Looking Ahead: New DA Could Bring Changes to Criminal Justice System


John Pfaff was quoted in The Sentinel about the role of district attorneys in the criminal justice system.

Cumberland County will have a new district attorney in 2018, creating the potential for changes in how the criminal justice system operates. After more than a decade at the helm, David Freed was nominated and confirmed as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

John Pfaff, a professor at Fordham University School of Law, spoke to The Sentinel in October to explain why he saw district attorneys as the most influential actors in criminal justice systems. “It’s sort of remarkable to me how little attention their discretion gets,” Pfaff said. “No other person has more opportunities to use their discretion. “Police can decide do I arrest this guy or not,” he said. “But, a prosecutor can decide do I charge him or do I dismiss the charge? Do I accept diversion or do I not? Do I charge him with the misdemeanor or the felony? Do I charge the felony with the mandatory minimum or the one without? … It’s a huge amount of direct control.”

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