Legal Ethics

DA Offers Cash Rewards for Prosecutors Who Hit Conviction Goals

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A Colorado district attorney is offering financial incentives for felony prosecutors who meet their goals for conviction rates at trial.

Plea bargains and mistrials don’t count in the incentive, and average $1,100 per bonus, according to the Denver Post.

The Eighteenth Judicial District’s Carol Chambers says she set up the bonus goals to encourage prosecutors to meet minimum requirements that put her district in line with other jurisdictions in the state.

“It is hard to find performance standards by which to measure trial attorneys,” Chambers explains to the Post. “This is the standard I think best meets the need to have a performance standard that attorneys know and can be aware of and that does not in any way encourage any outcome in any specific case.”

The Post reports that other Colorado DAs interviewed don’t offer similar bonuses. Nor do they tie performance evals to conviction rates.

On the other side, public defenders worry the bonuses will push prosecutors to force cases to trial.

Chambers, who began the incentive program in 2010, exempts prosecutors assigned to complex trials. The Post reports that the felony conviction rate, 69 percent, for the Eighteenth District is just behind rates for Jefferson and Boulder counties, but on par with Denver and Adams counties. Bonuses are to be awarded to those whose conviction rates top 70 percent.

Chambers tells NBC’s Channel 9 that two deputies earned $3,000 bonuses and that the average was $1,100.

Some prosecutors are wary of the financial incentives as well.

“Our job is not to directly tie the conviction rate, trials or plea bargains to a monetary figure,” First Judicial District Attorney Scott Storey tells Channel 9. “That would be like working on commission or something. And that’s not what we do.”

Also see:

ABA Model Rules: “Rule 3.8 Special Responsibilities Of A Prosecutor”

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