Political Interventions in the Administration of Justice

Carlo Horz

26 mars 2019, 12h45–13h45


Salle MS001


The unbiased administration of justice by the state is often described as a critical element of the rule of law. Yet politicians have obvious incentives to direct prosecutions against their political enemies, while preventing prosecutions of their allies. What conditions determine the degree to which public prosecutors can remain free from political interference? To address this question, we build a game-theoretic model in which an officeholder can choose a level of control over the 'Department of Justice.' The higher the control, the less discretion the Department has in deciding whether to prosecute a third party---who may be either an opponent or an ally. At the same time, the higher the level of control, the lower the amount of information conveyed by the prosecution decision to a third party (e.g., a voter), since the Department endogenously chooses a lower level of effort in investigating the guiltiness of the defendant. We find that a moderately partisan prosecutorial office can aid in deterring political interference because it provides a degree of insurance to the officeholder. The effects of prosecutorial competence and electoral competitiveness are more complicated.


Carlo Horz, « Political Interventions in the Administration of Justice », IAST Lunch Seminar, Toulouse : IAST, 26 mars 2019, 12h45–13h45, salle MS001.