Judicial Mechanism Design

Bruno Strulovici (Northwestern University)

October 16, 2018, 11:00–12:30


Room MS 001

Economic Theory Seminar


This paper proposes a modern mechanism design approach to study welfare-maximizing criminal judicial processes. We provide a framework for reducing a complex judicial process to a single-agent, direct-revelation mechanism focused on the defendant, and identify a commitment assumption that justifies this reduction. We identify properties of a generically unique class of optimal mechanisms for two notions of welfare distinguished by their treatment of deterrence. These mechanisms shed new light on features of the criminal justice system in the United States, from the prevalence of extreme, binary verdicts in conjunction with plea bargains to the use of jury instructions and an adversarial system, all of which emerge as the result of informational, commitment, and incentive arguments.