, by punishing criminals, is supposed to keep the marketplace safe for the exchange of ideas. If we truly value that, we ought to make sure criminals, who abuse others' rights, can't take advantage of that system.

Anonymous said...

ok, so im looking at my flow of my oppentents neg case and they talked about how cases would arrode over time because w/o pb they would take so long, that the cases would not be able to be tried, and i dont know how to argue againt is, because she said that people move away, memories grow fuzzy and she stated that in NYC between 1993-1994 in the bronx durring the hight of the plea ban between 17-18 percent of cases were dismissed, and then guilty pleas were at an all time low of 70 to 73 percent and how bogging down the courts let people go free fro the erosion of evidence.

Anonymous said...


I need help with finding sites for basic, unbiased statistics.

Thank you in advonce.

LD n00b said...

Here's some good data:

“The most notable American effort to abolish plea bargaining began in Alaska in 1975. Evaluations of this reform by the Alaska Judicial Council five and fifteen years later revealed that ‘plea bargaining effectively was prohibited in most Alaska cases for about ten years. The prohibition did not, as far as could be measured, cause major disruption to the justice system. The screening portion of the policy resulted in better police investigations and stronger cases.’” –Encyclopedia Of Crime and Justice

“Although Alaska’s plea-bargaining prohibition led to a 30 percent increase in the number of trials, the absolute number of trials remained small. A substantial majority of convictions continued to be by guilty plea. Despite the increased trials, court delay was reduced, possibly because of a reduction in the dilatory tactics that plea bargaining had encouraged.” –EOCAJ

Certainly, alaska isn't NYC. But if one state can survive, and even benifit from, a complete abolition of plea bargaining, any other state should survive a 20% reduction.

Theres also historical precedent for justice systems surviving without plea bargaining. Check out the Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice. (sorry, I don't know if it's online. But I found it at my local library, you can proubably check yours online.)


for negs, I'd recomend a philosophical argument. There are 2 kinds of definitions of justice- objective, and subjective. Objective definitions are those that involve moral concepts such as "fairness," and cannot be debated, so you can throw them out. The only subjective definition you can find in a dictionary is that of "conforming to law." Since you threw out the rest, that's the only usable definition of justice, and from there you have won the neg case.

Some would say it doesn't conform to law because its unconstitutional, but to conform to law it only has to be interpreted constitutional by the supremem court, which it has been since '71. (previously, they were silent on the issue.) Segregation in the south was ruled unconstitutional, but until then it was legal, aka conformed to the law.

Take it from there.

-LD n00b

PS. Unfortunatly, an aff will proubably counter that by this definition what nazi germany did in the holocaust was "just." If you were gutsy, you could say that it is objective whether or not massacring jews, disabled people, poles, gypsies, homosexuals and POWs is bad. But, you could also counter that modern America is a democracy and thus roughly represents the moral views of its people. Even though that doesn't actually effect the definition, it might be good to throw in to convince the judge you arn't endorsing fascism and national socialism.
Or you could say what Hitler did went against
international law; this would be stronger in the rebutall but then you might get your oponent saying plea-bargaining doesn't conform to international law, which does still apply in the US.

(come to think of it, international law could be the basis for some interesting arguments your opponent has proubably not prepared for...)

Anonymous said...

I'm trying desperately to write a negative speech,but all of my points prove that plea bargaining is necessary or efficient, not that they're just. Any suggestions?


Anonymous said...

What do the two last letters of PBET stand for?

PL1149 said...

PBET = Plea Bargaining in Exchange for Testimony

That Kid said...

I've outlined my case and i was just wondering if you thought this would make a good Aff case:

V-Rawl's Thoery of Justice
VC- Equaltiy

testimony is not always valid which is unjust, and that the defendant who is being testified against becomes the least advantaged member of society
only forensic evidence and voulenteer eyewitnesses should be used against the defendant

Con 2-
Accomplice testimony is likely to be wrong
Innocent people are often coerced into a guilty plea

Plea bargaining is racially disriminatory and discriminatory against people with only a high school education
overpunishing and underpunishing are unjust
Any help would be great. Thank You.

Jim Anderson said...

that kid, an interesting proposal. I think...

V: Justice
C: Rawls' First Principle of Justice (An equal right to equal basic legal liberties.)

Rawls' second principle does allow inequality in the distribution of resources, as long as that inequality benefits the worst off (sometimes called the "maximin" scenario).

