Greater Oversight and Uniformity Needed in U.S. Attorneys' Prosecutive Policies

GGD-83-11: Published: Oct 27, 1982. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 1982.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Department of Justice's management of prosecutive discretion exercised by U.S. attorneys, the chief Federal prosecutors at the local level.

GAO found that Justice has not routinely provided close oversight of their activities, which has resulted in the establishment of differing prosecutive policies and practices throughout the U.S. attorneys' offices. Therefore, declination policies have been incompatible with Federal law enforcement priorities and have not been coordinated with State and local authorities. Federally declined cases have not been referred to such authorities for prosecutive decisions, and similarly situated Federal offenders have been treated inconsistently because of varying decisions on whether to prosecute, to use pretrial diversion, or to use plea agreements.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should establish requirements to provide for evaluating the operation of Federal-State Law Enforcement Coordinating Committees to ensure, among other things, that procedures are implemented so that concurrent jurisdiction cases declined for Federal prosecution are referred to State and/or local authorities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice does not plan to implement detailed declination policies. It anticipates that the implementation of its improved management information system will enable proper oversight of declination decisions. GAO believes this improvement should enable Justice to monitor and achieve greater consistency in declination decisions.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should establish declination policies that will minimize disparities and help focus the use of Federal law enforcement resources on crimes designated as priority offenses.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice has pursued improvements to its management information system which it believes will enable closer monitoring. GAO believes that this should achieve better consistency in the use of plea agreements.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should establish more specific plea agreement policies to guide U.S. attorneys regarding the types of plea agreements that can be used to ensure greater consistency in plea agreement practices and thereby minimize disparities in the types of plea agreements and concessions that are made available by Federal prosecutors to defendants.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although Justice does not intend to implement this recommendation, GAO continues to believe action is needed. Without the routine evaluation of pretrial diversion, Justice, will have no means of ensuring that its guidelines are implemented.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Criminal Division to routinely monitor and evaluate the use of pretrial diversion throughout the U.S. attorneys' offices in order to ensure that U.S. attorneys comply with established guidelines, to identify and resolve disparities in the use of pretrial diversion, and to identify further improvements needed in the use of pretrial diversion.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Justice does not intend to implement this recommendation in the near future because pretrial diversion is not a priority at this time.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should establish more specific guidance for U.S. attorneys to follow in determining which individuals, depending on the offenses committed, are considered appropriate for pretrial diversion in order to ensure its consistent and maximum application.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although Justice does not plan to implement this recommendation, GAO believes the action is needed. Without the benefit of such data, Justice has no basis to evaluate the adequacy of the U.S. attorneys' plea agreements.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should establish reporting requirements that will provide information on the types and frequency of plea agreements and require that these data be used to monitor and periodically evaluate the use of plea agreements by U.S. attorneys.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should upgrade the capability of the Executive Office to perform systematic evaluations of the performance of U.S. attorneys' offices and require the Executive Office to work with the Internal Audit Staff to identify review areas where internal audits are needed to supplement management oversight of U.S. attorneys' operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  8. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Justice at the present time has no plans to implement this recommendation. Although Justice plans no action, GAO believes this is a valid recommendation because without this information there is no assurance that declination policies are being consistently implemented.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should ensure that U.S. attorneys adhere to management information reporting requirements so that caseload data will be accurate and will provide the means to monitor, assess, and revise, when necessary, the declination policies of U.S. attorneys.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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