Nov 11, 2007

plea bargaining arguments: good, bad, ugly

Here's a place to post arguments or case ideas on the plea bargaining resolution that you've encountered in rounds, whether effective, useless, or just plain awful. As appropriate, list the value/criterion combo. (I should also note, if you're looking for more, much more, in the way of analysis, click the link above.)

Sadly, I've watched so few rounds that I've yet to see something truly noteworthy.

"PBET is good because it helps preserve the right to a speedy trial." (Obvious comeback: sure, for one person. But only at the expense of another.)

"Justice is the administration of law. More administration of law = more justice."

"If a prosecutor isn't out to commit harm, then why are they prosecuting?"

How not to win a CX exchange:
"My value is justice, which is deeper than the law, and presupposes the law. My criterion is attaining a legitimate result."

"What does 'legitimate' mean?"

"In accordance with law."
Please: never describe self-contradiction as "debater hypocrisy."


Aaron said...

For the bad:
I judged a tourney this weekend in Brunswick. One of the school's debaters all had the aff case with a value of justice and a criterion of governmental legitimacy. Not a single debater I saw showed how plea bargaining achieved governmental legitimacy. Nor did they show how governmental legitimacy achieved justice.

For the Good:
The quote of the week: "Of course lawyers are the vanguards of justice!"

The Ugly:
Aff: "Clearly plea bargaining is explicitly forbidden in the constitution."
Neg: "Here are three supreme court cases which uphold the constitutionality of plea bargaining (names three such cases and quotes majority opinons) How is plea bargaining not constitutional?"
Aff: "I don't know how such supreme court justices made such glaring oversights. They are normally pretty smart"

TheTachyix said...

Ugliness wins.

"The [John Locke's] social contract is too vague and was made in places like France and the Netherlands so it couldn't work here."

Anonymous said...

what are criterion options to prove that plea bargaining is good through the value of fairness? HELP. PLEASE.

Jim Anderson said...


There are plenty. Maybe PBET is due process. Maybe it's a voluntary concession of rights. Maybe it's a fair trade--testimony for sentence reduction--as governed by the law of contracts (this seems to be the Supreme Court's position). I'm sure there are other reasons / criteria.

Anonymous said...

hi, do you think it would be ok if i use utilitarism as a value? i mean the obvious value is justice, but you can use anything as long as you can support it, right? aalso, what do you think is a good criterion. Sorry, im new to debating

Jim Anderson said...


Many debaters are succeeding with a value of Justice and a criterion of Utilitarianism. It offers an objective and clearly understood method of reaching justice at a societal level.

Anonymous said...

Good: None

Bad: None


CX: (One debater running constitutionality) "So, just because it's in the Constitution, it's just?"

(With back to judge, sitting facing wall) "You wanna pick a fight with the forefathers?"

Anonymous said...

bad, or ugly even
during CX

aff - if you and i commit the same crime, should we receive the same punishment?

neg - no

aff - why not

neg - because i am a better person than you are

judge covers their face with their hands, lol.

Jim Anderson said...

first anonymous, hey, I certainly don't. Some of those guys had wooden teeth, I hear.

second anonymous, nice. I hope you came back with, "As evidenced by your superior moral conduct."

PL1149 said...

Hi, it's me again.
I have a tournament this Saturday, and I was taught how to write a case 3 days ago, so I'm starting to write my Aff case right now. My coach is busy, so I can't ask him. I have an outline, and I was wondering if it was correct or not.

Value: Justice

Criterion: Due Process

Contention 1: Plea bargaining in exchange for testimony brings incentives

A: Incentive for Defendant

B: Incentive for Prosecutor

Contention 2: Plea Bargaining in exchange for testimony brings coercion

Contention 3: Plea Bargaining in exchange for testimony violates 5th amendment rights.

I was wondering a couple of things.
#1 - I'm sure my criterion doesn't work
#2 - Is there a better way to word the taglines for Contentions 1 and two?
#3 - Is there a better contention that I could use instead of the one I currently have as Contention 3?

Thank you!

Jim Anderson said...

Your criterion could work just fine--contentions 2 and 3 would work with it. You could argue that PBET violates due process because it is coercive (2) and because it short-circuits the defendant's rights (3). Contention 1, though, I don't understand at all.

Your criterion would link to your value this way: due process is a core component of our justice system. When we attempt to speed criminals through the system, abusing their due process rights, we sanction and foster injustice.

PL1149 said...

For my first contention, I was thinking:

Sub-point A: Defendant has incentive to lie. I am planning on asking my opponent in Cross-X "Would you rather spend 4 years in jail, or 3 years in jail?" I will then use that and say that it is the same for a defendant. The defendant will lie and try to get the lesser sentence. Even with the risk of being convicted for perjury, the defendant will take the chance.

Sub-point B: The prosecutor has an incentive to seek out plea bargains. With plea-bargaining in exchange for testimony, the prosecutor gets one conviction for sure, and a possible second because of the testimony given. This makes the prosecutor look good at his job. Plea bargains also give the prosecutor a bigger caseload, which leads to a higher pay, which is another incentive to seek out plea bargains. The prosecutor may coerce the defendant into plea bargaining and then testifying, which I will then link to my second contention.

Thank you!

PL1149 said...

I'm sorry, I forgot to add this to my previous comment. In sub-point A, a false testimony could possibly lead to a false conviction, which would be unjust

Coop said...

OK I have been watching this blog for a couple weeks now and this topic is very very simple. On the affirmative side you can run Justice as a value which is defined as giving people what they are due so the only way to give people what they are due is not to use plea bargaining and this is only obtained through your value criterion of due process.
On the negative side you can run Justice once again as a value also using the definition giving people what they are due. Now some people find this sketching but you will see that judges like it. By using plea bargaing and giving people a lesser sentence this is inturn what they are due. Now, further clarifying when someone testifies the are "due" a lesser sentence. As a criterion i would use utillitarianism. This is upheld when plea bargaining is used because most of the time when plea bargaining is used it not only puts the person in jail that takes the plea but also the person they testify against. So you get two for shure convictions instead of just maby getting one when you dont use the plea

LD n00b said...

Here's somthing ugly that happened to me:

An aff says that "preserving society" is a prerequisite to justice, so justice should be secondary, society must be preserved first. When I challenged this by saying society would still exist without PBET, she said that preservation can never be completely accomplished and must always be the priority. Not only did she not prove justice (only its prerequisite), she justified totalitanarianism. The sad thing is: The judge gave her the win!

The either REALLY good or REALLY ugly:

3 rounds later another debaer used the same speech, word-for-word against me. (I found out later they had worked on it together and even had the same counter arguments I could exploit.) At least I won that time!