Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023

Publication Title

Minnesota Journal of International Law


prosecutorial discretion, cultural change, Taiwan


Prosecutors exercise broad discretion. They are widely viewed as the gatekeepers of the criminal justice system. To date, studies on prosecutors in different jurisdictions have largely focused on how to conceptualize, manage, and eventually control the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Scholars have recently turned their attention to the importance of internal organizational management and leadership’s role in changing office culture as a means to regulate prosecutorial discretion. But we have limited empirical evidence as to how changes occur within a prosecutor’s office and what precise role organizational leaders play during this process.

This Article constructs a new paradigm for the understanding of cultural change within prosecutors’ offices. It reveals a troublesome paradox about modern prosecutorial power: I argue that, to transform organizational culture, prosecutors need to forge a new type of power based on what I refer to as “sense-making authority.” Meanwhile, the same power enables prosecutors to create an opaque process that bypasses organizational structure and reduces external accountability. To build my theory of cultural change, I rely on a comparative case-study approach based on ethnographic research. The research sites of the Article were a group of district attorneys’ offices led by “progressive prosecutors” across the United States and a district prosecutor’s office located in a metropolitan area of Taiwan.

This Article proposes a contested cultural change model and explores ways in which the model could contribute much-needed theoretical and strategic groundings to the comparative study of prosecutorial reforms across different jurisdictions.