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Abstract

The government ensures access to legal representation for all defendants by assigning attorneys to those who cannot afford private counsel. Government attorneys are assigned either by the judge or in a pseudo-random manner through a rotation system. However, there are concerns over the mechanism by which attorneys are assigned as some mechanisms may impact case outcomes. Using the juvenile criminal records of 37 counties in America in 1998, this study examines how the assignment mechanism affects indigent defendants’ chances of being convicted. In terms of a reduced risk of conviction, I find that quasi-random assignment results in better outcomes for defendants. This paper elucidates that in counties where the judge assigns attorneys, the assigned counsels are more likely to persuade their defendants to plead guilty, which contributes to the disparities in case outcomes.

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