Another option might be to use Justice as your value and Rawls' Veil of Ignorance as the criterion. It's an interesting way to consider varying moral propositions: if you didn't know which station in society you would hold, what sort of society would you set up? (Rawls says this form of reasoning leads to his two principles of justice, but that's debatable.)

It's the same reason that a fair way to slice a pie is for one to slice and the other to choose their piece first. Knowing human nature, the slicer will try to make sure they get the most pie--thus slicing it in half, making the outcome pretty much equal.

As for "overpunishing and underpunishing are unjust," those are straight out of retributive theory. Maybe you want to use retributivism as your criterion instead? It includes proportional punishment, and equality under the law (i.e., criminals who commit similar crimes should be punished similarly).

Anonymous said...

Ok, question: What about on the aff, running value is justice and using locke's 2nd treatise on govt to support a VC of US Constitution? Thats what I'm using (I'm testing it tonight ^-^ ) with 1 contention of pbet = unconst, thus unjust. A-Article III, Sec 2, Clause 3 of US Const sez trials shall be decided by a jury, so I argue that people have no right to a trial, the govt rather has a duty to try everyone. 6th ammendment qualifies conditions of trial, not grant rights. and B-Disproportionality = unconst w/ weems vs US extending 8th ammendment to say crimes must = punishment and kantian analysis of proportional punishment.
Does that sound any good?

And, just out of curiosity, If you ever ran solipsm on neg, would that mean that every noun in the aff case is a case turn? Just wondering :D

That Kid said...

Thank you,

I think I'm going to change my criterion to retributivism, but i could'nt find any good definitions. Do a good one?

That Kid said...

**Do you have a good one?

That Kid said...

Or maybe this,

V- Rawl's first prinicipal of Justice
VC- Retributivism

Jim Anderson said...

That Kid, I think that would work. Check out the definition of retributivism and analysis here.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, sorry I didn't have a chance to comment earlier. That's an interesting analysis. Did it work for you?

Also, if anyone ran solipsism against me, I'd relish the chance to say, "So, afterward, when you've lost this round, you'll have to look back and say you must have wanted it, right?"

That Kid said...

Thank you.

That Kid said...

Actually, should i have retributivism as my value and Rawl's first principal of justice as my criterion, because it just doesn't seem to me like Rawl's first principal is a value. but i could be wrong. what do you think

Jim Anderson said...

that kid, Rawls' First Principle would be your definition of justice (which should be your value). Retributivism would be the criterion, since it is how and why the state redresses violations of equal legal liberty.

I just realized that I provided only half the links you'd need for that to make sense: here's another that uses a Rawlsian definition of justice.

Anonymous said...

what could be a value i could use for the neg

theupset9 said...

Hey I'm kind of new to LD and i was wondering if this made any sense at all...

Value: Morality
Criterion: Universal Consequentialism
Contention 1: Testimonies obtained through plea bargaining are faulty and lead to the conviction of innocent people.
Contention 2: Plea bargaining gives over-zealous prosecuters to much power.
Contention 3: Plea bargaining does not give equality in punishment for crimes.

.. be brutal.

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, value Justice, and show why it's just for someone who cooperates to receive a lesser sentence, for the same reason we give parole to criminals for "good behavior."

theupset9, I'll try to be brutal in the nicest way possible.

1. What links morality to justice?
2. Why use Universal Consequentialism as your criterion for morality?
3. For your first contention, explain how evidence offered in a plea bargain will be "faulty" if it has to survive a trial by jury in order for the defendant to fulfill the plea deal. (See USSG 5K1.)
4. For your 2nd contention, how does this link to consequentialism? Why is that a bad consequence?
5. Same for C3. Why would a consequentialist care if punishments are equal?

theupset9 said...

1. It is immoral to be unjust?
2. Uniserval consequentialism measures whether something is moral or not by it's consequences right? So if I said that the consequences of plea bargaining were bad, then would that.. be right?

Hmm. Maybe I should trash this and try again..?

theupset9 said...

Oh, ok I get what you were saying!

So, I need to prove that if something is moral then it is just, or if something is immoral then it is unjust.

Any ideas on how I could do that?

Jim Anderson said...

theupset9, many definitions of justice include "moral rightness." I'm sure it can be done.

Also, about your earlier point--the consequences have to be morally bad, not just "bad." I might not like it, say, if my favorite baseball team loses, but that doesn't mean their loss is somehow immoral.

Anonymous said...

I'm an LD debate w/ a tromiment on Friday. Could you help w/ my critrion for Aff and Neg?